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! 

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Need ideas for Mom's Day, May 12?

If you're looking for places to take family or friends on Sunday, May 12, here are some ideas. They're free to visit and a great way to enjoy nature. 

  • Take a self-guided tour of MapleWalk, the private garden of Tom Nunnenkamp and Lib Jones, Mecklenburg Master Gardeners Emeritus. The garden covers over two acres. You'll see a variety of flowering plants and trees. Location: 4255 Kingswood Dr. Parking: Park on the street (avoid neighbors' yards).  
  • Walk the paths at UNCC Botanical Gardens. There's the Susie Harwood Garden and the Van Landingham Glen. Location: 9090 Craver Rd. Parking: 5 spaces are at the greenhouse; however, on the weekend, you can park in any space on campus for free without a permit. More details
  • Stroll among the roses at McGill Rose Garden. This garden is a city-supported park. It has been designated an All-America Rose Selections (AARS) public garden, one of only 4 such gardens in North Carolina and one of only 53 in the United States. Location: 940 North Davidson St. Parking: A small parking lot is on site.


In March, this 'Mary Fleming' rhododendron was in full bloom at UNCC Botanical Gardens.


This 'Doublefile Viburnum' at MapleWalk will make you do a double take!

Guidance about lawns 

Did you know: Tall fescue (a cool-season grass) accounts for about 90% of NC Piedmont lawns? Lawn maintenance in May is relatively minimal. Remember: 

Do NOT...

  • Fertilize fescue during late spring or summer
  • Water more than 1 inch per week
  • Mow grass when wet, as it may spread diseases. 


  • Mow frequently, removing less than 1/3 of the height each time you mow 
  • Leave clippings on the ground unless you have too many
  • Keep mower blades sharp to ensure a clean cut. 

Did you know: It was pretty universal for Americans to use clover until the 1940s. Then people started using herbicides to kill off dandelions, plantain and other broadleaf “weeds.” Clover was a casualty.

Take a moment to read this article that lays out 11 benefits of planting clover instead of grass. We know this approach is not for everyone, especially those living in an HOA, but the article is worth a read! 


Photo: Pixabay

Grubs: Pest of the Month

Across the southeast, turfgrass can be attacked by the grub stage of Japanese beetles, masked chafers, May and June beetles, and green June beetles. The Japanese beetle consistently causes the most damage to both turfgrass and ornamentals. And when grub numbers are high enough, the grass may be lifted from the soil because the grubs have eaten the grass roots. What can you do?

  • Maintaining a healthy turf is important to manage pest problems. This involves proper soil preparation prior to turfgrass establishment, proper turfgrass selection for the site, proper installation, and using recommended management practices to assure a healthy lawn.
  • The most common and widely used biological control of grub worms is milky spore disease. Milky spore disease is a soil inhabiting bacterium (Paenibacillus popilliae) that is ingested by the grub during normal feeding. The bacterium then kills the grub and upon desiccation, the grub will release more bacterial spores into the soil. Milky spore disease is nontoxic to plants and other vegetation in the lawn.
  • Another option in biological control of grubs are beneficial nematodes, such as Heterorhabditis bacteriophora. These microscopic organisms will seek out grubs and enter through natural openings in the insect's body. Once inside, they release toxic bacteria that kill the insect rather quickly. The best time to apply beneficial nematodes is when the grubs are in an early larval stage, i.e., when they are small.
  • Also, there are several chemical controls or insecticides you can use to control grubs. We'd encourage you to review this fact sheet for more information about grubs and grub control. 


A white grub. Photo: M Bertone / NCSU Extension

Get ready to pinch, prune and weed!

Have you already removed weeds in your garden? The start of May means more tasks in the garden. Here are some:

  • Don't remove the leaves of spring blubs; instead, let them die-back naturally. This helps them manufacture enough food for next year's blooms.
  • Have you already put mulch around your plants? Applying 1-3 inches can help plants conserve moisture during the heat and humidity we'll soon see in the Piedmont.
  • By the end of May, pinch back perennials to delay flowering and encourage more compact growth and blooms. This may not be your favorite activity, but it will get you the results you want to see in your garden. 
  • Also pinch back the first flowers of summer annuals. Pinching off spent blooms will encourage more blooms later.
  • Prune early flowering trees and shrubs (azaleas, forsythia, spiraea, etc.) as soon as the blooms have faded. Also prune deciduous vines (wisteria, Lady Banks roses) after flowering.
  • If you haven't already, remove the bands from around your trees that were put there last fall to stop cankerworm infestations this spring.

For more gardening tasks, check the list for May.


Master Gardener Gene Proffit places mulch around plants at our Freedom Park Demonstration Garden.

Can you say wabi-sabi?

Have you heard of the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi? This philosophy encourages the acceptance of imperfections and transience, and it has become a recent trend in gardening.

In today’s hectic world, you can let the concept of wabi-sabi take the stress out of your gardening by choosing to appreciate the imperfections of nature. Observing the imperfections can make gardening enjoyable, and allow you to discover beauty that might otherwise be overlooked. And in addition, wabi-sabi gardening can be healthier for the environment!

Implementing this philosophy in your garden might include things such as being more tolerant of insects, using organic or manual weed control, designing more natural areas and having less lawn, and using native plants. Using recycled or upcycled materials in your garden infrastructure is another way to implement this concept.

Not only is this a more relaxing way to garden, but is often a lower maintenance approach than trying to make everything perfect. Embrace the imperfections in your garden and find the beauty that nature has to offer!


Photo: Pixabay

Master Gardeners in the Community

If you've ever met Bill Sloan, you'd remember. It's rare when he's without one of his distinctive, floppy hats, which he wears for sun protection. Bill has been a Mecklenburg Master Gardener for about six years. And there's nothing he hasn't done!

  • Bill teaches horticulture and carpentry classes at the Sheriff Department's Jail-North. About 120 inmates go through the classes each year. The purpose: To equip the men and women with skills that can open up employment opportunities upon their release. Spectrum News recently interviewed some of the women inmates in the carpentry program. The video is 1.41 minutes. Hope you'll watch it!
  • He also teaches classes on pesticides and ornamental turf that prepare individuals pursuing licenses in those fields.
  • Bill has even taught sessions on building raised planting beds, including building a wheelchair-accessible bed at Carolina Medical Center's W.T. Harris location.
  • He frequently visits one of the more than 20 community gardens in the county to advise coordinators on pest and plant issues.
  • He's an experienced Tree Master with TreesCharlotte, and has taught neighborhood organizations about selecting the right fruit trees for our area and demonstrated the correct way to plant them.

He's a highly experienced and knowledgeable Master Gardener and we're glad he's part of the Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardener program!


Bill has mini versions of raised beds to show options available to those interested in building one.


Bill taught members of Reeder Memorial Baptist how to correctly plant fruit trees in their community garden.

Check these upcoming events! 

  • Super Summer Vegetables. May 2, 1:30 p.m.; Matthews Public Library. Sponsored by Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardeners and Matthews Public Library. The session is free. See details
  • Plant Delights' Open Nursery & Garden. May 3-5; May 10-12. A small, family-owned, mail-order nursery; specializes in rare and unusual perennials; open to the public periodically. 9241 Sauls Rd., Raleigh. More details
  • Mother's Day Gift-making for Kids. May 5; 1-3 p.m. at UNCC Botanical Gardens Greenhouse. See details
  • Holy Angels Spring Plant Sale. May 9-10; 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 6600 Wilkinson Blvd, Belmont. Details on Facebook
  • Glencairn BloomFest. May 18; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. 825 Edgemont Ave., Rock Hill. 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.