Kids Post: Flower Power Science Project! Why Water Our Plants?

While school is out this summer, let’s experiment with some plant science! Botany is the name for the science of plants. This fun project takes only a few minutes to set up.

Do you ever wonder why we water flowers and gardens? Water is as essential for plants as it is for people. If plants don’t get enough water, they could die, just like people would without water. But how does the water you put in the ground around a plant feed its leaves and flowers?

Water is an important ingredient in photosynthesis—the process plants use to make food! Plants use energy from sunlight to make glucose (a type of sugar) from water, minerals, and carbon dioxide in the air.

Plant parts
Plants have roots, stems, leaves, and flowers that make fruits and seeds. Inside plant stems are two types of tubes called phloem and xylem. Phloem is the smaller outer part of the stem, inside the protective skin or epidermis. Xylem is thicker and makes up most of the stem. Each tube has its own job.

How do water, minerals, and food get to the leaves and flowers?
The tubes in the plant stem act like roads, only instead of cars and trucks, they carry water and nutrients. Phloem moves food (glucose) all through the plant, up and down the stem between the roots and the leaves and flowers. Xylem carries the water and minerals in only one direction: from roots to the leaves and flowers.

The experiment: Seeing water move
To see how water moves up a stem and into a flower, you’ll need:

  • White flower(s)
  • Clear glass or vase
  • Food coloring

Cut flowers stems right before you are ready to put them in water. Be sure to ask permission before picking flowers from a garden!

  1. Put water in your glass or vase.
  2. Add several drops of food coloring to the water.
    Caution: Food coloring is a dye, so ask for help and be careful not to get any on your clothes or other surfaces.
  3. Put your flower in the colored water.
  4. Wait and watch.

The stem will absorb the water, the xylem will carry it up to the flower, and eventually the white flower petals will turn the color of the dye in the water. It may take several hours for the dye to reach the flowers, though!

Make observations
Try this with several different types of flowers, different food colors, and different amounts of coloring. White flowers will always work best to show the dye, but maybe one flower type is faster to take up the coloring than another. You could keep track of how long it takes to reach the petals. Real scientists always take notes and record their experiences.

Article written by Nancy Good, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.

Bulletin: Garden Helpline Closed July 13-22

telephoneThe Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener Helpline will be closed July 13-22, 2016, while our office space undergoes renovation. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this causes. We’ll be back in business on Monday, July 25 to answer your gardening questions.

Extension Master Gardener Volunteers staff the Helpline from March through October and answer hundreds of gardening questions. We’re available for phone calls and walk-ins. Please contact us. We’re here to help. 

Garden Helpline
9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday
9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Friday
49 Mt. Carmel Road
Asheville, NC

Lecture: Great New Garden Roses, July 21

Gardening in the Mountains presents:
Great New Garden Roses


Thursday, July 21, 2016
11:30 a.m.—1 p.m.

NC Cooperative Extension
Buncombe County Center
49 Mount Carmel Road
Asheville, NC

Presenter: Judy Deutsch, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer

New roses are on the market everywhere, and when you read the catalogs, they all seem terrific! How do you know which ones to choose? This presentation will highlight selected new roses that are disease resistant and will emphasize those with fragrance. Common diseases of roses and their management will be covered as well.

The talk is free but pre-registration is requested by calling 828-255-5522.

Got ants in your pantry? Tiny ants can be a big bother!

Ants-Ants-Ants_byFarisAlgosaibi_FlickrThat’s the header for a Texas A&M Bulletin that came up when I went searching for an answer to the question “Is the home invasion by ants this season related to our drought?” The answer is “yes”—in North Carolina, too. And because a single colony can be thousands of ants, you may see ants trailing into your kitchen, bathroom, or anywhere in your home they find water or food. 

Ants that come inside
When outdoor temperatures get hotter and conditions get drier, humans aren’t the only ones coming indoors for water and food. Ants, particularly tiny (1/8-inch) odorous house ants, are marching inside, too. Odorous house ants, Argentine ants, and acrobat ants are all attracted to sweet substances indoors. Little black ants and pavement ants are also home invaders, and they are attracted to both greasy and sweet foods. 

Ants as outdoor pests
All these ant species feed on the sweet honeydew produced by aphids, scale, and whiteflies. Ants can become a serious problem outdoors, too, by protecting these pests from natural enemy predation.

