Logo for N.C. Cooperative Extension N.C. Cooperative Extension Homepage

The Gardener’s Dirt September 2008

September 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


Insect Investigator

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

Landscaping for the Environment
By Shawn Banks

Many of us, myself included, will see a beautiful plant at a nursery or garden center and decide we must have that plant.  When we arrive at home with this “must have” plant, we find some empty spot in the garden to put the plant and make it work.  This is the wrong way to go about filling in empty holes in the landscape.

When filling empty holes or creating a new planting bed, it is best to know the environmental conditions of that site as well as the soil conditions.  If filling an empty hole make notes on the water requirements of the surrounding plants; the soil conditions (sand, clay, loam, wet, dry, poor, fertile); and other environmental conditions of the site (sun, shade, windy, top of a hill, down in a valley).  All of this information will help when selecting just the right plant or plants.

One other important bit of information is how close the site is to a water spigot.  Beds with a higher water requirement should be closer to a water source.  The further away from a water source the bed is, the lower the water requirement should be.  Grouping plants according to their water needs will aid in water conservation. 

Armed with this information about the planting environment we can look objectively at the most beautiful “must have” plant and ask, “Where will this fit into my landscape?”  So on your next trip to the garden center or nursery, look for plants that will fit into the garden both in water requirements and in environmental needs.  Your garden will reward you with many years of beautiful flowers if you will put plants in an environment where they will thrive.

For ideas on landscape design visit http://ipm.ncsu.edu/urban/horticulture/res_landscaping.html .  For a list of drought tolerant plants visit http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/programs/extension/publicat/wqwm/ag508_3/ .  For a list of plants that do well in wet situations visit http://guilford.ces.ncsu.edu/files/library/41/RG_Native_plant_list.pdf

 Spotlight Plant banner


Celosia spp.

Known as cockscomb, feathered Pluma. The celosias or cockscombs are erect, branching plants with oval or lance-shaped, strongly veined leaves 2-6 in (5.1-15.2 cm) long and hundreds of tiny flowers feathery plume-like flower-heads, 4-10 in (10.2-25.4 cm) tall, that look a little like tiny Christmas trees.

These cultivars come with flower-heads in a variety of shapes (some rather weird), and brilliant hot colors including red, orange, yellow, purple and creamy white.  Celosias require constant moisture, but a well drained soil in full sun. Water before the soil dries out. Plants that survive periods of drought may become stunted and flower poorly, if at all.

Celosia flower 'Flamingo Series'
Photo from floridata.com
 Return to the top

Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading            Hand holding clipboard

September 26 – 28; Southern Ideal Home Show at the State Fair grounds in Raleigh.  For more information visit http://www.southernshows.com/hfr/ .

October 14; The Arboretum at Johnston Community College is taking a field trip to Sarah P. Duke Botanical Gardens.  Visit http://www.johnstoncc.edu/locations/arboretum/lecture.htm for more information.

October 16 – 26; State Fair at the State Fair grounds in Raleigh.  For more information visit http://www.ncstatefair.org/2008/ .

October 25 from 12:00 noon until 9:00 pm; Howell Woodstock, a festival for the environmentally minded person.  For more information on the many activities available visit http://www.johnstoncc.edu/howellwoods/default.htm .

Return to the top


Insect Investigator banner
 Scolid wasp

 Scoliid wasps

 A call came into the Johnston County office of N.C. Cooperative Extension asking about a black fly that was making circles above the lawn.  The size of the “fly” indicated that is was most likely a wasp and not a fly.  The wasp in question is Scolia dubia, a wasp with dark blue/black wings and black on the head, thorax and most of the abdomen.  The female wasps fly over the lawn areas looking for grubs to lay eggs on.  The eggs hatch and feed on the grub until it is time to change into an adult.  The adults feed mostly on nectar and pollen from flowers.  They don’t sting unless they are extremely aggravated, which happens if you try to catch one in your hands.  This wasp is a great beneficial insect in that it helps to reduce the number of green June beetle larva in the turf.

