John Howard Garrett’s
And other instructions

SOIL TESTING – Send soil samples to Texas Plant and Soil Lab in Edinburg, TX, 956-383-0739 for organic recommendations. Another way to test the soil is to dig a cubic foot of soil and sift it back into the hole. If you don’t see about 10 earthworms, you need to do more of what’s listed below.

PLANTING - Prepare new planting beds by scraping away existing grass and weeds, adding a 4-6" layer of compost, lava sand at 40-80 lbs., organic fertilizer at 20 lbs. horticultural cornmeal 10-20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft. and tilling to a depth of 3" into the native soil. Excavation and additional ingredients such as concrete sand, topsoil and pine bark are unnecessary and can cause problems. More compost is needed for shrubs and flowers than for groundcover. Add Texas greensand to black and white soils and high-calcium lime to acid soils. Soft rock phosphate is an effective amendment for all soils.

FERTILIZING - Apply an organic fertilizer 2-3 times per year. During the growing season, spray turf, trees and shrub foliage, trunks, limbs and soil at least monthly with Garrett Juice. Add lava sand annually at 40-80 lbs./1,000 sq. ft.

MULCHING - Mulch all shrubs, trees and ground cover with 3-5" of, shredded tree trimmings or shredded hardwood bark to protect the soil, inhibit weed germination, decrease watering needs and mediate soil temperature. Mulch vegetable gardens with 8" of alfalfa hay, rough-textured compost or shredded native tree trimmings. Avoid Bermuda hay because of the possibility of broadleaf herbicide contamination. Shredded native cedar is the best of all mulches.

WATERING - Adjust schedule seasonally to allow for deep, infrequent waterings in order to maintain an even moisture level. Start by applying about 1" of water per week in the summer and adjust from there. Water needs will vary from site to site and from season to season. Add 1 tablespoon natural vinegar per gallon when watering pots, unless water is acid.

MOWING - Mow weekly, leaving the clippings on the lawn to return nutrients and organic matter to the soil. General mowing height should be 2-1/2" or taller. Put occasional excess clippings in compost pile. Do not ever bag clippings. Do not let clippings ever leave the site. Mulching mowers are best if the budget allows. Do not use line trimmers around trees.

WEEDING - Hand pull large weeds and work on soil health for overall control. Mulch all bare soil in beds. AVOID SYNTHETIC HERBICIDES, especially pre-emergents, broad-leaf treatments and soil sterilants. These are unnecessary toxic pollutants. Spray broadleaf weeds as a last resort with full strength vinegar, and citrus mix or remove mechanically. Commercial organic herbicides are now on the market.

PRUNING - Remove dead, diseased and conflicting limbs. Do not over prune. Do not make flush cuts. Leave the branch collars intact. Do not paint cuts except on red oaks and live oaks in oak-wilt areas when spring pruning can’t be avoided. Remember that pruning cuts hurt trees. Pruning is done for your benefit, not for the benefit of the trees.

COMPOST MAKING – Compost, Nature’s own living fertilizer, can be made at home or purchased ready-to-use. A compost pile can be started any time of the year in sun or shade. Anything once living can go in the compost - grass clippings, tree trimmings, food scraps, bark, sawdust, rice hulls, weeds, nut hulls and animal manure. Mix the ingredients together and simply pile the material on the ground. The best mixture is 80% vegetative matter and 20% animal waste, although any mix will compost. Since oxygen is a critical component, the ingredients should be a mix of coarse and fine-textured material to promote air circulation through the pile. Turn the pile once a month if possible, more often speeds up the process but releases nitrogen to the air. Another critical component is water. A compost pile should be roughly the moisture of a squeezed-out sponge to help the living organisms thrive and work their magic. Compost is ready to use as a soil amendment when the ingredients are no longer identifiable. The color will be dark brown, the texture soft and crumbly and it will smell like the forest floor. Rough, unfinished compost can be used as a topdressing mulch around all plantings.

