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The Gardener’s Dirt May 2008

May 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

By Martha Castor
Johnston County Extension Master Gardener

You can have a garden anywhere, and during all seasons by container gardening.  What a great way to conserve water, space, and time.  It is also an opportunity to experiment with different plant varieties.  It is also a great way to overcome problems in the garden soil.

Containers come in many different sizes, shapes, and materials.  Some materials include terra cotta, plastic, wood, and ceramic.  Some containers to be cautious of are those with narrow openings, they are hard to empty; cheap plastics, they will break down in UV light; wooden containers are susceptible to root, except cedar or redwood (avoid wood treated with creosote, penta or toxic salts).  Whichever container you choose make sure it has adequate drainage in the bottom.  Additional holes can be made in many types of containers using a drill with a ½ inch drill bit.  Also, set the container up on pot feet, stones, or bricks to aid with drainage.

The size of the container should be determined by the plants to be planted in the container.  Larger plants will need larger containers.  For many small plants consider wide, shallow bowls. 

A light-weight soil mix is generally needed.  Garden soil is generally too heavy for containers and could contain nematodes or other disease organisms.  You can either buy a prepackaged mix or mix your own using one part peat moss, one part compost, and one part clean coarse (builders) sand, and some slow release fertilizer (amount should be based on the amount of mix being made about 1 teaspoon per gallon of mix). 

When creating containers with mixed plants, check light requirements for the plants you have chosen.  Put plants together that have the same light requirements.  Also consider water requirements.  Some plants need to be watered more frequently than others.  A common question is, “How often should I water the container?”  The answer is, “As often as it needs it.”  The longer the plants are in the container the more frequently they will need to be watered.  When checking the soil for moisture, check the plants for insects.  The same insects that attack the plants in the soil will often attack the plants in the containers as well.

Move plants around from time to time for a different and dramatic effect.  When bad weather is expected, delicate plants can be moved under a shelter or indoors for protection.  Some tropical can be moved into the house or garage to over-winter.

This summer enjoy some fresh color and a variety to your porch, patio, or yard by using containers to mix things up.

 Spotlight Plant banner

 Anise Hyssop

Agastache foeniculum

 Planted in full or partial sun, and mesic to dry conditions this perennial grows 3 to 5 foot tall and is planted 2 to 24 inch apart in well drained soil.  The foliage has an anise or licorice scent.  The upper stems terminate in spikes of flowers about 3-6" long. The small flowers are arranged in dense whorls that are crowded along the spike; the flowers are replaced by smooth, oval-shaped nutlets.  There are many recipes that involve the flowers and leaves of this herb.  Flowering starts, even in unfavorable summers, in late July and continues until late autumn. The plants will self-seed in the garden and usually overwinter well.  Anise hyssop will attract bees, butterflies and/or birds to the garden.

Anase Hysope in flower
Anise hyssop in flower
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Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading            Hand holding clipboard

Ham and Yam Festival; May 3 & 4 behind the courthouse in Smithfield.  Enjoy the festivities for the entire family and stop by to speak with the Extension Master Gardeners

Organic Insect Control; May 29 at the Agriculture Building 2736 NC 210 Highway, Smithfield, NC.  Dr. David Orr will be our presenter that night with some good ideas on how to control insects in the garden.  Please call to sign up.  (919) 989-5380

Agriculture Tour; June 6 we will be touring several agriculture businesses in Johnston County and the surrounding area.  For more details call the extension office (919) 989-5380 or visit http://johnston.ces.ncsu.edu/index.php?page=events&event_id=10583 on the internet.

Summer Extravaganza; June 14 at the Agriculture Building 2736 NC 210 Highway, Smithfield, NC.  The Extension Master Gardeners will have some educational booths on different topics including dealing with the drought.  For more information call (919) 989-5380 and ask to speak with a Master Gardener.

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 Insect Investigator banner


Close up picture of a bagworm
Close up view of a bagworm. 
 As the weather warms up toward the end of May and first of June be on the look out for bagworms.  Right now there are between 500 and 1000 eggs inside the bags hanging on the plants.  Leyland Cypress is one of the plants that can be damaged severely by this insect, however, bagworms can be found on several types of junipers, arborvitae, and several broadleaf evergreens.  More information can be found by calling the Extension Master Gardeners at (919) 989-5380 or by viewing this website https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/O&T/trees/ort081e/ort081e.htm . Newly hatched bagworm hangs by a thread waiting for a breeze to blow it to a new location.
A newly hatched bagworm.
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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


  • 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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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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