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Blackwelder column: Answers to your fall gardening questions

It was cool earlier this week; a sure sign fall is on the way. With the change in temperature, homeowners want to be outdoors for fall cleanup and other chores.
Many have called with various questions about lawns and gardens. Here are a few that may be of interest:
Q: Is now the time to take my hummingbird feeder down? I’ve been told to take the feeders down so the hummingbirds will continue to migrate.
A: Now is the time when hummingbirds migrate south for the winter. Even after our local birds leave, other hummingbirds may be passing through from further north and will need food for their journey.
It’s not necessary to bring in hummingbird feeders. Leaving a feeder up now will not keep hummingbirds from migrating. Experts report that their migration is stimulated by the length of the day.
Q: Can I prune limbs on my trees?
A: Light pruning is not a problem now. Wait until spring around mid-March to do heavy-duty pruning on most trees. However, maples and birch should be pruned now while in leaves to avoid heavy bleeding in the spring.
Q: I over-seeded my lawn in September and now the grass seed is coming up nicely. When should I mow my newly emerging lawn?
A: Make sure your blade is very sharp and cut the new lawn when the grass has reached a height of 4 inches. Mow it as high as possible and often to strengthen the plants root system.
Q: Is there still time for me to core aerate my lawn and plant seed now?
A: Yes, there is still time to seed or over-seed fescue lawns but you need to have your seeding done by Oct. 30.
Q: My pecan tree was loaded this year, but a few weeks ago the nuts turned black and are falling prematurely. What can I do?
A: Excessive rain and warm fall temperatures produce the perfect environment for pecan scab. Pecan scab is a fungus disease that is difficult to control. It is impractical to spray large trees. Rake up infected nuts and leaves and if possible, burn to eliminate re-infection next year.
Q: I still have pumpkins in the garden. When is the best time to harvest?
A: Pumpkins can take a light frost, but not a hard freeze. When the rind is very hard and the stem is brown is the best time to pluck them out of the garden. Use pruners to cut the stem, leaving an inch or more of stem. Wash the pumpkins in one part bleach to 10 parts water solution to eliminate fungi and bacteria that will increase chances of decay.
Contact Darrell Blackwelder of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County at 704-216-8970 or go to:
http://www.rowanmastergardener.com
http://rowan.ces.ncsu.edu
http://rowanhorticulture.blogspot.com/

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