August: To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

Alrighty then! We survived July, just barely. Thank you, Mother Nature, for the break at the end of the month. So, how does your garden look?  And the water bill? (Ouch!) Well, July is behind us now and August is upon us with her bounty of veggies and plethora of blooming plants. Let us hope the rain gods will be less capricious and the heat stays somewhere else. Whether or not those things come about there are things to do in the garden and don’t forget to be hurricane prepared. (You know, the ones that come in off the ocean – not the ones that reside at PNC Arena.)

Lawn Care

Check the lawn for grubs. If you find some, treat with an appropriate insecticide. If you do find any, be grateful and put the sprayer away.

Late in the month prepare any areas that need to be seeded with cool season grass (tall fescue, bluegrass).

Fertilizing

Give your strawberries a shot of nitrogen fertilizer.

DO NOT fertilize trees or shrubbery until December.

Planting

Sow pansy seeds this month in flats to transplant to the landscape in September.

Perennials, hollyhock, delphinium and Stokes’ aster can be sown now for healthy plants in the spring.

Repot more house plants.

Plant a fall garden with beets, Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, radish, rutabaga, squash and turnips.

Pruning

Nada. Nope. Don’t! No pruning of trees or shrubs until November.

In case of hurricane damage, disregard the above admonition.

Spraying

Same stuff as last month. Look for spider mites on coniferous evergreens (juniper, arborvitae, etc.) and lace bugs on azaleas and pyracantha.

Continue rose spray program and weekly spraying of fruit trees and bunch grapes.

Watch for worms on cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) and borers on squash.  Spray only if necessary. Follow the label instructions.

Propagation

You may still take cuttings of shrubs.

More fun things to do if you just can’t get enough of the August heat

Make sure your LANDSCAPE PLAN is up to date especially if you plan to modify the landscape this fall.

Keep running up the water bill when the August thunderstorms skip your house.

Build a compost bin.

Dig Irish potatoes.

Stay cool and hydrated. September and October will soon be at hand.

July: To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

Alright, y’all. It’s July. This is the Piedmont of North Carolina. ‘Nuff said. Except … we’re gardeners and we must garden! Heat? Humidity? It’s all just more stuff to keep our horticultural minds busy. Does a fungus love heat and humidity? Yes it does. Does your water bill go through the roof trying to keep stuff alive just so it can drown in the next thunderstorm? Probably. Can you keep up with the aphid, spider mite and lacebug outbreaks? Hopefully!

But wait. Remember the 70-degree days we enjoyed in February? Can’t get that in New Hampshire or New York or Nebraska or North Dakota, or a whole host of other states. Then think ahead to October.  Will we worry about snow then? Will our growing season have ended? Nope! Sure it’s hot and humid now, but we can escape to the sea for a breeze or to the mountains for some cooler temps. Yessirree, give me North Carolina every time, thank you very much. Now let’s go out in the yard and be grateful.

Lawn Care
Fertilize warm season grasses (Bermuda, Zoysia and St. Augustine) if you haven’t already. When mowing these lawns remove one-third of the growth. Change directions with each mowing to strengthen root systems and expose different side of the blades to sunlight.

Fertilizing
Continue side-dressing your vegetable garden plants. July is the last time to fertilize landscape plants until next year.

This is an excellent time to take soil samples especially from your lawn. Sample boxes and instructions can be obtained from the extension office.  It is a FREE service until November.

Planting
Veggies that can still be planted include Brussels sprouts, collards, beans, carrots, tomatoes and pumpkins.

A young Brussels sprout plant, ‘Long Island Improved,’ one of three varieties that perform satisfactorily in N.C.  The others are Jade Cross E Hybrid and Royal Marvel. About 85 to 95 days are required from field seeding or transplanting to maturity.

Get ready for the fall garden by starting broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower plants to be transplanted in mid-August.

July is also a good time to transplant overgrown houseplants.

Pruning
– “Bleeder” trees like maple, dogwood, birch and elm can be pruned this month.

– Overgrown hedges can be pruned.

– Coniferous evergreens (they make cones with seeds in them) can be pruned.