What to do?
Perhaps when “more normal” weather returns these ants will go back outdoors, but don’t count on it. Practice careful sanitation indoors: quickly wipe up any ants that you find and clean the surface they’re on with soapy water. Try to eliminate attractive food sources by storing foods in ant-proof containers. Treatment with household insecticides may be helpful, but baits must be attractive to the particular ant species invading your home. 

Caulk or block any access points to the inside of the building, such as around doors, windows, electrical wires/outlets, water pipes, and foundation cracks. Look around outside to eliminate nesting areas and food sources near your home. Keep mulch, plants, and piles of any kind—firewood, stones, and so on—away from your foundation. Trim shrubs and trees that bear fruits, berries, or are susceptible to honeydew-producing pests so they are not touching your house.

And pray for rain!

Article written by Glenn Palmer, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer. 

Photograph: “Ants Ants Ants” by Faris Algosaibi, 

To learn more, visit

Your Fall Vegetable Garden—Start Planning and Planting in July

Fall Vegetable Gardening
Every summer I vow to have a bountiful fall garden, but often have little to harvest because I didn’t plan ahead. In Buncombe County, our average first frost date is in October, so some fall veggies need to be planted now!

Choosing crops
Grow what you’ll eat! Greens and root vegetable are top crops for fall planting, but cole crops—as well as some legumes and herbs—are good bets, too.

  • Cole crops: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi
  • Greens: arugula, chard, lettuce, mustard, spinach
  • Herbs: dill, parsley
  • Root crops: beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, turnips
  • Legumes: green beans

Making space
Decide on the number of plants you’ll need, and then check how much sun and room they’ll require. If you have a dedicated vegetable garden, you’ll likely have some bare spots where you’ve harvested spring cool season crops or where earlier plantings have succumbed to pests or diseases. Are there other planting areas where you can squeeze in some vegetables? Many veggies are attractive enough to spruce up your fall landscape.

No free space in your existing garden beds? Add some container plantings or expand your growing space by doing away with part of a lawn or planting a mulched area.

Transplants or seeds?
Except for beans and root crops, you can choose either seeds or transplants for your fall garden. Transplants give you a little longer to get your planting space ready and may be easier to get established in hot, dry weather. Transplants cost more than seeds, though, and you may have more trouble finding plants, especially of unusual varieties. Check your favorite plant and seed sources now to see what they have available for fall.

Timing is everything
Be sure to plant in time for your veggies to reach eating stage before cold weather settles in. You can harvest herb snippets and outer leaves of greens—and cole crops grown for their leaves—when the plants are still small, but green beans and most cole and root crops need time to mature. Seed packets and plant tags will give you average days to harvest, but here are some guidelines for planting dates to maximize your chances of producing a fall crop:

  • July 1 to July 15: green beans
  • July 1 to August 15: cole crops, parsley, and parsnips
  • July 15 to September 15: carrots, lettuce, mustard, and turnips
  • August 1 to September 15: arugula, beets, chard, dill, radishes, rutabaga, and spinach

You can push these limits if fall weather is mild, but frost will damage or kill tender plants, so consider how much money and time you’re willing to risk before putting in late plantings.

Don’t plant and forget
Be sure you will be around to water, weed, and fertilize your fall garden and watch for pests. Plan on daily attention to newly planted fall crops, especially if we have high temperatures and/or little rain.

Learn more
The N.C. Cooperative Extension publication, Vegetable Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide, is an excellent tutorial and resource. To view, go to

Enjoy your fall harvest!

Article written by Debbie Green, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.

Photographs of lettuce, beets, and spinach by Lucy Bradley, NCSU Cooperative Extension; radishes by Kim Ogburn, Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.

Save the Date: WNC Gardening Symposium, October 12

Attention all gardeners! Mark your calendars for October 12 and plan to attend the Western North Carolina Gardening Symposium, organized by WNC Master Gardeners and co-sponsored by the NC Agricultural Foundation and NC Cooperative Extension.  Preliminary information about the event is shown below.


How to Choose Roses

Choosing roses can be easier than you think. You need to decide three things: Which types of roses you like, where they will grow, and how much time you want to devote to them. Then the fun begins!


‘Carefree Beauty’ Fragrant Rose

Select roses for their color, fragrance, and use
Questions to ask yourself include: What colors do you like, do your roses have to have a fragrance, and what you will use the roses for? Rose colors include white, pink, purple, red, orange, and yellow. Many start out dark and fade to lighter shades, some have colored stripes, and others are a mixture of colors. There are roses that have strong scents and others with no scent at all. Do you want roses for color in the garden, to grow on a structure, to cut for indoor arrangements, or for fragrance?


