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Darrell Blackwelder: Time to start working on May chores

Last week’s frost was a major issue — one week later, and we had July temperatures. Gardening activities have increased as homeowners venture outdoors to plant and prepare for summer gardening adventures. There are several lingering chores that need attention. Below are chores many are undertaking for in preparation for upcoming summer gardening activities.

• Pansies have reached their peak and are need to be replaced soon. Even though the plants may still look good, now is time to decide which summer annual(s) will replace them. Remove the pansies’ root and soil ball. Often root balls and soil will harbor fungal diseases, so it’s best to remove as much as possible. Install your summer annuals as soon as possible. The longer you procrastinate, the slimmer the selection of annuals and perennials available at garden centers and retail outlets throughout the county.

• Cool-season lawns look their best during late spring and early summer. Unfortunately, it’s too late to fertilize cool-season fescue lawns. Fertigation in the early summer promotes fungal diseases. Brown patch is the most common fescue disease that may be a problem in later this month with higher humidity and nighttime temperatures. It’s important to mow on a regular schedule, keeping the mowing blade height 3-4 inches. If possible, mow lawns late in the afternoon when the leaves are dry to prevent spread of foliar diseases. One of the questions is concerning lawn care is core aerating. Core aeration should be done periodically, but only in the fall. Coring in the spring weakens cool season fescue turf and promotes summer weed germination.

• Clover and other broadleaf weeds continue to be a problem in fescue lawns. It is a difficult weed to control especially when it is in bloom. Many weed control products require multiple sprays for control. Keep lawns fertilized and maintained on a regular basis will help control this weed.

• Many are cutting back unwanted brush and trees only to have sprouts return within a few weeks. In order to reduce the incidence of recurring sprouts, paint full-strength brush killer or stump killer on the freshly cut stump. Glyphosate (Roundup) will also work. The full-strength herbicide is translocated to the root system, preventing the tree from sending back sprouts. It’s important to cover the stump with the herbicide immediately on the fresh cut stump. Repeated applications may be necessary.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu .

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