Answers for gardening questions

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 4, 2011

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
Erratic weather, both cold and hot during the spring, is not uncommon. This type of weather forces homeowners and gardeners to pick and choose the days they can work outdoors, especially planting tender ornamentals and vegetables.
It is important to remember there may be a chance of frost in the next few weeks, so keep a close eye on the weather if you plant or if you already have set tender plants. Whatever the weather may bring, many are forging ahead with their gardening projects. Below are questions from earlier this week.
Q: I want to use railroad ties in a raised bed vegetable garden. Should there be a concern of chemicals from the ties getting into the plants and or vegetables?
A: Yes, creosote is toxic to plant materials and I would suggest you use newer, pressure treated lumber for raised beds.
Q: Can you tell me why my vegetable seedlings, especially tomatoes and squash, will sprout (indoors in peat pots) and grow to 2 to 4 inches, then fall over and die?
A: Your plants are most likely suffering from lack of sunlight. Even when placed in a window, it’s difficult for vegetable transplants to grow with vigor without supplemental light.
Q: When is the best time to trim forsythia, nandina, butterfly bushes and lilac?
A: Trim forsythia right after bloom (now), nandina can be pruned now (I’m assuming it’s a standard nandina), butterfly bushes can be pruned now and lilacs right after they bloom.
Q: I bought some weed killer for my pasture and I want to use this for my fescue lawn. The guy at the store told me I could use it and kill the same weeds in my lawn and it would do a better job. However, I cannot find the rates for use on lawns; it only gives me the rates in quarts per acre. How much can I use on my lawn?
A: The herbicide you purchased is labeled for use on pastures and not residential lawns. It is a label violation and against N.C. pesticide laws to use any pesticide regardless of how safe it may be that is not labeled for that use. In other words, your herbicide is used for killing weeds in pastures and not for your lawn.
Q: I have English ivy growing in my trees. I cut off the stems three feet above the ground a year ago and the vines are still alive in the top of the tree. Do the vines live off the limbs in the tree?
A: No, you have apparently missed a stem or two and are they are still surviving. If you cut the stems of the ivy at the ground, the upper part of the vines will die.Contact Darrell Blackwelder, County Extension Director at, 704-216-8970 or or