‘Pinkie’ Climbing Polyantha Rose

Know the growing and care requirements
Start by knowing your frost hardiness zone and sun requirements. Much of Buncombe County is classified USDA Zone 7 for frost hardiness. Most roses require 6 to 8 hours of sun, although some are more shade tolerant. How much space do you have? Some roses require large areas to grow, while others take up only a little space. Some roses will grow in containers.


‘Belinda’ Hybrid Musk Rose

Decide how much time you have to care for your roses. Roses need an inch of water a week and as much as twice that in hotter months. They are heavy feeders, so perform best when fertilized during the growing season. Many suffer from pests and funguses, although some roses were developed to be disease resistant and need little spraying.

 Information sources
Places to learn about roses include books, websites, rose societies, and the Cooperative Extension service, along with many reputable growers who offer information about the roses they sell. The American Rose Society has an easy-to-navigate website that offers answers to your rose queries at The Asheville Blue Ridge Rose Society website is The Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers can also answer questions about types of roses, suggest good varieties for our area, and offer planting and care instructions.

Article written by Donna Sapp, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.

New Disease-Resistant Garden Roses Growing in Popularity

While European gardeners planted roses in beds with other plants and expected them to thrive without special attention, serious American rose gardeners focused on producing a few perfect flowers each season so they could win competitions. Fragrances, hardiness, and resistance to diseases such as black spot—a common fungal infection of roses—were cast aside for bigger, better-formed blooms. 


‘Tiffany’ Disease-Resistant Hybrid Tea Rose

From disfavor to rose revolution
By the 1990s, American gardeners were no longer willing to take on these divas! For many of us, gardens were smaller and schedules busier. We had discovered organic gardening and pollinators and did not want to use toxic sprays. 

Then in the 1990s, David Austin roses reached the U.S. market, reintroducing easier-care garden roses with fragrance. In 2000, Knock Out® roses took the industry by storm. Their even easier care, long bloom season, and black-spot resistance appealed to yet more gardeners. Other rose hybridizers saw the huge market for disease-resistant roses, and began to create their own. Developing a new rose takes about ten years and a bit of luck. We are just now beginning to reap the benefits of the hybridizers’ efforts.


‘Mother of Pearl’ Disease-Resistant Grandiflora Rose

Newer hybrids meet no-spray standard
American rose distributors have begun importing disease-resistant roses from Europe where there have been no-spray rose trials for years—many pesticides are banned in Europe. No-spray trials are now happening in the United States. ‘Sunshine Daydream’, a yellow grandiflora, was the first rose to win the All-America Rose Selection rose of the year under no-spray conditions. ‘Francis Meilland’, ‘Beverly’, and ‘Savannah’—all fragrant hybrid teas—have won awards in the Biltmore (no-spray) International Rose Trials here in Asheville.

Learn more
To learn more about roses, contact your local rose society. The Asheville Blue Ridge Rose Society serves Western North Carolina. Visit their website at or contact them by email at

The Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers’ “Gardening in the Mountains” lecture series will present a talk on rose care and disease resistant roses at the County Extension office, 49 Mt. Carmel Rd., on Thursday, July 21, 11:30 to 1. Call 828-255-5522 to reserve a seat. 

Article written by Judy Deutsch, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.

Getting Started with Climbing Roses

Roses_Climbing_CoversCottageThere is nothing more romantic than living in a rose-covered cottage or walking under an arbor or pergola covered in fragrant roses. Climbing roses can add a colorful vertical accent to almost any garden.

Support structures
Climbing roses need a sturdy structure—an arbor, pillar, pergola, or lattice—on which to grow. Make sure your structure can support the weight of your climber. Although some climbers stop growing at 10 or 12 feet, others can reach 30 feet or more in height. Unlike beans or peas, roses will not voluntarily climb a structure, so it is up to you to get them onto the structure. Roses_Climbing_TwoVarietiesShareArborIt is remarkably frustrating to have a beautiful arbor but a rose happily growing in exactly the wrong direction!

Site your rose carefully. Like all roses, climbing roses want full sun. Once trained on a structure, your rose will not be as easily moved as a non-climbing rose that you can simply dig up and relocate.

