Friday, August 2, 2013

Pender Gardener Blog No Longer Updated

I will no longer be updating the Pender Gardener blog. Instead, all new posts can be found on the Pender Cooperative Extension website

To receive announcements about upcoming events and classes and stay up to date on all the latest gardening news, subscribe to one or both of my e-mail listservs:
  • Subscribe to Pender Gardener to receive updates on what to plant and how to care for your lawn and landscape. To subscribe, send an  the email to Leave the subject line blank. In the body of the message put: subscribe pendergardener
  • Subscribe to Food Gardener to receive updates on what to plant and how to care for your vegetable and herb garden. To subscribe, send an  the email to Leave the subject line blank. In the body of the message put: subscribe foodgardener

Friday, May 31, 2013

Why Are My Squash Rotting?

Blossom end rot on squash fruits.
Are the lower ends of your squash turning brown and failing to develop properly? 

These are the symptoms of a common disorder known as blossom end rot. Recent low nighttime temperatures likely triggered the blossom end rot we are seeing now. Fruits that show blossom end rot will not develop properly and should be removed from the plant. 

Several other common soil and weather conditions can cause this disorder, all of which must be managed to prevent blossom end rot from developing at anytime during the harvest season. To learn more read the whole article posted on the Pender Extension website:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What Is Killing My Grass?

Ground Pearl
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 coastal 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. Learn more:

For more information about lawn care, ground pearl and other lawn problems, visit the NC Cooperative Extension TurfFiles website,

Friday, May 17, 2013

How Do I Treat Whitefly On Gardenia?

Almost every yard in the south has at least one gardenia. Planted by generations of gardeners for their exotically fragrant white blossoms, these tough evergreen shrubs are salt tolerant, drought tolerant, and deer resistant. One thing they cannot resist is the tiny whitefly. These petite pests cause gardenia leaves to turn yellow and drop from spring through fall.  Plants may also appear dark or sooty. If this describes the gardenia in your yard, you should check it now for whitefly and determine if treatment is needed.

On some bushes, whiteflies never seem to get out of hand. This is because their populations are kept in check by beneficial insects, including ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps. If you find whitefly on your gardenia but it is otherwise healthy with lots of clean, green leaves, you probably do not need to treat. In fact, applying pesticides can disrupt the balance between beneficial and pest insects, causing the pest insects to become the dominant species.If treatment is needed, options for controlling whitefly include applying organic and synthetic insecticides. Learn more:

Why Are My Tomatoes Dying?

TSWV Symptoms
Since the mid 90’s, tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) has become one of the most serious diseases of tomatoes in our area. Infections of TSWV in our region usually first appear in May and peak in June. Always deadly, there is no way to treat TSWV and infected plants should be pulled up and discarded.

Tomato plants infected with TSWV may at first appear stunted and pale. Upon close inspection, you may notice unusual markings on the leaves. Sometimes these marking look like brown or black spots, other times they look like tattooed lines or circles. Spots may or may not be surrounded by yellow leaf tissue. The leaves of infected plants may curl inward, while the veins may turn purple, and plants often take on a bronze color. Usually these symptoms show up in the top leaves of the plant first, while most other tomato diseases show up on the lower leaves first. As the disease progresses, infected plants wilt and die, usually within a week of the first symptoms appearing.  Learn more:

Monday, May 13, 2013

What Is Wrong With My River Birch?

River birch leaves crinkled and discolored by aphid feeding.
If the leaves on your river birch look like this, do not be alarmed. This distortion and discoloration is caused by a species of aphid that only feeds on river birch and witch hazel. No treatment is necessary -- the damage is temporary and not harmful to the plant, plus the aphids will attract ladybugs and other beneficial insects to your yard!

Learn more:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why Is My Lawn Dying?


Large Patch Disease
You know it’s officially spring in North Carolina when there are giant patches of brown grass in bermudagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, and zoysiagrass. These giant patches of brown grass are better known as large patch, caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani, and if you’ve ever had an outbreak of this disease, you now know why the disease was coined large patch.