– Raspberry and blackberry fruiting canes can be cut to the ground following harvest.

– Rhododendrons, azaleas (I know that’s redundant) and blueberries can have the dieback removed.

– Keep garden mums pinched until mid-month.

– Remove faded blooms on perennials to encourage a second blooming.

Spraying
Insects to be watchful for include bag worms, leaf miners, aphids, spider mites and lace bugs. Oh, yeah.  Japanese beetles, duh. Watch tomatoes for signs of blight and spray as necessary. Continue with rose program. Also continue fungicide program for bunch grapes and fruit trees.

Vegetable pests to watch for:  cucumber beetle (cucumber, ironically enough), flea beetle (tomato, eggplant and beans) and aphids (everything).

Only use pesticides when necessary and ALWAYS follow the label instructions.

There’s not too many extra things to do this month unless you want to build cold frames and greenhouses to be ready for next winter. I recommend you kick back on the deck in the evening with a cool beverage and enjoy summer in this goodly state. 

Further Reading
Browse, or search, Horticultural information leaflets from NC State Extension:  https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/catalog/series/73/

Learn more about Brussel sprouts – https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/brussels-sprouts

Photo credit: Downtowngal, no changes made:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Young_brussels_sprouts_plant.jpg

Garden Calendar: To Do in June

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

“June is bustin’ out all over.” And apparently it is going to be HOT. Are y’all ready?  After a relatively benign summer last year this one is looking like a scorcher already. My potted annuals on the deck want a serious drink every other day and I had to put a soaker hose in the four by eight-foot veggie garden box. So, even though it means getting out of the AC there are things to do outside. (Just get up earlier. Beauty sleep is a myth.) Think of going outside as detoxifying through sweat.

Lawn Care

If you have heretofore procrastinated on this item it is TIME to fertilize warm season grasses (i.e. Bermuda, Zoysia, St. Augustine). It is also the best (and really only) time to fertilize Centipede. The general recommendation is for a half pound 15-0-14 or equivalent per 1000 square feet. Should you desire to be truly accurate – GET a FREE SOIL TEST.

It would be difficult to core aerate our clayey soils too much, so a day or two after a rain (like any day this spring) or a good irrigation would be an ideal time do just that.

When mowing warm season grasses a good rule-of-thumb is to remove one-third of the new growth per mowing.

If you have been drooling over your neighbor’s Zoysia lawn, June is a good time to start your own with sod or plugs.

Fertilizing
After getting your FREE SOIL TEST in order to avoid over fertilizing, now is the time to feed your dogwoods following the recommendations.

Vegetable gardens would like a side dressing of fertilizer about now to maximize production.


Planting
Again, for the procrastinators out there, if you want a crop this year better get these plants (too late for seeds) in the ground ASAP: tomatoes, peppers, black-eyed peas, lima beans, green & wax beans, pumpkins, sweet potatoes.

Start (from seed) Brussel sprouts & collards to set out in mid-July.

Pruning
Coniferous evergreens (they produce seeds in cones) like pines, cedars, junipers, arborvitaes, etc. may be pruned now.

Hedges can be pruned now but be advised do not remove more than a third of the total plant top (the green part.)

Keep pinching your garden mums until mid-July.

Hydrangea macrophylla (the ones with the BIG leaves) can be pruned when the flowers fade.

Azaleas may be pruned until July 4. (An “old wives tale” that works.)

Dieback in ericaceous plants (acid-loving) such as azalea, rhododendron, Pieris, etc. can be pruned out now. Remember to cut below the damage and to sterilize the pruner with 10% bleach between cuts.

Pest Control and Herbicides
Patrol your shrubs for the following likely suspects: lace bugs, leaf miners, spider mites, aphids and bag worms. Use appropriate measures to curtail their destructive tendencies. If the bag worms have already bagged themselves you will have to hand pick them and destroy them in any manner you see fittin’.

June is also the beginning of the Asian invasion better known as Japanese beetles.  There is a myriad of treatment options.

Tomato early blight could be rampant this year what with all the warm dampness.  Watch for dark spots on the leaves and treat with an appropriate fungicide. There are some good organics on the market.

