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The Gardener’s Dirt June 2007

June 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
.  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

A Nighttime Nuisance

by Shawn Banks

It started in early spring.  The leaves of some of my wife’s favorite flowers started to get holes in them.  There was no apparent reason for the holes as we never saw any beetles, caterpillars or any other type of insect on the plants.  It was a mystery, until one cool, breezy night as we were sitting on the patio enjoying the fresh air we spotted the culprit.  It was a big, slimy slug crawling up the stem of the plant.  We watched as the slug climbed up the stem and onto a leaf.  When it started feeding on the leaf it was promptly picked off, thrown onto the brick, and stomped into slimy oblivion.

After some careful research I have discovered there are six different types of slugs it could be.  A closer inspection of one of the offenders revealed it to be a spotted garden slug.  This particular slug is the largest of the slugs reaching lengths of 80 to 150 mm in length (3 to 6 inches) with spots like a leopard.  There are most likely other slugs in the area as well.  I think I have seen some gray garden slugs and some brown slugs, but there may also be some Arion slugs or Lehmannia slugs also.
Slug feeding on Flower
Most of these slugs were imported from Europe and have spread out to cover the inhabitable areas of North America.  They lay their eggs in the soil where they will stay moist until they hatch.  After hatching they will usually stay hidden under rocks, boards, flower posts, or other debris during the day, feeding at night on leaves and flowers of several types of plants including lilies, irises, and other members of those families.
Sanitation can play a big roll in controlling slugs.  If the slugs have no place to hide during the heat of the day they will look elsewhere for food.  Killing them without chemicals can be accomplished by placing an object in the flowerbed for the slugs to hide under.  Look under these objects each morning and kill the slugs you find.  Stomping, drowning, or sprinkling them with salt are all methods that work.  There are also several different chemicals available for slug control.  Chemicals be used according to the label directions.  It is true that some types of slugs are attracted to beer and will crawl into a shallow pan of beer and drown.  To make the beer more attractive to slugs add a little molasses, cornmeal or flour.

My wife now spends evenings sitting on the back patio with a sprayer full of salt water, which she uses to spray slugs as they creep onto the patio.  She then watches as they shrivel up to nothing.  If you choose to use this method be careful not to spray any plants as the salt will cause the plants to burn (shrivel from lack of water) on the leaf tips.

For more information on managing slugs in the garden read Insect Note #9 on Vegetable-Insect Pest Management, which is available from the Extension Master Gardeners by calling 989-5380 or online by clicking this link .

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 Spotlight Plant banner

 Sedum spectabile


Flowers of Sedum  Also called Stonecrop, Orpine, or Liveforever.  It loves full sun but will do fine in light shade. It does best in sandy, well-drained soils with regular watering, but can survive drought, and even can tolerate seasonally wet conditions.  This Sedum is a clump forming herbaceous perennial growing up to 2 foot tall and just as wide. The leaves are bluish-green in color egg shaped and toothed on the edges.

Before they open in the spring, the clusters of flower buds look like
broccoli. The flowers are pink and star shaped in large groups upto six inches across that open in late summer.  They are nice to have in butterfly gardens.  The mature seed heads look great in dried floral arrangements.

Sedums are easy to propagate with stem or leaf cuttings. Usually it is enough merely to detach a leaf and insert it in the soil. Showy sedum does not spread from its tuberous roots, but it can be propagated by dividing the roots.

There are over 600 species of Sedum.  Sedum X 'Autumn Joy' is a very popular hybrid between Sedum spectabile and Sedum telephium.

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 Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading            Hand holding clipboard

Summer Pruning Workshop June 9, 9:00am to 11:00am.  This workshop will focus on Summer pruning techniques to reduce Winter pruning; training limbs to grow at the proper angle and direction; and for this year managing trees with a low or non-existent crop. Mike Parker, Tree Fruit Specialist from NC State University, will be there to show us proper techniques for maintaining fruit trees. With many growers having lost their crop with the Easter freeze; Mike will address how to maintain trees in a lost crop year. Please call to register for this workshop. 919-989-5380

Summer Extravaganza June 23, 10:00am to 2:00pm.  Johnston County Extension Master Gardeners will be holding their annual Summer Extravaganza and Plant Sale at the Agriculture Building located at 2736 NC 210 Highway, Smithfield NC. This year the event will feature a plant sale with plants propagated from the yards of Extension Master Gardeners; hands on activities including painting gourds, creating cards from dried flowers, and other activities; Educational displays including fire ant control, vermiculture, drought resistant plants, and how to grow plants for butterflies and birds. A light lunch will be available for purchase for those who get hungry. For more information contact the Extension Master Gardeners at 919 989-5380 or by e-mail at jcmastergardener@yahoo.com .

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Pest Alert!  Pest Alert!  Pest Alert!

 Japanese Beetles Soon in Season

Mid June is when Japanese beetles will start to emerge from the soil.  Their emergence usually occurs just after the rain has softened the soil.  Adult feeding tends to skeletonize leaves.  Though they eat many things, plants in the Roseaceae family and ornamentals such as crape myrtle are favorites.  If you just can't tolerate them, Sevin gives foliar protection for five days at a time. Some of the pyrethroid products may give up to ten days of protection.

