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Top 10 Gardening Questions

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FAQs from the Haywood Plant Clinic

This page contains a list of some of the most asked questions we receive in our plant clinic. Feel free to browse through these to see if any of the information is helpful to you. Additional resources are provided for each topic, so you can further research any of the topics that interest you.

1. What plants should I plant in my yard?

The plants that will best fit your yard will first depend on your planting site characteristics. It is important to conduct a site analysis and know how much sun/shade your site will receive along with the amount of moisture your site typically receives and how well it drains. You can use the NC State Extension Plant Toolbox to find some potential plants that best fit what you need. You can filter the toolbox by hardiness zone to find plants that grow in Haywood County (we are in zone 7a; if above 4000 feet elevation, you are zone 6b.) You will want to find plants that are rated for zone colder to avoid stressing them too much. The best kind of plants for your yard or garden are those that are natively grown in North Carolina or Haywood County. Click here for more native plant resources! Wondering where to find native plants? Check out this list!

2. What plant/insect is this?

If you have a plant or insect in your yard that you want to identify, there are a few different resources that can help you. If you have a smartphone, there are several apps you can download to submit pictures of plants and get identification. Some apps might also have insect or wildlife identification. Alternatively, you can use these resources to help you identify your plant: NC State Plant Toolbox or the Vascular Plant HerbariumYou could also provide a picture or bring a sample of the plant or insect to the Haywood County Plant Clinic to get assistance with identification.

3.Why do I need to soil test? How do I get a soil test? When do I need to do one?

Soil testing can help you identify what plants would work best in your soil and determine if you need to raise the pH of your landscape. The report will also tell you how much and what kind of fertilizer to apply. Soil tests kits can be acquired through the extension office for free. The best time to do soil testing is during the months prior to your plants growing season. You can find more soil test information here

4.Why are there mounds around my yard?

A lot of the time, holes in a backyard are caused by small mammals such as moles or voles. Moles are carnivorous and are most likely attracted to your yard due to insects or grubs in the soil. If you control for white grubs in your turf, you can minimize the presence of moles. Voles, on the other hand, are herbivorous, so if you notice bites taken out of your plants, it is more likely to have been a vole. Trying to eliminate their food source can help get rid of them. Alternatively, using humane traps or repellants can help. Larger holes might be caused by groundhogs, which excavate substantial amounts of dirt while creating long tunnels which can endanger foundations if they burrow too near structures like houses or barns. Have other wildlife issues? Check out the NC Wildlife Resource Commission. Consulting a local pest control company could also help with identifying and controlling animal pests.

5. My tomatoes got the blight now what?

Blight is most likely caused by a bacterial or fungal infection in plants that can cause discoloration, spotting, or drying of leaves. There are many different types of blight that are specific to different plant types. Tomato plants are susceptible to a few different blight diseases. Here is some information on blights commonly found in North Carolina. The links will also give information on look-like diseases that make identification challenging.

Early Blight: Evidence of early blight can be seen on foliage, fruit, or stems at any stage of development. In early blight the lesions first develop on the lower leaves of the plant as small dark spots with concentric rings that are characteristic of this disease.

Late Blight: Late blight typically starts on the younger leaves on the top of the plant and appear as irregularly shaped, water-soaked lesions.

Southern Blight: With southern blight, also known as southern wilt and southern stem rot, a brown to black lesion usually develops on the stem near the soil line. The lesion will develop rapidly and cause a sudden and permanent wilt of all above ground parts.

Cultural practices listed below can help to reduce the diseases in your home garden. The links above will give you more detailed information.

  • Weed, fertilize, and mulch the bed to help maintain plant vigor.
  • Irrigate plants from below to keep water from standing on leaves for any length of time.
  • Prune the bottom most leaves as the plant grows.
  • Plant resistant varieties of tomatoes and rotate planting beds every 2-3 years.
  • Use fungicides preventatively.

6. How do I plant Blueberries/Strawberries? Where do I buy them?

Strawberry plants are best planted in areas that have high light levels, away from any nearby obstructions that might block light. Strawberries also need well drained soil with good soil quality. Blueberries in the home garden also have specific planting requirements. Different blueberry variations will thrive better in different soils or areas. Blueberries can benefit from planting two varieties to ensure they are well pollinated and yield good fruit. Blueberries will need acidic soil, with a pH of around 4.5. It is important to know your yard and your soil before planting.If you are interested in growing other berries in your garden, such as blackberries or raspberries to your plantings, check out our 2024 Berry Care Guide. The best way to acquire berry plants is to contact local nurseries or to order them through our annual edible plant sales in the early spring.

7. Why is my Leyland Cypress dying? 

Leyland Cypress trees are considered problematic, meaning that there are several insects and diseases that can cause problems with these plants. If you have Leyland Cypress trees that are showing signs of decline, there are several problems that could be happening. You can use online resources such as this decision guide to try and identify the issue with your cypress, but it is also a good idea to get an opinion from a professional.  If you are planning to plant a living fence or windbreak, consider choosing alternative trees that have fewer problems than the Leyland Cypress. For instance, you might consider these natives – Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria), Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), or Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) or a non-native that is suited to our climate such as Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) or Japanese Holly (Ilex cornuta).

8. How can I get rid of an invasive plant?

Invasive plants are plants that are in a habitat that they are not normally in. Invasive plants are harmful because they can be damaging to the environment and can prevent native species from growing or thriving like they should. The Plant Toolbox has a list of invasive species on the lefthand side of the main page, this can be used to help you determine if your plant is an invasive or not. The best way to manage invasive plants is to use good preventive measure for spreading these plants. A variety of controls measures can be implemented depending on the situation (chemical, manual, mechanical, etc.) Choosing the method of removal that is right for your invasive plant is important to ensure you will get rid of the invasive and prevent further spread.Additional resources on invasive plants:

Invasive Species Assessment

Invasive Plants and Your Forests

Invasive Plant in the Mountains of NC

9. What does freeze damage look like? How can I treat or prevent it?

Freeze damage can occur when unexpected frosts or freezing temperatures occur. Symptoms of freeze damage include discoloration, wilting or droopiness, defoliation, softened tissue, or split bark. Preventing frost damage can be done by monitoring weather conditions and using tarps to cover susceptible plants when necessary. Make sure to remove any tarps used during daytime temperatures because it will quickly warm up. You can also plant plants that naturally are more suited to handle frost. Treatment can include removing damaged parts of your plants and using fertilizer to encourage extra growth.

10. Why are my apple trees not maturing?

Apple trees could have a variety of issues causing them to not grow properly. An apple tree that is not maturing could be due to a lack of proper nutrients. Consistent soil testing while the tree is growing will be important to ensure the tree is getting the nutrients it needs. Maturing apple trees will also need to be properly watered, especially during any dry spells. Failure to get fruit can also be caused by a freeze during bloom or lack of a pollinator tree. Another important aspect of growing apples trees is proper pruning. Apple trees have a variety of diseases and pests that could be causing issues for your trees. Identifying the cause of issues is crucial to knowing how to treat it. Check out the resources below about growing apple tree is North Carolina.

NC Production Guide for Smaller Orchards

Heirloom Apple Production

Resource List for Apples

Bonus: My tree appears to have something wrong with it. Help!

Feel free to contact our Plant Clinic for assistance. We will most likely recommend that you contact a certified arborist for further information about tree health and treatment options along with providing an assessment as to whether the tree needs to be removed.

Article was written with help from Extension intern Gabe Bolling and NC State Extension Master Gardenervolunteer, Chris Wilkinson.