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The Gardener’s Dirt November 2007

 November 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

Attracting Wildlife to Your Garden

By Sharon Austin,

Extension Master Gardner

    My favorite childhood memories are of time spent with my Great-Aunt in her “Wildlife Garden”.  I vividly remember my joy and excitement each time I saw a new bird, butterfly, chipmunk, frog or any of God’s little creatures that visited her yard.  Those simple pleasures continue in my backyard each day.

    To create your own backyard wildlife sanctuary keep some basic ideas in mind and you will attract a wild variety of wildlife for years of enjoyment.  Wildlife requires water, food, and shelter to make a home for their young.

    birds in a birdbath
   Water: A depth of an inch to an inch and a half is all that’s needed.  If the water drips or splashes it will attract more wildlife.  Moving water also discourages mosquitoes and algae growth. Birdbaths should be placed in a shady location so the water stays cool.  A shallow dish can be used as a birdbath.
   Food:  Plant a wide variety of flowering and fruit bearing plants, as well as varieties that attract insects (a good source of protein for birds).  Oaks, Maples. Hickories are good for attracting insects.  Native plants and wildlife go hand in hand.  Top Ten Native plants for the Southeast are:  Black Tupelo, Willow Oak, Sweetbay Magnolia, American Elderberry, Yaupon Holly, Sweet Pepperbush, Swamp Milkweed, Trumpet Honeysuckle, Climbing Aster and Narrowleaf Sunflower.  Do not cut back perennials, because some seed heads provide food for many migrating birds. 
Birdhouse in a garden    Shelter/Home for young:  The easiest way to provide cover is by using native plants, both dead and alive.  Evergreens and dense shrubs are excellent choices.  Use various species of hedge plants, so if one species becomes infected with a disease or insect pest it won’t affect the whole hedge.  Shelter plants not only provide protection from predators they also provide homes for the young.  Birdhouse provides both shelter and nesting sites for some bird species. Different bird species have different housing requirements.  You can easily find a house for any bird you are interested in attracting.  Wildflower meadows provide both shelter and food for butterflies, moths, and other beneficial insects.  Ponds both big and small provide water for wildlife cover for aquatic wildlife.
   Do not use chemicals. Many chemicals are deadly to wildlife and beneficial insects.  Use beneficial insects and mulch to help control pest and weeds.  Consider a roosting box for bats to help with insect control.

    Sit back and enjoy natures beautiful show of sights and sounds!  You may also want to consider certifying your yard as a wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.  They have a website set up that will take you through the steps to become certified.  Visit their site at http://www.nwf.org/backyard/.

Photo of birdbath provided by Las Pilitas Nursery
Photo of birdhouse taken by Shawn Banks

 Spotlight Plant banner
 American Beautyberry with fruit
C. americana in the wild

Purple Beautyberry with fruit
C. dichotoma in the landscape

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Callicarpa americana

American Beautyberry or French Mulberry

This native deciduous shrub may reach heights of eight feet.  It is found in zones 5 to 8 and grows best in full sun, but will tolerate some shade, though there will be a reduction in flower and fruit production in the shade.  It has a loose or open, arching habit, which, along with the 3 ½ to 6-inch long leaves, gives this plant a course texture.  The leaves of the Beautyberry are opposite in arrangement and the color is a light green.

The flowers of the American Beautyberry appear on new growth where the leaves meet the stem, giving them the appearance of surrounding the branch.  The light lavender-pink flowers appear June through August to add a little summer color to the landscape.

The real beauty of this plant is the unusual ¼ inch purple fruit that surrounds the stem in the fall.  The fruit ripens for an extended period of time so as the birds eat some of the fruit there is still more ripening to keep the color their.

There are other species of beautyberry in the landscape trade.  The most common is the Callicarpa dichotoma or Purple Beautyberry with a more compact, dense habit and smaller fruits and leaves.  This plant is an introduction from China or Japan and also grows in zones 5 to 8.


Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading            Hand holding clipboard

Johnston County Cooperative Extention’s annual Fruit and Nut Tree Sale is going on now.  Pick up an order forms are available at the extension office 2738 NC 210 highway, Smithfield, NC 27577 or call (919) 989-5380 and ask for one to be mailed to you.  Or you can go to our website and take a look at the available plants list and print it out.  Orders must be in by November 16.  Pick-up dates are listed on the order form.

Johnston Community College activities:

December 4 at 7pm Holiday Floral Arrangement with Nancy Olson.  There is a small fee for this activity to cover the cost of materials.  For more information visit their website or give them a call at 919 209-2052.

JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University activities:

Friends of the Arboretum Lectures (a small fee for nonmembers)
November 1 at 7:30pm Rain Gardening by Dr. Helen Kraus.  Learn how to make the most of the rain that falls in your yard.
November 15 at 7:30pm Growing Hardy Citrus in Zones 7b and 8.

For more information on these and other events happening at the JC Raulston Arboretum visit their website or call them at (919) 515-3132

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Pest Alert!  Pest Alert!  Pest Alert!


