NC Agriculture Awareness Day: March 20

Come celebrate North Carolina’s biggest industry, and help educate NC Legislators and lawmakers of the importance of NC Agriculture and how we can grow stronger together.

Meet elected officials, see ag-related exhibits and celebrate the tremendous contributions agriculture provides to North Carolina and the world.

For more information click here.

The event will occur on March 20th at the Bicentennial Mall and Legislative Complex in downtown Raleigh. Participants will meet at the NC State Fairgrounds and will take a free bus to the event.

To register, click here.



Learn With Us, week of March 16

Mar. 16, 2019 – SPRING VEGETABLES – For Garden’s Sake Nursery – 10-11 am 
For Garden’s Sake Nursery – 9197 NC-751, Durham
SPRING VEGETABLES offers up-to-date information about choosing a garden site, soil testing and amendments, planting guides to include area specific varieties and general care and feeding of a successful vegetable garden. Topics covered will include local frost dates, the benefits of containers or raised beds, critter control, encouraging pollinators, disease management and others. Whether you are new to gardening, new to Durham gardening, or re-starting a garden – this is the information you can use to succeed.

Free/Registration required
To register, email or call 919-484-9759

Mar. 17 th – First Season Gardening by Charles Murphy
3:00 to 4:00 pm
South Regional Library, 4505 S. Alston Avenue, Durham, North Carolina 27713
We have three distinct gardening seasons in our area, with the first beginning in late Feb.-early Mar. This is the time to plant garden peas, radishes, leafy greens and the like, so they will be harvestable by the time for second season plantings (the summer vegetable season).

Classes are free. Registration is required. Register online at the Durham County Library website Click on “Events” to find the full calendar of events. Go to the date of the class and sign up. You can also call the Information Desk at South Regional Library to register: 919-560-7410.

New Plant Picks – Durham Garden Forum
Tuesday, March 19⋅7:00 – 8:30pm
Duke Gardens
420 Anderson St, Durham, NC 27708, USA
Jason is walking horticulture encyclopedia and plant enthusiast. He always seems to have the latest info on new introductions and plants we should use more frequently. Join us to hear about new selections for your garden!
Presented by: Jason Holmes, curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens, Duke Gardens

Lecture Fee: Forum Members Free with $25.00 Annual Membership
$10.00 fee per class for Non-Members, payable to Durham Garden Forum
No pre-registration necessary. Free parking after 5:00 pm

The Roots Farmers Market Moves to Brightleaf Square

The Roots Farmers Market is moving to the historic Brightleaf Square for its fourth market season.  The Saturday market at Brightleaf, located at W. Main and Gregson Streets, runs from April 6th to November 23rd between 9 a.m. and noon. Tents will be set up within the Square and the W. Peabody Street parking lot.

According to Roots Farmers Market board member Mary Mudd, Durham County’s Farmland Preservation Board started this market because preserving Durham County’s farms requires providing more opportunities for Durham County farmers and horticulturalists to sell their products. Although the focus is on Durham County agricultural producers, they  welcome small and beginning farmers from Orange, Person, and Granville counties to encourage the next generation of regional producers.

The market seeks volunteers for a variety of needs, including market hosting, social media, and outreach. Contact organizers at Producers interested in becoming vendors can find 2019 rules and an application at Note that they do not accept craft vendors.


Composting in Place

by Andrea Laine, EMGV

Late winter is one of my favorite times to work in the garden. This afternoon I enjoyed one of those days. The temperature was just right (55-degrees); The sun was shining after a solid week of rainy days; and I was engaged in a productive yet meditative task. I cut back a small stand of ornamental grasses: three pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris), a beautiful native species, and one pampas grass (Cortaderia selloanna), a classic ornamental that grows fast and gets big.

Grasses generally require full sun and these two types are no exception. Well-drained soil is also a plus; a gentle sloping property like mine is perfect. These grasses are drought tolerant once established and deer resistant.

It is important to cut the dried ornamental grasses down to 4 to 6 inches from the ground annually in late winter. This affords new shoots the warmth of sunlight and better air circulation. The dried stalks are excellent brown additions to a compost pile, but I decided to practice “composting in place” instead.

grasses compost tools.jpg
I used a pair of freshly-sharpened manual scissor sheers to cut the dried stalks a few inches off the ground; and hand pruners to snip the stalks into small pieces which I let be where they fell atop the soil. This practice is called composting in place. Photo by A. Laine.

