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The Gardener’s Dirt November 2009


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

Extension Master Gardeners

By Shawn Banks

You may have seen them, a small group of people at a table at a local garden center.  They had a few books on the table with some soil sample boxes and a handout or two.  With a little white sign that reads, “Got Questions? Ask us, Master Gardener Volunteers.”
Master Gardeners in soils training class
The volunteers at these tables have gone through a training to learn how to answer gardening questions.  They have learned about turfgrass, trees, shrubs, insects, diseases, weeds, and several other topics.  The training concentrates on problems specific to Johnston County, while teaching basic information to answer questions around the state.

The Extension Master Gardeners help the Extension Agent extend the educational programming to more people in the county.  Some tasks they do include:

  1. Presentations for garden clubs and other groups.  They have done presentations on vegetable gardens, butterfly gardens, maintaining the lawn, and other gardening topics.
  2. Maintaining demonstration gardens. They maintain an herb garden, a mixed border, and next year a vegetable garden.
  3. Holding plant clinics at local garden centers. 
  4. Answering phone calls and e-mails.  People are always asking gardening questions.  The Extension Master Gardeners help answer some of those questions.
  5. Writing articles for this newsletter.  I am sure you have seen some of their handy work in past issues.  The varying personalities keep the newsletter exciting.

Master Gardeners on a tour of UNC Botanical Garden
There is a fair amount of work involved in being an Extension Master Gardener.  There are some social benefits to the program as well.  There is a monthly meeting to continue their education.  Monthly meetings allow them time to socialize with other gardeners.  Field trips to other gardens are used to learn more about gardening and gather ideas on gardening techniques.  Some recent trips were to New Hanover Botanical Garden and UNC Botanical Gardens. 

If you are interested in becoming an Extension Master Gardener, there is an application that needs to be filled out.  The application is available by calling the Cooperative Extension office at 919-989-5380 or online by clicking this link.  If you would like to learn more about the Extension Master Gardener Program here is a website with information https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/masgar/.

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Spotlight Plant banner

Dendrobium Orchids

 Dendrobium orchid flower
Dendrobium Orchid flower

Dendrobium orchid flower2
Dendrobium Orchid flower stock

There are over 1,000 species of Dendrobium orchids that are known.  Some are deciduous, meaning they drop their leaves, while others are evergreen.  They come from a wide range of climates as well.  Some grow in the hot and humid lowlands of the South Pacific islands, while others grow in the colder climates of the mountains in Southeast Asia and Japan.  Two things all these species have in common is that they are all native to the Eastern Hemisphere and they are all epiphytes (grow on the bark of trees).

The ones that are most commonly found in garden centers and supermarkets are evergreen types that are hybrids.  These are relatively easy to grow.  They will grow in bright morning light if they get shade after about 10:00 to 11:00, after all they grow in trees and are shaded during the hot part of the day.  They will grow in lower light, but it is unlikely they will bloom well.  These hybrids also require high humidity and a good amount of fertilizer.  There are special fertilizers made for orchids that contain the needed micronutrients.  Dendrobium orchids grow best in a loose potting medium made of mostly bark.  Frequent watering keeps the humidity up and the plant happy.

One problem many people have is getting the plants to rebloom.  One trick is to cut back on the watering and drop the nighttime temperatures just a little bit.  Normal growing temperatures should be above 600 F but many will survive a short dip into the 50’s.

Dendrobium orchid plantDendrobium Orchid plant
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Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading            Hand holding clipboard
Fruit and Nut Tree Sale Order forms are now available for the annual fruit and nut tree sale at the Johnston County office of North Carolina Cooperative Extension.  Pick one up at the office located at 2736 NC Highway 210, Smithfield or call 989-5380 to have one mailed to you, or download the order form from here. 

Beekeeping Short Course   November 3rd, 2009 @ 6:00 PM – November 19th, 2009 @ 9:00 PM Contact Amie Newsome at (919) 989-5380

Southeast Strawberry Expo   November 8th, 2009 – November 10th, 2009 Durham, NC Contact Amie Newsome at (919) 989-5380.

Howell Woodstock Event November 14, 2009 @ 12 noon until finished.  Join the staff and volunteers of Howell Wood Environmental Learning Center for an afternoon of fun for children and adults alike.  For more information visit their website at http://www.johnstoncc.edu/howellwoods/programs_and_activities.aspx.

Johnston County Beekeepers Association will have their monthly meeting on November 17th at 7:00pm at Parkside Café in Pine Level.  More details can be found on their website at jocobee.org or call 989-5380 for more information.

Certified Beekeeping Exam   November 21st, 2009 @ 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM Contact Amie Newsome at (919) 989-5380
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  Insect Investigator banner  root knot nematode infested roots
Roots with Rootknot Nematodes


 Cyst Nematode on root
Cyst Nematodes on Roots
Nematodes are microscopic round worms that can be found in a number of different places.  We will only address the nematodes that cause damage to plants.  Here in North Carolina, we have many of the plant parasitic nematodes in our soils including foliar nematodes, soybean cyst nematode (upper right photo), rootknot nematode (upper left photo), lesion nematode, and dagger nematode.

With the exception of the foliar nematode, where the damage can be seen on the leaves, most of the damage from nematodes occurs under ground on the root system of the plant.  The most common symptoms of nematode damage include stunted growth, smaller leaves, leaves may loose their sheen, or leaves may turn yellow.  These symptoms are similar to many other root problems.  The damaged caused by nematodes opens wounds allowing root rot diseases, wilts, and other soil born diseases easy access to the plant.

Controlling nematodes in the home landscape can be very difficult.  There are no nematicides (chemicals) labeled for use by homeowners or in residential situations.  Suggested control methods include using resistant plant varieties, preparing soil properly giving plants the best start, solarization of the soil, and replace the infested soil with clean soil. 

If you suspect you have a nematode infestation in your soil, you should take a soil sample and have it tested by the NCDA.  The boxes, bags, and forms for nematode testing are available at your local N.C. Cooperative Extension office.  They may also be dropped off there for delivery to the nematode test lab in Raleigh.  The nematode test costs $3.00 per sample.  Knowing the problem is a big help in finding a solution.

For more information about the NCDA Consumer Services Division, including forms, fees, test results, and how to take a sample, visit their website at http://www.agr.state.nc.us/agronomi/.

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Gardening to-do Banner


  • 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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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 jcemastergardener@gmail.com

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