Darrell Blackwelder: Great time to work outdoors

Published 12:08 am Friday, May 8, 2015

The weather has been almost perfect for work outdoors over the past few days, with warm days and cool nights. Many continue to call with questions about their landscapes. Below are a few gardening questions Cooperative Extension has received earlier this week that may be of interest to other home gardeners.

Question: Our elm trees have sunken black spots all over the leaves and some are wilting and falling. Is this going to kill my tree?

Answer: Your trees have anthracnose. It is a common foliar disease that not only affects elms, but also maples, oaks, ash, dogwood and other trees. The disease is common in the early spring and is exacerbated by cool, humid weather. Once warm, dry weather of summer arrives, the disease will go away. Anthracnose generally does not kill these trees. Go to

http://ipm.illinois.edu/diseases/series600/rpd621/ for more detailed information about this foliar disease.

Question: I read in the paper earlier this week about an agricultural research tour in a few weeks. Can the general public attend the tour?

Answer: Yes. The tour is May 19 and is sponsored by the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Initiative. It is designed for anyone interested in local farming and the research that goes into farming. The tour features the Piedmont Research Station on Sherrill’s Ford Road and the NC Research Campus in Kannapolis. Call the Rowan Chamber of Commerce at 704-633-4221 or email info@rowanchamber.com for more detailed information on the upcoming tour.

Question: I have a large hydrangea that has dead limbs from the base. There is some green leaves emerging from the bottom, but little to none coming out on the dead stems. I’m afraid to cut them back because it may impede my blooms this summer. What should I do?

Answer: If the stems are not showing any signs of leafing out, then go ahead and cut them back to the green portion of the plant. It was a cold winter and many hydrangeas were damaged. There are some cultivars that can withstand cold winter temperatures. However, many of the older “grandiflora” types are easily damaged in severe winter weather.

Question: How is the Rowan County strawberry crop this season?

Answer: The strawberry crop is about two weeks later than normal. But with the cooler temperatures at night and warm sunny days, this season’s strawberry harvest is one of the best in years. These conditions are perfect to produce sweet, plump berries. Take advantage while the local strawberry crop is in season. The strawberry season in Rowan County should last 4-6 more weeks, depending on weather conditions.

Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.