Learn With Us, week of April 14

Is It Warm in Here? New Approaches to Gardening in a Changing Climate – Durham Garden Forum
Tuesday, April 16 from 7:00 – 8:30 PM in the Doris Duke Center, Sarah P. Duke Gardens. There is no charge for parking.
Our topic this month “Is It Warm In Here? New Approaches to Gardening in a Changing Climate” will be presented by Bryce Lane, NC State Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Emeritus. Is Global Warming Real? Are we poised to take advantage of this phenomenon as horticulturists? We will talk about the effects of changing climate on horticulture, and identify new practices and approaches to consider using in the future.
Annual membership fee remains $25.00 per person. Program entrance fee for non members remains $10.00. Students will be admitted free of charge with a valid student ID.

TOMATOES 
Saturday, April 20⋅10:00 – 11:00am
For Garden’s Sake
9197 NC-751, Durham, NC 27713, USA

TOMATOES are the number one planting choice for home vegetable gardeners. Learn more about the care and feeding of these popular fruits (yes, they are). The presenter will review some of the many varieties available (including heirloom and hybrids); pests and diseases; soil, sun and water requirements; companion plants and some good references for gardening in general and tomatoes in particular.

Free/Registration required
To register, email ann@fgsnursery.com or call 919-484-9759

 

An Innocent-looking Invasive: Ficaria verna or Fig Buttercup

by Andrea Laine, EMGV

A fellow Extension master gardener recently brought this cheerful-looking plant to my attention. Its common names are lesser celandine or fig buttercup. (Scientific name is Ficaria verna and was formerly Ranunculus ficaria.) She spotted it blooming in March on the Ellerbe Creek and also beside the Eno River at Penny’s Bend, an area known for extraordinary native flora. However, this plant is not native to the the Southeast nor even to North America. It is an aggressive, exotic, invasive species that threatens to displace our beloved native spring ephemerals.

Ficaria verna
Lesser celandine. Photo by Mary Ann Chap

Lesser celandine is a herbaceous perennial that emerges earlier than most native species.  Additional identifying characteristics are:

  • A basal rosette of dark kidney- or heart-shaped leaves;
  • A bright yellow flower blooms on a single stalk that rises eight to nine inches above the leaves;
  • Small bulbets borne in the leaf axis.
  • Abundant fig-shaped tubers form along the roots; Even when separated from the parent plant, the tubers can produce a new plant.
  • An overall tight low-growing mat that rapidly chokes out neighboring seedlings.
  • It grows best in moist, shady soils like those in a river’s floodplain.

Supporting its rapid growth are three ways the plant can reproduce: by the tubers/root fragments, by seeds, or by the bulbets. Any of these methods can form a new plant in the vicinity of the parent or be carried downstream to begin colonizing in a new location.

lesser-celandine-roots-CC-300x400
Tuberous roots of lesser celandine. Photo by C. Carignan, http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/lesser-celandine

Complicating matters of identification is that lesser celandine looks very much like marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) which is native in North Carolina and enjoys similar growing conditions. The two can be distinguished by the number of petals on the flower (typically eight for lesser celandine and five for marsh marigold) and the appearance of the leaf margin (smooth for lesser celandine and serrated for marsh marigold).

MarshMarigold
Marsh marigold. Photo by Michael Gäbler, CC-BY-3.0

Like many invasive plants, this one was introduced commercially as an ornamental plant. It became popular in the Northeast, but its status is in transition. It appears on the The North Carolina Native Plant Society invasive plants list as a “significant threat.” Yet it is absent from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s list of noxious weeds in North Carolina. That list reports that it is absent/unreported in N.C. and S.C., however according to the South Carolina Native Plant Society, it is banned in S.C.

Exotic plant species that essentially grow too well in an area negatively impact a local ecosystem by crowding out the native plants.  Insects, birds and animals native to the area depend upon native plants for nutritional sustenance and preferred habitat.

