Ask the Expert Gardening Questions

It is truly an honor to support an estimated 330,000 Brazoria County residents. I receive a steady number of landscape and gardening questions weekly and I try to address every inquiry that passes through my desktop in a timely fashion. Sometime questions can be seasonal, such as reasons for lackluster cucumber production. On average I’ll field questions regarding tree health. I want to share a few questions that may seem familiar and relate to your gardening and landscape practices. You can submit a question to our service on Brazoria County Horticulture webpage:

The first question I received about a week ago, the client including pictures of a mature ash tree, about 4 large branches radiating from a central trunk at about 5-feet high. The client was concerned about dry, brown and crumbling organic matter that had collected in the center of this juncture, causing what appeared to be a dry rot and affecting one of the branches. He also had questions about green patches of moss about the size of a dinner plate on the sides of the branches, as well as ball-shaped, hair-like growth collecting on the ends of an elm tree branches.

My answer: I’ve examined images of the tree and recommend that you consult with a certified arborist. The one I am concerned with is the large ash with brown decay in the ‘saddle’ of the tree. The limb protruding from the base of the decay looks compromised and not structurally sound, and you will have to have a professional determine further action. The green moss-like patches are called Resurrection Fern. These are opportunistic ferns that use the bark of a tree for support, do not take any nutrients from the tree and are not harming or causing tree decline. The hair-like gray clumps are Ball Moss, related to Spanish Moss and different growth pattern. Like its sister plant, Ball Moss gathers nutrients from ambient humidity, is also opportunistic and is not harming or causing ill health to the Cedar Elm.

A resource I recommended for you regarding online arborist search is through the Texas chapter of the International Society for Arboriculture (ISA) database online. These are professionals that have self-reported their certification with ISA, and you may find a few that are fairly local for consultation: Choose the image “Find an Arborist”. You will be forwarded to a webpage to search by country (USA); you will then be forwarded to a page to further refine your search by choosing your postal code. I recommend to place your search within a 25 mile radius. The programmed search engine will then shuttle you to a page with a list of arborists; note to always look for their credential as a certified arborist.

Another client recently called the office and asked if I could help explain why her cucumber vine was not producing fruit, and if she needed to add fertilizer to maintain the plant. My answer: There may be several reasons that your cucumber vine has not produced fruit. Regardless of reference to previous year or current 2020 season, if the vines produced flowers and no resultant fruit, it is very likely that there was not successful pollination. Cucumbers are monoecious, meaning they produce separate male (producing pollen) and female (producing fruit) flowers on the same plant. You can tell the difference and identify the female by the development of what looks like a very small cucumber fruit attached below the flower. If you are receiving consistent male/female flowers and no fruit, you may have to try hand pollinating the flowers; take an open male flower and invert the open end to the open end of the female flower, transferring pollen from the male to the female. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Dr. Joe Masabni has written a fact sheet on cucumber production from Aggie Horticulture website: Check it out and compare your cultivation methods with those in the fact sheet.

I value concerns, praise and curiosity from each and every Brazoria County resident. Gardening is my passion and we have many resources at our disposal to assist you improve your gardening knowledge and skills. During the COVID-19 pandemic and during social distancing programs, I offer streaming live presentations from our social media account, such as on Composting, Heirloom Tomatoes and Herb Gardening, and continue to expand the wealth of opportunities to get timely gardening information out to our public. Find out more about these programs with links from our county website: I invite you to share your ideas and successes in your garden by browsing online to my Facebook webpage:, as well as keeping up with programs and activities promoted from Brazoria County AgriLife Extension. Be well and I’ll see you in the garden.

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