Welcome to Garden Zone, the monthly newsletter produced by the Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardener program! ​​We encourage you to share Garden Zone with friends and neighbors! They can subscribe here

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Don't forget: Dad's Day is June 16

If you're looking for ideas, consider honoring or remembering someone you hold dear by giving the gift of a tree. 

  • Give a gift card to the individual to buy a tree to plant later this year in their garden. 
  • Make a donation to TreesCharlotte to plant a tree for the individual at an area school during the tree planting season. For details
  • Through Mecklenburg County Park & Rec, you can have a tree or bench installed in a local park to commemorate a loved one.  See details .

Other organizations -- for example, Arbor Day Foundation and U.S. Forest Service -- offer similar programs. It's a gift that can honor a loved one for years to come.


Give your garden plenty of TLC!

Summer officially arrives on June 21! Get ready for hotter temperatures! 

  • It's time to remove leaves that have turned brown on most spring bulbs.
  • Fertilize roses after the first blooms with a rose fertilizer or slow release tree/shrub fertilizer. Continue to remove dying leaves and stems. 
  • It's also time to plant warm season crops -- like sweet potatoes and okra. Wait until after June 20 to plant peas and fall tomatoes to avoid certain pests that attack these plants. Lightly side-dress vegetables that are begining to yield produce with a complete fertilizer.  
  • Monitor your plants for any garden pests! That includes scale, spider mites, lacebugs, leaf miners, spittlebugs or leaf hoppers. 
  • Prune nonblooming evergreens by July as they need to be reshaped.
  • Japanese beetles will begin to appear. You can either ignore some damage or apply a pesticide (please follow label directions).

For more gardening tasks, check the list for June


Azalea lace bugs (Stephanitis pyrioides) are one of the most damaging pest of evergreen azaleas. High temperatures lead to greater abundance and damage. Photo: SD Frank/NCSU

What the heck is happening to my [fill in the blank]?!

Do you have problem plants, mystery pests or lawn-care issues? Our Master Gardener volunteers can help! We provide research-based guidance to address your garden, lawn and landscape needs.

Send us an email and attach a photo, which can help us diagnose the problem. You can also call us at 980-314-1409, but it's always helpful to have a photo or two to see.


Master Gardener Art Smith is one of many volunteers who staff our Help Desk.

Pest of the Month: Squash Bug (Anasa tristis)

Squash bugs can attack squash, zucchini, pumpkin, cantaloupe, cucumber, gourds and watermelon plants (curcurbits). They feed on the sap of the plant and can also deposit groups of about 20 eggs on the top, underside and stem of the plant. If the eggs go undetected and hatch, the young bugs get in on the action and can take out your entire crop.

Remove and destroy any adult insects, eggs or hatched nymphs you find on or around the plant. The best way is to just physically remove them. It’s your choice whether you want to squish them with your hands (ugh!) or put them in soapy water. The adults are a dark gray in color, about ½” long, flat in appearance, with a triangular pattern on top (behind the thorax) and piercing-sucking mouth parts. The nymphs have gray bodies and black legs that resemble tiny spiders but with only six legs (spiders have 8).

Try to avoid using a chemical to control this pest. It will kill your squash bugs but also take out other insects, including beneficial insects. You will also spread the chemical to the actively growing vegetables.

Squash bugs nest and overwinter in the dead leaves so make sure you clean up your vegetable debris during and at the end of the season.


Squash bug


Photos: NCSU Extension

Is hydroponic gardening in your future?

Have you heard of hydroponic gardening? This method uses nutrient rich water instead of soil to grow plants. With the advent of easy-to-build systems, or prebuilt systems available at your local garden center, hydroponic gardening is now within reach of the home enthusiast. This gardening technique is a wonderful way to get fresh vegetables and herbs, even if you have limited space available for gardening. And it is a lower maintenance approach, with no weeds, no pesticides and minimal involvement!

If you have your hydroponic garden in an indoors location, choose a sunny window spot and perhaps supplement it with grow lights. If you have your hydroponic garden in an outdoor location, make sure the sunlight is adequate but not overwhelming.

Some of the plants best suited to hydroponics are leafy salad vegetables, although you can certainly experiment to see what works best for you! Small rooted, short season crops will typically perform better with this technique. Imagine a fresh spring salad using your very own just-picked greens – delicious!

For more details, see this example of an easily constructed hydroponic setup.


Photo: NCSU

Master Gardeners in the Community

If you visit Winterfield Community Garden, don't be surprised to see children planting vegetables in the raised beds or making bird feeders at the picnic table or hearing a story under the gazebo. Located across from Winterfield Elementary School, the garden has 18 beds that are used to teach children all aspects of gardening. 

There's an after-school program, called the Garden Buds, where 15 children in first through fifth grade meet once a week during the school year (except in January) for hands-on experiences with gardening. There's even a field trip to a local garden. Also, each spring, all 120 third-graders learn about soil, composting and how to plant cabbage.

The program has great support -- from the neighborhood, which is mostly low income, the school, the city and Park & Rec. The motivating force has been Carla Vitez who got the program going 10 years ago and serves as coach, educator, adviser and cheerleader. Carla has also been instrumental in helping the program get grants for things like a water line and raised beds.

Carla is quick to point out that it's the generous support of the neighborhood and other volunteers that makes it a successful program. But it's her passion for gardening and helping children learn the basics that's the foundation. 

Hats off to Carla for all her work to make this program an ongoing success! She went through the very first Mecklenburg Ext. Master Gardener program in the late 80s. 


Carla begins each Garden Bud session by reading a book to the kids in the gazebo.


A recent session included making bird feeders from pine cones, peanut butter and bird seed.


Carla arranged a field trip for the children to Wing Haven. It was the first time many of them had been to that area of Charlotte. They loved it!

Congrats to the grads!

Congrats to 15 folks who completed 70 hours of classroom training in the Master Gardener program! Once they finish 40 hours of volunteer requirements, they'll become certified Mecklenburg Ext. Master Gardener volunteers! 


Team photo at Bartlett Tree Research Lab & Arboretum. One student is not shown as she was out of town.

Check these upcoming events! 

  • Grandiflora: Gamrath Glass at the Garden. Now through Sept. 29; Tickets for day or night. Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, Belmont. See details
  • Butterfly Bungalow. Now through Sept. 22. Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, Belmont. More details
  • Duke Mansion Home & Garden Tour 2019.  June 16; 1-8 pm. Free self-guided tour of this landmark historic inn and meeting place. Requires an RSVP. 400 Hermitage Rd., Charlotte. Sign up!
  • Gardening Basics -- Succulents. June 22; 1-3:30 p.m. Latta Nature Preserve, Huntersville. Details

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The Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardener Volunteer (EMGV) program operates under the Mecklenburg Center of the NC Cooperative Extension Service (NCCES), a part of NC State University and NC A&T State University. 

NCCES is a part of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation.

NC State University and N.C. A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity and prohibit discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, gender identify, genetic information, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation and veteran status. NC State, N.C. A&T, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.