The Gardener’s Dirt February 2011
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
|In this Issue
What’s In Season
|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.
Click here for a printable version of this newsletter.
The Sustainable Muscadine Vineyard on Saturday, February 12 beginning at
Blueberry Pruning Workshop
Tree and Shrub Pruning Workshop Saturday, February 26 beginning at 9:30am at the Johnston County Agriculture Center please call 989-5380 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to preregister or for more information.
Events at The Arboretum at JCC for more information or to register for any of these activities call 919 209-2052 or 919 209-2184 or visit their website.
February 9 @ 2:00pm-4:00 Site Analysis and Flower Power (Annuals, Perennials, Biennials)
February 16 @ 6:30pm Sustainable Garden Design – Choosing a Theme for your Garden(s)
February 23 @ 6:30pm Vegetable Gardening
March 15 @ 6:30pm Tomato Grafting Workshop This workshop has a cost of $30 to cover the cost of materials. Participants will take home some grafted tomatoes on bacterial wilt resistant rootstock.
2011 Wilson Garden Tour May 6th, 2011 @ 10:00 AM – May 7th, 2011 @ 4:00 PM
For more events from Johnston County Cooperative Extension visit our EVENTS website or call 919 989-5380.
By Shawn Banks
This is the time when many gardeners or wannabe gardeners begin thinking about preparing the soil for the new garden space. It doesn’t matter if the garden will be a vegetable garden, flower garden, or shrub bed. The soil still needs to be prepared properly to give the plants their best start. Here are four steps to good soil preparation.
Step 1 – Test the soil. Very few people can tell what the soil is like by simply looking at it. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) has a soil test lab in Raleigh where soil can be sent to test for the basics in plant growth. They test for the major nutrients available in the soil; the pH or acidity; the ability of the soil to hold onto nutrients; and several other factors.
To take a proper soil sample for testing a plastic bucket and a hand trowel will be the tools needed. With the hand trowel, dig a hole about 8 to 10 inches deep. Take a slice about ¼ inch thick down one side of the hole and place this in the bucket. Fill the hole back in with the soil that was removed to create the hole. Do this in 8 to 12 different spots in the area where the garden will be located. Mixing the 8 to 12 samples in the bucket will provide a representative sample of the soil in the area. About 1-½ cups of soil will be needed to fill the soil test box.
Before filling the box, fill out the name, address and soil identification number information on the box. The identification number is something that is created by the person taking the soil sample that will help them remember the area where the soil was tested. For example, if the sample was for a vegetable garden the identification number may be something like V-E-G-1. Fill in the information from the soil test form including the name, address, soil identification number, lime applied in the past 12 months, crop to be planted, and crop code. Codes for different crops can be found on the back of the form. Use the numbers in the lower left corner to get fertilizer and lime results in pounds per 1000 square feet.
Soil test results may take several weeks to come back, so send that soil sample in a month or two before planting time.
Step 2 – Loosen the soil. If the ground has not been worked in a few years, it will most likely be very hard. A tiller may be needed for large areas, but for small areas a shovel and possibly a pick will be all that is needed. Loosen the soil in the entire bed area to a depth of 6 to 10 inches. The deeper you can loosen the soil the better.
Step 3 – Amend the soil. The soil test report will give information such as the amount of lime needed to bring the pH up to the desired level for good plant growth and the amount of Phosphorus and Potassium (the second and third numbers on the fertilizer bag) needed for good plant growth. Evenly distribute these items over the garden area. Top this off with a 2 to 4 inch layer of compost. The compost will loosen heavy clay soils, allowing water to penetrate down into the root zone or increase the amount of moisture the soil will hold in a loose sandy soil. As the compost continues to break down it releases nutrients the plants can take up. Mix the soil again to incorporate the amendments throughout the soil profile.
Step 4 – Wait. Allow the soil to settle for a week or two before planting. This step removes some of the large air pockets that allow plant roots to dry out.
Preparing the soil properly will give the plants the best start possible. It is some backbreaking work to get this done, but the resulting plant growth will be more than worth the effort.
Hellebore, Lenten Rose
By Tina Stricklen
Hellebores, in my opinion, are some of the most under-utilized yet most rewarding perennials on the market. Originating from far-flung regions of Europe, it is understandable why many of us are not familiar with these nearly evergreen perennials. Granted part of the reason they are not employed in our gardens correlates to availability but many local growers have kyboshed that notion, particularly in the last decade.
This Zone 4 through 9 plants have many wonderful attributes, not the least of which is they bloom during the late winter/early spring when not much else is happening in the garden. These stalwarts of the wintertime garden have a nodding bloom habit so it is preferred to plant them on a hillside. They require some light in order to bloom their best so dappled light is a must. Some sources indicate they will bloom in full sun but I personally have not tested that possibility.
