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Unpredictable weather leads to problems

SALISBURY — It seems the only thing predictable about our weather is that it tends to be unpredictable. The erratic temperature fluctuations will surely take its toll if it continues. Home owners are still calling about weather-related issues and other gardening questions. Below are a few questions Cooperative Extension has received over the past few weeks.
Email is an efficient method of communicating your problems with Cooperative Extension. Attached pictures help Extension agents determine problems and provide solutions.
Question: A friend of mine told me not to prune my lantana back now because it would kill the plants. My landscape looks very bad now and it really needs to be cut back. Will pruning it now really kill the plant?
Answer: It’s very tempting to go ahead and prune these back now to tidy the landscape, but you to need to wait a little longer into the early spring before you prune back your lantana, not because pruning will kill the plant, but during winter rains, the stems will collect water and cause the stems to rot. Wait until the plants show signs of new growth near the base of the plant in the spring and then prune them back. It’s also important to remember that lantana may be half-hardy and many cultivars will not survive the winter. Go to http://pitt.ces.ncsu.edu/2006/06/lantana/ for more detailed information on lantana in the landscape.
Question: When is the best time to apply dormant oils or sprays to my fruit trees? I remember that it’s usually in the winter months.
Answer: Apply any time during the winter as long as the temperature is above 40 degrees and under 65 degrees. Do not apply when the fruit blossoms are showing color. Go to http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/plantpath/extension/clinic/fact_sheets/index.php?do=disease&id=7 for more complete information about controlling insects on home fruit trees.
Question: I have this growth growing all over my crape myrtles. What is this and will it kill my trees? How do I control it?
Answer: Your plant has lichens on the limbs and twigs. The growth of lichens does not cause decline in growth or death of shrubs and trees. However, lichen development on trees or shrubs is generally associated with poor growth or environmental stress of the plant. If practical, the affected limbs or twigs can be pruned out to stimulate new growth. More information on lichens can be found at http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0857/ANR-0857.pdf
Question: My pansies look pretty bad right now with the cold weather. What can I do to them now to make them look better?
Answer: The extreme cold may have killed some pansy plantings. If possible, deadheaded and fertilize them but not when temperatures are warm, above or near 60 degrees. Fertilize them in cool weather with liquid bloom booster fertilizers. Fertilizer applications during warm weather often promote aggressive growth and the plants usually become weak and spindly.

Darrell Blackwelder is the county Extension director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Call 704-216-8970; email Darrell_Blackwelder@ncsu.edu.

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