Danelle Cutting: Spring is coming up fast

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 4, 2016

Spring will be here in no time. Flowers are starting to bloom, trees are budding and insects are getting active. This is the busiest time of year for Cooperative Extension, mainly because people are starting to work more outdoors. Here are a few questions we have received this week.

Question: How can I control wild blackberries and poison ivy in my flower beds?

Answer: This can be difficult, depending on the plants in your flower beds. Most homeowners want a quick way to kill the weeds but do not want any products that will hurt their plants. In this case, it was discovered that the bulb plants were sprouting and that there was also evergreen and perennial plants in the same bed. Because of that, the homeowner could not use an herbicide over the entire area to control their problem.

I also caution homeowners on purchasing mulch with added herbicide; this can injure some plants. You also need to wear proper gloves while handling the product. My recommendation for homeowners with a weed issue is to look for a cultural control issue first, such as soil sampling and proper identification. Some weeds do not like certain pHs, and some weeds are commonly misidentified. Then, look for mechanical or biological control. Can you mow the weed until it cannot survive, or are their insects that like to eat the weed? Chemical is the last option. If chemical is required, I suggest that the blackberry and poison ivy plants are cut and an herbicide applied directly to the cut and not to the entire bed. Please contact your local Extension office for pesticide recommendations.

Question: Do blackberries need trellising?

Answer: It depends on the varieties. There are trailing, semi-erect and erect types of blackberries. I do not have a preference between the different types but for my own blackberries, I use a trellising system. There are numerous ways to trellis a blackberry, and this publication goes into depth on the varieties and types of trellis systems: http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/growing-blackberries-in-north-carolina. The main thing to remember is that even if you build a trellis system, it does not provide an excuse to not prune. Pruning needs to be done every year on blackberries to get the best production.

Question: Is it best to start my own seed, or should I purchase transplants?

Answer: I hate to keep saying that it depends, but it truly does. If you have never started your own seeds, you may want to start small and see how well you do. Many home gardeners started their vegetable seed back in February, so if you are planning on getting your plants in around April 15, you are already behind. If you are looking at what’s called a succession planting, (planting additional crops a week or weeks after the first planting) you are still good on time. Many people like doing their own seed because they can pick their varieties and know how the plants are grown. Rowan County is also blessed with garden centers that provide excellent transplants for the growing season; you just have to make sure that you get your plants early, or you will be left with what others didn’t want.

If you have any questions concerning gardening, call your local agent, Danelle Cutting, at 704-216-8970, or email her at danelle_cutting@ncsu.edu.