Calvin R. Finch, Ph.D., Conservation
Manager, San Antonio Water System,
Q. Which are better, the bush green beans or the climbers? I am starting a vegetable garden for the first time.
A. In South and Central Texas the bush beans are thought to be more productive. In my experience, the climbing beans are slower to set fruit. They concentrate on foliage and get caught up in the hot weather. Bush beans produce foliage, set fruit, and can be composted in mid-summer. Check the seed package for maturation dates and run a small experiment to see which works best for your garden.
Q. The male goldfinches at my thistle feeder are now golden. When will they leave for the North to breed? Is there any reason to keep feeding thistle after they leave?
A. The American goldfinches sometimes stay until the first of May but they could leave anytime now. We have the resident lesser goldfinches and house finches that like the thistle seed year-round.
Q. Are we in danger of oak wilt in our area? My live oaks are so beautiful.
A. As you go south and east of San Antonio the danger decreases for oak wilt. The forest is less dominated by red oaks and live oaks, and the temperatures are hotter. There is less danger but it is still advisable to paint all fresh wounds on red or live oaks with pruning paint. Even latex paint works. The trees are only susceptible to the sap beetles carrying fungal spores for 5 to seven days after the wound is made.
Q. Everyone around me is fertilizing their lawn. Based on your recommendations, I am trying to wait. What happens if you fertilize early?
A. The nitrogen is wasted. Even in slow-release lawn fertilizers 50 percent of the nitrogen is released immediately. To utilize the nitrogen the grass must be actively growing. If you have mowed real grass twice, it is time to fertilize. Nitrogen not used by the grass leaches into the soil beyond the roots, volatilizes into the air, or is used by weeds.