Springtime, Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly and Tabbouleh What do they have in common?

By Wendy Diaz EMGV

I was about to replant my two front porch flower pots with summer annuals and harvest the parsley (Petroselinum crispum) in the pots now that the warm weather is upon us when I was surprised to see brightly-colored caterpillars eating my parsley in one of the pots. This time of year the wintertime pansies (Viola wittrockiana) are wilting because pansies grow and flower best at temperatures below 65 degrees F[1] and the parsley is about to flower.

Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar (Papilio polyxenes) in flower pot. Photo by Wendy Diaz
May 4, 2021

Last fall, I decided to plant edible parsley as the ‘thriller’ element in my fall pot arrangement for a change and used the parsley throughout the winter for a garnish or seasoning in our dinner casseroles. I also thought this scented herb would deter the deer from munching on my pansies. Well, that did not work. The deer (or a very tall rabbit) ate the pansy blossoms twice over the winter but left the pansy plants in place to flower this April. It was a great spring for parsley, however, and it almost took over the pot so I had enough to harvest the sprigs for a Tabbouleh (or tabouli) salad, which I like to make, from both pots when I saw the caterpillars on the parsley in the upper pot. I decided to share with the caterpillars and harvest only the parsley from the lower pot and let the eight caterpillars that I counted have the parsley in the upper pot. 

Two flower pots on front step. Caterpillars ate parsley in the pot on top of steps. Photo taken by Wendy Diaz May 5, 2021

The caterpillars, also known as parsley worms are the larva stage of the Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio polyxenes)[2] and they feed on several plants of the Apiaceae family like parsnips, celery, carrot and of course parsley. They grow quickly and within about 10 days from hatching from their tiny spherical eggs they find a place to pupate to form a chrysalis. From about 7 days or longer the adult butterfly emerges from the chrysalides. In North Carolina, two to three generations of these butterflies emerge each year.

We made two large Tabbouleh salads from my harvest of the winter annual pot on my front door step. It is a great salad to make this time of year especially if you have abundant mint in your herb garden, which I do (Gardening Hint: Plant mint it in a pot to contain it from spreading.) My husband enjoyed the salads and he was grateful that they didn’t include any ‘caterpillar caviar’. I will have to wait a week until the caterpillars are finished eating before I plant the summer annuals in my pots. We look forward to seeing Black Swallowtail Butterflies in about two weeks time after they emerge from their chrysalis[3,4], which will be something different this spring as we often see their look-a-like, the Spicebush Butterfly in the garden. I hope you enjoy the recipe and consider planting parsley in your flower pots this fall.

Left: Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly underside of wing Photo courtesy of Susan Mahr Division of Extension Wisconsin4 Horticulture Right: Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly enjoying nectar from mint flowers. Note there is no orange spot located above third blue patch on the Spicebush Swallowtail Photo taken by Wendy Diaz July 31, 2020

Tabbouleh Salad[5]

1 cup medium bulgur

2 cups boiling water

Combine in a large bowl. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain in a sieve, pressing with the back of a large spoon to remove the excess moisture and return to the bowl.

Add:

4 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped

2 cups fresh parsley sprigs, finely chopped

1 cup packed fresh mint sprigs, finely chopped

1 bunch of scallions, finely chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped

Stir in:

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Whisk together:

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup olive oil

Add to the bulgur and toss to coat. Spoon the salad onto a platter and surround with:

1 head of romaine lettuce, separated into leaves, washed and dried

(I skipped this step and put it in a bowl)

Serve at room temperature.

 Tabbouleh Salad Photo by Wendy Diaz on May 2, 2021

References:


[1] https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/viola-x-wittrockiana/

[2] https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/parsleyworm

[3] https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/butterflies-in-your-backyard

[4] https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/black-swallowtail-papilio-polyxenes/

[5] Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker; Scribner, 1997

May: To Do in the Garden

By Gary Crispell, EMGV

So, here we are in the first week of May still waiting for those April showers to fully materialize.  Apparently, that wasn’t a thing this year (or last for that matter).  Perhaps we are witnessing a new normal?  Climate change anyone?  Early May forecasts predict more of the same.  Better break out the hose and sprinkler (although at least we’re good for this week!).  Did any of y’all have to cover up tomato plants so they didn’t freeze in late April?  Yeah, me too, however mine were still in pots on the deck.  Sure, didn’t see that coming.  So, maybe it’s safe now?  It is May, right?  Let’s go get in the garden.

LAWN CARE

If you are among the OCD types when it comes to your cool season (fescue/bluegrass) lawn, you may fertilize it with a balanced fertilizer (E.g., 10-10-10).

