Cooperative Extension still receives a number of homeowner questions via phone and e-mail despite the waning growing season. The recent rains always create problems, but this period is generally slower than most, still, horticultural problems do occur. Below are a few questions that you may have pondered.
Q: To Seth Nagy, agent in Caldwell County — How do you tell when watermelons are ready to pick?
A: The clues I look for when picking a watermelon from the garden are the light green curly tendrils on the stem where the vine attaches to the melon will turn brown and dry; the melon will lose its shiny color and become dull; the skin becomes tough and feels rough; and the bottom of the melon, where it touches the soil, will turn a yellowish color. I’ve never had much luck with thumping melons. Maybe I am just tone deaf.
Q: I have bees that are continuously harassing my hummingbirds at their feeder. Is there anything I can do to get rid of these insects?
A: There is no easy answer with this problem. Dripping feeders attract yellow jackets and other bees. You may want to purchase feeders that feature a basin and doesn’t easily drip. Also, moving the feeders around the yard will often confuse the bees for a few days.
Q: (Brought to the office from a local producer) My tomatoes have a strange disease that is spotting and damaging the fruit. The spots look much like the fruit has been tattooed. All the fruit on a couple of plants seem to look this way. Do you know what this could be and how to control this?
A: The fruit looks like they may have tomato spotted wilt. This is a viral disease vectored by thrips. It can be a serious problem in commercial fields and may affect home gardens. The disease generally stunts plant growth and causes unusual patterns on the fruit. Using resistant tomato varieties is the only control. Go to http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/plantpath/extension/clinic/fact_sheets/index.php?do=disease&id=6 for more detailed information.
Q: I have a dogwood tree with limbs that get in the way when I try to mow. Can I prune them now?
A: Yes, dogwood trees can be pruned without damage in late summer and early fall. Light pruning will not kill established trees.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. 704-216-8970