MANURE COMPOST TEA - Manure compost tea is an effective foliar spray because of many mineral nutrients and naturally occurring microorganisms. Fill any container half full of compost and finish filling with water. Let the mix sit for 10-14 days and then dilute and spray on the foliage of any and all plants. How to dilute the dark compost tea before using depends on the compost used. A rule of thumb is to dilute the leachate down to one part compost liquid to 4 to 10 parts water. The ready-to-use spray should look like iced tea. Be sure to strain the solids out with old pantyhose, cheese cloth or floating row cover material. Full strength tea makes an excellent fire ant mound drench when mixed with 2 oz. molasses and 2 oz. citrus oil per gallon. Add vinegar, molasses and seaweed to make Garrett Juice.

CONTROLLING INSECTS - Aphids, spider mites, whiteflies & lacebugs: release ladybugs and green lacewings regularly until natural populations exist. Garrett Juice and/or garlic-pepper tea (recipes below) are effective controls. Use strong water blasts for heavy infestations. Caterpillars and bagworms: release trichogramma wasps. Spray Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) as a last resort. Fire ants: Drench mounds with Garrett Juice plus citrus oil and release beneficial nematodes. Grasshoppers: Eliminate bare soil, apply beneficial nematodes, and then dust or spray one or more of the following: self-rising flour, natural diatomaceous earth, fire ant control formula. Encourage biodiversity and feed the birds. Grubworms: beneficial nematodes and general soil health is the primary control. Mosquitoes: Bacillus thuringiensis ‘Israelensis’ for larvae in standing water. Spray citrus oil or garlic-pepper tea for adults. Lavender, vanilla, citronella and eucalyptus also repel mosquito adults. Slugs, snails, fleas, ticks, chinch bugs, roaches, crickets: spray or dust diatomaceous earth products and crushed red pepper. Citrus oil also kills these pests. For more details on pest control, check out the new Texas Bug Book.

CONTROLLING DISEASES - Black spot, brown patch, powdery mildew and other fungal problems: best control is prevention through soil improvement, avoidance of high-nitrogen fertilizers and proper watering. Spray Garrett Juice plus garlic and/or neem. Baking soda or potassium bicarbonate can also be added. Treat soil with horticultural cornmeal at about 20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft. Alfalfa meal and mixes containing alfalfa are also good disease fighters.

GARLIC-PEPPER TEA INSECT REPELLENT - In a blender with water, liquefy 2 bulbs of garlic and 2 cayenne or habanero peppers. Strain away the solids. Pour the garlic-pepper juice into a 1 gallon container. Fill the remaining volume with water to make one gallon of concentrate. Shake well before using and add 1/4 cup of the concentrate to each gallon of water in the sprayer. To make garlic tea, simply omit the pepper and add another bulb of garlic. For additional power add 1 tablespoon of seaweed and molasses to each gallon. Always use plastic containers with loose fitting lids for storage.

GARRETT JUICE (foliar spray and soil drench) – Mix the following per gallon of water: 1 cup of compost tea or liquid humate, 1 ounce liquid seaweed, 1 ounce blackstrap molasses, 1 ounce apple cider vinegar. To make a mild insect control product, add 1 oz. of citrus oil per gallon of spray. To make the fire ant killer, add 2 oz. of citrus oil per gallon. When spraying the foliage of plants, don’t use over 2 oz. of citrus oil per gallon of spray. This mixture also works as a soil detox.

DIRT DOCTOR’S POTTING SOIL - 5 parts compost, 4 parts lava sand, 3 parts peat moss, 2 parts cedar flakes, 1 part soft rock phosphate, 1 part earthworm castings, ½ wheat bran/cornmeal soil amendment, ¼ part organic fertilizer, ¼ part sul-po-mag, ¼ part Texas greensand. This is a very powerful potting soil and needs no additional fertilizer. It is also too strong to use for most interior house plants.


(for newsletters, members-only seminars and discounts on organic products)

Howard Garrett, The Dirt Doctor, provides reliable information to home gardeners, farmers, ranchers and commercial property managers, even if you’re not organic – yet. Membership dues are $25 annually. Additional members at the same address are welcome at $10 each annually. Membership includes 12 monthly issues of THE DIRT DOCTOR’S DIRT newsletter and a personal membership card. Your card entitles you to discounts at participating suppliers and admission to "Crew Members Only" seminars. Please make checks payable to The Dirt Doctor’s Ground Crew and mail to The Dirt Doctor’s Ground Crew, P.O. Box 796641, Dallas, TX 75379. Malcolm Bayless can assist with any membership questions; Phone: 972-248-5057, Fax: 972-248-9537. Dirt Doctor’s Ground Crew e-mail is: <>.