If your affections lean toward warm season grasses (Bermuda, zoysia, centipede), an application of a slow-release fertilizer is in order.

Keep mowing height at 3”-4” for your cool season lawn.  That will help protect the root from summer’s heat.

OTHER FERTILIZING 

Long season crops (those that produce over a long period or take an entire season to produce) would benefit from balanced fertilizer feeding.

Fertilizing summer flowering plants now will reward you with more numbers and prettier blooms this summer.

If a SOIL SAMPLE (free right now) indicates, give your non-native rhododendron and azaleas (Yes, that’s redundant.) a dose of acidic fertilizer.

PLANTING

Check out the NC State web site for the Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Vegetables.  It is a great guide when and how to plant flowers, herbs and vegetables and includes spacing guides.

PRUNING

Grab your shears and loppers and make sure they are sharp.  Prune non-native rhododendrons (and azaleas) after they finish blooming and before the 4th of July.  They start setting next year’s blooms after that.

Check camellias and azaleas for leaf gall.  They ain’t purty, but they are harmless.  Just prune them out as necessary.

Keep garden mums (Chrysanthemum sps.) pinched back until mid-July if it’s Fall blooms you desire.

Fight the temptation to cut back the foliage on spring bulbs.  They need that to photosynthesize sugar to store in the bulbs so they can regal you again next spring.  Let the leaves turn yellow before cutting.

SPRAYING

Spray an appropriate insecticide to treat for borers on iris, rhododendrons, blueberries (Vaccinium sps.) and squashes.

Spray fungicide on fruit trees, bunch grapes, tomatoes showing signs of blight.

Keep on (like forever) with your rose program.

Check for bagworms on trees and shrubbery.  They will be out and about this month (It’s real hard to mate inside the bag.  It’s a space thing.)  and much more vulnerable to a pesticide application.

 Many invasive vining plants are susceptible to herbicide control this month.  Think poison ivy/oak (Toxicodendron radicans/T. toxicarium), honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), English ivy (Hedera helix), etc.

OTHER “FUN” STUFF FOR MAY GARDENING

Keep a look out for worms on cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages).  Only spray as necessary and read the label for the right spray/harvest interval. Stay away from Seven Dust as it can hurt other beneficial insects.

Other exciting entomological endeavors include checking for insects and arachnids on azaleas (lace bugs & spider mites), euonymus & camellias (tea scale), boxwoods (leaf miner adults who will be flying around on the leaves).  When the weather gets really warm (ok, hot) check houseplants for spider mites.

Spread some mulch—save some water.  Mulch will mitigate soil moisture evaporation and help keep roots cool.

Always use the smallest amount of and least toxic chemical when applying pesticides.  There is no planet “B”.

If you have questions ask an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.  We’re here to help.  You can also check the NCSU Extension Service website for more information on a vast array of horticultural subjects.

May in the garden.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

*Resources and Further Reading

All About Soil Sampling and How to Get Supplies from Durham County Cooperative Extension
https://durham.ces.ncsu.edu/2020/05/nows-the-perfect-time-to-test-your-soil/

Organic Lawn Care Guide
https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/organic-lawn-care-a-guide-to-organic-lawn-maintenance-and-pest-management

Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs
https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/central-north-carolina-planting-calendar-for-annual-vegetables-fruits-and-herbs

General Pruning Tips
https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/general-pruning-techniques#:~:text=Remove%20dead%20branches%2C%20suckers%2C%20crossing,died%20due%20to%20water%20stress.

Guide to Roses for North Carolina
https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/roses-for-north-carolina

Learn more about insects and how to control them from the North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook
https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/extension-gardener-handbook/4-insects

NC Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox (find your perfect plant or figure out what that unknown weed is!)
plants.ces.ncsu.edu

Join Us for the Big Briggs Plant Sale!

Join Extension Master Gardeners and Briggs Avenue Community Gardeners this Saturday for our first annual Briggs Avenue Community Garden Plant Sale! All proceeds go to support Durham County Cooperative Extension community garden education and programming. Plants will be $4 a piece, or 3 for 10. Curious what you might find? Check out our inventory by clicking here. Ample on-street parking available.

April: To Do in the Garden

By Gary Crispell, EMGV

Let’s hear it for March ’cause for a March it was pretty decent.  And it went away just in time for APRIL!!  We gardeners have been waiting for this since October.  The only thing more fun than planting is the satisfaction of the harvest.  FYI; the frost-free date here is April 11th, but don’t we all push that envelope?  I mean if we don’t have tomatoes by Flag Day what’s the point?  Since there are lots of things to do this month let us commence.

