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The Gardener’s Dirt September 2007

September 2007

 The Gardener's


Information you can dig into.

 North Carolina State University
College of Agriculture and Live Sciences
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
Johnston County Center
2736 NC 210 Highway * Smithfield, NC 27577
919 989-5380

Shawn Banks
Extension Agent
Agriculture—Consumer Horticulture

In this Issue
Feature Article
Spotlight Plant
Pest Alert
Gardening To-Do
This newsletter offers timely information for your outdoor living spaces
Addressing the most common questions ranging from container gardening,
tree pruning, wildlife management, to fire ant control, insect
identification and lawn establishment.

Feature Story Banner

Stephen B. Bambara, Extension Entomologist, wrote the following article for a publication called “North Carolina Pest News.”  This publication can be found on the Internet at http://ipm.ncsu.edu/current_ipm/pest_news.html for anybody who would like to read more articles about pests and diseases.  This site is updated once a week from April thru September to provide up to date information on pests and diseases, their control and development each year.

Cultural Control to Prevent Tree Pests

Healthy trees are often capable of combating mild insect attacks. In fact, many of the telephone calls we receive are about insects that normally only attack dead and dying trees and are not the cause of the tree's problem. What can you do for a tree to keep it healthy? Here is a short list.

  1. Make sure the tree receives the appropriate amount of sunlight for the species.
  2. In my opinion, trees (especially established trees) need zero or little added fertilizer. Extra nitrogen can cause overgrowth or might encourage certain insects.
  3. Perform a soil test to see if soil conditions are appropriate for the tree.Tree line with thick mulch at the base of each tree.
  4. Minimize turf around the root zone. Use mulch if possible, but NOT against the bark. Apply mulch three inches deep at the most  (image by Stephen B. Bambara). Turf and tree roots are in direct competition for water. Regular lawn fertilization is not beneficial to the tree.
  5. In order to reduce soil compaction, avoid parking vehicles, having playgrounds or conducting other heavy traffic activities beneath a tree.
  6. Don't change the oil from the old 1960 Ford Galaxy (that you've been restoring to look like the police car from The Andy Griffith Show) under the tree.
  7. Quickly prune out any newly damaged limbs. Tree injuries can attract insects within hours.
  8. Drought conditions may not have a noticeable impact on established trees the first year. Repeated dry conditions may result in a problem two or three seasons later. If possible, practical and affordable, watering a specimen tree might be justifiable. Ask about the best way to do this if you are unsure.
  9. Keep that mower and weed trimmer away from the bark.

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 Spotlight Plant banner

 Blackeyed Susan

Rudbeckia sp.

Rudbeckia is a showy daisy-like perennial up to 3 ft tall with branched stems and long-petioled ovate or lance-shaped basal leaves to 5 inches long and half as wide.  The leaves and stems are hairy, and the leaves have prominent veins. The numerous flower heads are a little less than 3 inches across, with purple-brown disk florets making up the center of the eye and 10-20 brilliant yellow-orange ray florets add color surrounding the dark eye.  With all these little flowers, this plant is very attractive to butterflies.

Blackeyed Susan spreads by underground stems called rhizomes to form large clumps.  Propagation can be done by division in the spring or fall, or it can be propagated by seed.

Blackeyed Susan is easy to grow, thriving in any but soggy soils.  It does best in full sun, but tolerates partial shade.  Deadheading or cutting back spent flowers during the bloom time will encourage this plant to send up more flowers, prolonging the blooming season.

Blackeyed Susan flower
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Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading            Hand holding clipboard
September 15 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) will be having a Fall Festival at the research farm near Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro.  There will be educational exhibits, children’s activities, farm tours and demonstrations, and a local farmers’ market.  There will also be food and refreshment available and live music and entertainment all day.  For more information, visit the CEFS website at http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu or call their office at (919) 513-0954.

September 21 – 23 The Southern Ideal Home Show will be in Raleigh at the Fairgrounds.  There are several companies that will be available to show new products and services that are available.  Cooperative Extension will be staffing the Extension Successful Gardener Learning Center in the Dorton Arena with Extension Agents and Extension Master Gardener Volunteers.  For more information on this show visit their website at http://www.SouthernIdealHomeShow.com or by phone at 1-800-849-0248.

September 30 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wilson Botanical Garden Open HouseYou and your family are invited to the
Wilson Botanical Gardens Open House. This event is a fundraiser for the
Children’s Secret Garden. In this garden, children will enter by a
slide (parents may use stairs or ramp) and be surrounded by the smells
and colors of a banana split. Help us make the Children’s Garden a
reality! For more information contact Cyndi Lauderdale.

The State Fair is coming in October.  If you make it to the fair this year be sure to stop by the horticulture exhibits and get some ideas for your yard.

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Pest Alert!  Pest Alert!  Pest Alert!

