Good Bug, Bad Bug Class July 16

Gardening in the Mountains presents:
Good Bug, Bad Bug
July 16, 2015
10:00-11:30 am

Buncombe County Extension Office Classroom
94 Coxe Avenue, Asheville

Presenters: Debbie Green and Bob Wardwell

imageDo you assume that any insect you see in your garden is a “bad bug”? Or do you recognize that some insects are “good bugs”? If you want to learn how to decide which insects are harmful or beneficial and what you should – or shouldn’t – do, come learn the basics of insect identification and Integrated Pest Management. Bring insects (in a bug-proof container, please!), insect-damaged plant samples or photos if you have specific bugs you would like to identify.

The talk is free but pre-registration is requested by calling 828-255-5522
Free parking is available in the lot across the street on the corner of Coxe and Hilliard Avenues.

Western N.C. foresters seeing two pests emerging in area

Press release

RALEIGH – The N.C. Forest Service is reporting outbreaks of two forest pests that have already had significant impacts on trees in the western part of the state.
“Oaks in Western North Carolina, particularly red oaks, are losing leaves as a result of oak leaf blister, a disease caused by a fungus,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “In addition, foresters are reporting damage from yellow-poplar leaf mining weevil, which is causing widespread browning and defoliation on yellow-poplar trees.”
Most years, oak leaf disease is of minor consequence and fluctuations are typically associated with early spring weather, said State Forester David Lane. “Oak tree leaves will have light green, yellow or white leaf spots. As the disease progresses, the spots form yellow or brown puckered lesions or blisters,” Lane said. “When the infection is severe, the entire leaf yellows, curls and drops prematurely.”
Chemical control is not needed, as the disease affects only the leaves and, as with most defoliating pests, a single year of defoliation will not affect the long-term health of the tree, Lane said. Landowners are instead encouraged to maintain general tree health, such as watering during dry periods.
The yellow-poplar leaf mining weevil is damaging mostly yellow-poplars, but it can also attack magnolias and sassafras trees, Lane said. Adult weevils feed on leaf tissue in April and May. They then mate, lay eggs, and when the immature weevils emerge in early summer, they mine the leaf, or feed on the internal tissues. As a result, the leaves die and turn brown.
Most years, infestations are not widespread and are generally not considered a threat to yellow-poplar timber, Lane said. Outbreaks have been recorded in the Eastern U.S. since 1960. During the 1960s, outbreaks similar to the ones being seen now caused significant foliage loss on yellow-poplar in the Appalachian Mountain region, Lane said.
Foliage destruction temporarily reduces the aesthetic values of landscape trees. To manage the pest, promoting general tree health is best. The outbreak should subside on its own, especially with the help of native wasps, which destroy up to 50 percent of the weevil larvae, Lane said.

A cover crop can fill a gap in your garden.

July2010-005-2Are you going to have a gap in your vegetable garden this summer? Maybe the spring peas are gone and the beans soon will be too. It’s too early for the fall crop to be planted so now there’s an empty space that’s just sitting there. And growing weeds! Think about getting in a quick cover crop that can mature and be turned under before you need that space for the fall garden.

NCSU Extension Horticultural Information Leaflet Summer Cover Crops points out that the use of short season annual legumes or grasses as cover crops can provide nitrogen for subsequent crops, reduce soil erosion and suppress those weeds.

Choose carefully or your cover crop may become a dreaded weed. Don’t be like the gentleman who purchased a pound of “grass seed” from the local hardware store, strewed it over the open area and then, in mid-October, asked when he’d be able to plant his peas because “that grass keeps growing.”

better_flowering_buckwheat_with_bee-2One option is buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) a very rapidly-growing, broadleaf summer annual which can flower in 4 to 6 weeks. The optimal time for incorporation is a week after flowering but before seed is set.
There are other options so check the garden centers to see what they have. It wouldn’t hurt to plan your winter cover crops too.

