Safety Recall: Fiskars 32″ Titanium Bypass Lopper, Model 6954

This information is provided as a public service because of its safety implications.


Sold at Home Depot from May 2011 through June 2014 for about $40.00.  The lopper handles can break when attempting to cut branches, posing a risk of serious injury and laceration. Model 6954 is located on handle label as shown in the image below. No other titanium loppers or models are affected by this recall.

If you have this lopper, stop using the lopper immediately.

Fiskar would like to send you a prepaid shipping box to return your 32” Titanium Bypass Lopper Model #6954 to them for a free replacement. Please visit the following website to provide your information in the form below, or contact them at (877) 495-6645 (anytime).

No endorsement of the product nor the manufacturer by NCSU Cooperative Extension Services is intended nor should be implied.

Fall Cleanup: Now is the time…

The frost will soon be on the pumpkin, which is a reminder that it’s part of your fall cleanup to get the garden hose disconnected from the spigot where it’s been all summer. “But,” you say, “I have one of those frost-free types so can’t I leave it attached?” The answer is “No!”

The difference between the frost-free and standard spigot is that the frost-free valve stem is longer. The handle is outside, but the actual valve seat that opens and closes, turning the water on and off, is inside the perimeter of the building, a site that presumably will remain above freezing. When the valve is closed the water in the tube drains to the outside so there’s nothing in the valve left to freeze. Voila, frost free.

But, if the hose is still attached, the water in the tube has no place to go. If it gets cold enough the water trapped in the tube will freeze, and when water freezes it expands. Now it’s voila, you’ve got a broken water line inside the house.

So now’s the time to disconnect all water hoses. Drain them. If you had any leakers take time to repair them. Coil ‘em neatly and store them under cover where the sun doesn’t reach. They’ll be ready to go to work in the spring.

Frost Free and Standard


What’s the Difference Between First Frost and First Freeze?

During the hot, muggy days of August when the relative humidity is 100% by ten AM, digging fence post holes can get hot. The air is saturated with moisture, so cooling from the evaporation of our perspiration doesn’t take place. The air can’t absorb any more H20. Regardless of how much we sweat we feel the heat. We take more water breaks.

As the air temperature goes down with the coming of dusk, the air can’t hold as much moisture, so the excess moisture condenses. In the morning we see it as fog or dew. There’s fog along creeks because it’s generally cooler there but the humidity is often higher.

Frost2Now it’s October. The temperature is lower but there’s still humidity so the same thing happens, but if the thermometer drops far enough we see frozen dew. We call that “frost”. There are two things to remember about temperature. One is that we generally read it several feet above the ground. Because cold air is heavier it sinks so our garden may be freezing at ground level while the thermometer is still ”officially” reading higher than 32 degrees. Secondly, not all surfaces in an area will have the same temperature. A metal car roof radiates heat rapidly so it’s temperature drops more rapidly than the surface of a black-topped parking lot that has absorbed lots of calories from the sun during the day. Frost could form on the car top before the blacktop. Or before your plants. By the way, an object radiating heat from two exposed surfaces, like a bridge deck or a leaf, cool more rapidly than just one surface. That’s the reason we should heed those “Bridge freezes before highway” warnings in winter. So, we can see frozen dew while the “official” temperature is still above freezing. That’s frost.

Frost1To us gardeners, the “first frost” indicates that temperatures have gotten low enough to damage some of our less-hardy plants. With the “first freeze” the plants at ground level get below freezing and stay there for awhile, like maybe a “hard freeze” at 28 degrees for several hours. That signals that the growing season is over. But the first frost was a long time back. Of course in the mountains all weather is local, depending on elevation, north vs, south facing, near a stone wall, etc. So keep your own records and compare with the “official” forecasts.

Reprinted from Citizen-Times “Ask a Gardener” by Glenn Palmer 10/23/2006

Spring Bulbs Fundraiser

Tulips1Time is running out!

Have you bought your spring bulbs for 2015? There is a way to financially support Buncombe County Master Gardener educational programs AND order great Spring-flowering bulbs, gardening books, tools, soil supplements, (and even gift certificates for such delights).


Brent and Becky’s bulbs in Gloucester, VA has a fundraising program called “Bloomin’ Buck$” that is designed to earn participating non-profit 501©(3) organizations cash from orders that specify one of the organizations by name.