What you may not know is what your control options are this time of year. To find out, read the whole article posted on the Pender Extension website:

Friday, May 3, 2013

Which Fertilizer Is Best?

Slow release fertilizers are better for sandy soils.
These include synthetic, time release products (left) and organic fertilizers (right).
There are lots of choices when it comes to fertilizing plants. Garden center shelves are lined with products that promise beautiful, healthy, lush plant growth. Some are added to the soil as a pellet or granule, while others are mixed with water and applied as a liquid. Which is best for your yard or garden depends on the type of nutrients your plants need and how quickly they need them.

To learn more about determining your plants' fertilizer needs and the types of fertilizers you can use, read the whole article posted on the Pender Extension website:

Friday, April 26, 2013

Controlling Insects with Natural Products

Natural insect control products are derived from plants, microorganisms and other naturally occurring materials. These products can successfully control many insect pests in gardens and landscapes when applied properly. You may find simply substituting natural products for synthetic insecticides does not provide the same results.

One of the major differences between natural and synthetic is how long their residues persist after application. Because they break down quickly, often within a few days, natural insect control problems cause less harm to honeybees and other beneficial insects. This also effects how they should be used. To learn more about how to use natural insecticides, products available from local garden centers, and the pests they control read the whole article posted on the Pender Extension website:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Kudzu Bugs Are Back!

Kudzu Bugs
The return of spring has tempted more than gardeners to venture outside and enjoy the warm weather. Kudzu bugs, a new insect first seen in our area in 2011, are coming out from their winter hiding places by the thousands. Slightly larger than a lady bug, with olive green or brown flattened, square bodies, kudzu bugs are strong fliers and often gather in large groups. If you spend time outside in the next several weeks chances are you will run into them.

The current infestation of kudzu bugs are adults that overwintered under tree bark, within house walls, or in mulch. These adults are waiting for the kudzu to start growing. As this happens over the next month, they will fly into the kudzu, lay their eggs, and then die. A new generation will hatch and feed on kudzu and other bean plants through the summer. 

Read the whole article posted on the Pender Extension website to learn more about kudzu bugs and if you should do anything to control them:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spring Extension Gardener Now Online!

Spring is finally here and along with it comes a new issue of Extension Gardener Newsletter. Extension Gardener 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.

You can also follow Extension Gardener on Twitter, at @NCExtGardener, friend us on Facebook at NC Extension Gardener, and keep up with the latest gardening news on the new Extension Gardener blog:

In the Spring 2013 Coastal Plain and Sandhills issue, you will learn about:

  • How to create beautiful food gardens in your front yard 
  • Using organic products to control pests 
  • Success with centipedegrass
  • Growing citrus in containers
  • and lots more!
Download your copy here today!

Friday, April 12, 2013

What Are the Best Tomato Varieties?

Tomato planting season is upon us, leaving gardeners with a pretty big decision to make: Which variety of tomato to plant. The decision you make now will have a huge impact on your future success, but hundreds of different varieties are available. Will you go with hybrids or heirlooms? Determinate or indeterminate? Large or small fruits? 

Read more about the many varieties of tomatoes available to decide which is the right varieties for your garden:

Friday, April 5, 2013

Is There Anything Deer Will Not Eat?

High populations and disappearing woodland habitat are forcing deer to seek food in our backyards and gardens. One of the easiest ways to minimize deer damage in your yard is to landscape with plants deer prefer not to eat. While no plant is deer proof, there are many good landscape plants for this area that deer find less palatable – a solution that is both effective and relatively low-cost, once you know which plants to choose.

Types of plants deer prefer not to eat include ornamental grasses, ferns, palms, herbs and plants with strong scents, as well as plants with silvery or hairy leaves. For more suggestions of trees, shrubs, and flowers deer usually do not bother read the whole article posted on the Pender Cooperative Extension website:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Improve Your Soil with Compost and Cover Crops

Buckwheat - a summer cover crop.
As you get ready to plant this spring, don’t forget to add organic matter to the soil. Organic matter, such as compost, improves all soil types, resulting in naturally healthier plants. You can purchase compost in bags or in bulk or make your own at home with yard debris and kitchen scraps. You can even grow your own by planting certain cover crops, known as green manures, and tilling them into the soil.