For more information:

Cover Crops for Organic Farms

Summer Cover Crops

Winter Cover Crops


Are Knock Out roses really the easiest roses to grow?

Knock Out Roses

Actually, Knock Out roses are akin to hit movies — they are showing everywhere, there are many “sequels” and they are even spawning merchandise capitalizing on their name. Resistant to black spot, these roses have a long blooming season, without the need for deadheading. They are relatively heat and cold tolerant, making them admirable performers in much of the United States. That said, they are shrub roses, not a new species, and benefit from the same care as other shrub roses, such as proper planting, fertilizing and annual pruning.

The first Knock Out rose, bred by William Radler, received an All American Rose Selection award in 2000. A whole family of other Knock Out roses — a double red, pink single, pink double, as well as Blushing, Rainbow and Sunny varieties now join the cherry–red, single-flowered original. These may differ in some ways besides flower form and color. The yellow Sunny Knock Out, for example, is the only fragrant Knock Out rose, and may get a little taller than its relatives.

Although Knock Out roses are black-spot resistant, Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service researchers report them susceptible to less familiar rose diseases, such as rose Cercospora leaf spot, which causes leaf yellowing and premature leaf drop. With the arrival of rose rosette disease to North Carolina, many Knock Outs have succumbed, perhaps because they are used in many home landscapes, as well as in mass plantings, making it easier for mites to spread this viral disease.

If the Knock Outs have given you courage to grow roses, branch out and make your landscape your own! If you want low maintenance, look for other varieties that do well without extra care. These include many older rose varieties, such as the small rose “The Fairy,” shrub roses, such as “Care-free Beauty” and even large climbers, such as “New Dawn.”

Give any rose at least six hours of sun in soil with a pH of at least 5.5; don’t overdo lime. Fertilize with balanced fertilizer from early spring to August. Keep watered and mulched. Prune your roses in early spring, removing dead, diseased or crossing shoots.

For more information about rose care see:

For more information about rose rosette disease:

A word about pesticides…

…with some words about systemicsimage
The number of different pestiicides on a garden center’s shelves can be overwhelming so here’s a very basic guide to making a choice.

First, of course, is to answer the question: “Is the damage severe enough that you really need to use a pesticide.” Perfect really isn’t natural, and it comes at a cost. If “yes”, be very sure that you’ve identified the culprit, the type of insect or disease that is damaging your plants, so you know which shelves you should search. Insecticides don’t do much to cure a fungal or nutritional problem. And an herbicide would eliminate the problem by killing the plant. The large print on the label gives you this information.

imageNow, put your glasses on. Just like a contract, you’ll need to read the fine print. Find a product that lists your problem on the label. Then try to determine how the material will be applied. Do you need a sprayer? This information may be on a part of the instructions that is folded or wrapped so that you can’t get to it without breaking some type of seal. In that case, ask! You want to be able to apply it when you get home.

Unless you have used the product before buy the smallest amount possible. See if it works. You don’t want too much as it’s best not to store a pesticide for any length of time.
Ready to use (RTU) versus the concentrated mix-it-yourself: With RTU you’re paying for convenience in not having to do the measuring and mixing, and in many cases the sprayer is provided.

Pesticides are also classified by mode of action. Some must contact the bug or fungus directly. Others need to be ingested by the insect. Or be repulsive. Systemics though are absorbed by the plant and actually get into the circulatory system of the plant. Glyphosate (as in Roundup) is a systemic weed killer. You need to use special care with such formulations.

Another very important example: Imidacloprid is a systemic insecticide that has been quite successful in controlling the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid as well as many other insects that chew on leaves and stems ornamental plants. Unfortunately that includes those that use imagepollen from buds and flowers including, most importantly our friends, the bees and other insects who carry that pollen home and feed it in some form to their young ones. Our farms and gardens will be in sorry shape without the pollinators. In fact we’re already approaching the critical point with those populations.