Highlights of Pink Muhly Grass

Pink Muhly Grass, four feet tall at maturity, is showy in the fall, at a time when flowers on many other plants have faded. It’s flower stalks feature wispy plumes of dark pink that gracefully sway with a breeze. Come winter the stalks fade to tan as do the grassy parts.

Highlights of Pampas Grass

Pampas grass can grow 6 to 10 feet tall and are hardy to Zone 7b. Mine was expanding almost too quickly when an unusually long cold spell in winter 2017 effectively set it back a few years in size. I have read that they are difficult to remove once established, so it may have been a blessing! It’s leaves are sturdy, flat and green. It’s flower is a light tan plume atop a tough tan stalk.

Sources and Additional Reading

Maintaining ornamental grasses:

Pampas Grass:

Pink Muhly Grass:




March: To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

IT IS MARCH!!! Stuff is blooming. Daffodils are regaling us with their perky yellow


blossoms as is the forsythia. I saw a quince in bloom yesterday. The periwinkle in the backyard is festooned with blue blooms. Well, at least the part that is above water. The saucer magnolia in the front yard is gorgeous although by the time you are reading this it may be a sad mess of frozen yuck. It would really be nice if it would cease raining long enough for us to get out and enjoy all this blooming.

Let’s be optimistic and say that it’s going to stop raining and get seasonably warm, so that getting out in the yard becomes a reality. Here’s your “To Do” list should all that actually occur.

Lawn Care
Cool season grasses (fescue and Kentucky bluegrass) can be fertilized with a non-slow release fertilizer such as 10-10-10. DO NOT fertilize cool season grasses after March 15 and do not use a slow release fertilizer now. Save it for Fall. Fertilizing later than mid-March will increase the likelihood of turf diseases in the heat and humidity of summer.

Apply crabgrass control to all lawns when the forsythia is in bloom and before the dogwoods reach full bloom.

Commence mowing activities when you can do so without losing your mower in the mud. Cool season grasses should be mowed at a height between three and four inches. Warm season grasses are still dormant; their turn will come later. Mowing frequency should be such that you do not remove more than one-third of the growth. Leave the clippings on the lawn to help reduce fertilizer needs by up to 25%.  If circumstances are such that more than one-third has to be cut, collect the clippings and use them as mulch. Grass clippings DO NOT belong in the landfill.

Feed your shrubbery remembering “moderation in all things.”

Shade trees can be fertilized now, however unless you have poor soil (as indicated by your soil test) these plants can usually fend for themselves.

Emerging flowering bulbs can be fertilized now.

Fertilize asparagus beds early in March before the spears emerge.

This entire section is based on the rain stopping and the ground not refreezing and actually drying out (whatever that means; I’ve forgotten.)

Trees and shrubs can be transplanted now as well as fruit trees and grapevines up to bud break. Plants planted now will require more diligent water management through the summer than ones planted last fall.

Perennials can be planted now.

Start annuals and warm season vegetables inside if you haven’t already. (I know about you first tomato freaks.)

Rose bushes can be planted now.

Cruciferous vegetables (e.g., cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) can be set out in the garden in the middle of the month.

Root veggies (e.g., potatoes, beets, turnips, carrots) can be planted in March as well as salad greens (e.g., lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, kohlrabi and bok choy) can also be planted in mid-March.

Prune fruit trees.

Deadhead spring flowering annuals like pansies (Viola x hybrids) as the blossoms fade to prolong flowering.

Roses can be pruned in the latter half of the month.

Overgrown broadleaf shrubs can still be severely whacked.

Check for the following insect pests: euonymus scale, juniper-spruce spider mites, hybrid rhododendron borers. Spray as necessary following label directions.

Apply dormant oil to fruit trees to eliminate several insects. This is especially important if you have just pruned the trees.

Spray apple and pear trees in bloom with streptomycin to prevent fire blight.

Stuff to do to get ready for prime time
Check all your gardening equipment to ensure proper working order. You don’t want to spend the first really great gardening day running around looking for parts for your broken garden gizmo.

Think about experimenting with new varieties of annuals, perennials and veggies. Experimenting is fun and has few lasting side effects.

Plant a tree in honor of Arbor Day!  In North Carolina it is celebrated March 22.


Photo credit:  Forsythia-viridissima—houroumono–CC-BY_d4qC3wy,