Ask Extension

The current format for Ask an Expert has been retired. It will be replaced by a new, but similar system called Ask Extension. This is a statewide initiative to upgrade the Ask an Expert system and details are still forthcoming.

In the meantime, and beyond, you may contact the Durham County Extension Master Gardener program directly to ask your gardening questions – We are experts, too! Reach us via email: or telephone: 919-560-0528.

Gardening Shorts

Here are some gardening activities for the dog days of summer. These are the kind that may keep us out of the garden (and out of our gardening shorts), yet still keep gardening on our minds.


Extension’s Food and Consumer Sciences program offers free, 30-minute webinars on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. titled Gardening & Grub: A Weekly Chat About All Things Food. Extension Agent Cheralyn Berry discusses a new fruit or vegetable each week and talks about its cultivation, nutrition and cultural uses. Each topic is a delightful surprise – one week it was the banana tree, another week the lychee nut. Cheralyn also shares recipes and answers viewer questions. Connect: . If you miss it live, you can tune in at your convenience by visiting the Durham Cooperative Extension Facebook page; and clicking on “Videos.” 

Things are hot at the Briggs Avenue Community Garden! Hot as in growing chili peppers from around the world. “Everything from the original progenitor chili to the common sweet pepper to the spiciest pepper in the world is growing at Briggs right now,” says Cheralyn Berry. Stop by between 8 and 11 a.m. any Friday or Saturday for the next few weeks and receive a mini educational tour. The garden’s address is 1314 S. Briggs Avenue in Durham. For more information call 919-406-4606.

To help produce fun and food this summer, Extension’s 4H program offered Victory Garden Kits – priced at $20, but free to families in need of financial assistance, no questions asked. The summer kits were so popular that a fall kit is in the works. Learn more at:


Do you take photos of your garden – LOL — Who doesn’t, right?! Well, two local organizations are interested in your photos: 

1) WPTF Weekend Gardener magazine is looking for a photo to grace the cover of their Fall issue (circulation 10,000). Act soon, deadline for submission is August 31. To participate and/or learn more: .  The photographer will receive credit in the magazine.

2) NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill is collecting submissions for a Community Photo Exhibit. You can submit up to five photos of native wildflowers. The photos could have been taken anywhere in the state of North Carolina. Deadline for submissions is October 1. They’ll share the photos in a digital gallery, and at the end of the year, they’ll display selected images in an exhibit in the DeBerry Gallery. To participate and/or learn more:

DURHAM GARDEN FORUM – Monthly Lectures
Durham Garden Forum (DGF), a valuable resource for Durham residents and others in the Triangle area. Now entering its 11th year, the DGF holds lectures from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month. At present the lectures are presented online via Zoom. To receive a meeting invitation, send your request to

Here’s a peek at topics of upcoming lectures: 
– August 25, Beyond Daffodils and Tulips — a review of all geophytes, including bulbs, corms, tubers, rhizomes, and tuberous roots.
– September 15,  TreesDurham – a review of historical policies that have created today’s inequitable tree distribution in Durham.
– October 20, Hosta! Gardening with hosta, with a look at some of the newest varieties.

— A. Laine

Garden Tours to Enjoy at Home

In the weeks since stay-at-home orders went into place, museums, opera companies and institutions around the world have made their art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Well, that’s all well and good but, I’d rather visit a garden, wouldn’t you? That is  possible, thanks to the sites and resources listed below.  

In North Carolina

Audobon North Carolina is hosting a virtual Field Trip this Saturday, April 18 from 9 –to 10:30 a.m. via Facebook live. Nesting pelicans, singing songbirds and backyard owls are the stars. Tag along at

Via their Facebook page, Durham’s Sarah P. Duke Gardens posts videos of their staff demonstrating best practices for home gardening. To date, topics have included planting, tree pruning and  dividing perennials.  The videos are several minutes in length.

Mark Weathington is the director of J. C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. He is presenting an hour-long video lecture via Zoom each Wednesday at 3 p.m., Midweek with Mark. The lectures are being recorded so you can watch later if you’d like.  Learn more.  

Native plant landscapes are the highlight of the live video feed on the website homepage of the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. (Scroll down the page a bit.)  The Plant Power Podcast is also worth a listen.

Take a virtual trip to the mountains and visit Arborcrest Gardens, a 25-acre ornamental plant evaluation garden in Boone. There is a short aerial video plus photo galleries for every season. Learn more

a little farther from home

The Missouri Botanical Garden is a fabulous place to visit, even if only virtually.  There are dozens of virtual tours, aerial drone videos and videos of featured flowers to enjoy. Their YouTube channel is robust. Learn more

The Brandywine Valley near Philadelphia is home to some wonderful public gardens and, there, spring has just sprung. (So we get to enjoy it all over again.)