03/28/00 and


Roses should only be grown organically since they are one of the best medicinal and culinary herbs in the world. When they are loaded with toxic pesticides and other chemicals, that use is gone, or at least it should be. Drinking rose hip tea or using rose petals in teas or salads after spraying the plants with synthetic poisons is a really bad idea. For best results with roses, here's the program:

SELECTION: Buy and plant adapted roses such as antiques, David Austins and well-proven hybrids. The old roses will have the largest and most Vitamin C filled hips. R. roses have the most vitamin C.

PLANTING: Prepare beds by mixing the following into existing soil to form a raised bed: 6" compost, ½"-1" lava sand, 20 lbs. of alfalfa meal, 20 lbs. cottonseed meal, 1,00 lbs. of Wheat bran/Cornmeal Soil Amendment, 20 lbs. of sul-po-mag, per 1,000 sq. ft. Soak the bare roots or rootball in water with 1 tablespoon of seaweed per gallon. Settle soil around plants with water - no tamping.

MULCHING: After planting, cover all the soil in the beds with one inch of compost or earthworm castings followed by 2-3" of shredded native cedar. Do not pile the mulch up on the stems of the roses.

WATERING: If possible, save and use rainwater. If not, add 1 tablespoon of natural apple cider vinegar per gallon of water. If all that fails, just use tap water but don't over water. Avoid salty well water.


Round #1 February 1-15 - organic fertilizer @ 20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft. (i.e. Garden-Ville, GreenSense, Maestro-Gro, Bioform Dry, Sustane or natural meals), lava sand at 80 lbs./1,000 sq. ft., and horticultural cornmeal at 10 lbs./1,000 sq. ft.

Round #2 June 1-15 - organic fertilizer @ 20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft., Texas greensand @ 40 lbs./1,000 sq. ft. or soft rock phosphate at 30 lbs./1,000 sq. ft. if in acid soil areas.

Round #3 September 15-30 - organic fertilizer @ 20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft., sul-po-mag @ 20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft. In sandy acid soils use soft rock phosphate instead at 30 lbs./1,000 sq. ft.

Foliar Feed with Garrett Juice twice monthly

PEST CONTROL PROGRAM – Add the following to Garrett Juice and spray as needed

Garlic tea ¼ cup/gallon or label directions for minor insect or disease infestations.

Citrus oil, orange oil, or d-limonene 1 ounce/gallon of water as a spray, 2 ounces/gallon of water as a drench.

Potassium bicarbonate 1 rounded tablespoon/gallon for minor diseases.

Liquid biostimulants Use per label - Agrispon, AgriGro, Medina, Bio-Innoculant or similar product.

Neem Use per label directions for more serious insect and disease infestations.

Fish emulsion 2 ounces/gallon for additional nutrients (may not be needed when using compost tea)


1st spraying at pink bud in the spring. 1st two sprayings should include Garrett Juice and garlic tea.

Additional sprayings as necessary. For best results spray every two weeks, but at least once a month. When soil is healthy, nothing but Garrett Juice is needed in the spray.


Saturdays 11:00-Noon / Sundays 8:00-Noon

Weekday Commentary During "Hello Texas"-12:50

03/28/00 and


Pecan trees and fruit trees can be grown organically and no you don't have to spray toxic pesticides. Plant adapted small-nutted varieties like Caddo, Kanza, and the native pecans. Plant the trees in wide, rough sided holes, backfill with soil from hole (no amendments), settle the soil with water (no tamping), add a 1" layer of lava sand and compost mix, finish with a 3"-5" layer of coarse textured native cedar mulch. Do not stake, wrap trunk, or cut back the top. Those who say to dig a small round hole are deficient. Mechanical aeration of the root zone of existing trees is beneficial, but tilling, disking or plowing destroys feeder roots and should never be done. Pecans should never have bare soil. The root zone should always be covered with mulches and/or native grasses and legumes.


