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The Gardener’s Dirt August 2007

August 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

Our Little Green Planet

    More and more I hear about how we are killing our planet.  We create too much air pollution, use too much water, and mine too many resources.  In a world full of people, it is overwhelming to consider how a single person can make a difference. 

    I racked my brain to find something I could do that would make a difference; after all, one little raindrop raises the ocean.  Here are the possibilities I found that could make a difference in a big way.

  1. farmer's marketBuy local produce.  Here is an opportunity to put money back into the local economy, reduce exhaust emissions, eat healthier food, and reduce the risk of bioterrorism in the food source. 
  2. Grow your own vegetables and fruits.  Gardening is a good way to get exercise and to know exactly what is being put into the plants.
  3. Water only as needed. Watering lawn areas only when they show signs of water stress rather than on a set schedule could reduce the amount of water used. 
  4. Use mulch around trees and shrubs.  Using mulch will reduce the need for watering by reducing the water evaporated from the soil.  It also helps prevent valuable topsoil and nutrients from washing into streams and lakes.
  5. Start a compost pile.  Fruit and vegetable scraps, paper and yard debris can all go into a small compost pile that once finished can be used to fertilize any kind of plant.  This will reduce the amount of trash sent to the landfill.

There are many other things that can be done around the house and office to reduce energy consumption.  For tips in this area, contact the Johnston County office of Cooperative Extension and ask for Jayne Cubilla, the Family and Consumer Science Agent with energy conservation responsibilities.  She would be happy to provide information on energy conservation.  She also has programs coming up in the next couple of months on e*conservation that may be of interest.

    For more information on lawn and garden questions contact the Extension Master Gardeners at the Cooperative Extension office by phone at 919 989-5380 or by e-mail at jcmastergardener@yahoo.com.

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 Spotlight Plant banner
Crepe myrtle flower red
crepe myrtle red flower cluster

Crepe myrtle plant with red flowers
Red crepe myrtle

Crepe Myrtle

Lagerstroemia sp.

The crepe myrtle is a favorite of many southern gardeners.  The draw for this plant is that is blooms at a time when most trees are not blooming.  If the plant is healthy it will be covered with blooms that will last for months during the hottest part of the summer.

Crepe myrtles will grow in almost any kind of soil sand, loam or clay.  It is even possible to grow them in containers if they are watered and fertilized properly.  They will grow in partial shade, however, the best flowering will occur on plants that receive more than 6 hours of direct sun.

A lot of work has been done with crepe myrtles to produce several different colors of flowers from white to purple to every shade of red.  They can be purchased for small spaces with plants that reach a mature height of 3 to 5 feet to large shade trees reaching heights of 35 feet and almost any size in between.

Work has been done in breeding the original crepe myrtle Lagerstroemia indica with a Japanese crepe myrtle Lagerstroemia faurei, which features red, flaky bark and resistance to powdery mildew.  Most new varieties that are on the market today are a result of this breading program.  

For more information on the newer varieties, their mature height, flower color, and how to solve some of the more common problems associated with crepe myrtles such as powdery mildew or lack of flowering visit the web site on crepe myrtles put out by Clemson University.  http://www.clemson.edu/crepemyrtle/   Or this site from the University of Georgia. http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/L331.htm

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Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading            Hand holding clipboard

Master Gardener Volunteer classes will begin August 22
and run through the middle of November 14.  Classes will be on
Wednesday afternoons from 1 until 4.  If you love gardening and are
willing to share that knowledge with others we are looking for you. 
Call the Cooperative Extension office (989-5380) or send an e-mail to
shawn_banks@ncsu.edu and ask for an application for the Master Gardener

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) has a couple of upcoming events that might be of interest:
August 23, 2:00 – 5:00pm Diagnosis and Management of Vegetable Diseases a small fee for this class.
September 15, 10:00 – 3:00pm Fall Festival Free to the public.
For more information on these activities check out the CEFS website.


Pest Alert!  Pest Alert!  Pest Alert!

young azalea caterpillars Azalea Caterpillars are in the early stages of development around this time of year.  They start out as small, green worms that change colors as they mature ending up as black and yellow-striped worms with red-colored heads and prolegs.  The caterpillar makes a U shape by throwing its head and tail into the air when it is disturbed.  Most of the damage is done in August and September so early control would be best.  Knocking them off the plant and stepping on them can easily control these worms.  There are also chemicals labeled for controlling caterpillars that can be used.

Chinch Bugs can be a pest in both St. Augustinegrass and Centipede lawns.  It feeds on the grass by inserting its beak into the leaf blade and sucking the juices out of the plant.  This causes the grass to yellow, which rapidly turns to brown, dead areas.  The young, bright-red nymphs cause most of the damage.  Homeowner formulations of imidacloprid, cyfluthrin or Sevin insecticides will do a good job of controlling this pest.  More information can be found in the information note on chinch bugs.