Plant your rose 12 inches or more from the structure, not right up against it. Note that if you are planting up against a house or shed, overhanging eaves may reduce the amount of rain water that hits the ground and you will need supplemental water.


Climbing rose leader canes with lateral growth trained on fence.

Leaders vs. laterals
Climbing roses have two types of canes—leaders and laterals. Leaders are the long canes that come out of the ground and are usually the ones you attach to your structure. Lateral canes come off of lead canes and produce flowers.

Training the rose
The more parallel to the ground your lead canes, the more laterals they will produce, and the more blooms you will have. A climber growing straight up an arbor will only have blooms at the top. Therefore, you want to train the lead canes to grow parallel to the ground on a supporting structure. It is much easier to train a climber on an arbor, pergola, or lattice structure than on a column or pillar.  If you want to wrap your climber around a pole, wrap the lead canes as parallel to the ground as possible.

Young canes are the most supple and amenable to bending or shaping. Plan on tying up your climber several times during the growing season so you can work with new growth. Twine and string are good choices for tying canes. They are softer than wire, which can cut or damage the canes.

Continuing care and pruning
The care of climbing roses is similar to that of their non-climbing brethren. They need the same fertilizing and watering regimen. They are susceptible to the same diseases. However, pruning climbing roses is different. Remove dead, damaged, or diseased canes, but let the healthy lead canes grow long to suit both your taste and your structure. You should also prune back the laterals to keep them in check and to promote re-blooming.

Learn more
To learn more about pruning climbing roses, contact your local rose society. The Asheville Blue Ridge Rose Society serves Western North Carolina. Visit their website at or contact them by email at .

The Buncombe County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers’ “Gardening in the Mountains” lecture series will present a talk on rose care and disease resistant roses at the County Extension office, 49 Mt. Carmel Rd., on Thursday, July 21, 11:30 to 1. Call 828-255-5522 to reserve a seat.

Article written by Judy Deutsch, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.

Kids Post: Growing Potatoes in Buckets

Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt? Growing potatoes in buckets is the perfect gardening treasure hunt activity both to have fun and encourage kids to love growing their own food. Kids of all ages can participate. June is the end of the potato-planting season in Western North Carolina, so it is a good time to find seed potatoes on sale. Follow this guide to grow your pot of gold (or golden potatoes!).

What you’ll need

  • Seed potatoes. Small potato varieties are best for this project.
  • 5-gallon, food-safe bucket with drainage holes. Recycle bulk food containers or purchase new buckets. Be sure to drill several holes in the bottom before you start your garden.
  • Enough potting soil to fill your bucket—about a half cubic foot. Use potting soil for edible plants—NOT garden soil or potting soils with additives such as moisture-holding crystals.
  • Vegetable fertilizer.

Steps for making your bucket garden

  1. Add 4 inches or so of potting soil to the bucket.
  2. Mix in fertilizer. Read the fertilizer label and add only enough for the amount of soil you’ve just put in the bucket
  3. Space your seed potatoes evenly on top of the soil with the sprout side up.Potatoes_PlantingInBucket
  4. Add another 4 inches or so of potting soil and mix in more fertilizer.
  5. Place your potato garden where it will get full sun for at least 6 hours a day.
  6. Wet the soil until you see water draining out of the bucket. Keep soil moist, but not soggy. You may need to water every day if it doesn’t rain!
  7. Green shoots will grow up. Once the shoots are about 4 inches high, carefully add 2 inches of soil with more fertilizer. Leave just a small green shoot above the soil. Keep adding soil and fertilizer every time the shoots grow up a few inches. Keep the soil watered evenly throughout the growing season.ColoradoPotatoBeetle-larvae
  8. Watch out for pirates! Look for pests eating your potato leaves. The usual suspects are potato beetle larvae and adults. (Even though bugs may like potato plants, the leaves, flowers, seedpods, sprouts and any green flesh are toxic to people.)
  9. Once the plant has grown out of the top of the bucket, flowered, and begun to die back, it is time to harvest! Spread a tarp and spill out the contents of the bucket. Here is the treasure hunt! Dig through the soil to find the potatoes.
  10. Enjoy your harvest! An easy way to cook small potatoes is to toss them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or so, depending on size.

    Photograph by Dobies Seed Company, Devon, UK

    Photograph by Dobies Seed Company, Devon, UK

Article written by Tish Szurek, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.

For more about potato beetles, go to