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The Gardener’s Dirt June 2008

June 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

Insects and How to Control Them
Shawn Banks

June has come to be known as big bug month.  This is the month when all kinds of insects become aJapanese Beetle close up problem in the garden.  Japanese beetles (pictured at right) begin to emerge during June wreaking havoc on a wide range of plants, leaving nothing but a skeleton of a leaf where the food factories of the plant once were.  Bagworms hatch out this month and strip Leyland cypress trees of the green foliage that makes them so beautiful and majestic.  June beetles may appear this month.  They don’t do a lot of damage to plants, but may be found on or near rotting fruit.  Several other insect pests become more of a problem this month as numbers increase and the damage they cause becomes more evident.

There are ways to control insects without resorting to chemical warfare.  One of the best ways is to attract beneficial insects to help control the bad insects.  Lady beetles, lacewings, wasps, mantids, and a few other insects will eat or parasitize the insects that damage your plants.  Having flowering plants, water, and some shelter will bring these good insects into your yard to feast on the pests.

scouting for insect in the fieldScouting is another method used to keep the pest insects under control.  Scouting is simply keeping an eye out for the pest insects and keeping a count of them so the numbers do not get too high (see picture at left).  When producing a crop, there is an economic threshold or a point at which the number of pest insects cause a loss to the crop.  Farmers may be able to look these numbers up to see when to take action, but for the casual gardener, you will need to make a judgment call.  Can you live with a little bit of damage to your plants?  If so then a few insects on the plants will not be a problem.  If you don’t want any damage at all, then you will need to keep a close eye on the plants and take care of the pest as soon as it appears.  A good way of getting it when it starts is to hand pick the pests when you first see them.  A pair of gloves is good for the task of squashing them as they arrive.

There are several chemicals to choose from when trying to control insects, some are broad-spectrum meaning they will kill several different insects and some are more target specific.  A good example of a broad-spectrum insecticide is Sevin.  When you read the label on this insecticide it has a lot of insects listed from caterpillars to beetles almost anything that moves.  A target specific pesticide would be something like Worm Whipper that is formulated with a bacterium that is labeled to kill caterpillars such as bagworms and cabbage loopers.  The more targeted the chemical the less likely it is to kill beneficial insects.  Whichever chemical you choose to use, always read the label and follow the directions for safe handling and application. 

For more information on specific insects and how to control them, contact the Johnston County Branch of N.C. Cooperative Extension Service at (919) 989-5380 and ask for a Master Gardener.

 Spotlight Plant banner


gardenia flower and buds

Creeping gardenia flower and buds

 Gardenia jasminoides ‘Radicans’
Creeping gardenia

This is an excellent plant for use in foundation plantings.  It is short (1-2 feet tall), compact (2-3 feet wide), evergreen, with a sweet, smelling, white flower in the summer.  Actually it should be blooming now if it hasn’t already bloomed.  It will put on a big flush of blooms in late spring, and then it will bloom off and on through the summer.  

The foliage is leathery and glossy, green in color, unless you get one of the variegated varieties like the one in the picture to the right.  The leaves are only about 2 inches long and about ½ inch wide, creating a nice medium to fine texture.

Another thing making this an excellent foundation plant is that it is heat and drought tolerant, and can be grown in full sun to part shade.  That is always a plus when there is no shade to be found around the house.

gardenia with variegated leaves
Creeping gardenia with veriegated foliage
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Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading            Hand holding clipboard

Summer Extravaganza: Saturday, June 14, 2008 from 9:00 am until 2:00 pm at the Agriculture Building 2736 NC Highway 210 Smithfield, NC 27577.  Things to do include learning to control fire ants, making cards with dried flowers, painting flower pots and planting them, build a rain barrel ($35.00 cost, please pre register), plant sale.  For more information call (919) 989-5380 or visit our website at http://johnston.ces.ncsu.edu/content/08sumextra

Companion Planting: Thursday, June 29, 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.

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Insect Investigator banner

local beekeeper and grandson fully dressed
local beekeeper Larry Martin and
grandson Grayson Lee Morgan


honeybee on a yellow flower
honeybee on a flower


Apis mellifera

The honeybee is a very important insect, and one that you should be on the look out for.  One reason is because it is our state insect; evidently this is part of the elementary school curriculum.

More importantly, honeybees play a very important role in our economy.  The honeybee is responsible for pollinating over $100 million in crops each year including Watermelon, blueberries, apples, cucumbers, strawberries, squash and many others.  Without these flying machines, many of these crops would not get pollinated resulting in no or poor fruit set.  Along with the service they do for our farmers they also provide beekeepers in North Carolina with over $10 million in income from pollination services, honey, beeswax, propolis (bee glue), and pollen (used as a health supplement).

Although a small part of the population is allergic to the sting of a honeybee, they generally will not sting unless they feel threatened or the hive is disturbed.  When a honeybee stings it is sacrificing its life as the stinger pulls out its internal organs and the bee is doomed to death.  

For more information on beekeeping or if you have a swarm that needs to be captured contact Amie Newsome at the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service at (919) 989-5380.

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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.  Apply an inch of water in the early morning,
    this allows the lawn to dry during the day.  The ground is dry so cycling the irrigation applying a little at a time will allow the water to soak deep into the soil.
  • 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/Maintenance_Calendars.aspx#000016
  • o    Centipede – http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/Maintenance_Calendars.aspx#000019
  • o    Zoysiagrass – http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/Maintenance_Calendars.aspx#000020
  • o    Tall Fescue – http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/Maintenance_Calendars.aspx#000017
  • 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 cut too short as it is not actively
    growing at this time.  


  • 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.  Apply 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


  • 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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