Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Classes will be starting soon.  Click on 'Become an Extension Master Gardener' in the HELPFUL LINKS section on the right for more information. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


This was sent out from the NCSU pest experts, Steve Bambara and Mike Waldvogel: 

Merry Cinara Aphid and a Happy New Year

'Tis the season again for Cinara aphid phone calls on ole Tannenbaum. Cinara aphids are large, brown aphids that feed on the stems of conifers. In the winter, these aphids often become abundant because predators are not as effective in controlling aphid populations in low temperatures. They are common on Christmas trees. They are normally manageable on the live plants in the field and rarely a problem in Fraser fir, but if present, they may become abundant and noticeable on trees taken into the house. After all, there is no place like a home for the holidays.

In the future, it would be best to examine the tree before taking it indoors. Once indoors, a decorated tree could be difficult to treat. These aphids will not bite people and will not damage the house or furnishings.
Control recommendations would be to try to squash as many as possible with your fingers, use insecticidal soap in a hand-held pump spray on the ends of the branches where you see aphids. Don't try to spray an
entire decorated tree. Use a rag or towel as a backing behind the twig you are spraying. Do not use any other household-type pesticides to reduce the chance of exposure to children and pets. One may also try using a vacuum cleaner with the crevice tool, being careful not to suck down that special dough ornament your child made in the first grade.
Check out this photo at

Friday, December 18, 2009

Looking for a unique gift for the gardener on your list?

Why not give the gift the keeps on giving? A membership to the 'Friends of the Pitt County Arboretum' entitles the member to discounts at local garden shops, a special preview at our annual plant sale in the spring, and several other benefits. Look on the right for 'Friends of the Pitt County Arboretum'  and click on application for more details.

Friday, December 11, 2009


QUESTION:  I found an insect in my house. I am not sure if it is an ant or termite. How do I tell the difference?

ANSWER:  Termites have straight antennae, no defined waist, and its wings are the same length.  Winged ants have elbowed antennae, a waist, and its front wings are longer than the hind ones.  You can always bring specimens into the Extension Office and someone will help identify them.  More information can be found at termites.

COMPOSTING:  As we head into the winter months, the questions we've been receiving have become fewer and additionally, they are ones we previously have addressed.  Earthworm mounds (see November) continue to be an issue.  However, an observant fellow Master Gardener noticed all the leaf bags piled curbside around town and questioned why the homeowners were tossing them out.  You can easily make your own compost from these leaves, as well as from your now frozen annuals and vegetable plants.  Add any vegetable or fruit peelings from your kitchen plus coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, and your are on your way to some fabulous nutrient rich compost for your spring garden.  For a thorough fact sheet click on composting.

QUESTION:  I have wild onions and dandelions growing in my lawn.  Is now a good time to use a weed killer?
ANSWER:  December is a great time to do winter weed control in home lawns. Image is good for wild onion/garlic and some other broadleaf weeds in warm season grasses and is best applied before the end of December. Atrazine can be used in warm season grasses now (best to be done before the end of December) to control grass weeds and broadleaf weeds ( Do not use on lawns overseeded with ryegrass or other cool season grasses). Three way herbicides are found on most garden center shelves and will work well particularly if two applications are made two weeks apart. All these products are slow to work in cool temperatures so patience is needed. It may 4 to 6 weeks to see complete results of applications. It is always important to read the label and follow instructions for grass safety, application, mixing, and personal protection.

QUESTION:  What is the best way to take care of my Christmas tree?
ANSWER:   If you missed Danny's column in last week's Reflector, you can find all the information you need at Christmas Trees.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving to all our gardening friends.  Starting now through the end of January, our hotline hours will be on Mondays only from 10 AM - Noon.  However, you can leave a message anytime and your questions will be answered on Mondays.  Looking for some gardening inspiration?  Come to our next Arboretum tour on Dec. 3rd, Thursday starting at 10 AM in front of the Ag Center under the Greenroof Shelter.

QUESTION: I have little gray piles of soil all over my yard during the fall and winter. They look like tiny ant hills, but I don't see any ants. I thought it might be grubs, but when I dig around I don't see any. What could it be and what can I do about them?
ANSWER: The mounds are earthworm castings (i.e., worm excrement). The excretions themselves are nutrient packed remains of digested plant matter and are good for your lawn. Consider your good fortune of having earthworms as they are generally beneficial for the soil. For appearance sake, the small mounds can be raked level when they are dry. An earthworm fact sheet can be viewed at Earthworms.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


10/29 QUESTION: Last fall my house was invaded by large numbers of ladybugs and wasps. Can I do anything to prevent that from happening this year or else how do I get rid of them?

