Blackwelder column: Scale difficult to control

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2008

Jack Frost has finally arrived and even with cool mornings, many are venturing out to do outdoor and landscaping chores.
Those working outdoors have called with inquiries about insect pests and maintenance. Some of their questions may be of relevance to your gardening situation.
Question: I noticed this week that my euonymus shrubs are not doing well. They have some type of insect problem that seems to be killing them. What is this problem and how do I control it?
Answer: Your euonymus shrubs are infested with euonymus scales. Unfortunately, euonymus scale is difficult or impossible to control in most situations. Removal of heavily infested branches will help but it will not stop the insect. It is too late to spray now, but wait until late spring and spray with oils and insecticides including Orthene and malathion. Scales on these plants are so difficult to control most elect to remove the shrub and plant another species.
Question: Can I prune a few limbs from my shrubs now? My shrubs are a little leggy and need shaping.
Answer: Yes, but I would avoid pruning spring flowering shrubs such as azalea, forsythia, etc. Avoid heavy pruning. Wait until late spring after danger of late frosts for heavy pruning.
Question: I have winter weeds such as henbit and chickweed already emerging in my newly seeded lawn. Can I apply a herbicide to kill winter weeds now and not hurt my lawn?
Answer: Yes, but make sure your lawn is well established. If it has been mowed at least three times, it can withstand a postemergence herbicide application. Hose-on applications of these weed killers work well on early emerging, tender winter weeds.
Question: My Bradford pears are blooming now. Why are they blooming now and will they bloom again in the spring?
Answer: Unusual temperature extremes, especially cool weather in the fall followed by warm weather, often trick plants into blooming. It happens often with pears and other plants such as forsythia and dogwood. Premature blooming will not hurt the tree and it should bloom normally in the spring with fewer blooms.
Question: I tilled my garden and I need to plant a winter cover crop. Do you have any recommendations?
Answer: Cover crops such as wheat, rye (grain), crimson clover and winter peas are excellent cover crops. My personal favorite is crimson clover because it makes a bare area look pretty in the winter and when turned under in the spring supplies extra nitrogen to the soil.
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, e-mail or call 704-216-8970.