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The Gardener’s Dirt March 2007

 March 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


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

 Gardening in Small Spaces

     Gardening has always been just one of those things that I needed in my life.  Unfortunately the amount of space that I had to work with was very small at times.  I had to find some way to use what little space there was available to grow plants and learn what would grow and how best grown in these small places.
It works the same for any location large, small, sunny, or shady.  First know the site.  Is there soil to put plants in the ground or maybe all the space available is a small patio or balcony?  Take the space available and make it as useful and beautiful as possible.

    Once the site is known, decide what to grow.  If flowers are desired to beautify the area or vegetables are the items to be grown, knowing the site conditions helps when choosing the right plant.  For sunny locations choose plants that will grow well in sun.  Shady areas will require different plant selection than sunny areas.  Most garden centers will have plants labeled for sun or shade, making it easier to know which plants will grow best in the space available.

    Use the area to its maximum potential.  Plan where each plant will be placed.  It helps to know how large each plant will get to allow for the plant to grow and reach its potential.  This information can usually be found on the label of most plants as well.  A plant purchased in a three or four inch container may need twelve or more inches in the garden when it reaches maturity. 
Tomato and Cucumber in a container
    Most people who grow vegetables grow them in rows like farmers who have acres to tend to.  Vegetables are nothing more than annuals that produce something edible.  Most annuals are planted to maximize impact in a garden as they grow.  To get the most out of a small space, vegetables can be planted the same way.  Rows are used by farmers to get equipment into the field for cultivation and harvest, but they are not necessary to get high yields from vegetables.

    For people who don’t have access to any space to grow flowers or vegetables in the soil, there is always the option to use containers.  Containers can be used in these situations to line steps, beautify patios, and accent existing gardens.  Plants have been grown in containers in some of the most popular and prestigious gardens throughout history including the Biltmore House and Tryon Palace here in North Carolina.  

    One concern in any garden is keeping it watered and fertilized.  Gardens in small spaces have the advantage of using less water and time to maintain and plant.  For more information contact the Cooperative Extension Service at 989-5380 or shawn_banks@ncsu.edu .

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Spotlight Plant banner
Japanese Tassel Fern

 Japanese Tassel Fern

Polystichum polyblepharum
Other common names  Korean Tassel Fern, Tassel Fern ("polyblepharum" means many eyelashes).

     Like most ferns it loves cool shade & damp rich loam on the acidic side of the pH scale. The Japanese Tassel Fern likes evenly moist, humus rich soil, but in winter it is somewhat drought-tolerant and may even be harmed by excesses moisture. It is a very cold tolerant evergreen growing in zones 6 to 9.

     This lovely plant gets 12 to 18 inches high and up to 2 feet wide.  Arching out from a central crown are lance shaped, dark green fronds that are covered with golden hairs.  Other distinguishing characteristics include overlapping pinnules; closely spaced pinnae; crosiers flip backwards in a lax droop tassel fashion.

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Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading          Hand holding clipboard

     Fruit Tree Training and Pruning March 3, 2007 10:00am-12:00pm Demonstration at Central Crops Research Station on Highway 70 in Clayton.  Dr. Mike Parker, tree fruit specialist at NC State University, will be presenting information on how to train and prune your fruit trees to get the best production.  For more information call 989-5380.

    Tree and Shrub Sale orders are due in by March 7.  The pick up date will be March 31.  There are some spectacular plants on the sale this year.  If you haven't taken a look at the list of available plants , it is available online.

     Southern Ideal Home Show at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh April 13-15.  Extension's Successful Gardener will have a learning center set up in Dorton Arena where people can stop by and ask gardening
questions of an Extension Agent or a Master Gardener.  There is a charge to get into the show

     Fire Ant Clinic at the Agriculture Building in Smithfield.  2736 NC 210 Highway. April 21 10:00am  Dr. Charles Apperson will present information on the life cycle and biology of the Red Imported Fire Ant.  This will help in knowing when and how best to control these insects.  He will also cover some of the product that can be used to control Fire Ants.  The Master Gardeners will have stations set up in the parking lot to demonstrate the proper use of the different types of chemicals.

     Johnston Community College Arboretum activities require pre-registration and a small fee, call to reserve your seat 919-209-2052 or 209-2517.  e-mail to fryel@johnstoncc.edu or parkera@johnstoncc.edu

  • Lawn Equipment Maintenance; March 20 7-9pm.  Learn how to prepare lawn equipment for the season.
  • Plant Sale-A-Bration; April 21 9am – 2pm.  A wide variety of plants for sale raised by the students at Johnston Community College.

For more information on upcoming events in Johnston County visit the Johnston County Lawn and Garden web page.
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Gardening to-do Banner

(or this month it's 'What do I do about weeds?!'Forsythia in bloom
  • REMEMBER, the best defense against weeds is a healthy lawn.  Learn how to care for your lawn throughout the year.  Visit TurfFiles and click on Turf Tips to learn more about your lawn type.  Keep it happy, healthy and weed free.
  • Control existing weeds now, before they get large and/or set seed.  A little work now will save a lot of trouble later.lawn mower clip art
  • For yards with an established weed problem, use pre-emergent herbicides to kill seedlings as they germinate. Pre-emergent herbicides can be used to control crabgrass and other broadleaf weeds.  Pre-emergent herbicides (according to label directions) should be applied while the forsythia  is in bloom, late February to mid-March.
  • Sharpen mower blades!  A sharp blade cuts.  A dull blade tears – making grass susceptible to diseases.
  • Divide fall-blooming perennials that are overgrown, such as asters, primrose, irises, violets, shasta Camillia with leaf gall diseasedaisies and mums. This is an easy way to enlarge your garden.  http://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheets/HGIC1150.htm 
  • Control leaf gall on azaleas and camellias. Leaf gall, a fungal disease, shows up as swollen leaves covered with a white powdery material. It is unsightly but generally not harmful to the plant. Pick off the affected leaves and dispose of them to avoid spreading the fungus.  
  • Do not compost diseased plant material.
  • Remove protective winter mulch from tender perennials in early March to warm the soil and stimulate the plant to grow.  Apply fresh mulch in April after perennials have emerged.  Mulch helps with water conservation and weed control. https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-608.htmlCarolina yellow jessamine
  • Spring flowering shrubs such as quince, spirea, forsythia, azalea, Camellia japonica, Carolina Jessamine , viburnum, mock orange, weigela, Oriental magnolia and Indian Hawthorn flower on old growth. Prune them soon AFTER they bloom.
  • Time for heavy, rejuvenation pruning of summer-blooming shrubs.  Prune holly, Nandina and Beautyberry before new growth begins.
  • Althea, Buddleia, Vitex, Crape Myrtle and Pomegranate can be pruned at the beginning of March to stimulate more flower production later.
  • Prune roses before bud break. https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-641.html
  • For a better show next spring, let the foliage of spring-flowering bulbs die back naturally. 
  • Are you fighting to keep grass growing under your trees? Or is there bare ground that erodes in heavy rains? Trees usually win in any competition for moisture and nutrients, and turfgrass is not well adapted to life in the shade. Mulch or living groundcovers are better choices than grass under large trees.
  • Ground covers act as "living mulch." Low-maintenance, shade-tolerant ground covers include pachysandra, periwinkle (vinca), ajuga (bugleweed), liriope or mondo grass.
  • A 2-3” thick layer of composted mulch conserves moisture, reduces erosion and provides nutrients to the tree. Keep mulch away from the trunk of the tree to discourage rodents and rot.
  • Protect shade tree roots from injury. Remember that most of a tree's feeder roots are near the soil surface, under and just outside the tree canopy. If digging, foot traffic, or vehicles injure roots then damage to the tree can range from slowed growth (minor) to the death of the tree (major!). Some trees, such as dogwoods, are very susceptible to root damage; others, like maples, are more tolerant.
  • radishesPlant cool-weather vegetable crops such as lettuce, mustard greens, sugar snap peas, radishes, onions, potatoes, spinach, and cole crops (such as cabbage and collards) as soon as soil can be worked. https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-8016.html
  • If a ball of soil crumbles when squeezed in your fist, the soil is workable.
  • Take a soil test (we have free kits here) to see how much fertilizer to apply around pecan trees.  It's time!
  • Beets, broccoli, cauliflower and Chinese cabbage can be started by the third or fourth week of March. 
  • Now is the time to start seeds indoors for vegetables such as tomato, pepper, eggplant, and others to get a jump-start on the summer growing season.
  • Take photographs of your yard while your spring bulbs are blooming, so you can remember where to plant more bulbs in the fall.
HOUSEPLANTSBegonia in cream color pot

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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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