The Gardener’s Dirt March 2009
|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
|In this Issue
|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.
Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden
By Shawn Banks
Tomatoes, probably one of the most loved and most hated fruit crops to grow in the home garden. That’s right I said fruit crops. The tomato is a fruit, botanically speaking. The botanical definition of a fruit is the developed ovary of a seed-bearing plant with its contents and all its parts. Don’t tell the grocery store attendant, they still think the tomatoes belong with the vegetables.
Tomatoes seem to have more disease problems than any other plant in the vegetable garden. There are at least two dozen disease problems and another half a dozen or so environmental problems that can cause problems while growing tomatoes. At the other extreme, there are so many tomato varieties that you are bound to find one you just can’t live without.
Most garden centers will begin selling tomato transplants around the first of April. Most have the same tried and true varieties for sale. These are good varieties that usually do well in our area, but there are so many more varieties available through seed catalogs. When choosing a variety look for the letters VFN next to the variety. These letters indicate that the plants are resistant to V= verticillium wilt, F= fusarium wilt, and N= root-knot nematode.
When growing tomatoes from seed you will need to plant the seed in a seed starting mix about 5 to 6 weeks before you want to plant them outside. It will take that amount of time to get the plants to the size they need to be for good transplants. Keep the soil moist and the temperature between 65 and 75 degrees F for best germination. Once the seedlings start to poke their leaves out of the soil, supply them with some supplemental light. Even in the best-lit room; the light intensity is not what it would be outside in the sunlight. The closer the seeds are to the light source, the more intense the light will be, and the plants will have no need to stretch for the light source.
When the plants are ready to be moved out to the garden, do this gradually. Moving them into more direct sun every couple of days. The shock of going from lights to direct sun may sunburn the plants, and could kill them.
Prepare the soil well, making sure the soil will retain moisture, but will also drain well. Cracking of the fruit where it meets the stem is caused by inconsistent watering and usually happens after a rainstorm. Adding organic matter such as compost to the planting bed will help with water retention in sandy soils and drainage in clay soils. Another problem with tomatoes is blossom end rot, which is caused by not having enough calcium available for the fruit to develop properly. Making sure the pH of the soil is around 6.0 to 6.5 will help. Adding some lime or gypsum to the planting bed will add some additional calcium to the soil.
Space the plants about 18 inches apart. They may look like they are lonely, but the space between the plants will allow for air circulation between plants. Dry leaves means less disease.
If you have a favorite tomato variety that you grow please share that with Shawn Banks (email@example.com or 989-5380). He is trying to put together a list of varieties that grow well in Johnston County. For more information on growing tomatoes contact the Extension Master Gardeners at firstname.lastname@example.org or 989-5380.
Flowers of Columbine
Columbine is an easy plant to grow because it adapts itself to a wide variety of conditions; however, it grows best in moist, rich, well-drained soil with light shade. These 1 to 3 foot high plants generally begin blooming in early to mid-May and often continue blooming through June. For the nature lover columbines are a favorite flower for hummingbirds. The native columbine is perfect for shady gardens, where it is not nearly as disfigured by leaf miner as non-native species. They also make an excellent addition to the rock garden.
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Fruit Tree Training and Pruning Demonstration March 7th, 2009 from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM at Central Crops Research Station, 13223 US Business 70 West, Clayton, NC 27520 http://johnston.ces.ncsu.edu/index.php?page=events&event_id=13620 or Shawn Banks at (919) 989-5380
Shiitaki Mushroom Production Workshop March 7, 2009 from 10:00am – 12:00 pm at Johnston County Livestock Arena, 1503 County Home Road, Smithfield, NC 27577. For more information visit the website http://johnston.ces.ncsu.edu/index.php?page=events&event_id=14343 or call Amie for more information 989-5380.
Tree & Shrub Sale by Master Gardener Order by March 13. Pickup March 20. For more information about available plants and prices http://tinyurl.com/avcwvx email email@example.com or call 989-55380
March 31 JCC Arboretum is doing a Prelude to a Southern Garden there is more information on their website or by calling Lin Frye 209-2052 http://www.johnstoncc.edu/arboretum/events.aspx .
Clayton Framer’s Market opens April 4th
Master Gardeners will be at Lowe's at 40 and 42 to answer gardening questions and identify insect and weeds on April 4th from 10:00am until 12:00pm.
Master Gardeners will be at the Southern Ideal Home Show, April 3-5 to answer questions and discuss environmentally friendly tips for 2009. Visit the show's website at http://www.southernshows.com/hsr/ for more information and ticket prices.
It seems the silverleaf whitefly is mainly found in greenhouses and on houseplants like poinsettia, while the ash whitefly is found mainly in the landscape. It doesn’t seem to matter which whitefly it is; they both infest the underside of the leaf, feed by sticking their needle like mouthparts into the leaf, and suck the juices out of the plant. When the plant is disturbed, a white cloud of adults puffs out of the plant just to settle back down onto the plant after the perceived danger has left. The adults will move from plant to plant, meaning that if the neighbors have whiteflies on their plants, the whiteflies will re-infest your plants two or three weeks after treatment. This would be a great way for neighbors to help each other solve the whitefly problem.
Products listed for controlling whiteflies in the home landscape listed in the 2009 North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual include horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps as the least toxic methods, then acephate (Orthene), imidacloprid (Merit), permethrin (several chemicals), and pyrethrins (several chemicals).
(or this month it's 'What do I do about weeds?')
TREES, SHRUBS & ORNAMENTALS
WILDLIFE & INSECTS
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HELPING PEOPLE PUT KNOWLEDGE TO WORK.
Got Questions? We've got answers!
If you have a gardening issue you would like to see addressed in this
The Johnston County Master Gardener Volunteers are available Monday,
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