I'm a Southern woman with family roots in farming. An Appalachain State University graduate, married, and the mother of two grown, and very nice, children. I am recently retired with a long-time hobby of growing flowers, vegetables and houseplants. Now a Master Gardener intern, earned in April 2017, I am excited to give to my community through gardening and gardening related events.
To learn more about the North Carolina State University sponsored Master Gardener program contact your county North Carolina Cooperative Extension office.
But, you don't have to be have certifications to be a good or even great gardener. Nor do you need a class to have fun and have a beautiful garden. Just go outside dig a hole and pop in some seeds and life will happen! Just do it!
The first time I saved seeds it seemed like an awesome project. Nope. Silly me. It is not. It is easy. Mother Nature does all the work. Just leave a plant alone. It will slowly mature and dry up. The seed pods are ready to harvest then. Today I harvested arugula and dill. Come late August, I will sow and they will grow. We can do that here in the coastal plain of North Carolina, grow arugula and dill twice in one year. Sow, I do.
Arugula. Two seed pods. Sixty seeds. Free.
Today's tip: Tease the seeds onto a paper plate. They are easier to pour into an envelop or jar that way.
Note: A packet of organic arugula seed from a reputable seed company sells for $4.20.
Summer squash is no easy vegetable to grow down South. With more than one enemy it's close to a miracle to get any. Too cold/cool and they will not germinate. Lying in wait in the soil, perp #2, are squash borers who bore into the main stem and surreptitiously suck the life out of the plants from the inside out. The parents a bright orange and black flying critter too quick to kill are a sure sign of trouble. Squash bugs, perp #3, look like brown marmorated stink bugs. They lay clusters of down eggs on the tops and undersides of squash leaves. Their nymphs are light grey and black which suck on young fruit until they wither and die. Perp #4 is powdery mildew. Spred by spores it thrives in warm humid weather. Like I said, it's a wonder Southerner gardeners ever get any squash. I kill all squash bugs I see and look for egg clusters which I crush. I pick all wilty leaves, a sign of squash borers and pick off leaves with powdery mildew. A daily chore, I know I will inevitably lose. I also know it is worth the trouble to have them grilled, stuffed, sautéed or casseroled for dinner. Be brave and carry on!
Time is on your side when gardening down South, especially in the coastal plain of North Carolina. If it is not the right time for one plant, hang on, it is for another. It is no longer time for potatoes, but in their place I planted okra. Same with sweet peas. Out they came due to heat. In went field peas, aka Food of the Gods, in their place.
The time for green beans is upon us. Their window of opportunity is short. As the superheated subtropical heat pushes up from the equator, or the arctic air subsides, depending on your point of view, green beans fail. Tricky they are. The plants remain lush and green, the flowers continue to bloom but...the pollen of these self-polinating wonders becomes infertile in the super-charge heat of summer and beans do not form.
Now is also the time when ants emerge hungry. Very hungry. Native ants farm. They farm aphids. Aphids make a sticky sweet substance that ants adore. They suck the life out of the tender tips of plants like green beans for the ants.
Itty bitty baby bean! Victory!
Time has taught me to look for ants crawling up and down the stems of plants. In no time aphids will appear. How do I deal with aphids? I squash them with my bare hands, gentle gardeners. If there are too many? I blast with the garden hose. If that doesn't kill them? I use diatomaceous earth. Take care. It is organic but, like all pesticides, it is indesciminate. It can hurt you too. Read the label. Especially your eyes.
Meanwhile. Sex and murder in the garden! As good as any trashy mystery novel!