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The Gardener’s Dirt August 2008

August 2008


The Gardener's


Information you can dig into.

 North Carolina State University
College of Agriculture and Life 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


Insect Investigator

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


By Adair Pickard

Low volume irrigation is also known as trickle irrigation, drip irrigation, micro-irrigation, or micro-misting and hand watering with hose, watering can or pail.  The purpose of low volume irrigation is to provide the most efficient water delivery to flowers and shrubs with the least amount of water loss.
Spray stake under a shrub
Drip irrigation has a 90% delivery efficiency compared with the 50% to 70% achieved with regular overhead sprinkler usage.  Drip irrigation releases a slow application of water directly to the root zone via drip emitters providing optimum moisture levels.  Because emitters are put where the roots are, no water is wasted on non-growth areas. This easy to install equipment is available at your local “big box” store.  A possible disadvantage is the necessity to place the emitters appropriately, which may require some trial and error.

Drip tape, another form of drip irrigation, is a flat tape with drippers inserted at 12” to 18” spacing.  The tape expands when filled with water via a hose hookup providing total saturation coverage.  This method is ideal for vegetable gardens and row crops.

Soaker hose going under landscape fabric
Micro-irrigation is ideal for difficult areas such as slopes, windy areas or odd shaped areas.  Soaker hoses are examples of micro irrigation.  They come in a variety of lengths and can be joined together for increased coverage.  Laying the soaker hose out in a winding pattern about 24” apart works best in clay soil.  For annuals, on slopes that run across, and for sandy soils spacing the hoses 12” to 18” apart is best.  Covering the hoses with a two-inch layer of mulch provides best saturation of the root areas.

Micro-misting is another form of low volume irrigation that uses emitters.  These are low pressure with a wide range of flow rates and diameters.  They cover a large area at a low height making them ideal for ground cover areas and small flowerbeds.

Hand watering is probably the most used form of low volume irrigation although not the most efficient.  To get good water penetration into the soil, cycling the irrigation is recommended.  This means, water until there is standing water then move on to another spot for five to ten minutes before coming back to water it again.

For more information on this topic visit the following web site.

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 Spotlight Plant banner

Black-Eyed Susan

Rudbeckia hirta (Asteraceae)

 Blackeyed Susan flower A 2 – 3 foot stiff, upright annual or short lived perennial native to the eastern United States, but has become endemic throughout North America. The characteristic brown, domed center is surrounded by bright yellow ray florets.  This is a true sunshine worshipper that forgives neglect.

The trick to growing black-eyed Susan is to give it full sun in decent soil. Moderate fertility will give you the best flower show so avoid the edges of lawns where lawn fertilizer will provide excess nitrogen. 

Blackeyed Susan plant

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 Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading            Hand holding clipboard

Master Gardener Training: a new class will start Wednesday August 20th.  Call (919) 989-5380 or e-mail snbanks@ncsu.edu for more information.  We are looking for people who love to garden and would like to share that passion with others.

Organic Class this month is on marketing and certification.  Class will be August 28 from 7:00 pm until 9:00 pm at the Agriculture Center located at 2736 NC 210 Highway, Smithfield, NC 27577.  Please call to reserve your seat. (919) 989-5380

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Insect Investigator banner
Assassan bug on leaf of a plant
picture by: Louis Tedders, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org
Bee assassan bug on a flower
picture by: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

A Good Assassin Bug

by: Steve Bambara, Extension Entomologist
NC State University

Assassin bug adults and nymphs are slender, colorful insects, often blackish, reddish or brown in color. They have long legs, a long narrow head, round beady eyes, and an extended, 3-segmented, needle-like beak. Nymphs are quite small, 5 mm (1/4 inch) in length when they hatch and grow to an adult size measuring approximately 2 cm (3/4 inch). Adults are poor fliers, and both adults and nymphs move rapidly when disturbed. All assassin bugs are predators. Insect-feeding species eat a variety of prey such as aphids, caterpillars and other bugs, good or bad. Nymphs and adults are often stalking or laying-in-wait for prey. They inject their catch with toxin. Assassin bugs are fairly common in the landscape, but rarely abundant.
Assassin bugs in the genus Pselliopus are distinguished by their black-banded, bright orange bodies. The adult is about one inch in length.

Article taken from North Carolina Pest News July 18, 2008

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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
  • 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
  • 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


  • 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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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

Past Newsletters  Johnston County Lawn and Garden  

 Persons with disabilities and persons with limited English proficiency may request accommodations to participate by contacting Bryant M. Spivey, County Extension Director, at (919)989-5380, or in person at the Johnston County Extension Office at least 10 days prior to the event.   North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability.  In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.  North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Local governments cooperating. 
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