If your property offers the ideal growing conditions for lesser celandine or marsh marigold and you appreciate diversity in your landscape, keep an eye out for an expanding patch of low-growing plants with bright yellow flowers. If it turns out to be lesser celandine, feel free to remove it. If you locate it on land you do not own, say while you are enjoying a public park or private nature preserve, you may bring it to the property owner’s attention, but you do not have the right to remove it. The patch recently found at Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve has been removed, and the patch on Ellerbe Creek was sprayed by a licensed herbicide applicator. It was linked to a larger patch growing behind a house just a couple blocks upstream on a feeder creek.

Sources & Further Reading

https://scnps.org/education/citizen-science-invasive-fig-buttercup

Factsheet: http://www.docs.dcnr.pa.gov/cs/groups/public/documents/document/dcnr_010251.pdf

https://ask.extension.org/questions/440047

https://www.ncwildflower.org/plant_galleries/invasives_list

https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=RAFI

http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/lesser-celandine

NCSU suggests planting Geum as an alternative:  https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/geum-spp/

About Marsh Marigold:  https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/caltha-palustris/

How the North Carolina Botanical Garden defines “invasive exotic species: http://ncbg.unc.edu/exotic-plant-policy/

About Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve:  http://www.enoriver.org/what-we-protect/parks/pennys-bend/

 

Learn With Us, week of April 7

Painless Perennials
Sunday, April 73:00 – 4:00pm
4505 S Alston Ave, Durham, NC 27713, USA
Painless Perennials will keep you in bloom year around both shade and sun. We will guide you through the year with continuous color.
Classes are free. Registration is required. Register online at the Durham County Library website durhamcountylibrary.org. 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.
Vegetable Gardening 101
Sunday, April 73:00 – 4:00pm
211 Lick Creek Ln, Durham, NC 27703, USA

Robin Barth, EMGV
Discussion will be on soil preparation, kinds of vegetables and when to plant. Registration is required. Register online at the Durham County Library website durhamcountylibrary.org. 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 East Regional Library to register: 919-560-0208.

 

TOMATOES & OKRA – Durham Garden Center
Saturday, April 1310:00 – 11:00am
Durham Garden Center 4536 Hillsborough Rd, Durham.
Growing TOMATOES & OKRA are southern traditions. Learn how to grow these two staples of the southern garden and use them in your kitchen. This seminar will include research-based advice on varieties for our region; soil, sun, water and nutrient requirements; pests & diseases; when to harvest and perhaps even some recipes.
 Free/Registration required Contact: 919-384-7526 or http://www.durhamgardencenternc.com Sign up at the store, online or by phone. Include the seminar title and full name(s) of persons attending

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/

 

 

Solitary Bees of Springtime

by Andrea Laine, EMGV

Say ‘bee’ and many of us think bumble or honey. But at this time of year we are apt to see ground-nesting bees out and about our landscapes, visiting the same early spring flowering plants that a honey bee might pollinate.

Ground-nesting bees are native solitary bees that nest individually in polyester-lined tunnels or burrows at least six inches deep in warm, dry ground. Reflective of this behavior, they are also called mining bees or digging bees. They are more likely to nest in areas with exposed soil and sparse vegetation, not dense turf or mulched beds.

MiningBee_M.Bertone
There are many species of bees that nest in the ground and they range in size and color. Pictured here is an adult mining bee. Photo by M. Bertone. 

 

TBilleisen ground bee damage
Evidence of ground nests can resemble tiny ant hills. Photo by T. Billeisen.

A hospitable patch of ground is likely to house a number of solitary tunnels, thus giving the impression at times of a small swarm of low-flying bees. But these bees are not aggressive as they are not defending a hive (as honeybees and bumblebees would be). And, as is the case with all bees, males cannot sting.

For two to four weeks in mid to late spring, females collect pollen and nectar to bring back to the nest. With it they form a ball in the side of the tunnel. They lay a single egg on the ball and when it hatches, the larva feeds on the pollen and continues to develop until the following spring when it emerges from the ground as an adult bee and goes forth to build a new nest.

Solitary bees are beneficial insects: They pollinate plants and their burrowing behavior is hardly noticeable and does no damage. On the contrary, it helps aerate the soil.

 

Sources & Further Reading

Matthew Bertone, Plants, Pests and Pathogens, Feb 26, 2019

https://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/insects/bees-in-turf/

https://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu/2014/06/ground-digging-bees/

http://www.gardening-for-wildlife.com/ground-bees.html