Snakes and Bahiagrass...Oh yeah!

Dear DownEast Gardener;

Hi Bruce, I am a seasoned landscape contractor that is in a career change.  Do you have an herbicide regiment for Bahiagrass in my Emerald Zoysia? I also had a beautiful specimen Daphne odora suddenly die.  Was this a virus that could not be treated?  Thank You, Michael.

Answer:  Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum) is a native South American perennial grass that has taken root in eastern North Carolina. On the plus side, bahiagrass can grow in acid, sandy dry soil and is resistant to most diseases and insect problems. It makes a great seed crop for quail, is fair forage for animals, and will hold together the soil where no other plant will grow (that is why it is used on NC Highways!). On the minus side, the seed get scattered everywhere and end up as a weed in our lawns, golf courses, and athletic fields. Traditional treatments of MSMA or DSMA will likely be the best solution for post emergence control of this grassy weed in zoysiagrass. You may also want to consider hand pulling for small infestations or spot treatment with Roundup or similar product. Other products are available but generally high cost or label use prevents application on home lawns. Read the NC Ag Chemical Manual for additional recommendations ( ).

Daphne is susceptible to a wide spectrum of insect and disease problems. Standard treatment for virus problems in Daphne and other woody shrubs is dig and destroy. Curing virus problems in ornamental plants is a long and tedious process reserved for laboratory types and not gardeners.

Dear DownEast Gardener;

Both tomatoes and the portulaca I plant begin to die after about two and a half to three months.  Is this normal?  I have talked with others who seem to have better luck.  My other plants last much longer. Claire.

Answer: This is not normal...and luck has very little to do with successful gardening. Tomato and Portulaca are not related plants. Tomatoes are having major problems this year with tomato spotted etch virus, bacterial wilt, and other systemic fungal pathogens. I have not heard any problems with Portulaca. Normally, portulaca is a great plant for hot dry areas in southeastern North Carolina. Here are some publications for you:

Dear DownEast Gardener;

When is the best time to cut back azaleas and other flowering bushes?  They have taken over the walkway and need cutting back but I don't want to kill them if it isn't the right time of year to do so. Bruna

Answer: It is best to cut back azaleas prior to July 1....but cutting back later in the year will not kill them...just cut off the bloom buds. Other flowering shrubs should be pruned based upon when and upon what "wood" they bloom. I can suggest some great horticulture classes for you to learn this information, but in the meantime read this publication:

Dear DownEast Gardener;

I am a constant fan of your show with Mr. Townsend and learn and enjoy much from you both.  I don't know anyone to ask this question of, but since I saw an ad for bird mailboxes on your last Saturday's program I thought I would pose this question to you for HELP.  My husband became an avid bird-watcher after he retired a couple of years ago.  As any good wife would I supported his hobby with books, pictures, birdhouses etc. Little did I know his beautiful hobby would bring me eyeball to eyeball with a deathly fear of mines: SNAKES.  Ever since my husband started attracting

birds to our backyard we have been bothered with snakes...all kinds.  I have stopped planting my summer flower garden and rows and rows of Sunflowers.  I have curtailed a lot of my other backyard activities too. Dr. Bruce, why is it I have never read or was ever told that I would be confronted by these most dangerous and unwanted visitors?   Please, please help me reclaim my backyard. Clean fingernails, FAZ.

Answer: Thanks for watching and reading. I hope I can change your mind about snakes. Most snakes in this area are not poisonous and are essential to the balance of nature by preying upon rodents, moles, voles, and other vermin. When bird food is improperly offered, seed can attract a wide spectrum of rodents in addition to the birds. Rodent populations attract snakes. Snakes will also prey on bird eggs or young if given a chance. A properly mown lawn, good mulch for weed control in the garden, and properly pruned shrubs will go a long way in discouraging snakes since this is not a preferred type of habitat for snakes. Keep to the cleared areas, yours eyes wide open and enjoy the beauty not the beast. It is all about seeing the glass half full!

For the curriculum program and or gardening questions, write Dr. Bruce Williams, Brunswick Community College, PO Box 30, Supply, NC 29462 or email