Monday, June 27, 2011

Summer Extension Gardener Now Available!

Take a break from weeding and watering to catch up on the latest gardening news! The Summer 2011 issue of the Extension Gardener newsletter in now available online. Extension Gardener newsletter is written by horticultural experts with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Each issue includes statewide features plus a special regional section written specifically for your area of the state.

In the Summer 2011 Coastal Plain issue, you can learn about:
  • Making your landscape WaterWise
  • Preparing your yard for hurricane season
  • How summer heat effects vegetables
  • Irrigating efficiently
  • Climbing hydrangea
  • Summer garden chores
  • Garden chickens
  • and more!

Download your copy here today!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Helping Your Yard Survive the Drought

Wilted hydrangea
Signs of the severe drought currently gripping our area can be seen in lawns and landscapes throughout southeastern NC. These include stunting, wilting, yellowing or browning leaves, early leaf drop, dead stems and branches, and reduced flower, fruit, and seed production. How you care for your yard during drought will have a huge effect on how well it recovers once the rain returns. To conserve water, gardeners should set watering priorities during drought. Keeping drought sensitive plants like hydrangea alive during extended dry periods may not be feasible, especially in sandy soils.  

During drought is not the time to fertilize your plants or apply herbicides. Instead you should thin out overcrowded plantings and make sure your beds have a 2"-3" layer of mulch. For more tips on what to and not to do during drought, read the full article available online from the Pender Cooperative Extension website:

Receive weekly updates about current gardening topics for SE NC from Pender Cooperative Extension by subscribing to the Pender Gardener email listserv. To subscribe, send an email to Leave the subject line blank. In the body of the message put: subscribe pendergardener

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ground Pearls Are Not Buried Treasure!

Though individually tiny, seen here beside a dime, ground pearls cause serious damage to lawn grasses. The common name of this insect pest comes from its resemblance to a miniature pearl and the fact that they are found in the soil.
The most lethal pest of lawn grasses in our area is also one of the least well known. Called ground pearl or pearl bugs, these insects can be found damaging lawns throughout southeastern North Carolina. In yards infested with ground pearl it is often impossible to maintain a healthy lawn since there are no effective treatments for this pest. Managing lawns infested with ground pearl instead relies on redesigning landscape beds to minimize turf areas, choosing turf grasses that better tolerate ground pearl, and encouraging vigorous turf growth. 

Find out more about managing ground pearl infested lawns. Read the rest of the story on the Pender County Cooperative Extension website:

White Fluff on Shrubs and Perennials

Flatid Planthopper and "fluff"
Are you starting to notice a lot of white fluff on the leaves or stems of shrubs and perennials in your yard? When you touch the plants does something jump off? If so, you have experienced the flatid planthopper, an insect that occurs in our area every year.

Planthoppers rarely cause damage to plants but can leave behind a lot of fluff. This is rather noticeable but not harmful. In the image below you can see the insect as well as the fluff they leave behind. 

Find out more about this insect from this NC Extension fact sheet:

Stay current on plant pests in our state - check out the NC Pest News from NC Cooperative Extension:
Flatid Planthoppers and fluff on the back of a leaf

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Take the 40 Gallon Challenge!

Water bill got you down? Interested in reducing your water use to conserve this limited resource? Or just want to see how much water you could save by implementing simple, inexpensive practices around your home and yard? If so you should take the 40 Gallon Challenge
By following the tips on the 40-Gallon Challenge website, anyone can save money on their water bills.To start saving water and take the challenge, go to the website,,  and complete the checklist of water-saving practices. The checklist includes both indoor and outdoor water-saving tips.

At the program’s website,, you can pledge to adopt water-saving practices and see how many gallons of water you can expect to save.

The website also shows the most popular practices being pledged, the pledged practices that are saving the most water daily, and counties and states that are pledging the most daily savings.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Hot, Dry Weather Causes Blossom End Rot

Tomatoes showing blossom end rot
Are the bottom ends of your tomatoes or squash turning black or leathery, or failing to develop properly? This problem, known as blossom end rot, is most common on tomatoes and squash, though it may also occur on peppers, eggplants, melons, cucumbers and zucchini. 

Blossom end rot is not a disease and does not spread from one plant to another. Instead, it is classified as a physiological disorder and is caused by a lack of calcium in the developing fruit. 

There are several factors that can lead to calcium deficiency in vegetable plants, all of which must be managed to prevent blossom end rot from developing at anytime during the harvest season. Find out how - read the rest of the story on the Pender Cooperative Extension website:
Blossom end rot on squash causes the bottom end of developing fruit to shrivel up. They may also turn brown and rot.

Pest Alert: Tomato Hornworms!

Now is the time to check your tomato plants for tomato hornworms! These large caterpillars (up to 3" long) can quickly strip a tomato plant of most of if its leaves. This will not kill plants but will definitely set them back. The more leaves that are eaten, the longer it will take plants to recover. Tomato hornworms blend in well with tomato leaves and can be challenging to spot - look for missing foliage and then search the stems for the caterpillars.

If you find them, either squish them (this is rather messy as they are large caterpillars!), drown them in a bucket of soapy water, or spray plants. Do not be afraid to handle the caterpillars - they do not bite or sting (despite the rather dangerous looking horn!). Organic pesticides: B.t. (sold as Dipel and other brands) and Spinosad (sold as Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew and other brands) - both are effective for caterpillar control. Spray late in the evening as these products break down quickly in sunlight. Conventional pesticides: Sevin (carbaryl), permethrin, bifenthrin - be sure to check the label for the pre harvest interval (# of days you have to wait after spraying before harvesting).

These pests have come out early this year, in part due to the early hot weather. They hatch from eggs laid by a type of sphinx moth and will continue to be a problem all summer and into the fall so you will have to keep scouting for these pests all season.

If you find caterpillars that appear to be covered in white, cigar shaped cocoons leave them in your garden! They have been parasitized by the braconid wasp, a very small beneficial wasp that does not sting people or harm plants. More beneficial wasps will hatch from the cocoons and infect other caterpillars, providing natural control for this pest. 

Hornworm parasitized by beneficial wasps

Learn more!