Participation in this program is very simple. Before mid-November, all you have to do is one of the following:

imageGo to and select Buncombe County Master Gardeners as the organization to benefit from your online order.
Or, mention Buncombe County Extension Master Gardeners when placing phone orders through Brent and Becky’s toll-free line: 877-661-2852.
Or order direct from the 2014 Fall catalog which you can get from Catalogs are also available at the Extension Office. On your mail order form and below the Total Due line write in “Buncombe County Master Gardeners”. If you have any questions, call Kathleen Griffin at 258-2105.

Stink Bug Alert :​​ They’re Back!!!

Despite rumors that the Polar Vortex chill early this year eliminated the stink bugs, I’m here to tell you that, in Buncombe County at least, that is not true! After spending the summer feeding on a variety of plants in our landscape including butterfly bush (Buddleia), pawlonia, hibiscus, zinnia, and sunflower, plus a few fruit trees (ornamental or otherwise) the Asian Stink Bug is shifting its priorities and seeking a cozy site to sit out the winter. And our houses can fill that bill nicely if we let ‘em in.

stink bug

Asian Marmorated Stink Bug

Adults are a little larger than ½ inch. The overall coloring varies from brown to gray. The distinguishing markings are those black and white bands along the outer edges of the thorax.

Although there are other stink bugs, these are the only ones that aggregate on or in houses in large numbers. And they do stink. Squish them with your fingers and an unpleasant odor will be with you for a while.

If you go on-line searching for “stink bug control” you’ll find quite a few offerings of killers and repellants, using lights, and buckets of soapy water into which to toss them after hand-picking. Some may work to some extent but, and this will sound familiar to folks who have been hosting the annual invasions of oriental ladybugs for the last two decades, the most effective way to keep stink bugs out of the house is to stop up, cover over, seal, caulk, or otherwise eliminate any aperture in your home’s outside surface. And you’ll probably reduce your heating bill too.

Learn from the Experts!

Maximize Your Garden ~ Minimize Your Work


Join us for the 2014 Extension Master Gardener Western Regional Symposium on October 9th at the Double Tree Biltmore Hotel in Asheville.


Our featured speaker is the fabulous Bryce Lane, who will open the symposium with “Two Steps to Garden Success” and close with “New Approaches to Gardening in a Changing Climate.”

Breakout sessions to choose from include:   “More Planning, Less Work”,  “Rock at Pruning!”,  “Why Fight Nature? Plant What Grows Here!”, and “Tough Love in the Perennial Border”.   The lunch program is on Companion Planting.

The symposium fee is $55. The fee includes a continental breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon dessert.  There is plenty of free parking.

Attendance is limited so register now. Click here to register.

For the Master Gardeners, attendance for the full day is valid for 5 hours of continuing education.

The registration deadline has been extended to September 29th.

Please make sure it will be received by that date!

Co-sponsored by the NC Agricultural Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, through the NC Extension Foundation.   Tax ID # 566049304




Now is the time to rehab that neglected lawn…

image… and one of the first questions is “Seed or sod?”
Sod is high quality grass that’s field grown for about a year and harvested by a machine that slices a section of turf with very little soil attached. It’s typically sold in rolls that about equal a square yard and weigh 25 pounds or more depending on the moisture content, the first roll that you lay, that is. They seem to get heavier as the day progresses.

Preparation of the soil for sod or seed is pretty much the same. Make soil test, control weeds, till soil, add lime and, for sod, a high phosphorus, slow release fertilizer. (That’s to get the roots growing. You’ll add nitrogen later.)

The sod is laid with the edges tightly together, staggering the joints at the ends of the rolls so they don’t line up, something like laying bricks. On a hillside lay sod across the slope and use wire staples similar to croquet wickets to hold the sod in place. As you work, use a heavy knife or sharp spade to cut curves or around objects like fire plugs. Rolling isn’t necessary except in sandy soils.

Water the sod immediately after it’s laid and keep it moist until it’s established. Because the sod shades the soil you may be using less water than for seeded areas.

As noted, sod can be used on slopes where seed would wash off or erosion occur, can be laid almost any time of year and should accept normal traffic in a matter of weeks.

In my experience if you’re able to lift the sod and willing to spend the time sod is a practical do-it-yourself project. Alternatively, you may find that having it installed professionally is less expensive than you think.

Any year can be a bad year for Grape Rot…

…but this year may be worse than others so let’s recap:

There are actually two different fungal diseases that cause grape rot.  The first occurs while  the fruits are still green.  and first shows up as yellow to brown leaf spots that enlarge to about one quarter inch. Lesions appear on the shoot and the stem too. This disease is called Black Rot and it spreads to the green fruit which quickly dry and turn into “mummies”.  Often the entire cluster is affected so an alternate name for this disease is Bunch Rot.

