SALISBURY — 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, but horticultural problems do occur. Below are a few questions that you may have pondered.
Q: There is a very large black and yellow spider in our yard in our flower bed. My grandchildren play in the yard and I am afraid this spider may be dangerous. Is this a poisonous spider and should I be concerned?
A: What you have is probably an orb weaver or garden spider. They are a very common garden spider that weaves intricate webs in order to catch its prey. It is not considered a dangerous spider. Go to http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/Urban/spiders.htm for more complete information about spiders.
Q: (From a city maintenance worker). We were trying to kill a hornet’s nest today and the hornets really chased after one of the crew members. It seems they singled him out. Why did they go after this one worker?
A: (After some inquires) the crew member was the only one in the group wearing a bright yellow caution vest; many insects including bees are attracted to bright yellow colors. Many insects also have very poor eyesight and are also attracted to rapid movement.
Q: My watermelons are growing poorly in one spot in the field. They are stunted and pale. They do not seem to have any disease problems. What do you think the problem may be?
A: After some investigation, it was determined the soil had a very low pH, near 4.0. Piedmont soils can vary immensely especially in vegetable gardens or near newly built homes. Have garden soils tested every two-three years to determine their pH and fertility levels. Go to N.C. Department of Agriculture website http://www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/sthome.htm for more complete information.
Q: My shrubs have grown a bit over the past few months. Can I prune them now?
A: Yes, light, judicious pruning can occur all during the year, however, avoid pruning spring flowering shrubs such as azaleas and rhododendron. If you prune them now you will eliminate many of your spring flowers. Prune these shrubs in the spring after bloom. Those who want to severely prune holly, red tips or boxwood should wait until early spring to avoid possible winter damage. Ironically, maple and birch trees should be pruned now while they have leaves to avoid excessive bleeding in the spring.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.