The Gardener’s Dirt October 2009
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
| Shawn Banks
|In this Issue
|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.|
Life in the Soil
By Tony LaVerde
|My first gardening experience did not produce the results I was expecting. What I saw in magazines and catalogs, I was not able to duplicate in my garden bed. My gardening knowledge was limited to, digging a hole in the soil, dropping in a plant and sprinkling synthetic fertilizer around the plant. This method will not produce optimum results over the long term. The reason, over time the soil is being depleted of its life giving nutrients.
So what is a gardener to do? Glad you asked! We need to give life back to the soil by replenishing the nutrients being used during the growing process.
We can accomplish this by planting Cover Crops. Cover Crops are living mulch. Plants specifically grown to protect and improve the soil. Like traditional mulches, cover crops smother weeds, enrich the soil with humus, increase nutrients available to growing plants, and provide winter protection. Cover crops can be grown in winter or summer. Some examples of a winter cover crop are oats, peas, barley, annual rye, and red clover. In summer foxtail millet, buckwheat and white clover are some examples. Each crop has a specific use. Some are used to increase nitrogen in the soil while others are used to add organic matter to the soil and improve soil quality.
When I first broke ground on my garden plot, I discovered hard, compacted soil low in organic matter. After a soil test, I discovered the soil was also lacking some vital nutrients required to grow heavy feeders like broccoli and sweet corn. After my first summer growing season, I planted my first cover crop. I chose mammoth red clover for nitrogen fixing and its ability to break up hard soil. I also mixed in some winter rye for weed control. I use white clover between garden rows for weed control, as it is also tough enough to walk on. For weed control in bare spots, buckwheat is my choice because it attracts beneficial insects such as bees.
In early spring when the soil is not wet, tilling under these winter cover crops will provide organic matter that will help loosen soil, provide food for soil dwelling organisms, hold moisture, and provide nutrients to the next crop. As a result, plants will be healthier, less prone to disease, and will require fewer fertilizers and pesticides. Thus, by feeding the soil with cover crops the soil will feed your plants.
To determine the soils fertility and relative acidity (ph), take a soil sample and have it tested. The test results will provide information on lime and nutrients needed for optimum plant growth. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for information on how to obtain soil test boxes and forms. The publication, “A Gardeners Guide to Soil Testing” is available online at: http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/agcomm/publications/Ag-614.pdf
Cover Crop seed can be purchased at local farm supply stores, garden centers, or on-line suppliers such as Superseeds.com, peacefulvalley.com and Territorialseed.com.
|When deciding to plant fruit trees there are a few things to consider. Some trees come in different sizes. Apples, for example, have the option of dwarf (10’ or smaller), semi-dwarf (10’ – 16’), or standard (over 16’). When these options are available, pick a size that will fit into the available space.
Maintenance tasks should be considered when selecting the size of the tree. Smaller trees are easier to prune, thin the fruit, harvest, and spray than larger trees are. By keeping trees smaller you may also be able to plant a wide variety of fruit trees.
Pollination is another consideration. Many fruit trees are not self-fertile, meaning they need another variety to pollinate them. A good example of this is a golden delicious apple needs an apple of another variety like a red delicious in order to produce fruit.
Local varieties or varieties that were bred in the region they will be growing do better than varieties that were bred for another climate. Ask friends, neighbors, garden centers, and the local Cooperative Extension Agent what varieties do well in your region.
To extend the harvest select varieties that mature at different times. Most fruit of one variety will all ripen at about the same, by selecting varieties that ripen early, mid, and late season you can enjoy fruit over a longer period of time.
For more information on growing fruit trees in your backyard, contact your local office of N.C. Cooperative Extension.
Apples on a tree
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The Johnston County Cooperative Extension Service is sponsoring the annual Fruit & Nut Tree Sale. All orders along with payment are due by Friday, November 13, 2009. Orders along with payment can be sent to Johnston County Cooperative Extension Service, Fruit Tree Sale, 2736 NC Highway 210, Smithfield, NC 27577. For more information and an order form click here or call 919 989-5380.
October 24 from 10:00am until 6:00pm Smith’s Nursery is having a Fall Festival. There will be food, drink, and fun for the entire family. For more information visit www.upickberries.com.
Green June Beetle Adult
|Green June Beelte Cotinis nitida L.||
Green June beetle Larva
|The green June beetle is a member of the scarab beetle family Scaragaiedae. The adults are large green beetles that look like Japanese beetles on steroids. The adults don’t usually cause much landscape damage. What they do eat is usually soft, fleshy fruits like tomatoes and figs. Mostly these large beetles fly around looking for a mate and a good place to lay eggs. The females burrow about 8 inches down into turf areas where they will lay around twenty eggs in each hole.
Its the grubs doing most of the damage and causing concern in the landscape. The grubs reach full size in a couple of months reaching lengths of 2 inches with a girth about the size of a finger. They tunnel through the soil aerating it, and feeding on grass roots and thatch. In large numbers, they may create too much air space in the root zone of the turf causing it to suffer from drought stress.
Most people will notice these grubs in August and September when they leave the ground in the early dawn to move from one location to another. When exiting the soil, they push small mounds of soil out with them. One key characteristic for identifying this grub is that it crawls on its back when above ground. This year several people have noticed lots of these grubs moving across driveways and sidewalks. Stephen Bambara, an Entomologist at NC State University, suggests that two years of drought (2007 and 2008) suppressed the number of grubs those years. With adequate rainfall this year, we have seen an explosion in the grub population.
A native predator of these grubs is a wasp (Scolia dubia) that is mostly dark, even the wings, with a small brown section near the end of the abdomen with two yellow dots on it. The wasp is about one inch long, and is usually found flying low to the ground over grassy areas. It is not aggressive toward people because it is focused on finding grubs to lay eggs in to feed its young.
To control large numbers of this grub in the home lawn, the North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual suggests Sevin as being the chemical of choice. Be sure to read and follow label directions for safe use of any chemical.
|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.
TREES, SHRUBS & ORNAMENTALS
VEGETABLES & FRUITS
HELPING PEOPLE PUT KNOWLEDGE TO WORK.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com
|Past Newsletters||Johnston County Lawn and Garden|