Not a fruit lover

Is there a chemical that will suppress the flowering of black walnuts to keep them from fruiting in the fall? — via the Internet

Try ethephon. Ethephon will cause flowers to abort in many species and is a commonly used product for fruit elimination. Monterey Chemical's Florel brand of ethephon does not list black walnut specifically, but it has label language that permits this use. You should, however, be cautious and perform a test spray (as recommended on the Florel label) to ensure safety on black walnut.

Back to work

I used to be the manager for the corporate grounds of a large facility. After the maintenance was contracted out and my position eliminated, I did some other jobs for several years. However, I'd like to get back into grounds care. What do you suggest for finding jobs in this area? — via the Internet

The best strategies for finding employment in general also apply to grounds care. It sounds like you've been out of the industry for a while, so your old contacts may be limited. If there are any regional or local landscape-related organizations in your area, join them and get to know who's who (and who's hiring).

Of course, you should check the job listings in newspapers, as well as trade magazines, which have help-wanted ads in their classified sections. Also, there are a few employment services that focus on the green industry. Two of them can be accessed online at and

Don't be afraid to “beat the bushes” looking for a job. Send resumes to potential employers even if they haven't advertised an opening. Look for large construction projects happening in your area and talk to the project manager or HR department of the company. They may need a grounds manager after the landscaping is installed (or even before), and talking to them before completion could put you a step ahead of other job seekers.

Follow-up: dull mower blades

Here is a follow-up to the coverage we gave in this column several months ago regarding mower blades, sharpening and carbide coatings. To the reader wondering how to cope with mower blades that dulled quickly, we suggested carbide-coated blades. Though more expensive, they require sharpening and replacement much less frequently than standard blades.

Another reader responded with this suggestion: Have a welding shop “hard face” your blades.

This process is routinely used on machinery in many industries to add strength or durability to wear- or stress-prone parts. Hard facing involves using a welder and rods to lay down a more wear-resistant metal on top of the original metal. Resharpen and balance the blade and it's ready to go. It's inexpensive and can considerably extend the life of blades.

Whether this is more cost-effective than simply buying a blade that was manufactured with a carbide coating depends on various factors, notably how much the local welding shop charges for its work.

What's an ester?

What's an ester herbicide? I hear that esters control weeds better, but I don't know what chemical this is. — via the Internet

Herbicide active ingredients can be formulated in different chemical versions. In the case of many broadleaf herbicides, you see them formulated as esters or amines.

The chemical differences result in different application and performance characteristics, even though the active ingredient may be the same.

The two biggest practical differences are that esters tend to offer better ounce-for-ounce effectiveness on some weeds, making them well-suited for use on hard-to-kill or hardened-off weeds; and that esters are more volatile than amines, thus creating a greater potential for drift. For that reason, it often is recommended that esters only be used in cool weather, such as spring or fall.

For most uses, amine formulations are more than adequate, which is just as well since they are relatively safe. But if you need the extra punch of an ester, manufacturers offer low-volatility esters that reduce drift potential.

Eric Liskey has a bachelor's degree in ornamental horticulture and a master's degree in botany. He has been licensed for pesticide advising and applications in California and Missouri, and has more than 10 years combined professional experience in landscape installation and maintenance, nursery retailing, pest management and botany.

If you have a question about landscape or turf management, write to “Researching Maintenance,” Grounds Maintenance, P.O. Box 12901, Overland Park, KS 66282-2901, or send you question by e-mail to

Questions are selected on the basis of current general interest. Unfortunately, we are unable to guarantee a response to individual letters.

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