Black Rot.  Courtesy of Purdue University

Black Rot. Courtesy of Purdue University

The other is Bitter Rot which shows up closer to harvest, when it is indeed “Bitter” for the grower who was looking forward to a bumper crop.  The ripening grapes eventually turn soft and brown but if eaten while they still look OK they have a bitter taste. The berries may die and remain on the stem where they eventually become mummies.

Bitter Rot.  Courtesy of University of Missouri

Bitter Rot. Courtesy of University of Missouri

The first defense against either rot is sanitation. This winter prune out any diseased parts of the vine, including mummies, of course, and clean up any leaves and berries on the ground. Disinfect your pruners between cuts.

Next year keep a close watch and cut off any leaves that show yellow spots. Again, disinfect those pruners between cuts.  Improving air circulation by pruning out excess growth can help too.

You can find fungicides for both these diseases in Garden Centers.  You may also find combinations of copper, sulfur and lime, such as Bordeaux mixture which are considered organic fungicides. Be sure to read the label for any product to make sure it meets your needs and plan to rotate between various sprays with different modes of action to avoid building up fungal resistance.

What’s Your (Garden Art) Style ???

Perhaps for the quiet, tranquil part of the garden

Perhaps for the quiet, tranquil part of the garden

Maybe your style is tastefully dignified; maybe it’s trash to treasures;  or maybe it’s kitschy outrageous.  Whatever it is, it’s okay!  It is okay because it’s certainly obvious that most of us are not totally satisfied with just garden plantings and nice design.   We put “stuff” in our gardens to add to our aesthetic experience.

I suppose the type of garden art that you have can be dependent upon several things…budget plays a big decision maker at my home;  architectural elements of your home will make a difference;  also, just your own personal likes and dislikes will determine which direction you want to pursue.

St.Louis 019

The Missouri Botanical Gardens have more than enough….I wish I had a garden pool to put these in!

This bronze fairy would bring magic to any garden.

This bronze fairy would bring magic to any garden.


Wind sculpture gives motion to the garden!


Beautiful large glass ornaments floating in your garden pool.







My personal favorite garden art is the trash to treasures mode.  Sometimes it’s a little quirky, not perfect, but pleasing to me.  (maybe just me…but that’s okay too.)  I have examples all over my place.  No fine art here!   Many things I have made, some I have repurposed, a couple I did some dumpster diving for.


Candle lantern made in pottery class…


A ladybug is always a beneficial "bowling ball"!

A ladybug is always a beneficial “bowling ball”!

The little wagon that belonged to a dear friend when he was a little boy....he didn't want it, but I sure did!

The little wagon that belonged to a dear friend when he was a little boy….he didn’t want it, but I sure did!


And then there are the kitschy outrageous folks that like what they like and that’s the end of it.   Again, that’s okay!


Maybe only to be used on our birthday… one for every year!


Our urban chickens know better than this!

Our urban chickens know better than this!

An alternative to rubber mulch for used car tires.

An alternative to rubber mulch for used car tires.


What’s Your Style ? ?





Sycamore Lace Bugs Cause Yellow Leaves

Sycamore Lace Bug

Sycamore Lace Bug

This week I have gotten three samples from the Plant Disease and Insect Clinic with sycamore lace bug, Corythucha ciliata. I had just taken some pictures of these beautiful critters last week when I was in Asheville. They really do a number on sycamore leaves and this time of year heavily infested sycamores look pretty bad. The other lace bugs that are important landscape pests are the azalea lace bug and hawthorn lace bug. Like these, the sycamore lace bug causes stippling damage by piercing the underside of leaves with its stylet and sucking out the fluids. Large yellow and gray areas develop on the top of the leaves. In some cases, most leaves on a tree can be entirely covered in stippling damage.

Sycamore lace bugs are a native insect. They overwinter as adults under bark or in other sheltered spots and become active soon after bud break. They lay eggs in leaves and complete their lifecycle in around 30 days. However, research from China, where this is an invasive pest, shows that at high temperatures this happens much faster, even twice as fast. This suggests that it could be more abundant in hot urban areas where sycamores are often planted in parking lots and along roads. My experience suggests this is true. Sycamores are wetland trees and probably are not very happy in hot, sunny, dry spots, but lace bugs clearly are.

Management of sycamore lace bugs will be similar as for other lace bugs, but you are typically dealing with large trees instead of small azalea bushes or cotoneaster. Thus systemic insecticides applied as a drench can be a good option. Applications of horticultural oil should also help keep abundance low just by killing adults and nymphs that are present.