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Mountain Gardener Newsletter MAY 2019


SAVE THE DATE June 1, 2019 | 9 a.m.–3 p.m.
Master Gardener℠ Volunteers of Buncombe County Garden Tour

May Garden Chores


  • Mow frequently enough to remove no more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time, cool season grasses 3 inches high. Try not to mow when grass is wet to avoid spreading disease.
  • Pull broadleaf (non-grass) weeds before they spread, spot treat with broadleaf herbicide if necessary. Plant diversity in the lawn can be OK.
  • Do not fertilize fescue and bluegrass lawns at this time. Look to late summer early fall for additional overseeding or renovation projects.


  • To invigorate or rearrange daffodils, the bulbs can be moved now. Dig deep to avoid damaging the bulb. Keep the leaves and roots intact and replant at the original depth.
  • Do not remove leaves from bulbs until they have turned brown.
  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs soon after flowers fade. Using thinning cuts near the ground and remove the thickest, oldest stems with the fewest flowers.
  • Mulch is the best tool for maintaining soil moisture and reducing weeds in the landscape. Maintain a depth of 3-4 inches, including the old layer of mulch.
  • It is safe to move houseplants outdoors for the summer once nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees. Initially place them in the shade, moving to brighter light allowing them to acclimate.
  • Bagworms will be hatching, an excellent opportunity for treatment with Bt.


  • Keep weeds out of the strawberry bed and put straw mulch around plants.
  • Fruit trees may set a good crop. Too many fruit on the tree is not a good thing. Thin apples, pears, and peaches to about 6 inches apart when the fruit is the size of a nickel.
  • Prune selectively to allow light and air to circulate and keep plants dry and reduce fruit and foliage diseases. Begin fungicide sprays, especially on peaches, plums, and grapes.
  • When moving or planting strawberries make sure to cover the roots until the crown (where the leaves arise) is just above the soil surface.


  • Asparagus – To help plants establish strong root systems do not harvest spears the first year. Begin lightly harvesting the second year, and work up to a six- to eight-week harvest by the fourth year.
  • Plan your vegetable garden on paper. Keep the plan from year to year so you can plan crop rotations.
  • Use row cover to prevent cabbage worms. Check cabbage family crops regularly.
  • Spindly tomato plants can be planted deep as they will form roots on the buried stem. Remove leaves that will be below the soil.
  • Make sure fall planted garlic is well mulched to keep competing weeds away.


What Varieties Should I be Growing? 

ARE YOU…starting to garden, looking for new ways to garden, making changes to the garden or simply interested in finding the best vegetable varieties to grow in your garden? A great first step is this beginner’s guide to vegetable gardening:
Extension Factsheet attach_file

Vegetable Gardening: A Beginner's Guide

This publication provides information about planning and maintaining a home vegetable garden. Topics include site selection, soil preparation, and pest and disease management.

This publication from NC State Extension provides a thorough overview of the many aspects of gardening to help you get started. Site selection, raised beds or containers, when to plant what, crop rotation, seeds or starts, maintaining the garden and when and how to harvest are a few topics covered.
If you are looking for more in-depth information on what varieties to grow…check out one of the following sites:

Gardening in Containers

Growing and having access to homegrown fruit, vegetables and herbs can be done in containers without a lot of tools, time or land. The following information comes from an NC State Extension publication and will help you get started.
Follow these key guidelines to create a successful container garden:
  • Grow edibles on a balcony, deck, or entrance area.
  • Use only containers that have drainage holes.
  • Avoid small or dark-colored containers.
  • Use planting media, not garden soil, which is too dense and compacts too much.
  • Group plants in a container with other plants that have similar requirements for light, water, and nutrients.
Extension Factsheet attach_file

How to Create a Container Garden for Edibles in the North Carolina Piedmont

In this publication you will find ideas to get you started growing your own edibles. Included are simple designs and potential settings for a single container, a small group of …

When is it Time to Plant Pumpkins?

PumpkinsAs the soil warms up and the gardening season turns to summer take the time NOW to plan and plant pumpkins. Growing pumpkins can be GREAT fun for kids and can be done in a raised garden or small garden plot, as long as they are the small bush types. Look for variety names like ‘Little Munchkin,’ ‘Jack Be Little,’ and ‘Spookie.’
To grow the BIGGEST pumpkin ever you will need the proper variety (‘Big Mac’ and ‘Mammoth Gold’) and much more space and attention.

Watch NOW for Dogwood Sawfly

Mid to late May will be a good time to be on the lookout for insects that feed on shrubs and trees in the garden. Sawflies for instance often begin feeding in small numbers on the undersides of leaves and easily go undetected. Once their presence is apparent, leaf damage and fecal droppings, population numbers can grow so numerous that good control can be a challenge.
If you grow shrub dogwoods, roses, azaleas you are probably familiar with this pest. Although damage isn’t necessarily fatal to the plant in one season, scouting early and staying on top of their control can prevent long term impact to the health and beauty of the plant.
The University of Minnesota has an excellent overview of sawflies.

Are You Gardening in Heavy Soil?

Gardening in soils that are heavy in clay, compacted from construction or don’t drain well costs valuable time, plants and energy. Take time at the time of planting to help plants get off to the best start possible. Although amending the soil is certainly an option, planting shallow or above ground in a raised planting situation is good insurance.


Rhododendrons are a great example of a plant that typically grows in soils that are moist, well drained and high in organic matter that will develop root rot in heavy clay soils where the drainage is poor. Below right is a diagram of how to adjust the planting for heavy soils.


Bee Swarms

It’s not uncommon in the spring for honeybees to become cramped in their hives and leave that space looking for better accommodations (i.e., swarming). Swarms can be very dramatic but are not harmful. People (i.e., beekeepers) like to catch swarms because it’s essentially a way to get free bees.
Some county offices do keep a “Swarm List” of individuals who are available and experienced in collecting honeybee swarms. N.C. Cooperative Extension of Buncombe County, however, does not keep such a list and instead will refer individuals to the Buncombe County Beekeepers Club online system to register requests for help or locations of swarms.
HERE’S HOW: Go to WNC Bees and click the “Report a Honey Bee Colony or Swarm” tab. This will take you to an online form to fill out which will alert area beekeepers of the swarm. Individuals will respond, often the same day knowing this is a time-sensitive task.
REMEMBER honeybees, wasps, hornets, bumblebees, and all other native bees are important pollinators and beneficial insects. If they are located in an area where there is not a high likelihood of people disturbing them, consider letting them remain. These insects are important parts of the ecosystem and need to be protected where possible.