The North Carolina Agricultural Chemical Manual in a table labeled Relative Toxicity of Pesticides to Honey Bees lists imidacloprid along with other systemics under the heading of Group 1 Highly Toxic, warning that “Severe bee losses may be expected if these pesticides are used when bees are present and foraging in the flowers, or the product is applied near beehives.” The same warning is in the label.

Bottom Line: Read the label before you buy and again before you apply. And follow it when using any pesticide!

For more information:

Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Website

Pesticide Use and Safety

Disease & Insect Management in the Home Orchard


The Story of a School Garden


The Buncombe County Extension Master Gardeners School Garden Grant Program provides grants to local schools to establish and support school garden programs.  Proceeds of the upcoming Garden Tour benefit this program and other community outreach initiatives.  This year our Garden Tour begins at Enka High School where you will pick up your program, etc. and see the results of Enka High School’s garden grant.  

The following pictures are a story. Written over the last few months, the story is of students who have worked hard in conjunction with a team of Extension Master Gardeners to open up our biennial tour of area gardens. Hopefully you will enjoy this story:

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Garden Tour is June 13th!

imageBuncombe County Extension Master Gardener volunteers (EMGs) will host a garden tour entitled “Explore.Learn.Grow!” on Saturday, June 13, 2015 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Six private gardens and one school garden in the Biltmore Lake and Candler areas will be open to the public for this self-guided tour. The tour is capped at 500 tickets.

Tickets, $15 in advance and $20 day of the tour, if available, may be ordered online through Thursday June 11th by clicking HERE. They may also be purchased at the Cooperative Extension Offices, 94 Coxe Avenue, Asheville. For more information, call 828-255-5522.

The Master Gardener volunteers have held an education-based garden tour biennially since 2007. Here is a chance for local gardeners and garden lovers to get answers to their questions. Organized around the garden owners’ experiences working their own spaces, the tour will be full of practical information. These gardens provide examples of plant selection and maintenance, working in harmony with the environment, dealing with pests and diseases, gardening on a slope and adding edibles to the landscape, along with other areas of gardening interest. Docents will be on hand in each of the gardens to answer questions and point out interesting features and notable plants.

The tour begins at Enka High School, 475 Enka Lake Road in Candler. The Enka High School garden includes two greenhouses, a chicken coop, and even a pig pen! The school is a new recipient of a school gardening grant from the Buncombe County EMGs. Along with the financial grant, master gardener volunteers provide hours of hands-on support for students and teachers.

Dahlia detail

Following the Enka High garden, six residential gardens are included on the tour. Four gardens are located in Biltmore Lake and two in the nearby Candler area, all are the home gardens of master gardeners. These gardens represent a variety in their size, age, and management of landscape and resources.
A selection of tour sponsors will have garden related items for sale at Enka High School. Tour sponsors include Appalachian Creek Garden Center & Landscape, Air Vent Exteriors, Biltmore, B.B. Barns, Ace Hardware, Asheville Mulch Yard, AgCare Products, Inc., The Artisan Cafe, Arborcare of Asheville, Asheville-Blue Ridge Rose Society, Blue Ridge Daylilies, Earth Fare, M.E. Gray, Keller Williams, JB Graphics, Inc., Greater Scapes Landscaping & Lawncare, Bill Pomeroy, Oppenheimer & Co., Jesse Israel and Sons Nursery, K2 Irrigation Services, Inc., Painters Greenhouse, Reems Creek Nursery, Snow Creek Landscaping, Sow True Seed, The Spa at Biltmore Village, Thyme in the Garden, Tupelo Honey Cafe, WNC Daylily Club. Supporters are: The Asheville Garden Club, Friends of the Earth Garden Club, and Sandy Mush Herb Nursery.
For more information, visit or call the NC Cooperative Extension offices at 828-255-5522.

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

Container Gardening Talk

IMG_1220Gardening in the Mountains presents:
Container Gardening
Thursday, June 18, 2015
10:00 – 11:30 am

Buncombe County Extension Classroom
94 Coxe Avenue, Asheville

Lack of space does not have to prevent you from growing a flower, herb or vegetable garden. Container gardening is the answer. Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Debbie Wood will provide guidelines for soil, containers, plant selection and maintenance. After this session, let your imagination go wild.