Find out more by reading the whole article posted on the Pender Cooperative Extension website or attend a free class on this topic, Saturday, April 13, 10am - 11am at the Pender Extension Center, 801 S. Walker St. in Burgaw. 

This class coincides with the final day of the Pender Extension Master Gardener Spring Plant Sale, which begins Thursday, April 11. Plant sale hours are April 11, 2pm – 6pm; April 12, 8:30am – 6pm; and April 13, 8:30am – noon. For more information visit or call 910-259-1235.

Master Gardener Spring Plant Sale!

Thursday, April 11, 2:00pm – 6:00pm
Friday, April 12, 8:30am – 6:00pm
Saturday, April 13, 8:30am – 12:00pm

Pender County Cooperative Extension Center
801 S. Walker St.
, Burgaw

A fantastic selection of affordable, high quality, locally grown plants that flourish in southeastern North Carolina will be available at the 2013 Pender Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Association Spring Plant Sale, including vegetables, blueberries,  Japanese maples, annuals, perennialsherbs, and more! 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 Extension Master Gardeners!

Other items that will be available to purchase include the Pender Extension Master Gardener Zone 8 Garden Planner and our ‘Gardener’s Table’ cook book. New this year we will be accepting payment by debit and credit cards in addition to cash and checks.

In addition to buying plants, this year’s sale features several exciting opportunities to learn about gardening. Signage for all plants will help gardeners select the right plant for the right place and will indicate plants adapted to five common garden challenges in our area: deer, sandy soil/drought tolerant, clay soil/moisture tolerant, shade, and salt spray, as well as great plants for butterflies, hummingbirds and pollinators. 

Extension Master Gardeners will be on site to answer your gardening questions throughout the sale and will lead several live demonstrations on Friday, April 12th. All are free:
  • 9:30am, ‘Wacky Containers’ with Meredith Smith
  • 10:45am, ‘Propagation’ with Sandra Brown
  • 12:00pm, ‘Japanese Maples’ with Para-Ash of Ash’s Japanese Maple Nursery
  • 1:15pm, ‘Container Gardens with Style’ with Janet Autrey
  • 2:30pm, ‘Easy-to-do String Gardens’ with Debby Shackelford
free class on composting and cover cropping will be held Saturday, April 13th, 10am – 11am. Led by Pender Extension horticulture agent Charlotte Glen, this class will cover all you need to know to start composting in your yard and how to grow cover crops to improve your soil.

All proceeds from this sale benefit Pender County Cooperative Extension’s educational programs. For more information call Pender Cooperative Extension at 910-259-1235.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Is It Too Early To Plant?

Wait a few more weeks to plant tomatoes.

It only takes one warm weekend for gardening fever to become an epidemic, making everyone anxious to plant. But is it too early? The answer to this question depends on what you are planting, where you are located, and how much risk you are willing to take.

Cool season crops can be planted before the last frost date, which averages around the end of March for coastal communities and mid April further inland. These crops include lettuce, spinach, radish, and cilantro. For some cool season vegetables like potatoes and garden peas it is actually too late to plants. Warm season crops include tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans, cucumbers, and squash. Wait until after the average last frost date to set these outside. If you are willing to risk losing a few plants you can plant earlier than recommended. Some years this will pay off, others it will not. To learn more read the whole article posted on the Pender Cooperative Extension website:  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fruits and Berries You Can Grow

Blueberries are easy to grow in moist, acid soil. 
Thinking of planting fruit trees or berry bushes? Your chances of success have a lot to do with which fruits you choose to grow. Many garden centers in our area currently have fruit and berry plants for sale. Before you rush in to buy, take the time to plan ahead to ensure the money you spend is not wasted.