Southern red mite adults and eggs
Southern Red Mite adults and eggs

 Cool season mites will be on the rise as cooler weather approaches.  There are two mites that might possibly affect plants in cool weather.  One is the Southern Red Mite, which has been known to feed on azaleas, camellias and hollies as well as many other broadleaf evergreens.  The second is the Spruce Spider Mite, which feeds on arborvitae, juniper, spruce and other conifers.  Mites are very small and are easy to miss so a handheld magnifying glass will be very helpful in noticing these pests.  Read more about cool season mites in the horticulture information leaflet available on the web or call the Cooperative Extension office (919) 989-5380 and ask for the leaflet on Cool Season Mites.
Paper Wasps and Lady Beetles may appear indoors as they search for a place to spend the winter protected from the cold.  Even the paper wasps are more of a nuisance than a threat as they are not defending a nest, so they will not be likely to sting.  The best method of control is to smash them with a rolled up newspaper whenever they land.  Lady Beetles can be collected and put outside where they will look for another place to hide for the winter (These beetles eat a lot of aphids so try to keep them around if possible).

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Lady beetle on a blade of grass
Lady Beetle

Gardening to-do Banner

Especially during a droughtFall is the time to plant trees and shrubs.  Rick Hester, the County Manager for Johnston County said, “a handheld hose for watering plants is allowed on weekends only.”  Follow proper planting techniques as outlined in the horticulture information leaflet Planting Techniques for Trees and Shrubs for best success. https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-601.html 

  • Soil SamplingCollect soil samples for FREE testing, so you’ll know how much fertilizer & lime to add.  Test your lawn, flower beds & vegetable garden.  Testing should be done every 3 years.  The kits are available at the Cooperative Extension office.
  • Clean up and throw away any diseased plant material.  Do not throw it in a compost pile.  Leaving infected plant material (leaves, fruits, nuts) on on the ground or plants, provides a source of inoculum for re-infection next year.


  • Fertilize fescue lawns for winter.  The November fertilization (near Thanksgiving) is the most important one of the year for cool-season grasses. The soil is still warm enough to permit the growth of strong roots that will enable the grass to withstand next summer’s baking heat. Use a slow-release fertilizer formulated for turf, and apply according to soil test results.


  • Planting ShrubsFall is for planting! September through early February is an ideal time to plant deciduous trees/shrubs and perennials. Plant evergreen plants from September – November.  The cool weather permits establishment of a root system before next year’s hot weather. Find pictures of recommended planting techniques at: https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-601.html
  • It’s time to move shrubs from one place to another. https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/brunswick/mastergardener/mg201113.html
  • Mulch shrubs/trees, perennials & herbs after the 1st killing frost for winter protection. Apply a layer 3″ deep. Mulch comparisons and general info: https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-608.html Daffodils
  • Plant spring flowering bulbs as the weather turns cold. For best landscape effect, plant groups of bulbs in between shrubs, or scatter bulbs in wooded areas; avoid planting bulbs in straight lines.  Always plant quality bulbs.  Daffodils , Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanicus), and Snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum) are bulbs to consider. By contrast, Tulips and Dutch hyacinths decline after their first season and are best treated as annuals. Tips for planting/purchasing bulbs at: https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-611.html 
  • Use shredded leaves as mulch.  Fallen leaves contain lots of nutrients, but they decompose slowly. Help the process along by grinding up yourCompost Pile leaves rather than sending them to the landfill.  You don’t need a shredder; simply rake the leaves into rows and run them over with a lawnmower.
  • Compost your yard waste! As you cut back your perennials in preparation for winter, think about returning that bounty to your garden in the form of compost.  Compost is nature’s favorite fertilizer and soil conditioner.  Recycle grass clippings, leaves, and non-diseased garden refuse.  For information on how to compost: https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-8100.html
  • Here are some tips on how to protect your plants from cold damage:https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-604.html 

  • Before you put those plants in the ground, consider this ….Landscape
  • Landscape with a plan. A well-thought-out landscape plan will produce a more “finished” effect.  Analyze your property and draw a simple map, noting which areas are sunny, shady, moist or dry.  Consider where you need evergreens for screening, shorter plants to maintain a view, and about creating a landscape that will be appealing throughout all four seasons. 
  • Put the right plant in the right place.  Choose plants well suited to the growing conditions in your yard.  We can provide many publications describing plants that are well-adapted to our county. Master Gardener Volunteers, nursery professionals, gardening books geared toward North Carolina are also excellent resources.
  • Allow space for plants to grow to their mature size.  A common mistake is placing a large or fast-growing plant where there is not enough room for its full height and spread.  The error results in continuous pruning in an attempt to keep the plant to a size nature never intended it to be.  Builders and beginning landscapers often place shrubs too close together, because the plants look so small when they come from the nursery.  Find out how large the plant can be expected to grow, and place them where they can fulfill their potential.
  • Put the garden to bed for the winter. Pull out all annuals that have completed their life cycle and cut back perennials.

  • HerbsWinterize your herb garden: https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-8112.html
  • Rototill the vegetable garden to expose harmful insect larvae and disease organisms to the cold and predators. You’ll be set to plant next spring instead of waiting for the soil to dry out enough for tilling.


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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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