ANSWER: First, for the lady beetles (aka ladybugs): They are seeking sheltered places to live out the winter. An easy answer is to make sure all cracks and crevices in your house are sealed. Any inside the house may be vacuumed up and disposed of. More details can be found at  Lady Beetles.  Next, for the paper wasps: Like the lady beetle, the queen wasps are looking for winter shelter. Also, like the lady beetle it is a benefical insect in our gardens as it preys on other pests. Again, having your house properly sealed would keep them out. If any are in your house, they are not likely to sting unless you step on one and could easily be killed by a rolled up newspaper. A few chemical controls are listed at  PaperwaspsAs always, read the label, follow the directions and be mindful of the cautions listed.

10/21 QUESTION: I know the fire ant was imported to our area, are there any 'new' bugs we should be on the lookout for?

ANSWER: Yes, unfortunately there is. It is the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.
Read the Pest Alert by S. Bambara, M. Waldvogel & S. Frank
"It is official. The brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys, has been identified in North Carolina. First detected about two weeks ago in the Winston-Salem area, there has been another report in the coastal plain region. Originally found in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 2001, it is now established in many states across the country especially along the east coast. It is an easy traveler in things like motor homes. There is a long list of hosts, both ornamental and agricultural from maple and birch to pecan, peach, apple and cucumber. Adults emerge from overwintering about April. All instars have deep red eyes. Early nymphs are red, then almost black, and finally brown in color as adults. They are typical stink bugs in most ways and damage fruit and foliage with their feeding (proboscis) and saliva. There is a single generation in northern states. To add to their annoyance, they like to overwinter in protected places such as structures. This is where you are most likely to first notice them." For more information and images see the insect note: Stink Bug.

10/16 QUESTION: I have seen large white grubs crawling on my driveway and sidewalk. Will they damage my lawn?

ANSWER: You also may notice soil deposits on the surface of the lawn overnight. The grubs are Green June Bug grubs. They feed on decaying organic matter in the thatch and root zone of many grasses. The grubs are not eating the grass roots. More information may be found by reading  Junebugs.

10/2 QUESTION: This week's question arises from samples of a weed brought into the Extension Office for identification which was found growing in lawns in the area. Take a look at this image of  Virginia Buttonweed which you also may have in your lawn. The homeowners wanted to know what could be done to eliminate it?

ANSWER: The best way to control broadleaf weeds in your lawn is to maintain a healthy, dense lawn to discourage weed growth. Proper mowing, watering, and fertilizing is key. You can obtain a calendar of what to do and when based on your type of lawn from the Extension Office. Herbicides recommended at Turf Files are repeat applications of products containing 2,4-D, clopyralid, dicamba (Millennium Ultra) or fluroxypyr (Spotlight), or combinations of these chemicals. Apply in spring and repeat when regrowth occurs, usually in 4 to 6 weeks. Follow directions as listed on the product.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Thanks to everyone who came out today to purchase daylilies. We sold out earlier than expected. More daylilies will be available at our Annual Sale next May. The money we received all goes back into making the Arboretum even better.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


QUESTION: HELP!!! Fire ants have invaded my yard.

ANSWER: Yes, ants are quite active now foraging yards and building their mounds. There are many products on the market to control them. NCSU's fact sheet found at Fire Ants. goes into great detail about these ofttimes pests. If you choose to use a insecticide (even organic) be sure to READ & FOLLOW the directions on the container. And as always, MORE is not necessarily better.

QUESTION: I have noticed wasps flying just above the lawn. Will they sting? Should I try to get rid of them?