June is a good month to eradicate poison ivy, kudzu and honeysuckle. Get ‘em with an appropriate herbicide while they are rapidly growing.

As with shrubs it is time to be on guard in the garden. Several (many?) insects are looking for gourmet gardens to satisfy their gastronomic inclinations. Look for a variety of worms on cruciferous veggies (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower), cucumber beetles on cucumbers (ironically), squash borers on other cucurbits-squash and melons, flea beetles on green beans, tomatoes and eggplant, and aphids on anything green.

Continue with regular pest-management programs on bunch grapes, fruit trees and roses.

Use pesticides wisely, sparingly and only when necessary. Always read the label and follow directions.

Other Fun Garden Stuff to Keep You Outside
Water lawns as necessary but try to do it early in the day to avoid evaporative loss.  Watering a lawn in the evening promotes disease. Lawns and gardens need about one inch of water per week either from natural sources or irrigation. 

Strawberry beds can be renovated now.

It is also a marvelous time to sit on the deck or patio with a glass of your favorite cold beverage and enjoy your garden.

May: To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

Rhododendron in bloom. Photo by A. Laine.

Ahh, May. The lovely month. The month for mothers, proms, college graduations and the first great beach weekend—Memorial Day. It is generally not too hot and rarely too cool. The month of balmy days that lead to enchanting evenings on the veranda (deck, patio, veranda—whatever). Enjoy the evening.  There’s gardening to be done on the morrow.

Lawn Care
Warm season grass people: It is your turn. If you didn’t fertilize the lawn in April, get to it. A good slow release fertilizer that meets the requirements notated in your SOIL TEST results is in order. Also, sharpen those mower blades.

Cool season grass folks: Just mow it, but not less than 3 inches high. “Do not,” he repeated, “fertilize cool season grasses until Fall.”

Fertilizing
Speaking of fertilizing; long season vegetable crops like tomatoes, beans and squash (among others) will benefit from a side dressing six to eight weeks after germination. (What?! You didn’t start your own from seed? You bought plants at a Big Box? Give them a week or two in the ground and then side dress.)

While you have the bag open throw some fertilizer at your summer annuals and perennials, too.

Azaleas and rhododendrons and camellias and other ericaceous (acid-loving) plants will benefit from a shot of acid fertilizer about now.

Planting
May is the second-best time in the veggie garden. (Everybody knows harvest is the best time.) It is time to plant beans (snap, pole, bush limas, etc.), cantaloupe, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, southern peas, peppers—sweet and hot, pumpkins, squash, watermelon and, for you non-competitive types, tomatoes.

Gladioli bulbs may be planted now as may begonias, geraniums and other annuals that you didn’t plant in late April.

Pruning
Spring flowering shrubs (e.g. azaleas, camellias, etc.) may be pruned as soon as the blooms fade.  Azaleas may be pruned until July 4th without cutting off next year’s buds.

Overgrown hedges can still be pruned.

Keep pinching back garden mums until mid-July.

Hand prune azalea and camellia leaf galls. They are generally not harmful to the plant, but are unattractive.

I realize your grandmother always cut back the daffodils and iris and other spring bulbs as soon as the flowers faded. I urge you to resist the temptation to carry on that tradition. The bulbs need that foliage to make the sugars that will provide the energy to bloom again next year. Wait until the foliage itself yellows before whacking it off and relegating it to the compost heap. The bulbs thank you.

Spraying

  • Always, always ONLY spray when necessary and READ & FOLLOW label directions.
  • Monitor rhododendron species including azaleas for borers. Spray if necessary.
  • Spray iris beds for iris borers which you probably will not see.
  • Scout for and spray as necessary for bag worms. They are on the move this month.
  • May is a good time to begin to try to eliminate poison ivy/oak (Rhus radicans) and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica). Best wishes.
  • Begin spraying squash vines for borers.
  • Monitor the blueberry plants for borers. Spray as necessary.
  • Continue the never-ending spray programs for roses, fruit trees and bunch grapes.
  • Other insect pests active now include azalea lace bugs, boxwood leaf miners, euonymus and tea scales, spider mites (especially on coniferous evergreens), the ubiquitous aphids and the bane of my gardening existence—white flies.
  • If (or more likely when) your tomatoes show signs of blight, begin a fungicide regimen.

