Over 1.4 million Houstonians garden for a hobby or pastime, and GardenLine is where they listen for advice and information on gardening and landscaping.
Every Saturday and Sunday morning from 6 to 10, GardenLine's Randy Lemmon answers listeners' questions on everything from aphids to zoysias. He's Houston's absolute expert on lawns and gardens, offering help to listeners both with and without "green thumbs."
Randy's a Texas Aggie who truly KNOWS plants and flowers. He explains them with ease and candor, and is as competent a "plant person" as there is. He studies, and he practices. He embraces "new methods" as well as the "old" ways of dealing with problems. Call for Randy's solution for your question ... 713-212-KTRH (5874).
I often like to let the dominant topic of recent email questions determine the subject of my weekly blog. For example, the recent one about controlling burrgrass was prompted by a flood of messages on that topic.
You may be guessing all my email lately has been about brownpatch, or winterizing, or winter rye. Or, you might think everyone is asking about cool-season herbicides, or cool-season annuals or cole crop vegetable gardening. Actually, the question that has those outnumbered by about 10 to 1 is, "Randy, why are there so many acorns this year?"
The simple answer is that this is a "mast year" for oak trees. In a "mast year," a tree produces more "mast" (fruit) than normal. When it comes to oaks, "mast" is acorns. Oak trees in Texas usually experience this every 5-7 years. Usually, however, mast years for acorns aren't as heavy as them seem to be this time. So, what gives?
There are two reasons we have a massive acorn crop and drop. First would be the 2011 drought. Second, 2012 had perfect weather for acorn production — a significantly wet spring, followed by a dry summer, causing oaks to experience a rebound effect.
Usually, a mast year will shell out five times more acorns than in a standard year. This year's drop is about three times that of a normal mast year because the weather cycles have exponentially grown the drop this time. But, let's be honest - who really is going to count all those acorns?
Now, I suppose you want to know if you can do anything about them. Or if you could have done anything in advance. The answer is a qualified yes, and an adamant no. Don't you love it when I'm that clear?
Yes, you can do something. You can harvest the acorns and feed them to wildlife like deer and squirrels. (Of course, deer and squirrels will find them on their own ... they don't usually need your help.) You can also gather them up, pulverize them, and incorporate them in a compost pile. You can try to propagate some and grow new trees. (Here's how to do that.) Or you could use them to make old-fashioned acorn flour, a one-time staple for many native Americans.
But the one thing you can't do is try to control or reduce the crop. Not now, and not in advance of future mast yearss. That's because it's actually healthy for the tree to do it. Chemical controls, like fruit inhibitors, are not advised.
You may be wondering just exactly how does one gather up a massive collection of acorns. (And you should gather them — I would never advise just leaving them. As they decompose, they will leave behind higher-than-normal tannins, and that slightly taints the soil making it harder for turf to succeed.) It's not a joke when I suggest on the air to get out there with the shop vacuum. Frankly, aside from using a leaf rake, I don't know of any other clever ways.
Now here's how to make your acorn crop pay off: the person who brings the biggest bag of acorns to me at our next-to-last fall GardenLine appearance on Saturday will get a free jar of tree food ... so you can make your oak tree even healthier!
Boy, autumn has really flown by. It seems like just the other day we were scheduling events for September through November, and here we are with the next-to-last appearance of the season. This Saturday, I'll be at Central Ace Hardware, 13140 Louetta at Grant in Cypress. As always, I will entice you with some free goodies if you show up between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. More importantly, you should come see me because this Ace location carries all the right products for following my fertilization schedule. If you haven't done all you can and should do with regard to winterizers, pre-emergent herbicides, post-emergent cool-season herbicides, fungicides or fall feedings of cool-season color, they have everything you need.
Plus this is a great opportunity for me to "get a pair of eyes" on any problems you may have. And I'll be giving away bags of Nitro-Phos Fall Special, Nitro-Phos Sweet Green, and a baker's dozen of the very popular Concrete Donuts for irrigation head protection.
And last, but not least, you could get some early holiday gift shopping out of the way by picking up lots of copies of my book, "1001 GardenLine Questions." I'll even sign them for that special touch!