Q&A: Winter weeds, planting pansies and berries for bluebirds

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 15, 2022

Frost will be here soon, and many homeowners still have gardening and landscaping chores. Inquiries concerning fall maintenance of their lawns and landscapes plants are common concerns. These recent questions below may be of relevance to your gardening situation.

Question: I have a couple of beautiful tree-form hibiscus plants that I would like to keep for next season. Will these plants over-winter for next summer?

Answer: Unfortunately, these are tropical plants and will not survive our freezing temperatures throughout the winter. There are winter hardy perennial hibiscus cultivars that will grow and bloom annually.

Question: I have winter weeds such as henbit and chickweed already emerging in my newly seeded lawn. Can I apply some type of weed killer to kill winter weeds now that will not hurt my grass?

Answer: Yes, broadleaf lawn herbicides can be applied in the fall but make sure your newly seeded lawn is well established. If you have mowed newly seeded areas at least three times, it can withstand a postemergence herbicide application. Hose-on weed killers work well on early emerging, tender winter weeds.

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: I want to help the birds make it through the winter, especially the bluebirds. What can I do to help feed them this winter and keep them in my yard?

Answer: Bluebirds survive on insects in the spring and summer, but during the winter, bluebirds and other bird species survive on berries. Bluebirds are attracted to berries of hollies and dogwoods as well as beautyberry, elderberry and mulberry trees. It would be beneficial to the birds if you could incorporate berry producing hollies and dogwoods into your landscape if possible. More information can be found at the official N.C. Bluebird website: http://www.ncbluebird.com/

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.