 Japanese Beetle close up
Citrus Whiteflies on gardenia
 Citrus Whiteflies and Black Sooty Mold Fungus on Gardenia

The citrus whitefly is a tiny white insect about 2 mm in length.  It is not a true fly.  They are commonly found on gardenia and Swedish ivy.  To know if you have this insect look for ant activity, honeydew, or sooty mold on these plants. There is additional information in Publication AG-136, Insect and Related Pests of Flowers and Foliage Plants (http://ipm.ncsu.edu/AG136/ncstate.html ). Citrus whiteflies suck sap from the plant and excrete honeydew, a sweet, sticky substance. Sooty molds grow on the honeydew causing the surface of the leaf to become dull or even black.  Horticultural oils should give good control of the citrus whitefly. Orthene is also effective.

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Gardening to-do Banner


  • Lawn under drought stressWhen do 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.  Apply an inch of water in the early morning, this allows the lawn to dry during the day.
  • It's a good time to plant new sod in damaged areas.  Get your soil tested first (we have free kits).
  • Grasses vary in their needs for nutrients, mowing height and watering. to learn how to best care for your grass type check out the Lawn Maintenance Calendar for your grass and learn how best to care for it, month by month …
  • o    Bermuda – http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/pubs/management/ag431.html
  • o    Centipede – http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/pubs/management/ag381.html
  • o    Zoysiagrass – http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/pubs/management/ag432.html
  • o    Tall Fescue – http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/pubs/management/ag367.html
  • This is NOT the time for planting or fertilizing fescue! Wait until the fall.
  • Mow fescue 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 and if cut too short the tender roots will be exposed to extreme heat which will certainly damage, if not kill, it.  It is also difficult for the fescue to recover from being cutting too short as it is not actively growing now.  


  • Climbing rose in flowerPrune climbing roses after they bloom, then fertilize them to stimulate new growth. This summer's growth carries next year's buds, so keep the plants growing vigorously! Train long shoots horizontally to stimulate more branching. http://cetulare.ucdavis.edu/mg/Pruning%20Climbing%20Roses.pdf
  • As soon as their foliage dies, dig bulb clumps that have become crowded: daffodils, crocus, Dutch iris, etc. Divide and replant bulbs immediately, or store them in a cool, dry place for planting this fall. (Note: Tulips and Hyacinths generally don't perennialize in our area because our spring and winter is too warm.)
  • Give plants room to grow. Pull/transplant excess seedlings of marigold, cosmos, zinnias, etc. Growing plants need room to develop.  Spacing plants properly reduces the risk of fungal diseases like powdery mildew.
  • Remove faded flowers.  Many annuals and perennials will stop blooming once they've started to set seed.  Dead heading or removing spent flowers will prolong the bloom period.
  • Pinch growing tips of ornamentals.  Pinching the growing tips will encourage compact, sturdy, branched growth with lots of blooms.
  • Protect plants from dehydration. Transplanting on overcast days, early in the morning, or late in the afternoon will reduce water loss in transplants.  keep newly-planted ornamentals well watered for the first several days A 2-3" layer of mulch to conserve water and keep roots cool.


  • Squashvine borer in squash vineSquash plants wilting? squash vine borers may be the culprit.  Check near the base of the plant for a small hole and a mass of greenish-yellow excrement.  Slitting open the stem may reveal the villain: a fat, white caterpillar.  It may be possible to save the plant by removing the caterpillar, then covering the injured vine with moist soil to encourage rooting.
  • Warmer temperatures and longer days send a signal to spring greens that it is time to flower (bolt).  Leaves generally do not taste as good when the plant starts to bolt.  Once this quick process starts, there is no turning back.  To delay bolting try the following – Cover spring salad greens with a cardboard box in mid afternoon.  Remove it after sunset and give the plants a slurp of water to cool them down. This procedure fools the plants into thinking the days are shorter than they actually are and can delay bolting by a couple of weeks.  –  Barbara Pleasant


  • ornamental peppersTropical natives make excellent additions to our gardens in the summer, with colorful foliage, bright flowers, and heat-loving constitutions. They can't survive our winters, but we can try over-wintering our favorites indoors.  Ornamental peppers  and Jerusalem cherries are other heat-lovers. More exotic tropicals, such as Alternanthera (Joseph's Coat), Plectranthus (with lovely gray felty leaves), and Acalypha (Copper Plant), are becoming available. Visit the J.C. Raulston Arboretum at NCSU to see first-hand how tropicals can spice up our summer gardens.
  • Mulch flower beds and vegetable gardens now to save on watering chores later.  The mulch you choose should be one you think enhances the beauty of your garden.  Find more information at: https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-608.html
  • Keep outdoor potted plants watered; in the heat they lose a lot of moisture. If you're going on vacation, ask a friend to check your plants regularly.  


  • Water houseplants as needed.  Do not allow them to dry out to the point of wilting, but watering too Antherium pink floweringoften will lead to root rot.  watering needs will vary according to the size of the plant and the container it is in.
  • If moving plants outside for a summer vacation, move them slowly into the light.  If put directly into the light after being in the house all winter the sun will give them a sunburn and could kill the plants.
  • Remember to fertilize.  This is the time when most houseplants will be doing the most growing and will need the nutrients to stay green and healthy.
  • General Houseplant care: http://muextension.missouri.edu/xplor/agguides/hort/g06510.htm

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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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