Monday, August 29, 2011

Tips for Storm Clean Up

  • If a tree splits in half, as Bradford pears are prone to do, or loses over ½ of its canopy it really is not worth saving. The tree may continue to live for some time but will never recover its shape and eventually decay will set in and the tree will fail.

  • For broken branches that you can safely reach and remove, make sure you know where to cut! Poor pruning cuts result in decay and future problems. Find out more about how to remove a limb from this Florida Extension website:

  • If multiple branches are broken in a shrub, cut the shrub back to 3’-4’ tall. Many shrubs can recover from this type of damage. Wax myrtles are particularly prone to falling apart during strong wind.

  • For perennials and ornamental grasses that blow over, go ahead and cut them back to around 2’ tall. They will not stand up again and staking them up is rarely successful. Add the clippings to the compost pile.

  • For annuals that fall apart, you may as well pull them up. It will be time to replace them in another month anyway.

  •  If you live close to the ocean and salt spray has covered your shrubs and perennials rinse them off with clean water as soon as possible if rainfall does not do this for you.

  • Tip out any containers of standing water – they will just provide breeding grounds for mosquitos! Mosquito dunks (which contain a special strain of B.t., an organic insecticide) can be placed in small ponds and shallow areas of standing water to help kill mosquito larva.

Pender County Cooperative Extension is open! If you have further questions about how to handle storm damaged plants give us a call at 910-259-1235 or use our 'Ask an Expert' widget to post your questions online,

Fall Best Time to Knock Out Fire Ants

Recent rainfall has increased the number of fire ant mounds.
A recent encounter with a particularly aggressive mound of fire ants has left me wondering if my right ankle will ever be the same. It also served as a reminder that we are entering the most effective time of the year to control these pesky invaders. Treating mounds in late summer and fall weakens the colony, leaving the ants more vulnerable to the ravages of winter. So, if fire ant mounds are popping up in your yard the way they are in mine, treat now to get the most bang for your buck. 

Find out more! Read the rest of the story on the Pender County Cooperative Extension website:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Become a Food Gardener!

If excessive heat and drought ruined your summer garden or, like me, prevented you from planting one, now is the time for your second chance. Many favorite vegetables can be planted over the next month for harvest throughout the fall and into winter. What’s more, FoodGardener, a new email service from Pender Cooperative Extension, will increase your chances of success by keeping you up to date on when and how to plant as well as how to sustainably manage garden pests.

To find out which vegetables and herbs can be planted now in your fall garden, read the rest of the article on the Pender County Extension website,

Sign up for the FoodGardener email news service, brought to you by Pender County Cooperative Extension. FoodGardener will keep you up to date on what you can grow, when and how to plant, and provide recommendations for sustainable and organic pest and crop management. To sign up, simply email and request to be added to the FoodGardener listserv OR send an email to Leave the subject line blank. In the body of the message put: subscribe foodgardener.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Spiders - A Gardener's Best Friend!

Black and Yellow Argiope, aka Garden Spider
Maybe it is because my name is Charlotte and I grew up on a farm, but I have always had an affinity for spiders. I realize not everyone shares this attraction, but here is some news that may help you tolerate them. Research has confirmed that spiders are the most important and abundant predator of insect pests in most yards. This means they are not hanging around just to frighten you. In fact, they are actively defending your yard and garden against a multitude of insect pests.

Spiders eat many types of nuisance and plant damaging insects, including mosquitoes, stink bugs, caterpillars, aphids, and beetles. Actually they will eat just about any insect they can get their fangs on, including other beneficials, though on the whole they eat a lot more bad bugs than good ones. In turn, spiders are an important food source for many species of birds, serving as both predator and prey in the food web.  

Spiders are common in gardens and landscapes in our area throughout the year, though their numbers are generally highest in late summer and fall. An over abundance of spiders in your yard or home is an indication that there are plenty of insects around for them to eat. If you have a lot of spiders around and you can tolerate them, the best thing you can do is leave them alone to allow them to naturally reduce the insect population.

Learn more about spiders by reading the rest of the article on the Pender Cooperative Extension website: See images of many common garden spiders on this NC Extension webpage:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Harvesting the Rain

Rain Barrel
Even during drought rain showers occasionally bestow life sustaining water to parched landscapes and gardens. But not all the rain that falls from these fleeting showers soaks into the soil. For example, most of the water that falls upon our roofs is diverted to stormwater drains or ditches and carried away before it can permeate the ground. Instead of letting it float away, why not capture this precious resource and store it to water plants during drier times? Rain water harvesting systems, which include simple rain barrels as well as more complex cisterns, allow gardeners to do just that.   

Rainwater harvesting has been practiced for hundreds of years and still serves as a primary source of water for homes in some parts of the world. In the United States rainwater is primarily harvested for non drinking water use, such as irrigation. Large systems can capture and store thousands of gallons of rainwater and pump it back out to water lawns and garden beds. Even a single rain barrel can store 65 gallons or more. Using harvested rainwater to water your yard will save money on your water bill, conserve municipal water sources for more vital purposes, and reduce the damaging effects of stormwater runoff in your community. 

Learn more! Read the rest of the story on the Pender Cooperative Extension website:

To find out more about cisterns and rainwater harvesting, visit the NC Extension Rainwater Harvesting website,, or download a copy of the publication “Rainwater Harvesting: Guidance for homeowners” here:

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