Another key to successful hellebore cultivation is good drainage. This is not to say your soil preparation should consist of sand, soil conditioner, topsoil, compst and small pebbles. I did that and lost many prized selections during the drought of 2007. What I mean to say is make sure the plants have good drainage but not so sharp that water funs off before it’s absorbed. Since I planted mine in a woodland area, I placed the mixture on top of the ground. This created a mound allowing room for their roots to grow. (I dislike digging large holes in the woods because of all the roots!)
Like many plants, once established, they are drought rsistant and perform well in dry shade. many types will drop their seeds, creating little seedlings resulting in naturalized areas around the parent plant. Did I mention hellebores are deer resistant? For many gardeners this fact alone is reason enough to start a collection immediately.
Listed below are the standard types found in today’s nursery trade; however, hybridizing and breeding programs have produced many hybrids:
Hellebores: An Introduction to the Genus Helleborus, http://www.hellebores.org/
Hellebores from Pine Knot Farms, http://www.pineknotfarms.com/index.html
Soil pH Problems
By Shawn Banks
Yellow leaves on holly low soil pH
Poinsettia on right has low soil pH and salt damage
Low soil pH contributed to problems with this rose bush
The pH of soil is constantly changing. Soil pH is a measure of the amount of Hydrogen (H+) in the soil solution. When organic matter such as dead plants, compost and even mulch break down in the soil they release more Hydrogen into the soil solution, decreasing the soil pH. Rain tends to be acidic in nature, also lowering the soil pH.
Soils in North Carolina naturally tend to be slightly acidic. Most plants like to have a slightly acidic soil with a pH around 6.0 to 6.5. Soils with a pH of 7.0 are neutral and those with a pH above 7.0 would be considered alkaline.
Soil pH affects the availability of nutrients in the soil. As the soil pH drops below 5.0, nutrients such as nitrogen (used to produce green leaves), phosphorus (used to produce strong roots and beautiful flowers) and calcium (used in cell wall production throughout the plant) become less available in the soil solution. Problems begin showing up in the form of yellowing leaves and other symptoms of plant stress.
Adding lime to the soil will increase the soil pH. The question becomes, “how much lime is needed?” A complicated formula which includes the soil type, the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC), the target pH, and the crop to be grown is used by the soil test lab run by North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to make a recommendation of how much lime is needed.
Correcting the soil pH to the desired range can dramatically improve the health of the plant or crop being grown. The best way to adjust the soil pH is to incorporate the lime into the soil. If that’s not possible as in the case of established plants, never apply more than 50 pounds of lime per 1,000 square feet at any given time. If the recommendation from the soil test lab is for more than 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet, split the application and wait 6 months between applications.
It’s amazing how many problems simply adjusting the soil pH can solve.
What’s in Season
By Shawn Banks
Here is a leafy green with a little something extra. The leaves of this annual plant are dark green with a lobbed margin. Unlike most lettuce this leaf has a little peppery bite. Add leaves of arugula to a salad and no extra pepper will be needed to add flavor.
Arugula is a cool season leafy green that is ready to harvest in about 30 to 40 days from planting the seed. The leaves are best when harvested tender, before they begin to develop hairs on the under side. If the leaves get too old they become tough and bitter. Harvest the older leaves from the base of the plant leaving the upper leaves to continue to grow and produce. Planting new seeds every 7 to 10 days will provide more greens to harvest week after week.
As the weather warms this fast growing plant begins to bolt (send up a flowering stalk). The flowers are also edible as are the seeds, which have been used to flavor oils. Save a few seeds from one year to the next and you will only need to purchase seeds once.
Storing arugula is the same as any other green. Once the leaves have been harvested, wash them in cool water. Dry the leaves with a paper towel or salad spinner and wrap them in plastic or place them in a plastic bag. Store them in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Eat this plain or mixed with other salad ingredients. It can also be cooked like spinach.
Recipe – Roasted-Carrot-Salad
2 pounds carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal
½ cup slivered almonds
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon honey
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 (4 ounce) package crumbled Danish blue cheese
2 cups arugula
Recipe copied from allrecipes.com.
By Karen Damari
The Romans prized early forms of sprouting broccoli; Pliny having described them in the 1st century C.E. (Common Era or Christian Era). Calabrese is a delicious Italian heirloom variety, introduced to France by Catherine de Medici in 1560. It arrived in the U.S. with Italian immigrants in the late 1800s. Calabrese (60 – 90 days) is famous for producing dozens of delicious side shoots after the main head is cut.
Calabrese is typically planted in early spring for summer harvest, growing best under cool, moist conditions with a soil pH of 5.5 – 7.2. Use floating row covers to provide some insect protection. Protection can also be gained with aromatic companion plantings of dill, celery, chamomile, sage, peppermint, oregano and rosemary.
Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse chock full of vitamins A, B and C, potassium, phosphorus and iron, with moderate amounts of protein and calcium.
Image from Reimer Seeds
Trees, Shrubs, and Ornamentals
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|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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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