ANSWER: They are scoliid wasps and are considered beneficial as they feed on June beetle grubs in the lawn. Check out this link for a fact sheet on these interesting Wasps.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


QUESTION: The leaves and limbs of my crape myrtle have black, grimy 'something' on them. What is it and what can I do to get rid of it?
ANSWER: Your crape myrtle has sooty mold. Small amounts of sooty mold will usually do little harm except for being unattractive. Large amounts could possibly reduce photosynthesis which could slow down plant growth. A mild insecticidal soap will aid in removing the sooty mold. However, the important thing is to eliminate the underlying cause of the sooty mold. Sooty mold occurs when piercing, sucking insects such as aphids, lace bugs, or scales leave behind honeydew on the plant on which then the sooty mold grows. Follow these links to read about ways to get rid of these insects: and

QUESTION: Caterpillars of various types are eating the leaves on my oak and river birch trees. What can I do to get rid of them?
ANSWER: One type of caterpillar we are seeing now is the yellow-necked caterpillar that does feed on oak leaves. The sawfly larvae which looks like a caterpillar often attacks the river birch. The damage done on large trees this late in the year is likely to be minimal and spraying is difficult. Only small trees with heavy damage should be treated. Often the caterpillars and the sawfly larvae can be handpicked and dropped in a bucket of soapy water. More detailed information can be found at these sites: and

QUESTION: My euonymus shrub's leaves have yellowish spots on them. What is causing it and can I fix it?
ANSWER: Euonymus scale is a common insect problem for this shrub. The yellow splotches on top of the leaf indicate a scale feeding underneath. Go to for details about control.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


QUESTION: What can you tell me about black widow spiders? I believe I have seen one lurking under some stones in my yard.
ANSWER: Check out this website for picture of a black widow spider: . Spiders are generally considered to be beneficial in the garden as they capture many insects that feed on the plants in your garden. Spiders usually bite people when their web or nest is disturbed. Most spider bites are not that harmful to people, but can be serious if the person has an allergic reaction much like bee or wasp stings would cause. The black widow spider. however, can inflict painful or serious injury. Go to for more information about avoiding spider bites in the home environment.
QUESTION: I have seen a shiny, metallic beetle running around my driveway, sidewalks, and mulched areas. What is it and what should I do about it?
ANSWER: The beetle is a tiger beetle. It is also a fast, agile flyer. It is a predator of other insects and is considered more beneficial to the garden than harmful. The best thing to do when you see it racing across your path is to give it the green light. You can read more about this bug at and

Saturday, June 27, 2009


BUTTERFLY GARDEN: This Garden attracts butterflies with nectar producing plants. It also contains host plants on which the butterflies will lay their eggs and where the emerging caterpillars will feed.
LAWNS: The five lawns around the Ag Center show different types of lawn grasses that grow well in Eastern North Carolina.
WILDFLOWER GARDEN: This garden features a colorful, drought-tolerant, self-sustaining, self-seeding annual garden alternative to turf grass.
CONTAINER GARDENS: Various combinations of bulbs, annuals, perennials, and shrubs showcase colorful flowers and plants with interesting textures that fill containers around the building showing what can be done for a gardener with limited space, time or physical ability.
FIRE HYDRANT GARDEN: A four-season garden created in a small, hot, dry space around a fire hydrant is filled with tiny spring-flowering bulbs and evergreen sedums.
PERENNIAL BORDER: Here a mosaic of plants is designed to provide exciting displays of color, texture, and form throughout the year.
MIXED BORDER: This area shows a variety of plants that grow well in Pitt County with designs to inspire the home gardener.
HERB GARDEN: A bottle tree is the center of this culinary herb garden. Additional plants such as salvias complement the texture and colors in the garden.
COMPOST DEMONSTRATION AREA: A traditional three bin compost system is featured. Plastic pins for composting in smaller gardens may also be seen here.
VEGETABLE GARDEN: Raised beds are planted with a variety of spring and summer vegetables. Much of the harvest is donated to the local food bank.
CHILDREN'S ABC GARDEN: Designed to introduce children to the joys of gardening and nature, flowers and vegetables starting with each letter of the alphabet are planted here. Pi-Co-Bo, our topiary bunny, resides here next to his rabbit hole ready for children to explore.
PITTOSPORUM TRIAL AREA: Numerous varieties of glossy evergreen pittosporum were planted here in 2004 to test their performance in eastern North Carolina.
WET SITE PLANTS: This garden features native and exotic plants that will flourish in wet sites.
ROSE GARDEN: More that 50 shrub-type, disease resistant roses that require little care are in this demonstration garden.
CERTIFIED PLANT PROFESSIONAL COLLECTION: This area contains trees and shrubs for an excellent source of information to see what grows in this area and their mature sizes.
AG CENTER LANDSCAPING: Around the building itself you will see a mix of evergreens, flowering trees and shrubs, and perennials. Inside you can obtain information sheets, soil testing kits, and other gardening information.