LAWN CARE 

This is the first month to fertilize Bermuda and Zoysia grasses.  Wait another month to fertilize Centipede.  DO NOT (He repeated.) fertilize cool season grasses (Fescue, Bluegrass) again until Fall.

You can start new warm season turf now.  Bermuda and Zoysia can be seeded although sodding and plugging are the preferred methods.  They are the only ways to do Centipede.

Maintain a cutting height of 3”-4” for cool season grasses.

FERTILIZING 

Fertilize any shrubs that didn’t get done in March.

Fruit trees should be fertilized depending on how much fruit is expected (more fruit=more fertilizer).

PLANTING

Just about anything and everything can be planted by mid-month.  All hands on deck in the veggie garden.  Beans, cucumbers, melons, squashes, peppers, pumpkins, tomatoes, corn, etc., etc. can be planted now.  Be sure to plant enough to share with those who might not have any.

PRUNING

Remove any winter damage.

Spring flowering plants can be pruned soon after the blooms fall off.  Waiting too late will disrupt next year’s bud set.

Prune fruiting shrubs [hollies (Ilex sps), Pyracantha, etc.] should be pruned while they are blooming so you can see where to leave enough blooms to produce fruit.

Prune spring flowering trees such as Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’), flowering cherry/peach (Prunus x hybrids), redbud (Cercis canadensis), etc. after they bloom.

SPRAYING

The following insects are becoming obnoxious this month:  azalea lace bugs, boxwood leaf miners, euonymus/tea scales, hemlock/juniper/spruce spider mites.  Treat them as needed with an appropriate insecticide following label instructions.  

Treat iris beds for iris borers.

Treat cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, etc.) for worms.  Using an organic product containing BT (Bacillus thuringiensis—a bacteria the affects the worms) is a good green solution.

Spray squash plants near the base of the stem at first bloom to control squash vine borers.  This treatment should continue weekly until early June using a properly labeled insecticide.

Spray apple and pear trees with streptomycin while in bloom to control fire blight.  Spray twice, once at early bloom and once at full bloom.  Rainy weather may necessitate a third application.

Begin a weekly fungicide program for bunch grapes.

Continue (ad infinitum) a rose spray program.

Begin a weekly spray program for fruit trees after the blooms have dropped.  Organic summer horticultural oils are environmentally friendly options.

Always check plants for pests before applying any pesticide.  Well, except for borers which are busy staying out of site and undetected by (Wait for it.) boring.

OTHER STUFF YOU CAN DO AFTER EVERYTHING ABOVE IS COMPLETED 

One can always mulch.  It helps keep roots from drying out and protects them from getting too hot during a typical piedmont North Carolina summer.  As a bonus mulch suppresses weed growth.

Be sure to take a minute occasionally to slow down and enjoy the wonder of Spring.  It’s good for the soul.

Get vaccinated and keep your mask on.  Stay safe, y’all.

*Resources and Further Reading

Organic Lawn Care Guide
https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/organic-lawn-care-a-guide-to-organic-lawn-maintenance-and-pest-management

Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs
https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/central-north-carolina-planting-calendar-for-annual-vegetables-fruits-and-herbs

General Pruning Tips
https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/general-pruning-techniques#:~:text=Remove%20dead%20branches%2C%20suckers%2C%20crossing,died%20due%20to%20water%20stress.

North Carolina Pruning Calendar
https://polk.ces.ncsu.edu/pruningcalendar/

Learn more about insects and how to control them from the North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook
https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/extension-gardener-handbook/4-insects

NC Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox (find your perfect plant or figure out what that unknown weed is!)
plants.ces.ncsu.edu

Learn With Us, April 2021

The Bull City Gardener Learning Series has virtual and in-person classes. More information can be found HERE

Durham Garden Forum: All About Shrubs – April 20, 2021, 7-8:30 PM via Zoom

With Paul McKenzie, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Area Agent, Vance/Warren County Centers
Shrubs are the backbone of a garden. Paul will review some recommended shrubs with an emphasis on woody shrubs, deer resistant plants and how to best use them in your landscape.
Via Zoom. For Registration Information, Contact durhamgardenforum@gmail.com

Order plants from the Durham Master Gardeners’ Plant Sale.

Guilford County Spring Gardening Virtual Classes

Chatham County is also offering Virtual Classes

As we await the phased reopening of Sarah P. Duke Gardens, there are many Online Classes being offered.

JC Raulston Arboretum offers additional online events.

Virtual and in-person classes are being held at the NC Botanical Garden

Triangle Gardener Magazine compiles a list of courses from many of the above sources and others.