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The Gardener’s Dirt October 2007

 October 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


By Adair Pickard, Master Gardener

Oil sprays have been used to destroy plant pests since at least 1787.  Oil sprays are contact insecticides, meaning they must come in contact with the insect or mite.  Horticultural oils are available in two types, Dormant Oils and Summer Oils.  Although they differ in the degree of refinement, all horticultural oils contain the same basic three ingredients; oil, water and an emulsifier.

Dormant Oils destroy overwintering insects.  Damage to plants is completely avoided because insects are killed before hatching.  Also, it’s easier to completely spray the plants when they are leafless.  Dormant Spray should be applied to all deciduous trees and shrubs that had insect infestations the prior year – especially fruit trees and roses.  Scale insects on maple tree limb

Dormant Oils protect against scale insects, mealybugs, thrips, and pear psylla nymphs.  Dormant Oils also eliminate eggs of aphid, mites, codling moth, oriental fruit moth and fruit tree leafroller.

Spraying should be done on a clear day when there is little or no breeze.  Ideally, temperatures should be between 40 and 70 degrees F and remain over 50 degrees F for at least twenty-four hours.  These temperatures allow the oil to spread out into crooks and crevices.  Apply with a pump sprayer or with a hose-end sprayer two times during the dormant season.  First when all the leaves have fallen in October or November, then again in early February before buds begin to swell.

Summer Oils are usually mixed with water at a rate prescribed on the product label.  They are relatively inexpensive, but are also less toxic to insects than many synthetic pesticides.  An advantage to summer oils is that insects have not developed resistance to oils.  These oils have good spreading quality and can be used with other synthetic insecticides to enhance the coverage of a treatment.  Summer Oils are particularly effective for tea scale, euonymus scale, and other armored scale problems.  Successive sprays at least six weeks apart are recommended.  Don’t apply at temperatures over 85 degrees F; when the soil is dry; or air humidity is less than 30 percent.

Oils are among the safest insecticides in use; are effective for a variety of insects; and insects have not developed resistance to horticultural oils.  There are several cautions however.  As with any chemical product always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.  Wear a mask and protective gloves when spraying.  Limit spraying to plants that have had problems during the prior year.  DO NOT use these oils on evergreens or ferns.  Always check product labels carefully for other plants that might be damaged by use of the product.

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 Spotlight Plant banner

 American Hornbeam ful view
photo by Audrey Helou
available on the internet at this link.

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American Hornbeam

Carpinus caroliniana

Also know as Musclewood, Ironwood, Blue Beech, and Water Beech trees.

American Hornberm is a short, stubby tree that grows up to thirty feet tall and can have one or more trunks, each a foot wide.The bark is bluish-gray, thin, and fairly smooth. The leaves of this tree grow to four inches long and two inches wide. They are simple leaves with a pointed tip and teeth on the edges. These leaves turn orangish-red in the Fall.

Flowers are tiny greenish catkins, about one and a half inches longblooming in early Spring.

Fruits are oval-shaped, hairy, and green. They are small, only 1/4 inch long, and they hang in clusters from a shared stalk. Red-spotted Purple and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies use hornbeam as a host plant. They also provide good cover and shelter for animals.  The American Hornbeams are usually an understory tree.

Best growth and development of American hornbeam occurs on rich, wet-mesic sites, but it is not restricted to such sites and can tolerate a wide variety of conditions.


Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading            Hand holding clipboard

October 4 from 7:00 until 9:00pm there will be a fire ant workshop at the Agriculture Building 2736 NC 210 Highway, Smithfield, NC.  Come learn how to control the red imported fire ant using the two-step method.

October 16 from 7:00 until 9:00pm the Arboretum at JCC will host Murder in the Garden with Molly Weston.  There is a $10 per person charge for this event where Molly Weston will talk about some of her favorite authors who use gardens or farmers as characters in their novels.  Then pot up a few herbs for a window sill herb garden.  More information on this event is available on their website .

October 12 – 22 is the 2007 NC State Fair.  Come out to see the horticulture exhibits and have an all around great time at the State Fair.  For more information visit http://www.ncstatefair.org/2007a/ and see what else is available.

We are now taking orders for our 2007 Fruit and Nut Tree Sale at Johnston County Cooperative Extension.  If yo would like to look at the available plants or place an order the information is available on the internet as a pdf file or we could mail you a copy.

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Pest Alert!  Pest Alert!  Pest Alert!

Winter annual weeds have started to germinate.  Get them while they are small so they don't turn into a big problem later.  Shallow cultivation with a hoe or rake will take care of most seedlings.  A fresh layer of mulch about 1 to 2 inches thick will smother some of those seeds that have already germinated and prevent others.  Chemicals that control cool season annuals will work best if used early, before weeds have a chance to set seed for next year.

Wild garlic or onion in the lawns will start popping up soon.  Keep a look out for them and get them under control early as well.  Keep in mind it may take two or three consecutive applications of herbicide to deplete the energy stored in the bulb.  Don't give up after one application.

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Winter weeds in lawn
Winter weeds in flower bed.

Wild Garlic in lawn
Wild garlic/onion in lawn.