Round #1 February 1-15 - organic fertilizer @ 20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft. (i.e. Garden-Ville, GreenSense, Bioform Dry, MaestroGro, Sustane or natural meals. Lava sand at 80 lbs./1,000 sq. ft., and Wheat bran/Cornmeal Soil Amendment at 50 lbs./1,000 sq. ft.

Round #2 June 1-15 - organic fertilizer @ 10 lbs./1,000 sq. ft and Texas greensand @ 40-80 lbs./1,000 sq. ft. or soft rock phosphate at the same rate if in acid soils.

Round #3 September 15-30 - organic fertilizer @ 10 lbs./1,000 sq. ft., and sul-po-mag @ 20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft.

Note: Once soil health has been achieved, round #3 can be omitted..

Large scale pecan orchards can use livestock manure or compost at 1-2 tons/acre per year along with establishing green manure cover crops. Lava sand and other rock powders can be applied any time of the year.

Foliar Feed with Garrett Juice twice monthly

PEST CONTROL PROGRAM – Add the following to Garrett Juice and spray as needed

Garlic tea 1/4 cup/gallon or label directions

Citrus oil, orange oil, or d-limonene 1 ounce/gallon of water as a spray, 2 ounces/gallon of water as a drench.

Potassium bicarbonate 1 rounded tablespoon/gallon – for diseases.

Liquid biostimulants Use per label - Agrispon, AgriGro, Medina, Bio-Innoculant or similar product.

Neem Use per label directions for serious pest problems.

Fish emulsion 1-2 ounces/gallon for additional nutrient (may not be needed when using compost tea)


1st spraying at pink bud The first two sprayings should contain Garrett Juice and garlic tea. Use

2nd spraying after flowers have fallen additional sprayings as time and budget allow. For best results spray every two

3rd spraying about June 15th weeks, but at least once a month.

4th spraying last week in August


Trichogramma wasps Weekly releases of 10,000 - 20,000 eggs per acre or residential lot starting at bud break for 3 weeks.

Green lacewings Release at 4,000 eggs per acre or residential lot weekly for one month.

Ladybugs Release 1,500 - 2,000 adult beetles per 1,000 sq. ft. at the first sign of shiny honeydew on foliage.

Very little pruning is needed or recommended. Maintain cover crops and/or natural mulch under the trees year round. Never cultivate the soil under pecan and fruit trees.


Saturdays 11:00-Noon / Sundays 8:00-Noon

Weekday Commentary During "Hello Texas"-12:50 and 03/28/00


(These are all herbs - not ‘erbs)


Ginkgo - tea from leaves

Jujube - fruit

Linden - tea from flowers

Mulberry - fruit

Pecan - edible nuts

Persimmon - fruit

Walnut - edible nuts


Agarita - fruit for wine

Althea - edible flowers

Bay - tea and, food seasoning from leaves

Germander - freshens air indoors

Pomegranate - edible fruit

Turk's cap - flowers and fruit for tea


Begonias - edible flowers

Daylilies - edible flowers

Dianthus - edible flowers

Ginger - food, seasoning and tea from roots

Hibiscus - edible flowers

Johnny jump-ups - edible flowers

Nasturtium - edible leaves

Pansies - edible flowers

Peanuts - edible nuts

Purslane - edible leaves

Sunflower - edible seeds and flower petals


Beans and Peas - edible pods and seed

Gourds - dippers and bird houses

Grapes - food (fruit and leaves)

