Darrell Blackwelder answers your questions

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 20, 2017

The unusually warm fall earlier this month has provided many people the opportunity to continue working outdoors.

Frost has appeared in several areas. Many people will be outside preparing for cooler fall weather. Below are a few questions I’ve received over the past few weeks.

Question: There is something cutting off limbs on my hickory and pecan trees.  There are limbs scattered all over the place. The twigs look like something has whittled the limbs with a sharp knife. What is causing this and is there any control?

Answer: It sounds like you have an infestation of twig girdlers. The twig girdler is a beetle that lays eggs in late summer and fall on the tips of tree branches and then girdles the tip ends of the limbs. The limbs gradually die, which allows them to fall to the ground.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the girdler is the cut is almost perfect, neatly completed around the circumference of the limb. The limbs contain eggs which will produce another generation of beetles next summer.

Gather the twigs and burn them to help reduce another infestation.  More complete information can be found at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/O&T/trees/note96/note96.html

Question: Do I still have time to plant pansies?

Answer: Yes, you still have time to plant pansies and violas. Make sure that the plant beds are deeply tilled with ample soil amendments. Mulch newly set plants with a generous layer of fine ground pine bark. Dead head spent blooms throughout the fall and winter if practical to allow maximum root growth and development. Fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer during cool temperatures below 60 degrees. Avoid fertilization during unseasonably warm temperatures as the warm temperatures often cause pansy plants to stretch and become weak and spindly.

Question: My newly planted fescue lawn I planted a few weeks ago is germinating well with the recent rainfall and cooler temperatures and is beginning to really look good.  Unfortunately, so are the weeds. I have a slew of broadleaf weeds popping up everywhere that are becoming a serious problem. Can I spray over the newly emerging grass now to control these weeds?

Answer: Yes, you can spray with broadleaf herbicides labeled for cool season lawns. Controlling them now while they are small and immature is important for good fescue establishment this fall going into the winter months.

However, it is very important that the emerging fescue grass is well established and healthy. When the lawn has been mowed at least three times, the turf is established well enough to survive herbicide over-sprays to control broadleaf winter weeds. Double check the pesticide label before applying any pesticide, especially to newly seeded lawns.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.