Figs, blackberries, Asian persimmon, and blueberries are among the easiest fruits to grow in our area. Apples and peaches are the most difficult. Cherries, bunch grapes, and apricots should not even be attempted. For all fruits, you need to know their pollination requirements and which varieties are adapted to our area before you plant. Learn more! Read the whole article posted on the Pender Cooperative Extension website:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Why You Should Read the Label

Have you ever hesitated to use a pesticide because you were not sure how to mix it, where or when it should be applied, or what threat it posed to bees, wildlife, pets or people? All of this, along with other essential information, is listed on every pesticide label. 

Reading the label before you buy or use a pesticide is important for all types of pesticides, including organic products. It will help you decide which product is right for your pest problem, how to correctly apply it, and what risks are involved. And it is the law! Learn more about pesticide labels and information they contain - read the whole article on the Pender Cooperative Extension website:

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Easy Vegetables and Herbs for Beginners

Loose Leaf Lettuce
Many vegetables and herbs can be grown in our area, but some are easier than others. If you are a beginning gardener or are simply looking for a few easy crops, consider planting loose lettuce or Swiss chard now for spring greens. Once the threat of frost has passed (mid April) you can set out pepper plants and basil in raised beds or large containers. While tomatoes are one of the most challenging vegetables to grow successfully, small fruited cherry varieties usually thrive. For more suggestions of easy herbs and vegetables read the rest of the article posted on the Pender Extension website

Free Class!
Learn lots more about growing vegetables and herbs at a free class titled ‘Vegetable Gardening for Beginners’ taught by Pender Extension Horticulture Agent Charlotte Glen, Saturday, March 16, 1:30pm until 4:00pm. The class will be held at Wesleyan Chapel United Methodist Church, located on Hwy 17 across from Poplar Grove Plantation.

The class is free but registration is required. Call 910-259-1235 to register or register online at:

Donations to support the WCUMC community garden will be accepted. Pender Extension Master Gardeners will have their ‘Garden by the Month’ calendar ($9) and gardener’s cookbook ($10) available to purchase.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What Is This Prickly Weed?

Lawn Burweed
If you have ever walked barefoot through your lawn in spring and thought you were stepping on sandspurs chances are lawn burweed has infested your yard. Lawn burweed, also known as spurweed (Soliva sessilis), is a common turf weed easily identified by its low ferny foliage and sharp, spiny seed pods that ripen in late spring. These can be painful to both pets and people who visit your yard. Now is the time to spray this weed to prevent these prickly pods from forming.  

Learn more about how to identify and control this weed on the Pender Cooperative Extension website:

Friday, February 15, 2013

How to Prune Crape Myrtle

This type of severe pruning, often referred to as crape murder, is never the correct way to prune crape myrtle!
Too often crape myrtles are cut back to bare trunks in the belief this abuse will yield more flowers. In reality this type of severe pruning results in a shorter bloom time, delayed flowering, weaker branching, and can increase insect and disease problems. This practice, known as topping, is harmful to all trees and is never the right way to prune a crape myrtle.

Like all trees, the correct way to prune a crape myrtle involves enhancing its natural form rather than trying to force it to grow in a space that is too small or an artificial shape. Crape myrtles naturally grow as small upright or vase shaped trees with multiple trunks. In a well pruned crape myrtle, the trunks grow upward and outward, with branches fanning out rather than growing inward into the center of the tree. To learn more about how to prune crape myrtle, read the whole article posted on the Pender Cooperative Extension website:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Which Vegetables Can I Plant for Spring?

Seed potato with 'eyes'. 
This is the time to get serious about planting a spring vegetable garden. Vegetables that produce during the spring months are known as cool season crops, meaning they can tolerate some frost but do not like hot weather and should be planted outside now to harvest before the heat of summer. 

Vegetables that can be planted in February include broccoli, garden peas, carrots, cabbage, and potatoes. Some vegetables are typically planted in the garden as seed, while others do better when set out as young plants. Cool season vegetables that do best when seeded directly into the garden include roots crops like radish, beets, turnips, kohlrabi and carrots.

