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The Gardener’s Dirt February 2007

February 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

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

Loving Food and Finding CSA's

By Joyce Pettengill
Johnston County Master Gardener

    Ok, I admit it.  I'm in love with food.  This is not just a casual love affair. I mean I really, really love food.  So what's a girl to do?  Well, Just like with a man, a girl should go for the highest quality, and of course, we like them fresh.

    I found the answer for me!  It is called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).  CSA is when a farmer sells a portion of his produce before the season starts. The shareholders are guaranteed a certain amount of his produce. This upfront money helps the farmer with the anticipated cost of the farming operation.  The shareholders will share in the risks such as poor weather, pests, and diseases, and the benefits such as a bountiful supply of fresh and nutritious produce. (Which is what I'm banking on).

    There are 5 CSA's in or near Johnston Co., Wild Onion Farms in Middlesex; Double T Farm in the Cleveland area; Hannah Creek Farm in Four Oaks; The Flying Pig Farm in Zebulon; and Hilltop Farm in Willow Springs.  Hilltop Farm is the only one that is "Certified Organic" although the others advertise they practice organic means.

So, being a smart consumer, I checked out this "Certified Organic" title.  Of course, there were the usual requirements of no pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals. Surprisingly, products listed as prohibited, by National Organic Products (NOP), could have been used on the land for the 3 years preceding the certification.  The farmer must recertify yearly with records of everything involved with his farm right down to his seed purchases (no genetically altered seed) and manure use. This certification process is to ensure that the products are truly organic for the consumer.

    Armed with my information, I wanted to talk to a farmer.  Luckily, I was able to talk with Mr. Fred Miller, of Hilltop Farms in Willow Springs. He was not only knowledgeable about organic farming, but very willing to discuss his operation.  When a girls true love is food, he is just the kind of farmer a girl is looking for.

    First, Mr. Miller shared the basics of any garden, such as choosing the right variety, planting dates, days to maturity, and living with some weeds.  He then talked about the problem areas that gardeners face, such as weeds, pests, and fertilizer.

    For weed control he plows his fields a little early before a forecasted rainfall.  This encourages weed seeds to germinate, start to sprout.  Then he plows again before seeding his crop.  Leaf mulch is used in the fields to further discourage weed growth.  Hand pulling of some weeds is still necessary for some weeds.  Fortunately, he is happy to report,  as time goes by he is having less of a problem with weeds.

    When it comes to pest management, he uses beneficial insects.  He has in the past purchased and released beneficial insects on his fields.  The farm also has it's own beehive that helps pollinate crops.  Interestingly, to attract beneficial insects he plants a row of flowers intermittently among the crops.  He plans this year to be able to supply his shareholders with a bouquet of flowers as part of their allotment.  Isn't that nice?  Food and Flowers!

    When it comes to fertilizing, Mr. Miller does his yearly soil testing and makes adjustments as needed. Luckily, dolomitic lime is considered organic and easy to obtain.

    There was no surprise when he mentioned compost.  When he said he uses feather meal, ground up chicken feathers, for his nitrogen source I knew this organic stuff was serious. So what about the good ‘ole standby manure?  Since he has horses on his farm, he has a constant and never ending supply and does use it according to regulations. The NOP regulates that no manure can be applied within 120 days of harvest to any produce that touches the ground, and within 90 days of harvest for produce that does not come in contact with the soil. For the greenhouse, he likes to give his seedlings a dose of fish emulsion.

    Each CSA has their own mode of operation, methods of payment, and crops produced.  It does pay to check into each CSA to find one that fits your needs.  For example, some will have drop off sites in Clayton, Raleigh, Cary, and local farmers markets.  Some allow only full share allotments while others will allow you to purchase a half share.  Each CSA mentioned has a website listed below.

    At the end of this enlightening fling with my food affair, I'll remember Mr. Miller's answer when I asked, "Why do you go through all this organic stuff when it's easier to use chemicals?"  He replied, "Because I know it's the right thing for people and the planet."

www.Hilltopfarms.org    www.Double-T-Farm.com    www.freewebs.com/wildonionfarms
www.FlyingPigFarm.net    www.Hannahcreekfarm.com

Some of the opinions in this article are not necessarily those of Cooperative Extension.  We do not endorse one farm or farming method over the others.  

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Blue Salvia flowers    Salvias have brilliantly colored flowers and attractive, often scented, foliage and incredible variety of fragrance.  They can be used for massing, borders, containers, accents and cut flowers.  In addition to the colorful flowers and interesting foliage of salvias, one of the main benefits of growing sages is the hummingbirds and butterflies they attract.

    Less hardy types of salvia are usually grown as annuals.  They may reach 5 to 6 feet in height by the end of the season.  There are also many salvia varieties that will stay low enough to be used at the front edge of a flowerbed.

    Most salvia prefers full sun and well-drained soils, but there are also many that will bloom well in part shade.  Most are quite drought-tolerant, and require little care once established.

    Salvias are relatively problem-free.  They are subject to damping-off of seedlings, stem and root rots, powdery mildew, Botrytis blight, aphids, spider mites and whiteflies.  Diseases are most common either in greenhouses or under conditions which salvia dislikes such as cool, wet weather. Insects are mainly problems in greenhouses.

'Knock Out' Rose

If you thought growing roses in the landscape was anDouble pink knock-out rose flower impossible feet, then you need to meet the ‘Knock Out’ rose.  This rose is virtually disease free.  It grows best in an area that receives full sun.  It is also good for small gardens because it only reaches a height of 4 feet with a width of 3 feet.  It flowers non-stop from spring all the way through frost in the fall.  The original color is red.  For those who would like different colors, new color releases are being made from time to time.

For more information on the ‘Knock Out’ rose visit this website .

Hand holding clipboard     Announcements banner heading      Hand holding clipboard

    Grapevine Pruning Demonstration Feb 17, 2007 10:00am –
12:00pm at Hinnant Family Vineyard located at 826 Pine Level-Micro Road
in Pine Level.   Connie Fisk from Duplin County will be there to
present information.  Information will be given on how to properly prune grape vines and how to care for them throughout the year.  For more information call 989-5380.

    Fruit Tree Training and Pruning March 3, 2007 10:00am-12:00pm Demonstration at Central Crops Research Station on Highway 70 in Clayton.  Dr. Mike Parker, tree fruit specialist at NC State University, will be presenting information on how to train and prune your fruit trees to get the best production.  For more information call 989-5380.

    Southern Ideal Home Show at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh April 13-15.  Extension's Successful Gardener will have a learning center set up in Dorton Arena where people can stop by and ask gardening
questions of an Extension Agent or a Master Gardener.  There is a charge to get into the show

    Fire Ant Clinic, April 21 10:00am, at the Agriculture Building in Smithfield.  2736 NC 210 Highway.  Dr. Charles Apperson will present information on the life cycle and biology of the Red Imported Fire Ant.  This will help in knowing when and how best to control these insects.  He will also cover some of the product that can be used to control Fire Ants.  The Master Gardeners will have stations set up in the parking lot to demonstrate the proper use of the different types of chemicals.

    Johnston Community College Arboretum activities require preregistration and a small fee, call to reserve your seat 919-209-2052 or 209-2517.  e-mail to fryel@johnstoncc.edu or parkera@johnstoncc.edu

  • Soap Crafting and Bath Salts for Valentine's Day February 6, 2007 7-9pm.
  • Spring lawn February 20, 2007 7-9pm Preparations and perennial picks for your garden.
  • Lawn Equipment Maintenance. March 20 7-9

