Published 12:00 am Friday, October 11, 2013

As the temperature falls and leaf color changes, many will venture outdoors for their fall landscape maintenance chores. Many have called with questions about lawns and gardens that may interest you. Here are a few questions from the public:

Question: Our summer perennials are looking pretty bad now. I know I probably need to wait until they die back from frost, but my wife is having a meeting at our house next week and I want to go ahead and cut them back. Will this hurt the perennials?

Answer: No, the plants are starting to die back naturally, and at this time of year they are not taking up nutrients. Go ahead and prune them back now and mulch with 3-6 inches of mulch.

Question: I over-seeded my lawn in early September. The lawn is now growing well. When do I cut my newly seeded areas in the lawn?

Answer: 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, no closer than 21/2 to 3 inches.

Question: I have just planted my lawn and the grass is just beginning to germinate through the straw, but I have leaves falling. What shall I do?

Answer: Fescue will never become established without sunlight. You need to remove those leaves as carefully as you can without disturbing emerging grass seedlings. Keep emerging grass properly irrigated to maintain growth. When the lawn has reached proper height you can use a bagger to mow and collect leaves or gently use a leaf rake to remove excess straw mulch.

Question: Can I prune my shrubs now? Some have long shoots that don’t look good.

Answer: Light pruning is not a problem now. Wait until spring at mid-March to do heavy-duty pruning on shrubs. Wait until azaleas bloom before pruning them back.

Question: Our newly seeded lawn also has weeds popping up with the fescue. Can I use a herbicide to control the weeds and not hurt the newly emerging grass?

Answer: Yes, you can use broadleaf herbicides for lawns, but you need to make sure the grass is established and healthy. Generally after the lawn has been mowed at least three times, the turf is established well enough to survive herbicide over-sprays.

Question: Is it still time for me to core aerate my lawn and over-seed with fescue?

Answer: Yes, there is still time to seed or over-seed fescue lawns. However, shorter days and cooler temperatures will slow germination of seed. It’s best to have your seeding done by Nov. 1.

Darrell Blackwelder is the county extension director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970, on Facebook or online at