Welcome North Carolina Gardeners!

Welcome to NC Cooperative Extension Gardener Blog! Here you will find information written by County Extension Agents in North Carolina that we hope will help you be more successful gardeners. This blog will present general information that is useful to all gardeners in North Carolina.

For more specific information tailored to your region of the state follow our regional blogs also:

Extension Gardener Coastal Plain and Sandhills
Extension Gardener Piedmont
Extension Gardener Mountains & Foothills

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Do you want to have a greener, healthier yard while helping the environment and saving both money and time? It almost sounds too good to be true, but GreenScaping can achieve all these things.

Here’s how to create a GreenScape:
1. Build and maintain healthy soils with composting and mulching. Contact your local Extension office to learn more about free soil testing, the first step to knowing what your soil needs. If your soil needs nutrients, feed it with compost you made in your backyard with your yard waste clippings. Mulching is another strategy that greatly improves the production of flowers and vegetables.

2. Plant right for your site. In addition to selecting plants that are appropriate for your growing climate and that are resistant to pests in your area, choose plants that attract beneficial wildlife to the garden.

3. Practice smart watering. Water conservation is a must for all gardeners. Smart watering starts with rain gardens, rain barrels, and making every drop count.

4. Adopt a holistic approach to pest
Sustainability — GreenScapingmanagement, starting with prevention. Recognizing beneficial insects and accepting some imperfections can go a long way toward reducing pesticide use.

5. Practice natural lawn care. Leave grass clippings on the lawn, and mow regularly at the correct height to have a healthier lawn. Natural fertilizers, watering, and overseeding are a few more practices to consider.

Learn more about GreenScaping at www.epa.gov/GreenScapes.

-- Cyndi Lauderdale, Wilson Co.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Extension Gardener Survey

Dear Extension Gardener Readers,

Throughout the year, it has been our goal to bring you useful, accurate, and timely gardening information through the Extension Gardener newsletter and social media sites (Blogs and Facebook: Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plain ). As one of our readers, we need your feedback to determine if we have met that goal and to find out how you have used this information in your lawn care, landscaping and gardening practices.

We ask that you take a few minutes to complete our brief online survey to let us know how we have done this year and how we may better meet your needs next year. The support your feedback provides will help ensure Extension Gardener will continue in the future.

The online survey is available at:  http://harvest.cals.ncsu.edu/surveybuilder/form.cfm?testID=15154
The survey was developed using NCSU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) survey builder tool, and will be available through 11:59pm, December 7, 2012.

Win an NC gardening book!
By completing the survey, you could win a copy of The Successful Gardener Guide North Carolina, edited by Leah Chester-Davis and Toby Bost, or the Carolinas Gardener's Handbook by Toby Bost and Bob Polomski, both autographed by Toby Bost.

Three winners will be selected at random from all completed survey entries. Two copies of The Successful Gardener Guide and one copy of the Carolinas Gardener's Handbook will be given away. Winners will be notified by email by December 10, 2012 and books will be mailed by December 12, 2012. Please enter only once.

You will be able to enter your name and address for the book drawing after you submit your answers to the survey. Our sincerest thanks to author Toby Bost for donating these books.

Thank you for your time and feedback.


The Extension Gardener Team

Friday, September 21, 2012

Protecting Pollinators

Bumble bee on a skullcap flower.  Photo by Debbie Roos.
Pollinators, such as honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, are crucial to the life cycles of many different flowering and fruiting plants. It is important for home gardeners to recognize what they can do to protect and promote pollinator populations.  

One of the best ways to support a pollinator population for the home garden is to grow plants in a variety of colors, sizes, and life cycles, to attract a variety of pollinators. Clumping plants together rather than planting them separately provides nice bursts of color in the landscape while also helping to attract pollinators. Select plants that are good sources of nectar, such as sunflowers, asters, and zinnias. Fruit trees, such as apples, blueberries, and plums, are also good sources of nectar. Choose plants that flower at different times throughout the growing season to provide longer periods of nectar and pollen availability.