Gardening to-do Banner

Lawn Care
  • Cool season grasses should be fertilized mid-month.  If a soil sample has not been taken, use a fertilizer of at least 30% slow release Nitrogen at the rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet. 
  • Crabgrass usually will start to germinate about the same time the Forsythia blooms.  If you have had problems with crabgrass in the past, then you may want to apply crabgrass preventer when the Forsythia blooms.  
  • Wild Garlic in lawnPulling wild onion/wild garlic is the best way to get rid of these pesky bulbs, but make sure you get the bulb.  If there are too many to pull, a product with 2,4-D works well to help control this weed.  Be sure to follow the manufactures directions found on the label.  Complete control may take two or more years.  Apply 2,4-D at half the recommended rate on centipede lawns otherwise it will damage the grass.
  • For more tips on lawn care visit Turf Files on the internet at www.turffiles.ncsu.edu
Trees, Shrubs, and Ornamentals
  • Liriope with lavendar flower and variegated leavesCut back dormant ornamental grasses before new growth starts to about 10 to 14 inches above the soil.  Evergreen ornamental grasses (or grass like ornamentals) such as Liriope and Mondo Grass should be cut short or mowed to remove last year’s unsightly foliage.  If the clumps have become too big for the area they can be divided and shared with friends or planted in other areas of the yard.
  • Summer blooming shrubs bloom on new growth so they can be pruned hard in February to encourage new growth and many flowers.  Examples include Abelia, Hibiscus, Hydrangea, Beautyberry, Butterfly bush, Althea, Rose of Sharon, and bush or Tea Roses.  Shrub Pruning Calendar
  • Spring blooming shrubs such as Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Forsythia, Spirea, Quince, Weigela, and Climbing Roses bloom on last years growth and should not be pruned until after they have flowered.
  • Deciduous trees especially those that bloom in the spring should not be pruned this time of the year.  Examples being Dogwoods, Red Buds, Maples and several others.
  • Four Pansy flowers of different colorsFor many evergreens this is the best time of the year to prune if they haven't been pruned already.  Evergreen Pruning Calendar
  • Summer blooming roses can be pruned this time of the year.  Remember not to remove more than 1/3 of the growth.  Remove old mulch and leaves from around plants, this removes any overwintering fungal spores.  Put down some fresh mulch.
  • Bare root roses and trees can be planted this time of the year.  Soak the roots overnight to rehydrate them before planting.
  • Spring flowers such as Sweet Williams, Pansy, Viola, Calendula, Forget-Me-Nots, English Daisies, Poppy, Alyssum and Dianthus can be planted now.  Don't forget to deadhead pansies and fertilize toward the end of the month.
  • Cauliflower head whiteAsparagus crowns can be planted now through March.
  • Transplant cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower out into the garden.
  • Strawberry plants can be planted now for spring fruits.
  • Beats, carrots, peas, lettuce, mustard, radish, spinach, irish potatoes, and turnips can be sown outside.
  • Starting seeds indoors is easy and economical.  Sometimes it is the only way to get the color or variety of the plants you want to grow.  It is not necessary to use "grow lights" as ordinary florescent tubes will usually be enough.  For more information you can read the pamphlet "Starting Plants from Seeds", it is on the web at https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-8703.html
  • February and March are good months to prune fruit trees.
  • It is time to start a spray program for peach trees to control the many diseases and insects that attack peaches.
  • It is time to plant strawberries in a well prepared bed for harvest this spring.
  • Control overwintering insects such as scale and their eggs by hand picking or using a dormant oil spray (also know as horticultural oil ).  Be sure to check for scales before spraying and follow the manufactures directions when applying any pesticide.  Do not apply dormant oils to broadleaf evergreens when freezing temperatures are expected.
  • Cool-weather mites are not visible to the naked eye, but are busy sucking the life out of junipers and other needled evergreens that were an unsightly brown last year.  Horticultural oil or other registered insecticides can improve their situation and appearance.
  • Dracena in white potEven houseplants need a little rest once in a while, and this is a good time to give them a rest.  Keep them watered but give them a break from the fertilizer as most houseplants don't do much growing during the short days of winter.
  • Turn and prune houseplants regularly to keep them shapely. Pinch back new growth to promote busy plants.
  • While this may sound extremely silly, your houseplants will thank you for it. When dusting the furniture, also consider dusting the plants. Wipe dust from broad-leaf plants at regular intervals using a cloth dampened with clean water. If the plant has small leaves, consider placing several in the shower to wash the dust off.
  • Keep an eye open for pest on indoor plants.  Most can be treated with insecticidal soaps.
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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