Q&A With Seth Nagy

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Some interesting questions came into the Caldwell Extension Center this week. I’d like to share three of them with you. I hope you find these questions and their answers helpful.

Question: I’ve found four spiny nut hulls in the yard, but they don’t come from our trees or any nearby trees. What are they?

Answer: This is a chestnut “hull” or to be more correct, a chestnut cupule and was probably brought into your yard by a squirrel. Cupules are part of the flower that holds and protects the nuts.

The pictured cupule is from a chinese chestnut tree.

Chinese Chestnut Nut

This is the outer covering from a Chinese chestnut nut. Typically this spiny covering is called a hull, but its botanical name is cupule.

Chinese chestnut trees are blight resistant. The chinese chestnuts are a viable alternative for commercial chestnut production. Chestnuts are low in fat compared with other nuts and are receiving attention from the health food industry.

These nuts can be eaten roasted, boiled, sautéed, or consumed fresh. Chestnuts may be incorporated into various recipes, such as stuffing, vegetable dishes, casseroles, and desserts. Dried chestnuts can be ground into flour as a substitute for wheat flour or cornmeal. Currently, there are about 3,700 acres of chinese chestnuts in commercial production in the United States.

Question:  This odd brown fungus has shown up in the mulch. We’ve never seen it before. What is it?

Answer: This is a coral mushroom. It is a saprophytic fungus that is naturally occurring.

Coral Fungus

This is a coral fungus. Our wetter than normal season has provided excellent conditions for these types of fungi.

The hardwood mulch is what the fungus is using as its food source.

This fungi is a natural decomposer. It is not harmful to landscape plants. I have seen more fungi and slime molds in the landscape this year due to the relatively rainy weather we’ve had.

Question: Is now the time to renovate my fescue lawn, and how should I do it? I’ve already taken a soil sample.

Answer: Congratulations on taking a soil sample. This is an essential step. A soil test lets you know lime and fertilizer needs to provide optimum fertility for your lawn. A lawn that has good soil fertility is better able to compete with weeds and diseases.

Fall is the best time for renovation and seeding tall fescue lawns. Fescue seedlings emerge and grow best when air temperatures are between 70 and 80 degrees. Soil temperatures need to be greater than 60 degrees for good germination. It is generally better to seed earlier rather than waiting until October, so try to get your seed out in September. However, seeding in October is still okay, but it increases the likelihood of slow/low germination.

A typical tall fescue seeding rate is 5 to 6 pounds of seed per 1000 square feet. Germination will normally be in 7 to 14 days with adequate soil moisture and suitable soil temperatures.

Core aerification, sometimes called plugging, is recommended before seeding. This reduces soil compaction. It also helps with getting good soil to seed contact. Having the seed in contact with the soil is essential for good germination and establishment. The holes left after core aerification capture seed and hold moisture, providing a good little micro-climate for the fescue seedlings to germinate and emerge.

I suggest applying 1.0 pound of nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 square feet at seeding. Include lime, phosphorus, and potassium as indicated from your soil test.

To apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet: Divide 100 by the first number on the fertilizer bag to determine the amount of product to be used per 1,000 square feet. Example: Using a 16-4-8 fertilizer, 100 divided by 16 equals 6.25. Therefore, 6.25 pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet will deliver 1 pound of nitrogen.

Since seeds and seedlings may be damaged by some herbicide applications, fall seeded grass should not have any herbicides applied until it is out of the seedling stage. Also, be sure to read herbicide labels to see if there are reseeding restrictions.

The first step in maintaining fall fescue is proper mowing height. Studies have shown that a 3½ inch mowing height provides the best growth condition while minimizing disease incidence and weed encroachment.

For answers to your agriculture questions, call the Caldwell County Extension Center at 828-757-1290 or visit us online anytime at https://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu.