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Olive's Nursery
3402 Sherwood Way, San Angelo, TX
(325) 949-3756
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Organic Gardening with Tommy Olive

I've given many talks on organic gardening to groups from garden clubs to the Realtor Association.  I try to make them interesting and useful.  I am fascinated with the universe that exists beneath us.  Trillions of organism weighing billions of tons make life on this earth possible. 

 Thirty years ago we sold organic products to control pests.  We'd spray insecticidal soap on aphids and they seemed refreshed, not dead!  I should have read the book.  I would have learned that organic gardening starts with the soil.  Healthy soil grows healthy plants.  Poor soil grows weeds and sickly plants.  Just like it doesn't take forever to grow a big tree even in West Texas, it doesn't take too long to make big changes in your soil if you learn how.

Soils around here are clay: hard as a rock when they're dry and glue when wet.  Air space is almost non-existant.  If you can't get a steel shovel through it, how do you expect a root to fare?  Let's start with the basics.  Most of us aren't interested in the soil.  We just want healthy lawns, trees, flowers, vegetables, etc.  Too often we wind up with a pest that can discourage us: be it red spider mites on our tomatoes or fungus ruining our lawn.  We'll never get rid of pests.  If you keep bread long enough, you'll eventually get bread mold.  And we don't want to give up on growing things, so the one thing we can change is the environment they grow in: the soil.

 Did you know dirt can die?  I know a dirt hauler who took soil from beneath the top 6 inches in order to be sure it wasn't invested with certain weedy grasses.  It was spread over a lawn area and nothing would grow. There is so little oxygen in some of our soil below six inches that there are not enough micro-organisms to support life.  It took six weeks to grow  enough organisms to supprt vegetation!  Lesson is: dead dirt won't support life.

What are you doing for your soil?  Most of us are salting ours.  The only natural irrigation water is rain.  Water from our city, wells, rivers, and lakes are very high in alkaline minerals (mineral salts).  I've seen new construction where they bring in soil and spray on bermuda with incredible results.  Emerald green grass that reponds to chemical fertilizer great!  You ask that guy what he's doing, you do it and nothing happens to your lawn.  But in about three years his lawn is just like yours!  What happened?  Week, after week, after month, after month, and years the salt built up creating a worse, more costic environment for the organisms living in the soil, and their populations cratered.  When the organisms aren't there underneath, there's problems above.  I've been to Great Salt Lake and the Dead Sea: nothing grows there.  It's too salty. 

Now go to the "Seasonal Info" Tab and then to "Organic Lawn Care" to find out what to do!


Lady Bugs
We have a bag of 1500 hungry women we sell for 9.99.  We refrigerate them and keep them moist until you take them home and release them into your garden or trees.  Lady bugs (not all are females) feast on aphids, mealy bugs, and other small insects.  Whether it's your roses, crape myrtles, or vegetables, aphids will clean up the insects.  Honeydew dripping from pecans is actually the chlorophyl that aphids suck from the leaves and then excrete onto your car, patio, shrubs, etc.  Lady bugs can stop it.  It's best to put an open bag into the tree (or garden or wherever you need them) at dusk.  Let them dispurse slowly on their own. 

Fire Ants
Beneficial Nematodes control fire ants naturally.  I put them on my back yard and my grandkids were bite free for two years.  Nematodes like most insects, fungi, and bacteria are mostly beneficial.  Only a few attack plants and do harm.  Our nematodes are parasitic to fire ants.  Our box contains a pint that has seven million in it!  They are dispersed with water at dusk.  You want about a million per colony so use 1/7th of the pint (4 ½ tbs) with a gallon of cold water.  Poke the soil so that it will penetrate down intot the colony.  Nematodes are aquatic so you have to keep some moisture in the soil.  Also it's best if the soil is moist before you apply them, and it's best to do it in the evening when the sun isn't drying everything up!  You can lose them over a dry winter, so if it doesn't rain, I recommend watering deep (at least one inch) every two weeks during the winter months.  That will get you two years' control for 34.99.