Darrell Blackwelder: Good times and bad times for garden chores

Published 12:11 am Friday, March 27, 2015

Even though we’ve had a small taste of warm weather, 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. Whatever the weather may bring, many are forging ahead with their outdoor projects. Below are few questions from phone calls and emails received over the past week.

Question: There is a bunch of bees flying in my backyard. They look just like honeybees but are boring in the soil. What are these bees and what can I do to control them?

Answer: Sounds like what you have is ground bees or solitary bees. These insects bore individual holes into clay soils.  They look much like honeybees hovering over the soil. Unlike honeybees or hornets, they are solitary and keep to themselves. They are excellent pollinators and not aggressive as are yellow jackets or hornets.  However, they can be a nuisance to homeowners, especially those with severe allergic reactions or small children. If you have great fears, use an insecticide carefully. If the insecticide will kill ground bees, it will also kill honeybees and other important pollinators.

Question: I pruned my birch tree back this past week and it’s bleeding badly. Will the tree die from excessive bleeding?

Answer: Birch, maple and other trees bleed furiously the first few days after pruning especially in the spring after the first hint of warm weather. The tree should heal over with no detrimental effects. However, for future reference, always prune birch and maple trees in the late August and September to avoid excessive bleeding.

Question: I have English ivy growing in my trees. I cut off the stems 3 feet about the ground a year ago and the vines are still alive in the top of the tree. Do the vines live off of the tree limbs in the tree?

Answer: Yes and no. You may have  missed a stem or two and are they are still surviving. However, it does take them a while to completely die.  Once you completely cut the vine back, the tops will die.

Question: Is now the time for me to spray weeds in my lawn? I sowed the grass seed last fall and was wondering if the herbicide would hurt the grass.

Answer: Now would be a an excellent time to control broadleaf weeds in the lawn. Newly emerging chickweed, henbit and other broad leaf weeds can be controlled with a post-emergence herbicide blend that contains 2,4-D and other herbicides. Well established lawns can tolerate these sprays. A well-established lawn is defined as a new lawn that has been mowed at least three times.

Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.