Other Things To Do in May That Could Quite Possibly Include the Garden

  • Dance around a May pole.
  • Celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
  • Mulch stuff.
  • Put out a flag on Memorial Day and thank a veteran.

April To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

Hallelujah it is APRIL!! Real Spring is here. Statistical frost-free date is April 11. Get them tomato plants ready!! I mean if the seed packet says 65 days and you started the seeds in mid-February then you should be enjoying that first ‘mater sammich about Easter this year. Right? Well, maybe that’s pushing it a bit, but definitely by Mother’s Day. So, here’s a bunch of stuff to do while you are waiting for the tomatoes.

Lawn Care
This is the first month you may fertilize warm season grasses (i.e. Bermuda, centipede and zoysia) as they should be breaking dormancy soon. DO NOT fertilize cool season grasses again until fall.

Mow fescue and bluegrass at a height of three to four inches.

This is your last chance to put out pre-emergent crabgrass control. The deadline is when the dogwoods bloom. After that, the seeds will have germinated and pre-emergent by definition will no longer be a viable option.

Fertilizing 

  • See “Lawn Care.”
  • Fertilize any shrubbery that didn’t get fed in March.

Planting
Is this what everybody’s been waiting for, or what? By mid-month it is crazy time in the garden(s).

In the veggie garden sow, sow, sow. Melons, squashes, beans, cucumbers, pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes and corn. Presumably you have already amended the soil per your SOIL TEST recommendations. Be sure to plant enough to share with someone who might not have any at all.

Warm season grasses can be planted by the end of the month. Seeding is possible, though not recommended. Plugging and sodding are the better options with warm season grasses. Check out NC State Turf Files for detailed information on all lawn turf types.

Pruning

bloom-blossom-blue-sky-1505004
Flowering cherry tree photo by Carissa Rogers from pexels.com

  • Remove any winter damage from shrubs and trees.
  • Wait to prune spring flowering shrubs [I.e. azalea (Rhododendron x hybrid), lilac (Syringa species), forsythia, spiraea, wiegelia, etc.] until after the blooms fade.
  • Prune fruiting shrubs [i.e. holly (Ilex species) and pyracantha] while they are in bloom to avoid removing all of this year’s berries.
  • If necessary, prune spring flowering trees [i.e. Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’), flowering cherry (Prunus hybrids), redbud (Cercis species)].

Spraying

  • ALWAYS check plants for pests before spraying (except for borers which you won’t be able to see).
  • Be on the lookout for the following insect pests: azalea lacebugs, boxwood leaf miners, euonymus scale, hemlock & juniper-spruce spider mites. Spray only as needed following label instructions.
  • Spray iris beds for iris borers.
  • Treat cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) for worms. An organic product containing BT is a good green choice.
  • Spray squash plants near the base of the stem at first bloom to control squash vine borers. Continue this procedure weekly until June 1 using only an appropriate insecticide.
  • Spray apple and pear trees while in bloom with streptomycin to control fire blight. Use two applications: one at early bloom and a second at full bloom. If we have a rainy spring consider a third application.
  • Begin weekly applications of fungicide on bunch grapes.
  • Continue a rose spray program (forever and ever).
  • Begin weekly fruit tree spraying after the flower petals fall off.

Other Exciting Things (or not) to Keep You Happily Outside in the Glorious Spring Weather
Mulch. Mulch, mulch, mulch. The possibility of a hot dry summer always looms large in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Shredded hardwood, pine needles (pine straw), shredded cypress and pine bark in its many guises are all good mulches.

When you are bored or desperate to remain outside to avoid painting the bathroom, dusting the ceiling fans, bathing the cat … whatever, there are and always will be weeds to pull. It is the environmentally sound way to get rid of them and the kids and/or grand kids can help (until they turn 11 at which time the helpfulness gene goes dormant).

It’s Spring y’all.  Go out and enjoy.

Further Reading
https://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/