Blackwelder column: cooler temps bring questions

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 7, 2011

As the temperature gets cooler, homeowners have a natural tendency to venture outdoors and work in their yards and gardens.
Many have called with various questions about lawns and gardens which may interest you. Here are a few:
Question: I have some liriope I want to move now. Can I cut the tops of the plants before I move them? It would make it easier if I could cut them back and plant them.
Answer: Yes. Liriope is very forgiving and cutting them back before planting will not kill them.
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Question: I planted some turnips and they were growing well a few weeks ago. Now they have white spots on them. What is this and can I spray to control this problem?
Answer: The disease is caused by a fungus called white spot and is very common on turnips and mustard, especially during wet, cooler weather. The fungal disease overwinters in debris from previous plantings so it’s important to avoid planting turnips in the same area each year. Spent debris provides spores for next season’s plantings.
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Question: My neighbor has azaleas that are blooming now. What would cause their azaleas to bloom at this time of year?
Answer: Your neighbor probably has planted Encore azaleas. A relatively new addition to Rowan landscapes, Encore azaleas bloom in the spring and again into the fall. These plants are becoming popular as a fall bloomer making their way into the landscapes with blooms not only in the spring but also in the summer and fall.
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Question: I planted my fig bush two years ago and it has figs, but they have failed to ripen. What causes this and what can I do to make them ripen?
Answer: It takes almost two months to ripen if they are growing correctly. Stress is the major culprit, either from lack of water during droughts, lack of nutrients, not enough sunlight or cooler temperatures. It is a common problem that will correct itself as the plant gets older.
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Question: My pecan tree was loaded this year, but a few weeks ago the outside of the nut casing started turning black and falling prematurely. What can I do?
Answer: 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.
Darrell Blackwelder is the county extension director with horticulture responsibilities with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970, Facebook or online at