Once a pollinator population is established, keep the population thriving by taking protective measures to ensure that their habitat is safe. Avoid insecticide use if at all possible. The simplest alternative to insecticide is to remove nonbeneficial insects by hand. Some gardeners may also choose to accept some insect activity in order to protect pollinators and other beneficial insects. If an insecticide is needed, select the insecticide that is the least toxic to pollinators, and apply it late in the evening, when pollinators are less active. Also, use a liquid spray rather than a dust, to limit pesticide residues. 

- Howard Wallace, Robeson Co.

Extension Gardener Now on Social Media!

Extension Gardener is branching out in new ways to share timely information with you throughout the year. You can now follow us on our blog or on Twitter and be our friend on Facebook. We have statewide sites where you can find information relevant to all North Carolina gardeners. We’ve also developed regional sites with information specific to the region of the state that you live in. Whether you live in the coastal plain and sandhills, piedmont, or mountains and foothills, we can provide information specific to your region.

Visit our Extension Gardener blog at http://ncextensiongardener.blogspot.com, where you’ll find links to the regional blogs. Follow us on Twitter at @NCExtGardener and be our friend on Facebook at NC Extension Gardener. From the statewide Twitter and Facebook sites, you can find links to the regional pages. Join us on the Web!

- Kelly Groves, Catawba Co.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Helping You Grow – TurfFiles Website

TurfFiles (www.turffiles.ncsu.edu) is the website of the Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research and Education at North Carolina State University. The site provides information about turfgrass management and potential pest problems, and it offers problem-solving tools such as decision aids for identifying weeds and diseases. The information disseminated on TurfFiles is provided by NC State faculty and staff in the departments of Crop Science, Entomology, Horticulture, Plant Pathology, and Soil Science.

The TurfFiles site includes a useful online tool called the Turf Irrigation Management System (TIMS). Anyone can use TIMS to obtain guidance on when and how much to irrigate North Carolina lawns based on weather data from the North Carolina Climate Office. The creators of TIMS estimate that homeowners can reduce lawn irrigation by at least 25% when they use TIMS to determine when to irrigate. If enough people used TIMS, millions of gallons of water could be saved in North Carolina every year.

TIMS is available at http://turf-ims.ncsu.edu.

- Della King, Sampson Co.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Potential New Bean Pest

There is a new bug in town that could cause problems for some of the crops in your vegetable garden. First introduced into the Atlanta area in late 2009, kudzu bugs have rapidly spread throughout much of the South, including all regions of North Carolina.

Kudzu bugs can only feed on legumes, or plants in the bean family. Their favorites are soybeans and kudzu, an invasive weed found in much of the South. But they may also cause problems for summer crops of butter beans, green beans, and southern peas such as field peas. This summer, gardeners will need to keep an eye out for evidence of this new pest in these crops.

While kudzu bugs only feed on legumes, they will congregate on many other plants, such as fig bushes, apple trees, and willow trees, though,they will not damage these plants. For information on controlling kudzu bug in your garden, contact your local Extension office. 

- Charlotte Glen, Pender Co.

Photo from Charlotte Glen – Adult kudzu bugs are around ¼ inch across, with square, flattened bodies. Look for them on plant stems.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Showstopper Plant: 'POCOMOKE' CRAPE MYRTLE

Pocomoke Crape Myrtle, by John Vining

Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei “Pocomoke”
Hardiness zones: 7 to 9

"Truly amazing" are words often used to describe the dwarf “Pocomoke” crape myrtle. Released by the U.S. National Arboretum in 1998, this cultivar of crape myrtle features deep rose-pink flowers in mid- to late summer. Perhaps its most striking attribute is its mature height: Pocomoke only grows 20 inches tall, with a spread of 35 inches.

Pocomoke thrives under the same cultural conditions as a typical crape myrtle. Plant it in full sun to ensure a beautiful floral display in July and August. This drought- and disease-tolerant plant needs a spacing of 3 feet between shrubs.

Like all crape myrtles, Pocomoke is a deciduous shrub that drops its foliage each autumn. Ideally suited for residential settings, Pocomoke can be included in large mass plantings or in small groups to create a low-growing hedge. If seasonal color and a low-growing mature height are important to you, then this is the showstopper plant for your garden.

- John Vining, Polk Co.