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The Gardener’s Dirt June 2010

JUNE 2010

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
Upcoming Events
Feature Plant
Insect Investigator
What’s In Season
Garden Tasks
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.


Plant Clinic at the Clayton Farm and Community Market Saturday, June 19th.  Master Gardeners will be there to answer gardening questions and identify garden pests, weeds, and disease problems from 9:00am untli 1:00pm.

Pollinator Festival at Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center on Saturday, June 26 from 9:00am until 4:00pm. Learn about native pollinators and enjoy the activities for all or part of the day.  For more information visit our events page.


Wise Water Usage

By Shawn Banks


Water is a valuable resource.  Wise water usage is one way to save a few dollars while being environmentally conscious.  Here are a few tips on conserving water in the landscape.

  1. Amending the soil with compost will help loosen clay soils for better water absorption and increase the water holding capacity of sandy soils.
  2. Organic mulches, such as pine straw or bark will decompose over time returning nutrients to the soil for healthy plant growth.  Inorganic mulches, such as crushed brick or rocks don’t fade away and add a nice element to the landscape.
  3. This site should be visited regularly to adjust the irrigation amounts as needed basis.
  4. Watering between the hours of 10:00pm and 8:00am will increase the amount of water absorbed into the soil, while reducing losses from wind and evaporation.

There are many more tips available in the Water Wise Works brochures available at the offices of North Carolina Cooperative Extension or online at North Carolina Green Industry Council’s website http://ncgreenindustrycouncil.com/water-wise-works-and-watering-tips-guide-brochures/

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Southern Wax Myrtle – Myrica cerifera

By Shawn Banks

Wax Myrtle leaves and berriesHere is a native evergreen with a pleasant aroma and can prove useful to both man and animal.  The gray green foliage has a scent similar to that of bayberry candles when crushed.  On hot summer days the fragrance is evident even without crushing.  The enjoyable aroma is said to repel insects, particularly fleas and cockroaches.

Wax Myrtle plant near a buildingThe tiny, yellow flowers are inconspicuous and can be found in the spring.  When pollinated they produce a bluish purple berry that is covered in a gray wax.  The waxy coat can be boiled off and used to produce candles and soaps.  Birds find the berries to be a very delectable, winter source of food that is high in energy.

Southern Wax Myrtles can grow to about 30 feet tall.  Pruning these plants is easy.  They can be shaped into hedges or odd shaped specimens, such as bonsai.  They are fast growing which make them an excellent choice for screening plants.  The ability to thrive in both full sun and partial shade makes them a desirable edition to any landscape.  Souther wax myrtles grow in a variety of soil types and moisture levels.  They even have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen with their roots, allowing them to grow in poor soils.

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Ground Beetles
Family: Carbidae
By Shawn Banks

Used with permission of
John Meyer
Used with permission of
John Meyer
Used with permission of
John Meyer

There are over 2200 species of ground beetles in the world.  Most ground beetles are predators that feed on other insects such as grubs, slugs, snails, and a wide variety of caterpillars, making them beneficial to have around.  A few species feed on seeds or pollen, which could qualify them as pests. 

Most are nocturnal, meaning they hunt at night, and may be attracted to porch lights.  During the day they often hide under rocks, logs, or other structures.  When their hiding place is disturbed, they will run.  Many ground beetles possess modified wings used mostly for protection of their abdomen.  The outer set of wings (elytra) are fused together making it impossible for them to fly.

They are most often black, but some have different colors as markings.  Most will have parallel ridges extending the length of the elytra.  Another distinguishing feature is the threadlike antennae that most often have eleven segments and extend out in front of the head.

Sometimes these beetles will get into the house and can be confused with cockroaches or carpet beetles.  If they do get into the house they can simply be swept up and put outside where they can do the most good.


ENTFACT-104 University of Kentucky: Ground Beetles

Ground Beetles and Tiger Beetles

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Eggplant – Solanum melongena
By Shawn Banks

Eggplants are a fruit recognized as a vegetable.  They were so named because the fruit on some varieties looks like small white eggs.  Being native to Asia, they are not as familiar to many consumers here in the US.  Botanically speaking, eggplants are closely related to tomatoes.

Eggplant in a container gardenEggplants are grown as an annual here in North Carolina.  Reaching heights of 18 inches to nearly 5 feet depending on the variety grown.  Growing them the same as a tomato plant, may reward you with an abundance of white or purple fruit.  Here in NC they are available in June and July at local farmer’s markets.  Year round produce is available from California, Florida and Georgia.

Eggplants are a good source for many nutrients such as a complex of B vitamins, vitamin C, and potassium.  Both the white and purple colored fruits can be prepared in the same manner.  White eggplants will typically possess a tougher skin than purple fruiting varieties.  Neither type can be eaten raw.  It is best to cook, bake or grill them before eating.

Preserve them in a cool, dry location such as the refrigerator.  They can last up to four days.  Eggplants will become soft and wrinkly if left out at room temperature too long.

Eggplant Parmesan


  • 1 large eggplant, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups fine, dry bread crumbs mixed with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried leaf basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf oregano, crumbled
  • 16 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Directions for Eggplant Parmesan
Wash eggplant and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Dip into beaten eggs then dredge with seasoned bread crumbs. Place slices on a plate and chill for 30 to 45 minutes. Heat about 1/8-inch of oil in a heavy skillet. Fry eggplant on both sides until golden brown and crispy. Drain well on paper towels. In a saucepan, heat tomato sauce, basil, and oregano. Spread 1/3 of the sauce in a greased 12x8x2-inch baking dish. Layer half of the eggplant, half of the mozzarella cheese slices, another 1/3 of the sauce, and half the Parmesan. Repeat layers. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
Eggplant Parmesan serves 6.

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  • 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 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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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 jcemastergardener@gmail.com.

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