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The Gardener’s Dirt September 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
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

Control Winter Weeds Now

By Patty Brown – Extension Master Gardener

A weed is a plant that is not only in the wrong place, but intends to stay.  Sara Stein

While the inherent truth of this quotation is undeniable, there are ways to keep weeds at bay in both your lawn and flowerbeds.  Weeds are categorized into winter and summer annuals, biennials, and perennials.  As summer turns to fall, we’re particularly concerned with annual winter weeds.
Annual bluegrass a common winter weed
With the arrival of September and (eventually) cooler weather, annual winter weeds begin to germinate and continue to do so throughout early winter.  They typically finish their life cycle and die with the arrival of hot weather.  Examples include annual bluegrass, chickweed, and henbit.  Minimizing these winter weeds in the lawn is important.  When they die in the spring, they leave the lawn thin and vulnerable to invasion by crabgrass and other summer weeds.

The best method of dealing with weeds is to prevent them.  Weeds are less likely to encroach on lawns kept healthy through proper mowing, fertilizing, and watering.  In borders and bedding areas, maintaining a layer of mulch two to three inches thick reduces weeds.  Mulch also helps retain moisture and keep soil temperatures moderated throughout the year.

Another good way of preventing winter annuals in the landscape is to use pre-emergence herbicide.  These herbicides are applied to a lawn, garden, or flowerbed before weed seeds germinate.
Henbit an annual cool season weed
Pre-emergence herbicides can be applied in late summer or early fall, either in a spray or granular form.  For best results, make sure to apply the product at the recommended time and follow the directions on the label.

Post-emergence herbicides, which are applied directly to the foliage that has already emerged, can be used as needed to control winter weeds.  Two typed of nonselective herbicides can be used to control winter weeds in home landscapes.  Contact herbicides kill the plant tissues they come in contact with.  Systemic herbicides are transported through the plants vascular system to kill the entire plant, roots and all.

Biennial and perennial weeds live for more than one year and should be controlled using a post-emergence herbicide.  Examples of cool season biennials include bull thistle and wild carrot.  Examples of cool season perennial weeds include wild garlic, dandelions, Johnson grass and white clover.

For further information, consult these resources:

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Spotlight Plant banner

Lycoris radiata

Red Spider Lily or Huricane Lily

Red Lycoris flower
Flower of red spider lily
This beautiful, red flower appears on a long slender stock seemingly out of nowhere.  Flowering stems emerge around the first part of September.  Flowers will bloom for two to three weeks.  The extremely long anthers give the appearance of spider legs, thus the common name red spider lily. 

Lycoris is a member of the amaryllis family.  The leaves of the red spider lily resemble those of its cousin, the amaryllis, except that they are much more narrow.  Leaves are present in spring, but die to the ground by mid summer.

The bulbs are hardy in USDA zones 9 and 10 if not mulched, but do quite will in zones 7 and 8 if given a two to three inch layer of mulch to protect the bulbs from winter cold.  They grow best when placed in an area with full sun or afternoon sun.

Lycoris is a bulb like the amaryllis.  It can be dug in the summer after the leaves die back.  It should be immediately divided and transplanted into its new home. 

Red Lycoris flower and stalk
Flower and stalk of red spider lily
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Hand holding clipboard          Announcements banner heading            Hand holding clipboard
September 15, Johnston County Beekeepers meeting at 7:00pm at Parkside Café in Pine level.  All are invited. This months meeting is on beeswax candles and other hive products.  For more information on the Johnston County Beekeepers visit their website http://www.jocobee.org/.

September 19, JCC Arboretum will take a tour to Winston Salem to visit apple festival and Old Salem Gardens.  Cost $15.00 call 919 209-2184 to reserve your seat.  For information on other events through the Johnston Community College Arboretum visit thier website at http://www.johnstoncc.edu/arboretum/events.aspx.

September 25 – 27 Southern Ideal Home Show in Raleigh at the fairgrounds.  The cost is $9.00 at the door.  Visit http://www.southernshows.com/hfr/ for more information.

Since Johnston County does not have a fair our 4-H agent, Lori Mcbryde, and Porgram Associate, Teresa Byrd, have put together a Fall Showcase to display some of the arts, crafts, photos, sewing, horticulture, canned foods, and other food items that might be displayed at the state fair. Entries will be accepted on October 1 from 1:00 – 7:00PM. Judging will take place on October 2. Exhibitors are welcome to come and view the displays starting at 6:00pm on October 3 at the Johnston County Agriculture Center. The Johnston County 4-H Centenial Celebration will take place on October 3 at 6:30PM. You must RSVP if you plan to stay for this event. Ribbons will be awarded to winners along with a small cash prize to the first place adult winner and first, second, and third for youth winners. For more information and an entry form visit https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/johnston/4-H/Activities/activities.html and look for the Fall Showcase Link. Please call Angie Hampton at 989-5380 to RSVP for the Centennial Celebration

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Insect Investigator banner Spittle mass from immatur spittlebug
Spittle mass of immature
Two-lined Spittlebug
Prosapia bicincta
Two-lined spittlebug adult
Adult two-lined spittlebug
The two-lined spittlebug is named because of the two red lines that go across the wings of the adults, and from the spittle mass that is formed as a protection by nymphs as they feed.  The spittle mass is formed as the insect extracts juices from the plant and combines it with air and other juices to produce a bubbly spittle that hides it from predators.

One or two nymphs will not cause a lot of damage, but if there are several on the plant or in the turf treatment may be necessary.  On ornamentals or grapevines with one or two nymphs, the spittle can be washed off the plant with a hose and the nymph removed from the plant. 

If the spittle is in the turf, most often centipede, chemical treatment may be necessary.  Chemicals listed in the North Carolina Agriculture Chemicals Manual for controlling spittlebugs in turf include acephate (Orthene), bifenthrin (several options), and carbaryl (Sevin).  When using any chemical remember to read and follow the label directions.

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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 newspapers.


  • 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.

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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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Written By

Photo of Shawn Banks, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionShawn BanksCounty Extension Director (252) 222-6352 (Office) shawn_banks@ncsu.eduCarteret County, North Carolina
Page Last Updated: 9 years ago
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