Learn more about planting these and other cool season crops by reading the whole article posted on the Pender Extension website:


Friday, February 1, 2013

What Is Growing in My Yard?

Ever find something in your yard and wonder, “What is that?” If so, you are not alone. Throughout the year people bring bugs, plants, and mysterious growths found in their yard to their local Cooperative Extension office for identification. Among the items most frequently brought in that fall into the category of “mysterious growths” are algae, lichen, and stink horns. All three of these are common throughout our region, which means there is a good chance you may find them in your yard too.

See images and read more about lichen, algae and stink horns on the Pender Cooperative Extension website:

Friday, January 25, 2013

Does Your Lawn or Garden Need Lime?

Lime can harm blueberries. 
Does your lawn or garden need lime? If you live in southeastern North Carolina the answer to this question is a definite maybe. This is because our soils vary so much from one yard to the next. For some yards, lime needs to be added every few years to keep plants healthy. For others, especially those at the beach, adding lime can harm plants. 

Whether or not you need to add lime depends on your current soil pH and the plants you are trying to grow. The only way to accurately know if you need lime and how much is to submit soil samples for testing to the N.C. Department of Agriculture's soil testing lab in Raleigh. Boxes and forms for packaging samples are available from your local Extension office. Completed samples can be dropped of at any Extension office for delivery to the soil testing lab. Find out more by reading the whole article, posted on the Pender Cooperative Extension website:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dealing with Mounds and Tunnels in Lawns

Earthworm castings
Are areas of your lawn bumpy and uneven? When you walk across these areas does the soil sink or feel soft? If so, some type of soil dwelling critter is probably the cause. During winter the activity of moles, earthworms, and mole crickets can cause mounds and tunnels in lawns that result in uneven or rough patches. To fix these problem areas you must first diagnose which critter is causing the damage.

Common causes of lumpy, bumpy lawns at this time of year include earthworms, mole crickets, and moles. To learn more about these critters and how to manage the damage they cause, read the whole article posted here on the Pender Extension website:

Winter Extension Gardener Now Available!

Fill the cold dark evenings of winter with dreams of spring! The Winter 2013 issue of the Extension Gardener Newsletter is 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.

You can also follow Extension Gardener on Twitter, at @NCExtGardener, friend us on Facebook at NC Extension Gardener, and keep up with the latest gardening news on the new Extension Gardener blog:

In the Winter 2013 Coastal Plain and Sandhills issue, you can learn about:

  • Winter Pruning of Roses
  • Benefits of Buying Local
  • Growing Asparagus
  • Growing Mushrooms
  • 'Oakleaf' Holly
  • Starting Seedlings Under LED Lights
  • and lots more!
Download your copy here today!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Winter Gardening Do's and Don'ts

Cut back perennials in winter. 
In many areas winter is a cold and bleak time to stay inside and not even contemplate working in the garden. Fortunately this is not true in the southeast. In fact, mild winter days can be one of the nicest times of the year to work outside in our region. There is plenty to be done to prepare for the growing season to come so why not get outside and garden today?

Things to do in the garden this time of year include cutting back perennials and ornamental grasses, pruning summer flowering shrubs, planting spring vegetables, and managing lawn weeds. This is not the time to prune spring blooming shrubs like azaleas or to fertilize your lawn. Wait until spring to do these tasks. For more winter gardening tips and tasks read the whole article posted on the Pender Cooperative Extension website:

Friday, January 4, 2013

Resources to Help You Garden in 2013

Ask an Extension Master Gardener!
If your plans and resolutions for the New Year include growing or caring for plants, your local Cooperative Extension office can help you be more successful. Whether you want to start a vegetable garden, renovate your lawn or landscape, garden more sustainably, or volunteer in your community, Extension has resources and opportunities for you. Find out more at

Let us know what resources and classes you need! Take our quick survey: