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The Gardener’s Dirt May 2007

May 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 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

Companion Planting:
An Idea for Your Budget Garden
By Joyce Pettengill

Need more bang for your buck in the garden or yard?  Well, I have found a way to help stretch your dollar in the garden.

Have you ever heard of Companion Gardening?  It is when you place plants together or apart for mutually beneficial reasons.  Those mutually beneficial reasons could be deterring insects, attracting beneficial insects, improving flavors of vegetables, or providing a mutually effective environment.  Your plants will be doing double duty.  You’ll get the feeling you just found a real bargain!An example of companion planting in a garden

Examples of companion planting date back to Roman times although the most popular one comes from the American Indian.  They taught the new settlers way back then the legend of the “3 sisters.”  It involves interplanting squash, beans, and corn.  Corn offers a structure for the beans to climb.  The beans, in turn, help to replenish the soil with nutrients.  And the large leaves of squash and pumpkin vines provide living much that conserves water and provides weed control.

Another example is when you see roses interplanted with grapes in vineyards.  Oh yes, it looks pretty but there is a better reason.  Roses are susceptible to many of the same diseases that affect grapes, but they will show the symptoms sooner.  Therefore, if the vintner sees problems with the roses, action can be taken to protect the grapes.

Most herbs are great for this double duty workload.  Remember herbs require full sun and they do not require as much water as many vegetables.  Also, you’ll have more success with companion planting if you interplant herbs, flowers, and vegetables throughout your yard and garden.

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 Spotlight Plant banner

Rabbiteye Blueberry

Vaccinium ashei

Ripening Rabbiteye blueberries

Picture from Floridata.com
of ripening Rabbiteye blueberries.
Cultivated varieties of this plant include 'Climax', 'Bluebelle', 'Tifblue', 'Bonita', 'Briteblue', 'Woodward', 'Southland', and 'Premier'.

Without pruning, most varieties of rabbiteye blueberries are rather open, spreading shrubs that grow up to 12 ft (3.7 m) tall.. Its deciduous leaves, often whitish or bluish underneath, turn orange and red in fall. Little pink bell-like flowers appear in early spring with the new leaves and sometimes get caught by late frosts (like the one we had this year). The powdery blue berries that follow are a delight to the eye and palate and are relished by many kinds of birds. There are many cultivars of rabbiteye blueberries available to the home gardener. Some are commonly found at home and garden centers.

Blueberries are partial to sandy acidic (pH 4.2 to 5.5) soils and will not tolerate clay or waterlogged soils.  However they will tolerate brief periods of flooding or drought.  When planting, space them 4-5 ft (1.2-1.5 m) apart in full sun to partial shade. The roots remain close to the soil's surface and are damaged by even light cultivation. Use only acid type fertilizer (such as used for azalea and camellias) at low rates and keep it away from the base of the stems. Excessive fertilizer easily kills blueberries.

The Rabbiteye blueberry was named for the pinkish immature fruits, which look similar to an albino rabbit's eye.

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 Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading          Hand holding clipboard

Plant ClinicSaturday May 12 The Johnston County Extension Master Gardeners will be holding a plant clinic at Wilson's Farm Market and Greenhouse from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm.  Stop by and have your plant questions answered by one of the Extension Master Gardeners.

Summer ExtravaganzaSaturday June 23 from 10am until 2pm at the Agriculture Building in Smithfield  (2736 NC 210 Highway) the Extension Master Gardeners will be holding their annual Summer Extravaganza.  There will be some activities for the children to do such as leaf rubbings and painting gourds.  Also there will be fun ways to learn about different things that can be done in the landscape such as butterfly gardening, attracting birds, letting worms eat your garbage, and other topics.  This event is a come and go as you please event.  The Johnston County Extension Master Gardeners will have a light lunch for sale for those who would like to stay and eat.  There will also be a plant sale of plants propagated by the Extension Master Gardeners from plants in their own yards at very reasonable prices.

Watercolor Your GardenMay 19 & 26 from 10:00am until 5:00pm at Johnston Community College Arboretum.  Join Jo Johnson, watercolorist, as we learn to memorialize our garden plants in watercolor.  Novices welcome.  This class will use the Arboretum grounds as a model for these paintings.  For more information on cost and registration for this class contact Lin Frye or Amanda Parker or call 209-2052.

Farm-To-Fork Events planned for Tuesday and Wednesday May 22-23.  The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) will host: 'Farm-To-Fork:  A Celebration of Local Foods and Local Farms' featuring Carlo Petrini, acclaimed author and founder of Slow Food International.  For information on the activities planned for these two days, including the free lecture, visit the CEFS website .

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Pest Alert!  Pest Alert!  Pest Alert!

 Damage caused by Azalea Lace Bugs on azaleas
 Azalea Lace Bugs can be a major pest of azalea plants.  They
make a normally solid green leaf have white spots all over the top. 
This is the month to take care of this pest if they have become a
problem.  They usually do nothing more than cosmetic damage to the
plants unless there is a very severe problem.  More information can be found on the Insect Notes page on Lace Bugs .

Newly hatched bagworm hangs by a thread waiting for a breeze to blow it to a new location.
Newly hatched Bagworm.
 Bagworms will start to hatch out toward the end of the month.  Keep an eye out for these voracious feeders as they hatch out.  The easiest time to kill them is when they first hatch out.  Even better would be to remove the old bags from last year, as that is where the eggs are for this year.  Many of the pesticides with Bacillus thuringiensis will kill young caterpillars without harming any beneficial insects in the area.  More information can be found on the Insect Notes page on Bagworms.

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Gardening to-do Banner


  • Don't fertilize cool-season turfgrass (fescue, bluegrass). It has been growing actively all winter, and it will begin to go dormant as summer heats up. Let it slow down naturally, and it'll be better able to withstand the heat and drought of summer.
  • Call for a Lawn Maintenance Calendar for your type of turf.  It tells you how to care for your lawn month by month – such things as fertilization, mowing and watering.Winter weeds in lawn
  • Most of the weeds you see now are winter annuals.  The time to control these was last August.  In a couple of weeks, the weather will be too hot for these winter annuals, and they will start dying.  For this reason, it is a waste of time and money to spray them with herbicide.  The best thing to do is mow them before they produce and spread seed around and put it on your calendar to spray for them in August.
  • Warm-season grasses such as Bermuda, Zoysia or Centipede can be planted now.
  • Mow cool-season grasses, such as fescues, at a height of 3 – 3 1/2 inches to help them survive hot, dry periods.


  • Pinch your plants. Use your index finger and thumbnail to break out the lead growth at tips of branches. Pinched plants have shorter, sturdier stems, more lateral branching and more blooms. Pinch back mums, zinnia, salvia, cockscomb (celosia), petunias, marigolds, snapdragons, and garden phlox.canna's in flower
  • It's time to plant summer beauties such as gladiolus, dahlias, caladiums and cannas and all those colorful bedding plants.
  • Dead or diseased limbs on woody ornamentals should be apparent by now.  Prune them out.
  • Stake floppy plants, such as peonies, dahlias, and Boltonia (Michaelmas daisy), while they're small, so they'll have support when they need it.  After plants have grown large, they can be injured by staking.
  • Cut roses properly.  Removing too much wood and foliage when cutting flowers can seriously weaken your rosebushes, especially during the first year. Leave 2-3 well developed leaves (groups of five leaflets, not three) between the cut and the main stem.
  • Grow great bearded iris  by giving them excellent drainage, fertile soil, sunshine, and beds free of competing weeds and grass. Divide frequently (in August) for larger and finer blooms.
  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs after they bloom.  The best time to prune azalea, rhododendron,Forsythia in bloom forsythia, spirea, flowering quince, kerria, pieris, and weigela is just as flowers begin to fade.  Don't wait till summer, or you'll cut off next year's flower buds.  To keep your shrubs ever young, prune one-third of the oldest canes back to the ground each year.
  • Prune wisteria frequently throughout the summer, to control vegetative growth and get better blooms next spring.
  • Keep dogwoods healthy.  Spot anthracnose and powdery mildew are two major disease problems that show up on dogwood trees in late spring and summer.  To help dogwoods overcome diseases: keep them watered, maintain soil fertility, and clean up fallen leaves to minimize the spread of the disease.
  • Mulch! Prepare for dry summer weather and control weeds at the same time by using a layer of mulch 2-3" thick.  Read more about the benefits of mulch in this Horticulture Information Leaflet from NC State University.
  • Banish bermudagrass (Wiregrass) from your planting beds. Keep it pulled to prevent it from overrunning your garden.
  • Plant seeds of annual vines such as moonflower, scarlet runner beans or passionflower.
  • Mix plants with the same growing requirements in your container gardens.  Do not mix sun-loving and shade-loving plants together in the same container.


  • Plant veggies now that the soil is warm and the danger of frost is past. Sow seeds of beans, squash, cucumbers, and corn. Set out transplants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and okra. https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/ag-06.htmlslug on letuce
  •   Pinching also works well for many vegetable plants, including tomatoes and peppers.
  •   Watch for slugs. These soft, slimy, slender pests have a special taste for tender young crops.  Holes in leaves or on the leaf margins and a silvery slime trail in the morning indicate a slug feast the previous night.  Slugs hide under boards, stones or debris during the day. Call for a bulletin on control of slugs.
  •   Train and support tomatoes, pole beans, peppers and eggplants.
  •   Side dress sweet corn when it is knee-high
  •   Make consecutive plantings of beans over a few weeks to extend your harvest.


  • Potatoes used as a foundation plantingPlant vegetables in your flowerbeds! Eggplant, pepper varieties, and cherry tomatoes make colorful additions to the garden. Bush beans and climbing beans have attractive foliage and charming small flowers. Vegetables can also mingle with flowers in pots on a patio or deck.
  • Welcome back hummingbirds! Females will be in the area first; the males will follow soon. Salvias, honeysuckles, penstemons, and other tube-shaped flowers, especially red ones, will attract hummingbirds to your garden. Fill feeders with a solution of 1 part sugar in 4 parts water. Wash feeders and replace the food at least twice a week.

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