For more information visit https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/O&T/lawn/note12/note12.html .

 Gardening to-do Banner

GENERAL IDEASMan taking a soil sample

  • Collect
    soil samples for testing, so that you'll know how much fertilizer and
    lime to add this fall.  Test your lawn, flower beds and vegetable
    garden.  Testing should be done once every 3 years.  We have FREE kits.
  • Clean up and throw away any diseased plant material.  Do
    not throw it in a compost pile.  Leaving infected plant material on the
    plants or where it fell on the ground provides a source of re-infection
    for next year.

LAWN CAREShady lawn with larg trees

  • Tip
    for fertilizing cool-season (i.e. fescue) lawns: Fertilize on Labor
    Day, Thanksgiving & Valentine's Day. Fescue lawns are green &
    growing during the cool months of fall, winter, and spring. Use a
    slow-release fertilizer.
  • Plant fescue seed to fill in
    bare spots or rejuvenate your lawn. The best time to plant fescue seed
    is Sept. 15 – Oct. 15.  Contact us for a publication on lawn care and
    renovation and get your soil samples in!!
  • Overseed common Bermuda grass lawns with ryegrass in late September – to keep lawn green all year.  
  • Control winter weeds with a pre-emergent herbicide applied around mid-September on lawn and shrub plantings.

TREES, SHRUBS & ORNAMENTALSOrange daylilly clip art

  • Prepare
    plants for dormancy. Plants need time in the fall to slow down &
    prepare for the winter, so do not apply nitrogen (N) fertilizer or
    prune after July.  Consider applying potassium (K) fertilizers, which
    increase winter hardiness.
  • Divide spring & summer-blooming perennials – such as daisies, daylilies, creeping Snapdragons lining a fieldphlox
    – that are overgrown. This is an easy way to enlarge your garden
    without purchasing more plants. Dig the plants, gently separate into
    smaller clumps & replant immediately. They'll have plenty of time
    to get re-established before next spring.
  • Set out
    cool-weather annuals for winter color. In addition to pansies and
    ornamental cabbages, other cool-weather ornamentals such as Dianthus,
    snapdragons, dustymiller, and ornamental sage look great throughout the
    winter. Wait to plant spring bulbs till chillier fall weather arrives.

VEGETABLES & FRUITSLeaves of chard on table

  • Start fall vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, collards, and cole crops to fill in spaces in the vegetable garden.
  • Mulch
    Peppers.  Be sure to mulch the plants to keep the roots cool and moist.
    Stake plants if you like, or you can allow them to tumble over onto
    ground that is covered with a thick blanket of hay, straw, or even


  • Think
    ahead to next fall and consider plants that will provide autumn color.
    Trees such as ginkgo, red maple, southern sugar maple, Japanese maple,
    sourwood, crape myrtle and tulip poplar have outstanding autumn foliage
    color. The flowers of Sasanqua camellias and autumn-flowering
    chrysanthemums contribute much to the colorful autumn scene. Don't
    forget the brilliant red foliage of rabbiteye blueberries. The berries
    of pyracantha, nandina, viburnum, beautyberry and many hollies provide
    bright accents into winter. Look for interesting plants in the
    nurseries, and add them this fall.

HOUSEPLANTSDracena in white pot

  • Plan to bring houseplants and tropicals indoors when temperatures dip below 50 F.
  • Move plants into partial shade for a week to condition them to lower light levels indoors.
  • Prune
    them, if necessary, to a manageable size. Give them a good bath in
    soapy water or spray with insecticidal soap to keep insect pests from
    moving indoors with them.
  • Give tropical plants as much light as possible once they are indoors.

 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

Past Newsletters  Johnston County Lawn and Garden  
Persons with disabilities and persons with limited English proficiency may request accommodations to participate by contacting Bryant M. Spivey, County Extension Director, at (919) 989-5380, or in person at the Johnston County Extension Office at least 10 days prior to the event.
North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability.  In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.  North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Local governments cooperating.
Page Last Updated: 10 years ago
Was the information on this page helpful? Yes check No close