Thursday, September 22, 2011


Tomorrow is the Autumnal Equinox.  On this day the number of daylight hours approximately equals the number of nighttime hours.  The exact moment of the equinox is 5:04 AM. What does this mean to the Arboretum?   The beginning of Fall signals Master Gardener Volunteers to begin preparing the Arboretum for the coming winter months.  Some of the chores they will be tackling include cutting back dead foliage on perennials, weeding, and raking leaves.  This garden waste will go into our compost bins.  Read this brief summary on COMPOSTING  or refer to this site BUILDING YOUR COMPOST PILE for more details.

They also will be reviewing what plants have performed well or might need replacing.  They won't be doing any major pruning on trees and shrubs as this is best done when plants are dormant.  However, any broken or dead branches may be removed.  This may be a major chore right now as damage from Hurricane Irene lingers.

Home gardeners can add these tasks to their fall to-do-list:

Saturday, September 17, 2011


The Herb Garden at the Arboretum is laid out in a circular pattern.  This layout makes it easy to reach herbs from the center crushed gravel walkway.  This is a good pattern to imitate if you are considering putting in an herb garden in your yard so that the herbs are readily accessible for snipping.  Many herbs will grow year round in Pitt County.  Check out this publication for a list of herbs to grow/how to grow them/how to use them:  Growing Herbs for the Home Gardener. 

Are you a tea drinker?  The next few weeks are good times to head out to your herb garden to gather herbs to dry, brew, or store.  This will give your perennial herbs a chance to recover from being cut before our first frost and a chance to gather annual herbs that will be damaged by frost.   You might be familiar with chamomile, mints, and lemon balm teas, but have you tried parsley, rosemary, or dill?  There is often a question of whether or not they have medicinal values.  Click here for an interesting study done at Tuft University:  Reading Herbal Tea Leaves 

Additionally, you can find out how to make herbal tea by reading this:

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Last fall 4 types of muscadine grapes were planted on sturdy wooden and wire trellises.  The vines were flush with leaves and grapes when Irene came through.  Even though they are in a fairly exposed location at the Arboretum they survived with just a few leaning posts and some grapes blown to the ground.  Before the storm, the first to ripen were the Nesbitts, a black colored grape.  The other varieties we have, Carlos (bronze colored and the leading variety grown in NC), Higgins (pink/bronze colored), and Hunt (dark purple colored), are all ripening into nice sweet grapes thanks to the sunny days, drier air, and warm temperatures.  So far 37 pounds of grapes have been donated to Greenville's Food Bank and it is expected that many more pounds will be picked throughout September.

According to  NCSU Horticultural Leaflet  Muscadine Grapes in the Home Garden, muscadines are well suited for growing in our area.  Additionally, it states that

"Muscadines grapes, (Vitis rotundifolia, or alternatively, Muscadiniana rotundifolia) are often referred to as scuppernongs. Muscadine is native to the Southeastern United States and has been cultured for more than 400 years.  It was first known as the ‘Big White Grape’, and was later named ‘Scuppernong’ after the area in
which it was found. With time, the name scuppernong became generic with all bronze muscadines, regardless of actual variety name.  However, this is incorrect nomenclature, since ‘Scuppernong’ is only one of many cultivars of muscadine grapes."

 An extensive brochure on how to get started can be found here:  Muscadine Grape Production Guide.  You may also contact the Extension Master Gardeners (see right side column 'Ask a Master Gardener' for how to do that) if you have more questions.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


The Arboretum weathered Irene about the same as the rest of Eastern Carolina.  Some of the larger trees lost were a Chinese Elm, High Cotton Crape Myrtle, Eastern Red Cedar, and Bradford Pears.  A group of Master Gardener Volunteers worked diligently Monday after the storm to clean up smaller limbs and leaf debris.

As we all continue to clean up perhaps your thoughts mirror many others who wonder what if anything can be done to minimize damage from future storms.  Read this article written by Pender County's Extension Office on Hurricane Resistant Trees.  It list better choices of trees to plant in addition to better ways to plant them.
Another Internet search brought up a useful site which lists hurricane resistant trees as well as those not recommended.    Click here for that list:  Hurricane Resistant Trees

The good news is that Fall is the best time of year to plant.  Why?  Paul James, Master Gardener and The Garden Guy says:
"Why is fall planting so good for plants? In the fall, the warm soil encourages root growth. Roots continue to grow through the winter until the ground freezes, or in areas with mild winters, roots may continue to grow. In early spring, roots begin new growth or continue to develop at a faster rate, and top growth begins. While the same plant planted in spring gets a slow start due to cool soils, the fall-planted plants are becoming well established. Hence, the spring-planted plant on the right lags. When summer finally arrives, the fall-planted plant is far better equipped to deal with heat and drought, largely due to its well-established root system."