The virtual tour of Mt Cuba Center is a most realistic walking tour of this exquisite native plant conservation garden. Learn more

Our Gardens Your Home is an online, curated selection of ways to experience the best of Longwood Gardens from home. It is updated weekly. Learn more

Chanticleer Garden is a colorful, contemporary garden within a historic setting. Never been to Chanticleer? Then you’ll want to go on the virtual tour first, then poke around the more educational offerings such as pruning a boxwood hedge or planting an asparagus bed. Learn more

Go abroad

If you like tulips, head to the Netherlands. Or to the YouTube channel of Keukenhof Holland for a bold glimpse of 7 million bulbs, 800 varieties! Learn more.

London is home to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and they have a YouTube channel, too. Fifteen of the videos are less than one month old.  Learn more.

Get educated

Plants, Pests and Pathogens is an educational offering from NC State Extension. It’s a series of 90-minute  webinars that are recorded and available to the public. Follow the link to view an index of recordings by date that lists speaker and topic for presentations going back to 2009. Learn More.

Curious about land conservation? Triangle Land Conservancy has hosted webinar conversations with their conservation staff. All are recorded and posted on their website. Learn more

Plant Knowledge

As you are introduced to plants that you might like to add to your own garden, visit NC Extension Plant Toolbox. This online database of thousands of plants will show you which plants will grow best in your landscape. You can search for a plant by its common name or its scientific name. Then read about each plant’s growing requirements, potential disease and insect problems, and scores of other pieces of information useful to deciding if the plant will thrive wherever you live in North Carolina. Learn more.

This list was compiled by Extension Master Gardener Volunteers who serve Durham County. We wish you happy travels from the comfort and safety of your home.

Happy Holidays

Blog posts will resume on January 8, 2020. Til then, we hope you enjoy this video from NC State Extension and our previous posts about winter plants traditionally used in holiday decor.

North Carolina grows 40,000 acres of Christmas trees. Learn more about this industry in a new 4-minute video from NC State Extension:

A refresher for reflowering poinsettias

Forcing and “pickling” paperwhites

Mistletoe and running cedar in the winter landscape

Holiday Cacti and Holiday Cactus Care

Evergreen plants for holiday decorating

A Personal Reflection on the 2019 Master Gardener Training

by Laura Pyatt, EMGV Intern

As a member of the 2019 Master Gardener training class, I  want to share a personal reflection on my experience with this worthwhile program.

2019 was a big year! It was Extension Agent Ashley Troth’s first full calendar year in her position with Durham County Cooperative Extension, and yet she made navigating the ins and outs of the Extension Master Gardener program a breeze. When our class began in January, Ashley proved her skills by teaching one of our first classes: Entomology, the study of insects. We were set up for success from then on! (A fun fact that I learned in that class is — Ashley raises baby shrimp at home.)

I loved the weekly routine of the class. I am a freelance events coordinator, which means that every day is different for me, juggling a variety of clients, meetings and events. The class was a lovely break from an often chaotic lifestyle. Every Thursday, I set my alarm for 7 a.m., had breakfast and coffee at home, and walked 30 minutes to the Cooperative Extension office so that I could free up a parking space for someone else. I turned it my weekly quiz, then took my seat in the back of the room next to classmate Marya. One of my favorite memories was when Marya reminded the whole class that her name rhymes with “malaria.” The classes were engaging with a variety of lectures, activities and role plays. I left each week feeling incredibly overwhelmed with knowledge and incredibly full from all of the amazing snacks that Master Gardeners Margaret and Taka prepared for us.

I looked forward to walking home each week from class, often with an arm full of plants, while people downtown might have stared at me wondering why I was carrying around so many tomatillo starts. I have never met such a generous class of people. I feel that everyone was willing to share plants, seeds, personal experiences, knowledge, or ignorance around an issue we addressed in class. I also don’t think I had to buy a single start or seed for my spring OR summer veggie garden! The seeds Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Cheralyn Berry generously brought in during the class she taught on growing vegetables were quickly buried in my raised beds, and my family ate radishes, cucumbers, and English peas ‘til we were sick of them.

Extension master gardener volunteers engage with the community in a multitude of ways. Here, they are staffing a table at a life-science networking event. Photo credit: Eric Waters. Used with permission.

I found an opportunity to combine my day job with my new volunteer services, too. I throw a monthly life science networking event at the Chesterfield Building in downtown Durham, and I invited the Master Gardeners to participate in two events. The first one was in August, and the volunteers brought a diffuser filled with lavender, and answered attendees’ questions about all sorts of garden-related problems. The second one was this month, and the volunteers aptly brought the diffuser filled, this time, with pine, and answered lots of questions about house plants. It was so inspiring for me to see the attendees of my event lining up to ask the volunteers questions! What I didn’t tell the volunteers in advance was that these events attract a pretty stuffy life-science crowd, and they often aren’t very engaging. However, the Master Gardeners were so welcoming, knowledgeable, and had the best table display, that people couldn’t stay away!

This reflection sums up a small amount of what being a part of the 2019 Master Gardener class meant to me. I thank everyone who made the class a success, and I highly recommend the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program to anyone inclined to apply to the next training class.

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is interested in being an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, call our office at 919-560-0528 and ask to be notified when the application process for the 2021 training begins. The process generally begins the previous fall.