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County Extension

  • Saturated soils cause root-related problems

    The weather of late reminds me of the tired, old joke about the disgruntled restaurant patron who asks the surly waiter, “What’s a fly doing in my soup?” A cursory glance brought the comment, “It looks like the backstroke, sir.”

    Backstroke, butterfly or freestyle, lots of us have been dealing with too much water lately. While that may be only a minor inconvenience for most of us solved with a good umbrella, our plants aren’t so fortunate. Saturated soils mean we will see lots of root-related problems.

  • Where do you store your butter?

    So, what are your thoughts? Do you keep your butter at room temperature, in the refrigerator or in the freezer?

    If you read this column frequently, you know I frequently stress the “two-hour” rule that states perishable foods should never be left at room temperature for more than two hours.

    Why? At the two-hour mark, there has been enough time for any bacteria in or on the food to have multiplied to a level that could make someone sick.

  • Crape myrtles are hot-weather high performers

    Summer may be the time for kicking back and relaxing for humans, but it’s a stressful time in the garden. Hot days, warm nights and short-term droughts conspire to send those plants that prefer the cooler times into horticultural heaven sometimes known as the compost pile. But, if you want easy summer living in the garden and you want to show your team spirit, crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia sp.) are hot-weather high performers.

  • More on eating beans

    In last week’s column I made the case for replacing some of the meat in your diet with beans. Overall, beans have fewer calories and saturated fats and more fiber than meat. I’m not talking about green beans or string beans, but those that are called “dry” beans. These are beans like kidney, black, pinto, garbanzo and navy.

  • Ground pearls remain local lawn scourge

    Thirty-two years ago, I was a young Extension agent working in Cumberland County. The sandy soils around Fayetteville have many of the same problems that make growing grass such a challenge here in the Wilmington area, with the scale insect we call ground pearls being at the top of the most-hated list.

  • Oh my, gas!

    The research is in. Beans are in!

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s My Plate Food Guide classifies beans as both a high-protein food such as lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs and nuts, and in the vegetable group.

  • Mother’s Day lesson: bloom where you are planted

    Last Sunday was Mother’s Day. Mothers certainly deserve a day of recognition. After all, none of us would be here without a mother. And, if you’re like me, you put yours through more than a few trials and tribulations.

    Even so, many of us had more of a Joan Crawford rather than June Cleaver experience. If you’re still blaming your mom for your problems 25 years hence, save yourself a few hours on the shrink’s couch and let it go. She was doing the best she could with what she had to work with.

  • It’s strawberry time again!

    I consider it a true sign of spring when local strawberries are available. By the numbers of people at the local pick-your-own patches I’m guess other people feel the same way.

    The season had a slow start with the colder temperatures and near freezing nights earlier in the year. But, according to Al Hight from Brunswick Berries, this week and next should be the prime season and, if Mother Nature continues to be favorable, we will have berries through Memorial Day. 

  • Facing garden challenges like weeds, insects and diseases

    Working with people to make their gardens better affords me the opportunity to see a lot of the challenges you’re facing with diseases, insects and weeds. Winter weeds, aphids and fire blight are the favorite topics for this week.

  • Reluctant spring challenges gardeners

    April hasn’t felt much like spring so far. We were teased with a couple of days in the 80s that reminded us of

    beaches, sand bar parties, shrimp boiled in beer, guys in really short shorts and girls with big hair. Or, maybe that was just me.

    Regardless of your warm-weather memories, the reluctant spring continues to be a challenge in the garden. Soil temperatures are in the mid-60s, so our lawns, newly-planted flowers and shrubs aren’t doing what they normally do.