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A few tasks for winter

I always get a number of horticultural inquires over the holidays while visiting friends and relatives.
With a few extra holiday days to work outside, many want to get ahead of their yard-work between the welcome showers. Below are a few questions that may relate to your situation.
Q: When can I plant my lawn; is it too late now?
A: It’s probably best to wait until mid-March to plant fescue or cool season blends. Seed will not germinate in the weather ahead.
Q: When can I prune my fruit trees?
A: Fruit trees are best pruned in the late spring ó the later the better. Pruning stimulates growth hormones and unseasonably warm weather stimulates growth, increasing the possibility of late frost damage in the spring. So, if the trees normally bloom in April, pruning in March is advisable. Typically, the older the tree, the earlier you can prune.
Q: Do I have to prune grapes every year?
A: Yes, grapes need to be pruned every year to ensure growth and development. Grapes should be pruned in February and March. I have lightly pruned muscadine in June with no damage, however, late winter pruning is best for both muscadine and bunch type grapes.
Q: With the drought still a serious problem, how should I water my shrubs this winter?
A: Even though evaporation doesn’t occur as quickly as it does during hot summer weather, dry weather can still be a problem, especially for newly planted trees, shrubs and container plants. Use at least 6 inches of mulch to conserve moisture and hand water when temperatures are above 40 degrees. Check newly planted shrubs during periods of dry weather, especially new plantings and container plantings.
Q: I planted pansies a few weeks ago. What can I do to them now?
A: Pansies need to be deadheaded and fertilized during the winter months, but not when temperatures are warm, above or near 60 degrees. Fertilize them in cool weather with liquid bloom booster fertilizers. Applications during warm weather promote aggressive growth and the plants stretch and produce weak and spindly growth.
Q: Are you teaching a Master Gardener Class this spring?
A: Yes, if enough qualified volunteers apply. Applications for the Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program are due 5 p.m., Monday, Jan. 14. There will be an informational meeting about the Master Gardener Volunteer program on Friday, Jan. 11, 1 p.m. at the Agricultural Center in Salisbury. Information about the Master Gardener Volunteer Program can be found online at www.rowanmastergardener.com.
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Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. For archived garden columns or other information, visit the Rowan County Master Gardener Web site at www.rowanmastergardener .com, e-mail Darrell_ Blackwelder@ncsu.edu or call 704-216-8970.

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