Luffa - sponges from the fruit, edible flowers

Malabar spinach - edible foliage

Passion flower - edible fruit, tea from leaves


Apple - fruit and edible flower petals

Apricot - fruit and edible flower petals

Citrus - edible fruit

Crabapple - fruit and edible flower petals

Fig - fruit and edible flower petals

Mexican plum - fruit

Peach - fruit and edible flower petals

Pear - fruit and edible flower petals

Persimmon - fruit

Plum - fruit and edible flower petals

Redbud - edible flowers

Rusty blackhaw viburnum - edible berries

Witchhazel - tea from leaves


Anise hyssop- edible flowers, foliage for tea

Blackberries - edible berries, foliage for tea

Chives - edible foliage and flowers

Garlic - edible flowers, greens and cloves

Hibiscus - edible flowers

Hoja santa - leaves for cooking with meats

Horsemint - insect repellent

Jerusalem artichoke - roots for food

Lavender - teas and insect repellent

Monarda - edible flowers and leaves for teas

Peppers - edible fruit

Purple coneflower - all plant parts for teas

Rosemary - food and tea from leaves and flowers

Roses - petals and hips for tea

Salvia - edible flowers, foliage for teas

Sweet marigold - food, flavoring and tea from leaves and flowers

Tansy - chopped and crushed foliage repels ants

Turk's cap - flowers & fruit for tea


Clover - tea from leaves and flowers

Creeping thyme - teas and food flavoring

Gotu kola - tea from leaves

Mints - food and teas from flowers and leaves

Oregano - teas and food flavoring

Violets - leaves in salads and tea from flowers and leaves

Note: Pregnant women should avoid all strong herbs and no plant should be ingested in excess by anyone. None of these should be eaten unless they are being grown organically.


Saturdays 11:00-Noon / Sundays 8:00-Noon

Weekday Commentary During "Hello Texas"-12:50 and 03/28/00


Aloe vera, althea, apple blossoms, arugula, basil, begonia, borage, broccoli, calendula, chicory, chives - onion and garlic, clover, coriander, dandelion, dill, elderberry, English daisy, fennel, hyssop lavender, lemon, lilac, mint, monarda - red flowered M. didyma, mum (base of petal is bitter), mustard, okra, orange, oregano, pea (except for sweet peas), pineapple sage, radish, redbud, rosemary, scented geranium, society garlic, sweet woodruff, squash blossoms, thyme, violet, winter savory, yucca (petals only)


  • Not all flowers are edible. Some are poisonous. Learn the difference.
  • Eat flowers only when you are positive they are edible and non-toxic.
  • Eat only flowers that have been grown organically, toxic materials collect in the reproductive plant parts.
  • Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries or garden centers unless you know they've been maintained organically.
  • Do not eat flowers if you have hay fever, asthma or allergies.
  • Do not eat flowers growing on the side of the road.
  • Remove pistils and stamens from flowers before eating. Eat only the petals, especially of large flowers.
  • 8. Introduce flowers into your diet the way you would new foods to a baby - one at a time in small quantities.


    Plants of the Metroplex was Howard’s first book. The revised edition now contains over 300 color photos of landscape plants for Texas together with information on the cultivation, uses, and problems of each plant. By The University of Texas Press in Austin

    Howard Garrett’s Texas Organic Gardening is written especially for Texans, explaining how to use native plants, vegetables and fruits. It covers soil improvements and maintenance instructions of organically healthy lawns, gardens and landscapes. By Gulf Publishing in Houston.

    J. Howard Garrett’s Organic Manual is a non-regional book and a complete guide to organic gardening. It explains how to work with Nature to promote healthy gardens without the use of toxic chemicals or artificial fertilizers. By the Summit Group in Fort Worth.

    The Dirt Doctor’s Guide to Organic Gardening, essays on The Natural Way. The University of Texas Press in Austin.

    Plants for Texas is a book on native and introduced ornamentals and food crop plants for Texas. It is arranged in alphabetical order rather than chapters and cross referenced for ease of finding detailed information on landscape plants, fruits, vegetables, cover crops and herbs. By the University of Texas Press in Austin.

    Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening written with Malcolm Beck. This book covers the planting, maintenance and harvest of vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs and other edible crops in Texas. Gulf Publishing in Houston.

    Texas Bug Book is co-authored with Malcolm Beck. It is the state of art book on troublesome and beneficial insects in Texas. The University of Texas Press in Austin. It is the most popular book at this time.


    RADIO: WBAP News/Talk 820-AM Gardening Talk Show, Saturdays 11:00-Noon, Sundays 8:00-Noon.

    Commentary 12:50 PM during "Hello Texas", Monday - Friday.

    COLUMNS: Dallas Morning News - "The Natural Way" in Fridays House & Garden Section, Acres USA.

    WEBSITES: <> or <> PHONE: Metro 817-695-0817

    E-MAIL: <> FAX: 817-365-0608

    03/28/00 and


    To buy products for the chemically sensitive see
    For more information on medical treatment see
    For more articles on the relationship of health and disease to environmental factors, see the list of available articles and other information available here.