Gardening to-do Banner

Fall is for planting! Autumn is an ideal time to plant or transplant deciduous trees/shrubs and perennials. Fall is also a great time to till the soil and add organic material and lime.   The bed will have plenty of time to "mellow" before next spring. Turning over the soil also exposes harmful insects and grubs to predators.


  • Collect soil samples for testing.  Test your lawn, flowerbeds & vegetable garden.  Testing should be done every 2-3 years.  The kits and analysis are FREE.  Strong healthy plants start with proper soil pH and fertility.
  • Throw away any diseased plant material.  Do not put it in a compost pile.  Leaving infected plant material on the plants or on the ground provides a source of inoculum for next years infection.


  • Pamper newly seeded fescue lawns. Little grass plants have very small, shallow roots.  Keep them watered.  Don't let falling leaves smother them.  Use a leaf blower on low power or rake very gently so you don't uproot the tender young plants.
  • If desired, Bermuda lawns may be overseeded with annual rye at a rate of 5 lbs/1000 sq ft.


  • Improve your clay soil.  Shrubs and perennials can drown and suffocate in sticky clay soils.  Loosening the soil and adding well-rotted compost, in a ratio of one part compost to two parts soil, allows plants to grow much better.  Mix it well with the soil, making a bed 8-12" deep. 
  • Use shredded leaves as mulch.  Fallen leaves contain lots of nutrients, but they decompose slowly.  Help the process along by grinding up your leaves rather than sending them to the dump.  Don't have a shredder?  Rake the leaves into rows and run over them with a mower, preferably one with a bagger attachment.
  • Plan for planting.  Buying on impulse can be costly and labor-intensive in the future.  Before hitting the stores, determine "What does this particular site need?"  Select plants that will do well in the available site conditions.  Consider the mature size of the plant, also.
  • Purchase spring-flowering bulbs and store them in a cool place until chilly weather sets in and you can plant them. Daffodils , Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanicus), and Snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum) are bulbs to consider. By contrast, Tulips and Dutch hyacinths decline after their first season in Johnston County, and are best treated as annuals.
  • Compost your yard waste! As you cut back 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.  E.mail me for a copy of a publication on how to create compost.
  • Wait to prune trees and shrubs.  Pruning before dormancy may induce tender, new growth that will not have time to harden off before the first frost. 
  • Take cuttings of begonias, coleus, geraniums and impatiens to root and grow indoors during winter. 
  • Remove bagworms from evergreens to greatly minimize their population numbers for next year.  The eggs for next years caterpillars are in the bag.
  • Trigger roses into dormancy by no longer deadheading spent flowers and allow rose hips to form. 
  • Avoid cool season weeds by applying the appropriate pre-emergent herbicide to plant beds and turf areas that had cool season weeds last year. 
  • Coddle Holiday Cactus  – Leave your holiday cactus outdoors in a spot that gets a few hours of bright sun and no light after dark. Give it regular water and fertilizer. The combination of attentive care, bright daytime, and long, dark nights sets the stage for heavy flower bud production in early winter.


  • Plant a cover crop in your vegetable garden. Legumes, such as clover and alfalfa, will enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen. Cover crops prevent erosion and can be turned over to decompose in the soil and provide needed organic matter.
  • Consider planting a fruit tree.  The ideal time to plant is December.  We will be starting our tree fruit and nut sale in October in preparation for delivery and planting in December.
  • Good sanitation is important for disease and insect control.  Thoroughly clean up fallen leaves and fruit.  Don’t forget fruit left hanging on trees.
  • Dig sweet potatoes  before frost. 
  • Keep pecans picked up.  Weevil larva for next year’s populations will crawl out of the nuts and overwinter in the soil if the nuts are not picked up. 
  • Build a cold frame to plant cool-weather vegetables for harvest into early winter.  For further details visit https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/johnston/homehort2/howto.html#COLD_FRAME
  • If you are concerned that nematodes may be causing problems, NCDA offers a test for only $3.00 to check for nematodes.  The forms, boxes and bags are available at the Cooperative Extension office.


  • Store tender tubers – such as dahlia, caladium, gladiolus, geranium, and tuberous begonia – which may not overwinter in the garden.  Lift roots, tubers, or corms about the time of our first killing frost, just after their foliage dries.  Dig deep enough so that the roots will not be snapped apart when lifted from the soil. Leave soil around dahlia tubers, canna, and caladium roots. 
  • Store tubers in a dry, cool, frost-free place such as a basement. Do not store on back porch or in garage; these plants cannot withstand freezing. Also, store them where rodents will not eat them.
  • Geraniums can be overwintered in pots, or bare root in paper bags. Store in a garage or other building until soil dries and falls away from plant parts. Shake soil off roots and tubers, and cut away dried stem. Discard any plant parts that show soft spots or disease. Place tubers and roots in old sawdust or peatmoss, in a flat box or plastic bag with holes for ventilation.
  • Check your houseplants for insects before bringing them indoors.  A few insects on plants outside can easily turn into a problem inside.   Giving plants a bath with mild soap often does a good clean up job.

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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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