The talk is free but pre-registration is requested by calling 828-255-5522.
Free parking is available in the lot across the street on the corner of Coxe and Hilliard Avenues.

Get the Buzz on Honeybees at the upcoming EMG Garden Tour

honey beeYou’ve likely heard that beekeeping, or apiculture, is a growing trend among gardeners who want to help stem the alarming rate of decline in honeybee populations. For the last two decades, bee populations have been under serious pressure from a mystery problem called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Experts disagree as to the exact cause, but it appears to render honeybees more susceptible to a host of pathogens, stemming from nutrition problems from lack of diversity in available pollen and nectar sources and possible sub-lethal effects of pesticides.

honey bee with pollen loadIf you’re concerned about the fate of honeybees, you will enjoy visiting one of the gardens featured on this year’s EMG Garden Tour, which features an apiary. Even if you’ve decided that apiculture isn’t for you, you can still learn how to use your landscape to help local bee populations find forage.

Honeybees gather nectar and pollen from flowers, a process called pollination, to make honey. It’s fascinating to watch honeybees visiting flowers with their back legs laden with bright yellow pollen bundles!bee-flower

To attract bees, plant a diverse array of native wildflowers and avoid pesticides. Honeybees are particularly attracted to flowers with a single row of petals such as asters, cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers and zinnias. Yellow, white, blue and purple flowers attract bees more than pinks, oranges and reds, yet an environment of year-round, uninterrupted bloom creates the ideal environment for honeybee colony reproduction. Don’t forget to also let some herbs and vegetables go to flower for the honeybees!

European_honeybeeIf you grow edibles, thank honeybees for pollinating tree fruits, nuts, many vegetables and melons. It’s estimated that honeybees are responsible for one-third of everything that people eat every day!


Snake in the Garden

Timber Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake

The snake lies coiled, aware of me long before I see it. Only feet away, I have been lost in the summer heat, weeding a rocky slope, my mind miles away. Catching it out the corner of my eye, I scream and jump backwards simultaneously. Now what?

My first impulse is to grab a shovel and kill that snake. Instead, I reach for my phone, and take its picture to identify it later. Then I back away, allowing the snake to move along.

Copperhead Snake

Copperhead Snake

Western North Carolina has many snake species. Only two, the timber rattlesnake and the copperhead, are poisonous. These two, both pit vipers, have hollow fangs to inject a large amount of venom into their prey when hunting, but in defensive strikes often release no venom. A pit viper bite produces one or two puncture wounds, while nonvenomous snakes‘ small teeth make only horseshoe-shaped scratches.

Pit vipers have small pits on their heads between their eyes and nostrils that serve as “heat detectors,” to help sense prey. Another identifier is their triangular-shaped head. Some nonvenomous snakes flatten their heads into a triangular shape when aggravated, however. Another complicating factor in identifying snakes is that juveniles can look different from the mature reptile.

Rattlers or copperheads have “cat’s eye” pupils, while nonvenomous snakes have round pupils, but who wants to look a snake in the eye? If you could see their bellies, venomous snakes have one row of scales below the anal vent, and nonvenomous ones will have divided scales below the anal vent. But don’t try flipping a snake over to check!

Snakes eat many creatures that gardeners don’t want around, including rodents, insects and smaller snakes. Being part of the food chain, they are also food for some birds. I have a large resident black snake in my stone wall that helps keep the chipmunks, moles and voles in check.


imageSo, instead of killing that snake in your garden, consider leaving it alone; 80% of bites occur when trying to kill or handle a snake. When gardening, be aware. Turn over rocks with a long handled implement and use a hoe or shovel to check around grasses or shrubs while working. Keep lawns mown and weeds under control. There is no need to be afraid, just be observant.