Questions and Answers

— Written By and last updated by

The Caldwell Extension Center is your local connection to NC State University agricultural research and knowledge, and we receive a variety of questions year round. I want to share a few recent questions that have been asked at the Caldwell Extension Center.

My hydrangeas have not flowered in the last two years. I cut them back each fall so they look better during the winter. What is the problem?

The answer to this mystery is included in the question. Pruning hydrangeas in the fall, winter, or spring removes flower buds. Without flower buds, the hydrangea will produce beautiful green foliage, but there will be no flowers.

Many flowering plants form their flower buds on the previous year’s growth. Removing the flower buds stops the plant from flowering. If the hydrangea needs pruning, do it after it flowers. This is the best time to prune many summer flowering plants so there will still be flowers produced the next year.

My concord grapes have shriveled. What is wrong with them? Are they safe to eat?

Bunch grapes are susceptible to many diseases.

concord grape picture

Black rot is a serious problem with bunch grapes. Sanitation, picking up the fallen fruit or covering them with mulch, is an essential task for combating this disease.

The shriveled fruit is caused by the black rot fungus. This is the number one problem I see with bunch grapes. The shriveled fruit is not appetizing and should be discarded, but there is not a health risk associated with this disease.

When this disease shows up, it is best to remove all diseased fruit. Leaving the grapes on the ground allows the disease to re-infect next year’s fruit. If the shriveled fruit that has fallen to the ground can not be removed, covering it with mulch will also keep it from becoming inoculum for next year.

Is it necessary to blanch sweet corn before freezing?

Food preservation questions are currently outside of our expertise area at the Caldwell Extension Center. So, to answer this question, I asked for help from my friends at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

The process for freezing whole corn kernels is to select ears with plump, tender kernels and sweet milk. Remove husks and silk. Wash corn under cool running water. Blanch ears in boiling water for 4 minutes. Cool promptly in ice water and drain. Cut kernels from cob at about two-thirds the depth of the kernels. Pack corn into freezer containers, leaving ½ inch headspace. Seal, label, date, and freeze the container. Use frozen corn within 8 to 12 months for best quality.

The blanching (scalding vegetables in boiling water and quickly cooling in an ice bath) process  inactivates enzymes in the sweet corn that will cause loss of flavor and texture.

To learn more about food preservation, visit my friends at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. They have a very easy to use website ( with to the point descriptions as well as short video clips. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a cooperative effort of US Department of Agriculture and the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.

For answers to your agricultural questions, call the Caldwell County Extension Center at 828-757-1290 or visit us online anytime at