European hornet
 Photo by
Kelly Groves
Those who do not understand this insect consider European Hornet (Vespa crabro) a pest.  It is, however, a very beneficial insect.  It feeds on other insects including stinging insects.  If left to do what comes naturally, the European Hornet is no threat to humans or pets.  It is when the nest is disturbed and the colony feels threatened that they will attack.  The only activity they have that may be considered as pesky is tearing bark from twigs and branches to get to the sap.

The nest is usually located in the hollow of a tree where it is often partially exposed, but it will also build a nest inside a structure.  This hornet is the largest hornet that can be found in the United States and is technically the only true hornet in the US.  It was imported from Europe to this country sometime around 1840.

When it is necessary to control this insect, use one of the aerosol spray cans labeled for wasp and hornet control.  Spray the nest at dusk, standing as far from the nest as possible (10 to 15 feet).  It is advisable to where a long sleeved shirt and pants when spraying.  Since this hornet will also fly at night and is attracted to light, it would not be a good idea to hold a flashlight or stand near the headlights of a car when spraying.

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Gardening to-do Banner

GENERAL IDEASMan taking a soil sample

  • Collect soil samples for testing, so that you'll know how much fertilizer and lime to add this fall.  Test your lawn, flower beds and vegetable garden.  Testing should be done once every 3 years.  We have FREE kits.
  • Clean up and throw away any diseased plant material.  Do not throw it in a compost pile.  Leaving infected plant material on the plants or where it fell on the ground provides a source of re-infection for next year.

LAWN CAREShady lawn with larg trees

  • Tip for fertilizing cool-season (i.e. fescue) lawns: Fertilize on Labor Day, Thanksgiving & Valentine's Day. Fescue lawns are green & growing during the cool months of fall, winter, and spring. Use a slow-release fertilizer.
  • Plant fescue seed to fill in bare spots or rejuvenate your lawn. The best time to plant fescue seed is Sept. 15 – Oct. 15.  Contact us for a publication on lawn care and renovation and get your soil samples in!!
  • Overseed common Bermuda grass lawns with ryegrass in late September – to keep lawn green all year.  
  • Control winter weeds with a pre-emergent herbicide applied around mid-September on lawn and shrub plantings.

TREES, SHRUBS & ORNAMENTALSOrange daylilly clip art

  • Prepare plants for dormancy. Plants need time in the fall to slow down & prepare for the winter, so do not apply nitrogen (N) fertilizer or prune after July.  Consider applying potassium (K) fertilizers, which increase winter hardiness.
  • Divide spring & summer-blooming perennials – such as daisies, daylilies, creeping Snapdragons lining a fieldphlox – that are overgrown. This is an easy way to enlarge your garden without purchasing more plants. Dig the plants, gently separate into smaller clumps & replant immediately. They'll have plenty of time to get re-established before next spring.
  • Set out cool-weather annuals for winter color. In addition to pansies and ornamental cabbages, other cool-weather ornamentals such as Dianthus, snapdragons, dustymiller, and ornamental sage look great throughout the winter. Wait to plant spring bulbs till chillier fall weather arrives.

VEGETABLES & FRUITSLeaves of chard on table

  • Start fall vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, collards, and cole crops to fill in spaces in the vegetable garden.
  • Mulch Peppers.  Be sure to mulch the plants to keep the roots cool and moist. Stake plants if you like, or you can allow them to tumble over onto ground that is covered with a thick blanket of hay, straw, or even newspapers.


  • Think ahead to next fall and consider plants that will provide autumn color. Trees such as ginkgo, red maple, southern sugar maple, Japanese maple, sourwood, crape myrtle and tulip poplar have outstanding autumn foliage color. The flowers of Sasanqua camellias and autumn-flowering chrysanthemums contribute much to the colorful autumn scene. Don't forget the brilliant red foliage of rabbiteye blueberries. The berries of pyracantha, nandina, viburnum, beautyberry and many hollies provide bright accents into winter. Look for interesting plants in the nurseries, and add them this fall.

HOUSEPLANTSDracena in white pot

  • Plan to bring houseplants and tropicals indoors when temperatures dip below 50 F.
  • Move plants into partial shade for a week to condition them to lower light levels indoors.
  • Prune them, if necessary, to a manageable size. Give them a good bath in soapy water or spray with insecticidal soap to keep insect pests from moving indoors with them.
  • Give tropical plants as much light as possible once they are indoors.

 Need Help



Got Questions? We've got answers!

If you have a gardening issue you would like to see addressed in this
newsletter please let me know I will do what I can to get you the
information you need.  Contact me by e-mail at shawn_banks@ncsu.edu or by phone at (919) 989-5380.

The Johnston County Master Gardener Volunteers are available Monday,
Wednesday, or Friday from 1 to 4 p.m. to answer questions as well.  They
can also be contacted by phone at (919) 989-5380 or by e-mail at jcmastergardener@yahoo.com

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