Friday, April 27, 2012

The New Bug in Town

Adult Kudzu Bugs
There is a new bug in town and chances are if you have wisteria growing in your yard you have already met it. Officially known as the bean plataspid, this new insect is more commonly being referred to as the kudzu bug, after its favorite food. But it is not exclusive to kudzu and will happily feed on wisteria and other members of the bean family.

Kudzu bugs are about the size of a pea, with semi-flat bodies that are green with brown spots. They are strong fliers and often congregate in large numbers. They can feed on kudzu, wisteria, beans, and peas, but will often land on other plants and light colored surfaces, such as vinyl siding, in large numbers. The bugs have proven they can damage kudzu and soybeans but it is still uncertain what their impact will be on wisteria and ornamental plants, or in vegetable gardens.

Learn more about kudzu bugs from the full Pender Gardener article posted on the Pender Extension website:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Soil pH - A matter of balance

Iron chlorosis on hydrangea due to high soil pH

Do you know the pH of your soil? There is a good chance it is either too high or too low. 
Soil pH problems are common in our area, often causing poor plant growth, pale or discolored leaves, and wasted fertilizer applications. Adjusting soil pH can dramatically improve plant performance, but first you need to know which direction to adjust it. Lime and sulfur, both natural products, are used to adjust soil pH.

Blossom end rot can be caused by low soil pH
 High soil pH (over 7.0) often results in iron chlorosis, which appears as yellowing between the veins on new growth. Most vegetables, fruits and ornamental plants grow best when the soil pH is between 5.5. and 6.5. Notable exceptions include blueberries, camellias, azaleas, gardenias, and centipede grass, which prefer more acidic soils. High soil pH levels are especially common near the beach.

Nutrient disorders like blossom end rot, a common problem in tomatoes, squash, peppers, and watermelons, are more prevalent in overly acidic soils (pH below 5.5). Other conditions that cause this disorder include drought, over fertilization, and extreme heat. 

To learn more about soil pH issues and how to adjust your soil pH read the whole article on the Pender Extension website:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Plant Sale Nurtures Spring Fever!

Double Knock Out Rose
Spring is here and what better way to explore its possibilities than by attending the Pender Extension Master Gardener Plant Sale, coming up Thursday, April 19, 2pm-6pm, Friday, April 20, 8:30am-6pm and Saturday, April 21, 8:30am-noon. The sale will be held at the Pender County Cooperative Extension office, 801 S. Walker Street in Burgaw.

For flower lovers, the sale will offer a full palate of annuals and perennials to purchase, with special focus given this year to flowering plants that attract beneficial insects and pollinators. Those with culinary tastes will savor a variety of herbs, vegetables, and fruit plants including figs and blueberries. While at the sale, be sure to check out the 'Master Gardener Grown' tent where you will find different and unusual varieties of plants propagated and grown by Pender County Master Gardeners.

All gardeners should plan to attend the free gardening class that begins at 10am on Saturday, titled ‘Growing Great Soils’.  This 2 hour class, taught by Extension horticulture agent Charlotte Glen, will discuss common soil problems in coastal and SE NC and how to fix them without spending a fortune. If you would like to attend the class, call 259-1235 to register.

Master gardeners will be on hand throughout the sale to answer questions and offer advice. Proceeds from the sale benefit Pender County Cooperative Extension’s educational programs and teaching gardens. For more information, including a list of the plants that will be offered, visit or call 910-259-1235.

The Tomato Challenge

Large round tomatoes are the most challenging to grow well.
If you have had little success with tomatoes don’t take it personally. Tomatoes are tough to grow in the coastal south. Summer heat causes problems with ripening, fruit set, and flavor, yet allows diseases and pests to thrive. 

While we can’t change the weather, there are some things that can be done at planting time to increase your chances of success. These include planting as early as possible, planting deep, and planting heat adapted varieties. To find out more read the entire article on the Pender Extension website:

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Common Centipede Lawn Problems

Frost damage in centipede grass

In some yards centipede grass thrives on neglect, producing a dense, healthy, carpet of grass with little care. In others centipede lawns are plagued with problems. Some of these are caused by insects or diseases, while others are due to incorrect care. Figuring out which problem is the cause of your centipede lawn’s decline relies on careful consideration of the symptoms and how the lawn has been treated.

A common problem in centipede lawns this time of year is frost damage. Centipede grass is very sensitive to frost, but also has a tendency to start growing early so it is often damaged by late frosts, such as the one that occurred in inland areas this past weekend. Fertilizing centipede lawns before May increases the chances of frost damage. Frost damaged lawns will recover on their own if properly cared for -- this includes following the recommendations for mowing height, fertilization, and herbicide use discussed in this Pender Gardener article posted on the Pender Extension website: