The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

Garden Tips

May 10, 2013

Ask A Master Gardener

TARBORO — Judi L. (Tarboro) Asks: My azaleas are just about finished blooming and some of the blooms are turning brown.  Am I supposed to cut them back now?

Answer: Yes.  You can prune your azaleas now through early July, and also your forsythia and other flowering shrubs, as long as the blooms are spent and faded. It’s also a good idea to cut back the leggy branches, but please don’t overdo it!   Allow the plants to take on their own natural form.  Don’t destroy this natural look by shaping your shrub into round balls or square boxes.  And, remember: you should never prune away more than one-third of the overall plant.  Be sure you are finished pruning by the end of July and you will have avoided the summer heat. Remove all the spent blooms on the ground to prevent any chance of disease and give the shrub a layer of fresh mulch.

Note: Pruning after July may destroy next year’s flower buds.

Laura L. (Tarboro) Asks – What would cause stems with 1-inch-diameter peonies buds to suddenly curve downward? The foliage is still upright and strong.

Answer - Most peony varieties have heavy buds and heads, and they will droop from the weight of the bloom, due to weak stems. That particular variety of peony may have stems that are weaker. When there is heavy rain, the buds and blooms become heavier and need to be staked and supported. Because no one can predict the weather, it is a good practice to put braces around all peony clumps. Most garden centers will carry peony supports or you can fashion one out of a tomato cage.

Laura L. (Tarboro) Asks – Please tell me more about growing peonies.  I am new at this.

Answer: Peonies are a lovely, old-fashioned perennial that will add beauty and heavenly scent to your garden for many years. If you're looking for a flowering plant that deer won't eat, peonies are an excellent choice. Peonies will grow in much of the US but they do require a period of dormancy, and most varieties won't survive in growing zones of 9-10 and higher.

Tips: Plant peonies in the late summer to early fall, at least six weeks before the ground typically freezes in your area.  Choose the location for your peonies carefully as once established, peony plants do not like to be disturbed.  Plant them in a location where they will receive at least 6-8 hours of full sunlight daily during the growing season. Peonies won’t grow well in wet soil or clay, but a raised bed will help avoid these problems.

James L. (Tarboro) Asks - Planting instructions call for liberal quantities of organic matter. What is organic matter?

Answer: One definition of organic matter would be material that is derived from living or once-living plants or animals. In gardening, it usually means plant or animal material that has decomposed to the point of being mixed in various types of soil to amend it to make nutrients more available to the plants. It includes mostly decomposed manure, compost, or peat moss. Soil testing will let you know how much to add to soil along with any nutrients that are lacking, so you will know how much fertilizer to add. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for more information on soil testing options.

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Garden Tips
  • Ask A Master Gardener

    Judi L. (Tarboro) Asks: My azaleas are just about finished blooming and some of the blooms are turning brown.  Am I supposed to cut them back now?

    May 10, 2013

  • Worm.jpg Ask A Master Gardener

    Ben B. (Tarboro) Asks: Is the Cooperative Extension Center planning a workshop about rain barrel irrigation?  I hear it’s a great way to keep a ready supply of free water for the garden and I think there are a lot of folks in this area that would want to learn more about it.

    May 3, 2013 2 Photos

  • poa annua.jpg Ask A Master Gardener

    Millie H. (Pinetops) Asks: I’ve attached a photo of a weed in my lawn that I’ve always called “pee grass.”  What should I do to control this weed in my lawn ?
    Answer: It’s called Poa Annua, or Annual Bluegrass  -  an annual weed that looks similar to a regular lawn grass for a short while. It has shallow roots, and develops a short seed head early in the season. By the time summer heat hits, the weed goes dormant, leaving big brown areas in the lawn.

    April 12, 2013 1 Photo

  • GARDENER-hosta.jpg "Ask A Master Gardener"

    J. Winslow (Tarboro) asks-  I want to put some half rotten logs around-and in-my garden but wonder if the combustion process involved in their further decomposition would damage or detract from the growth of the surrounding plants.

    April 5, 2013 1 Photo

  • 10158.jpg What's Eating My Potatoes?

    Potatoes are a fun crop to grow, especially when it comes time to dig for those buried treasures. Unfortunately, there are numerous pests that are also fond of potatoes. Here are the most common and what to do about them.

    May 17, 2011 1 Photo

  • 10520_aUSE.jpg Pest Prevention: Three Easy DIY Tips


    (Family Features) Each year, uncontrolled bugs, including, beetles, cockroaches, ants, centipedes, sow bugs and box elder bugs, are a relentless annoyance that homeowners across the country fight to keep out of their homes.

    May 11, 2011 1 Photo

  • 10236.jpg Planting a Rain Garden

    (Family Features) Storm water runoff can be a big problem during heavy thunderstorms. As the water rushes across roofs and driveways, it picks up oil and other pollutants. Municipal storm water treatment plants often can't handle the deluge of water, and in many locations the untreated water ends up in natural waterways. The EPA estimates as much as 70 percent of the pollution in our streams, rivers, and lakes is carried there by storm water.

    May 4, 2011 1 Photo

  • 10551.jpg Planning an Outdoor Oasis

     If it's time to think about making some improvements or additions to your home, outside may be the best place to get started.

    April 26, 2011 1 Photo

  • 10561.jpg Controlling Annual Weeds

    (Family Features) Now that the vegetable garden is all planted, not only are your seeded squash, cucumbers, lettuces, beans and carrots coming up, so are the weeds.

    April 21, 2011 1 Photo

  • 10588.jpg Get Your Garden Growing Four Tips for Starting a Garden

     The popularity of gardening is growing. In fact, according to the National Gardening Association,* more than 70 percent of all U.S. households participate in one or more type of do-it-yourself outdoor lawn and garden activity - with flower and vegetable gardening topping the most popular activities.

    April 19, 2011 1 Photo

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