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The Gardener’s Dirt July 2008

July 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


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



Why collect and store rainwater?   Even though we are not in a drought situation, water is not to be taken for granted.  Reasons for collecting rainwater for outside use are conservation and responsible use of a precious resource.  Rainwater collection also reduces runoff, which causes erosion and carries fertilizer, pesticides and more into our streams.  This causes damage to wildlife and perhaps our own drinking water supply.  Rainwater is great for washing cars, filling birdbaths, and watering both indoor and outdoor plants.  It’s usually soft water, free of dissolved minerals and chemicals.  It’s easily accessible, convenient to use, and if you are on a city water system, it’s use will save you money.rain barrel made from food qulity plastic barrel

So how do we collect this wonderful stuff?  Most popular this past year has been the rain barrel.  A plastic barrel outfitted to attach to a downspout with a spigot near the bottom.  These work great for use with soaker hoses (remove the pressure reducing washer), filling a watering can, keeping the compost heap moist and rinsing off gardening tools.  Add a screen or wire mesh cover to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and to keep animals and small children from drowning, then you are set to go.  One-half inch of rainfall can fill a 50 to 55 gallon barrel.  

Maybe you’d like something a bit fancier, or you don’t want to cut your downspouts.  You might check out the Rainwater Hog .  Designed by Sally Dominquaz of Sydney, Australia, this small scale, modular storage tank unit can be installed against a wall or under a deck.  Several units can be connected.  It doesn’t have to be a permanent installation, making it perfect for renters. It’s also shipped in an ecological friendly manner without packing materials.

Another under the deck or crawlspace option is rainwater pillows – sort of a giant waterbed type storage unit.  Easy to install, guaranteed not to leak and out of sight.

Find more information about all these products and others online; a few local sites are:
www.Rainwatersolutions.com and www.braewater.com for tanks, cisterns and more and www.rainescape-se.com for a system that can be installed during construction on top of a deck’s joist structure and covered with ceiling material making it invisible.  This system was installed on the WRAL Concept Home this year.  Example photos are available at their WEB site.

Happy Watering!

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 Spotlight Plant banner

Flowers of hummingbird mint
Picture of hummingbird mint provide by highcountrygardens.com
who are one source for this plant.

 Hummingbird Mint

Agastache aurantiaca

This perennial can be grown as either an annual or perennial, in neutral to alkaline soil, with good drainage.  The foliage is richly aromatic with ovate to ovate-lance shaped leaves which are gray-green in color. The blooms are orange-pink in color and appear from late summer to fall. This species will reach an average height of 18"-30" (45-75cm) and an average width of 24" (60cm). It should be grown in fertile well-drained soil in full sun, and may need extra watering in high heat areas. This plant can be used in containers, or as part of a mixed border or herb garden. It's primary diseases and pests include downy mildew and rust in dry summer months.

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Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading            Hand holding clipboard

Composting: Thursday, July 31, 2008 from 7:00
pm until 9:00 pm at the Agriculture Building 2736 NC Highway 210
Smithfield, NC 27577.  For more information or to sign up for the class
call (919) 989-5380.  Brian Rosa from North Carolina Department of Agriculture will be coming to do the presentation on composting both traditional and vermicompost methods.

Master Gardener Training Class:  Starting Wednesday, August 20th and going through Wednesday November 12th we will be having a training class for new Master Gardener Volunteers.  The classes will be held from 1:00pm until 4:00pm in the afternoon on Wednesdays at the Johnston County Agriculture Center located at 2736 NC Highway 210, Smithfield, NC 27577.  For more information or an application call (919) 989-5380 or send an e-mail to shawn_banks@ncsu.edu.

Center for Environmental Farming Systems: activities for July http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu/calendar2008.htm

  • Twilight Tour: Vegetable Harvest Considerations; Wednesday, July 9, 6:00-8:00pm.  Call 919-513-0954 or email cefs_info@ncsu.edu to hold your spot.
  • Bugs in the Garden; Saturday, July 19, 10:00-12:00pm; Location: Wayne County Public Library, 1001 E Ash St., Goldsboro , NC 27530
  • Why Buy Local?; Thursday, July 31 7:00-8:00pm; Location: Wayne County Public Library, 1001 E Ash St, Goldsboro, NC 27530

Guided Tours of the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh are available Sundays at 2:00pm. http://www.ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum/index.php

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 Insect Investigator banner

Fall Webworm

Hyphantria cunea

A member of the butterfly family

Fall webworm in its silky nest
 Fall webworms are the immature stage of a snow-white moth that is 1.2 to 1.5 inches long.  The moth is only around for a few weeks.  Its soul purpose is to mate and lay eggs for the next generation.  Each female lays eggs in masses of up to 900 on the underside of the leaves. 

It is the caterpillars that do the damage.   When the eggs hatch the small caterpillars start producing a web around leaves at the ends of branches.  These webs are used for protection form predators such as birds and wasps.  They feed for 4 to 5 weeks before leaving the web/nest and crawling to the ground where they pupate.  In July or August a second generation emerges to mate and lay eggs.  Control can be achieved, by breaking up the web and destroying the caterpillars inside. Chemicals should be sprayed on the foliage adjacent to the web.  Read and follow label directions when using any chemical insecticide.

For more information visit https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/O&T/trees/note46/note46.html or call (919) 989-5380 and ask for a copy of the insect note on Fall Webworms.

