H&G Q&A: Hot and humid

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 30, 2024

July is poised to deliver its normal hot temperatures and excessively high humidity that we’ve learned to expect. Coping with the excessive elements often compounds other problems caused by insects and diseases as well as other general questions. Here are questions posed by local gardeners.

Question: We have some type of grass growing in our flower beds that grows even more when we pull it up. Can you identify this grass and steps on controlling this weed?

Answer: You have yellow nutsedge. Yellow nutsedge is a very difficult weed to control. Most think of the weed as a type of grass, but it’s actually classified as sedge. The blades are triangular shaped and grow very rapidly, especially in hot, humid weather that we’ve experienced over the past few weeks. Unfortunately yellow nutsedge forms tubers (nuts) at the tips of the rhizomes. During the growing season, plants spread by rhizomes or underground stems producing “daughter plants.” Yellow nutsedge begins forming tubers at the tips of the rhizomes maturing in late July to mid-August. Spot spraying with a systemic herbicide such as glyphosate (Roundup) will control the newly emerged nutsedge, however the sprouts below ground generally continue to emerge and continue to be a problem. Many landscape maintenance professionals prefer to use a post to control the weed. Go to http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/pests/weeds/hgic2312.html for more detailed information about the yellow and other sedges.

Question: I often see this tree with huge leaves growing around Salisbury and throughout the county. What is this tree?

Answer: It is most likely a catalpa tree. It grows extremely fast and can become weed-like if out of place. It’s often called “fish bait tree” because of the huge numbers of caterpillars on the tree that are often used for fish bait in the late summer. Go to https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/catalpa-speciosa/for more detailed information about this tree.

Question: I have a birch tree that has limbs that get in the way when I mow. Can I prune them now?

Answer: Yes, birch trees can be pruned without damage in the summer and early fall. Light, judicious pruning generally does not kill most established trees.

Question: I got these odd plants with no leaves, but they have large, orange seed pods coming out of the ground. Do you know what these unusual plants are?

Answer: These are seedpods to arum (Italian Arum). It was introduced as a groundcover but now some areas consider it an invasive plant. It grows mostly in woody locations with ample water. Wear gloves when handling this plant because all the plant parts can cause skin irritation. Go to https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/arum-italicum/ for detailed information about this plant.

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 .