Peach Tree Borers are the caterpillars of a clearwinged moth.  The moth, which resembles a wasp, is mainly in flight during late August and early September.  The best time to apply a preventative spray to the base of peach trees is August 15 and again September 1.  This moth will lay eggs on peaches, plums, cherrylaurels, and ornamental cherries.  There is no easy way of controlling the larvae once it gets under the bark of the tree so protect those trees with a preventative spray.

peach tree borer moth
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Gardening to-do Banner

 The dog days of summer have begun!


  • Collect soil samples for testing so you'll know how much fertilizer and lime to add this fall. Test your lawn, flowerbeds and vegetable garden using the free kits from Cooperative Extension. Testing should be done once every 3 years.
  • Water deeply but infrequently this encourages a deep and extensive root system for better drought tolerance.
  • Control fungal diseases by watering early in the morning, allowing the sun to dry water droplets from the foliage.


  • lawn killed for renovationPrepare your lawn for fall seeding. August is the best time to prepare for planting cool season grasses for the optimal planting time, which is the second half of September. Call the Cooperative Extension Service for more information on establishing and maintaining a fescue lawn.
  • If the plan is to completely redo a fescue lawn from scratch, now is the time to eliminate all grass and weeds. Non-selective herbicides are most effective. An alternative is a process called "solarization". This is a process that bakes weeds under a covering of clear plastic.
  • Water the lawn when the grass blades are just starting to curl or grass bladesfootprints remain on the lawn when you walk across it. Watering too often encourages plants with a shallow root system that do not handle drought well.
  • Maintenance needs are different for each grass type. Call Cooperative Extension for a Lawn Maintenance Calendar for your grass type. Information on fertilizer amounts and timing along with mowing heights are included.


  • colchicum flowersPlan for Fall Bulbs – Autumn-blooming crocus and colchicum add color in the fall. Since these bulbs are not always available locally, consider ordering them now from a mail-order source. They need to be planted in September.
  • Mulch trees and shrubs with a 2-3” layer of mulch to keep roots cool, conserve moisture, and control competing weeds and grasses.  Avoid mulching more than 4 inches deep, and leave 3-4 inches between mulch and the trunk of the tree/shrub.  Shrubs hiding doors and windows
  • Avoid pruning shrubs and trees during late summer. Pruning stimulates new growth which will not Security risk from overgrown shrubshave sufficient time to harden off before cold weather.
  • If a foundation shrub is overgrown and blocks a window or creates a security risk, some pruning is needed. Remove as little live wood as possible now, then plan to do more drastic pruning in February.  Consider replanting using a shrub whose mature size will not require pruning for that area.
  • Avoid nitrogen fertilizers during late summer. New growth at this time of year is vulnerable to frost damage in the fall. If your soil test shows you need to add phosphorus or potassium to your soil, go ahead and add them now. These nutrients will help your plants withstand the winter.
  • Make your wisteria work! If you are being overtaken by wisteria, root prune it. Prune roots and runners underground by inserting a sharp spade to its full depth in a semi-circle about 6 feet from the main stem of established plants. This will curb its growth and induce more blooms next spring.
  • Cut back leggy impatiens and other summer flowers, then fertilize them. They'll regrow within a few weeks, and look great up till frost.


  • Examine fruit trees periodically for scale infestations and mark with flagging tape. Applying summer or horticultural oil can keep them from getting out of hand. If you let them go until winter, that tiny infestation will be a monumental invasion!
  • Squashvine borer in squash vineCaring for Strawberries – Now that strawberries have finished bearing, prolong their life by cutting off the tops without injuring the crown. Also, thin plants to 12 inch spacing. Fertilize with 1/2 pound of 5-10-10 per 25 sq.ft. Weed and apply mulch to conserve moisture and reduce weed growth. Plan on starting a new strawberry bed every three years.
  • Allow Peppers to Turn Red – Peppers allowed to turn red will be sweeter and higher in beta carotene. Even jalapenos which are traditionally harvested green, mature to tasty red peppers.
  • Fill in empty spaces in the garden with fall crops of lettuce, collard, and other cool-weather vegetables. Even beans planted in late summer can produce a crop before frost.
  • Watch your squash plants for sudden wilting. A second generation of squash vine borers is hatching. You may be able to save the plant by removing the caterpillar, then covering the injured area of the vine with moist soil to encourage rooting.


  • goldenrod flowersLook for interesting plants in nurseries which can be added to the garden this fall.
  • Late bloomers add color and life to the steamy August garden. Visit botanical gardens and arboreta or ask the neighbor down the street to see what is blooming in the area this time of the year.
  • Consider ornamental grasses with their light airy texture that will look good well into the winter.
  • Keep Extra Containers for Instant Color – Plant some extra flowering containers periodically for backup color. When one starts looking spent, you can move another into its place.  Replant the old one or take it to the plant hospital for recuperation.

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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 pm 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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