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 Gardening to-do Banner



  • Water deeply but infrequently, this will encourage deep rooting of plants for better drought resistance.
  • Control fungal diseases
    which flourish in hot and humid weather by keeping irrigation water off
    foliage.  The best time to water is early morning.  This allows the sun
    to dry water from foliage. Watering in early evening creates damp
    foliage all night, which encouraging the development of fungal diseases.
  • Help reduce the mosquito population
    by emptying any containers with standing water.  Mosquito larva can
    grow in shallow water, like plant saucers that do not dry completely.


  • When should you water your lawn? 
    When the grass blades  are just starting to curl and your footprints
    remain on the lawn when you walk on it.  Watering too often encourages
    a lawn with a shallow root system that cannot handle drought well. 
    Apply an inch of water, in the early morning.  Set your timer for 4 am
    if you can.  
  • Grasses vary in their needs. Check out the Lawn Maintenance Calendar for your grass and learn how best to care for it, month by month …
  • Keep fescue mowed at a height of 3 – 3 1/2
    inches to help it survive hot, dry periods.  It is a cool season grass
    that slows down in the summer.  If it is cut it too short the tender
    roots will be exposed to extreme heat which will certainly damage, if
    not kill them.  It is also difficult for fescue to recover from cutting
    too short as it is not actively growing at this time.  
  • Repair Warm-Season Lawns:
    Bermuda, Zoysia, and centipede are growing strong by now, making it
    easy to see spots that are weak or weedy. Pull weeds and patch bare
    spots if you haven't already.
  • Established fescue lawns
    naturally go semi-dormant in the heat of July. Established fescue can
    survive up to three weeks without water, but will need a drink if it
    doesn't rain by then! Water only when grass shows sign of wilt
    (footprints show when grass is walked on). Fescue planted last fall
    will need watering every week. See the Fescue Lawn Maintenance Calendar
    (link above).


  • When
    you visit your roses, clip off leaves that show early evidence of
    blackspot – a common fungal disease that causes black spots on leaves.
    Put the spotted leaves in the garbage (not in the compost pile.)
  • When
    gathering cut flowers to bring indoors, cut stems early in the day. 
    Bring them indoors and recut the ends while they are submerged in a
    sink of water.Japanese Beetle close up
  • Don't use Japanese beetle traps
    The pheromones in the traps often attract beetles that would not
    otherwise visit the area.  To control a particularly pesky group of
    beetles, go hunting for them in early morning and shake them into a
    bowl of soapy water to get rid of them.
  • Keep potted plants watered! Plants in pots outside may need daily watering in the heat of summer.
  • Pinch out the tips of garden mums to encourage lower, compact plants with many flowers.
  • Start stem cuttings of geraniums and leaf cuttings of succulents to be potted for use as house plants this winter.
  • Propagate shrubs by rooting cuttings.
    Semi-hardwood cuttings of Azalea, Camellia, and Holly can be taken this
    month. The wood should be hardened enough that the stem breaks when
    bent. https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-8702.html
  • Prune spent crape myrtle blossoms to prolong the flowering period.  
  • Sooty
    Mold on the crape myrtles will make the leaves appear dark and sooty or
    almost uniformly charcoal gray. Sooty mold grows on honeydew (the
    sticky leftovers) from aphids. Control the aphids, and the mold will
    wash off.
  • Bagworms on Leyland CypressPowdery Mildew makes leaves appear gray and
    powdery. It's a common problem which disfigures the foliage, but
    doesn't kill the tree.
  • Hand-pick bagworms off evergreens. Pesticides are not effective once the caterpillars are safe in their bags.
  • Remove
    vigorous upright sprouts growing from tree roots ("suckers"), or from
    the upper surfaces of tree branches ("water sprouts").  Pruning the
    sprouts out directs the tree's energy into desirable growth.
  • Weed
    when it's easy. Weeds are easier to pull when the soil is moist, so
    wait until after a soaking rain or irrigate the area first. The roots
    of desirable plants can be injured by pulling large weeds nearby so
    pull those weeds in late afternoon or on cloudy days, and water the
    area afterward to help injured plants recover.
  • Start seeds
    for cool-weather annuals indoors in July/August for fall planting. Try
    foxglove, pansy, alyssum, snapdragons, ornamental cabbage (kale), and
    primroses.  Pansy seeds germinate well when stored in the refrigerator
    (not freezer) for 10-14 days before planting.    


  • Pinch out the tips of blackberry shoots when they reach about 4 feet tall.  This helps form a tidier hedgerow for easy picking.
  • Soon
    after tomatoes begin to set fruit, give them a boost of fertilizer to
    keep them vigorous and productive. Most of the new varieties are heavy
    producers if provided with good nutrition and adequate soil moisture.  


  • Deckscape:
    Play with colors, textures, and the placement of furniture on your deck
    or patio. Use container-grown plants, windsocks and sculptures to
    change or fine-tune your color scheme and overall feel.
  • Think strategy.
    Now that deciduous trees and shrubs are in leaf, survey your landscape
    critically. Do you have too much? too little? are plants too low where
    screening is needed? So tall a view is blocked? Take photographs and
    make plans to add or move shrubs this fall. Don't do it now.

WILDLIFEEastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly caterpillarEastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly

  • Put out a bird-bath
    Keep it filled with fresh water.  Change it once a week to minimize
    mosquitoes. Birds will pay you back by eating lots of insects!  
  • Think
    twice about squashing caterpillars; many turn into butterflies.  This
    is just one example of what swallowtail caterpillars look like.  This
    is a swallowtail butterfly(right).  Swallowtail caterpillars (left)
    love parsley, so set out a few extra plants to share with them. A pan
    of moistened pebbles or sand will attract butterflies.

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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

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