If weather settles, gardeners need to get to work

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 14, 2014

SALISBURY — Gardening catalogs are often the highlight for many would-be gardeners who enjoy working outdoors. Most of us are longing for consistent weather, and a gradual warming trend would also be nice. Many home gardeners have posed questions that you may also have about your gardening endeavors. Below are a few:
Question: There is a shrub at the Cooperative Extension Office that has small and very fragrant flowers in full bloom. What is that plant that is that plant?
Answer: It is commonly known as winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima). It’s a deciduous plant that has been in older landscapes for many years. It blooms early in the spring and well noted for its very sweet fragrance. Go to http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/shrubs/lonicera_fragrantissima.html for more information.
Question: I planted an area in fescue this past fall and there is a large patch of grass that seems to be taking over the newly planted area. It grows much faster than the fescue turf. What is this grass? What do I need to do to kill it and not kill the fescue?
Answer: Your grass was identified as annual ryegrass. Annual ryegrass seed is difficult to control and often infiltrates seed producers’ fields. It’s almost a given that most fescue seed will contain some of these seeds. There is really no control for the plant once it germinates. The plant dies in the early summer.
Question: The oleander next to the old Wrenn House restaurant appears to be dead. Will the plant come back this spring?
Answer: Many trees and shrubs that are half hardy were severely injured during the cold weather. Oleanders grow best in zones 8 and warmer. Rowan County is zone 7. When temperatures drop below 12 degrees, oleander shrubs will suffer leaf burn and branches quickly die back to the ground. Plants will die down to the roots during extended periods of severe cold weather. The best option is to wait and see if the plant will re-sprout from the roots later this spring.
Question: Can I still plant cool season vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, etc.? I know we’re a couple of weeks behind because of the cold, wet weather.
Answer: Yes, there is still time, but don’t wait too long. Raised beds may be your only recourse if drier weather does not return.
Question: What can I do to keep worms out of my plums? Last year I had a good crop but just before they ripened they were destroyed by worms.
Answer: Plum, peach and other fruit trees are high maintenance and the fruit must be sprayed often, about every 10-14 days, with an insecticide to control insects. Home orchard sprays are available that contain both insecticides and fungicides necessary for insect and disease free fruit.

Darrell Blackwelder is director of Rowan County Cooperative Extension.