Welcome to Garden Zone, the monthly newsletter produced by the Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardener program! For those with Gmail accounts, make sure you  click "View entire message" at the very bottom to see all the info.  

We encourage you to share Garden Zone with friends and neighbors! If you'd like to be removed from future communications, you can unsubscribe (at the bottom of the newsletter), or send us an email.

Say "No" to weeds in your lawn

Our Help Desk volunteers are getting a lot of questions about lawn care! Here are our recommendations: 

    When should you apply weed control?

    • Spring is the best time to prevent weeds by using pre-emergent weed control to prevent weed seeds from germinating. Both cool-season lawns (like tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass) and warm-season lawns (like Bermudagrass and zoysiagrass) can benefit from this. Your first application should occur now.
    • Pre-emergent herbicides work for about three months, so plan on a second application during the summer. 
    • Keep in mind that pre-emergent herbicide products are effective for controlling summer annual grassy weeds such as crabgrass. They do not control perennial weeds such as dallisgrass or dollarweed. They will also have no effect on winter weeds such as chickweed or henbit, which are already growing.

    Should you fertilize?

    • If you have a cool-season lawn, don't heavily fertilize your lawn, if at all, in the spring. Spring feeding encourages growth that will struggle to survive the summer, particularly in drought-prone areas. Save the heavier feedings for fall.
    • For warm-season grasses, fertilize in late spring as soon as the lawn greens up and begins actively growing. This is usually in April or May.
    • Avoid ‘weed and feed’ products that contain fertilizer in addition to herbicide. If the weed-destroying chemicals build up, they can harm turfgrasses. Read the product label carefully and follow the instructions.

    Helpful resources

    Here's a great resource on Carolina Lawns. Scroll down the publication to see timing for fertilizing established lawns. 


    Summer annual weed: crabgrass; Photo: NCSU


    Winter weed: henbit; Photo: NCSU

    Get ready for spring!

    The Piedmont region is not "home free" from frost until around April 15; however, there are several things you can do in March to get your gardens ready for warmer weather.

    • Fertilize your perennial beds; slow release organic fertilizers work best.
    • Divide and replant daylilies, hostas and peonies when new growth is 1-2 inches high.
    • Cut back plants that were left for winter interest, including grasses and seed heads. Also, cut back dead and old foliage from ferns. 
    • Deadhead daffodils when the blooms fade, but allow the foliage to die back naturally to store nutrients for the next growing season. Pansies benefit from deadheading, as well.
    • Repot houseplants and begin putting them outside on warmer days.
    • For vegetable gardeners, plant cool season crops – like lettuce, kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage and carrots. 
    • Remove tree banding in mid- to late March so beetles can climb the trees and eat any cankerworms.    
    • Don't forget to clean and sharpen your gardening tools before spring arrives!

    Check other gardening tasks for March

    The Master Gardener program offers a monthly to-do list of things to check in your yard and garden. You can find that calendar here.


    Photo: Pixabay

    Native plants matter 

    As you think about new plants to add to your garden, consider natives! Native plants are those that occur naturally in a region in which they evolved. Without them, and the insects that co-evolved with them, local birds cannot survive.

    Unfortunately, many of the plants available in nurseries are species from other countries. And some of those have become invasive pests (English ivy, for example), outcompeting native species and taking over habitats in natural areas.

    You can help birds and other wildlife by selecting native plants when making your landscaping decisions.

    For plant ideas, see this resource called Favorite Natives for NC Gardens. It includes bloom times and light requirements. 

    We also encourage you to check out the list of invasive plants in NC


    Pollinators love native plant Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum)

    Everything about orchids

    Did you know that orchids are one of the largest families of flowering plants? The Orchidaceae have about 28,000 species, distributed in about 763 genera. That's a lot!

    We're offering our readers a free, fully online, self-paced class on orchids through May 6. 

    Whether you are new to orchids or a seasoned grower, this class will help you get started and offer tips to elevate your collection. 

    The online course is a partnership between Longwood Gardens, one of the country's premier horticultural display gardens, and NC State. Located in Pennsylvania, Longwood has over 1,000 acres of gardens, woodlands and meadows and is open to visitors year-round. 

    You can enroll here! Another option: This one-page fact sheet on orchids.


    Photo: Longwood Gardens

    N.C.'s newest crop? Industrial hemp!

    Did you know that NC State has an agricultural pilot program for growing industrial hemp? Hemp is grown for three main reasons -- fiber, grain and floral materials. To be clear, this hemp is NOT used for the production of psychoactive marijuana products, and there is very strict oversight of farmers who are part of the pilot program.

    Ways hemp is used:

    • to create paper products, as well as textiles like fabric for clothing, rope and canvas 
    • as a petroleum substitute in the creation of biofuels and bioplastics
    • the grain is used for human food such as granola bars and protein powders
    • pressed seed oil from the grain is used like sunflower seed oil
    • the floral materials are sold to extraction companies to remove the chemical oils/extracts that the hemp flower produces.

    The NC pilot program may provide an additional source of income to existing farmers who are struggling with the decline of other crops. 

    For more information, see this FAQ


    Photo: NCSU

    Master Gardeners in the Community

    Hallie Walker's love of gardening and teaching is evident in almost everything she does. She's a former biology teacher. And, one of her first jobs as a Master Gardener, almost 10 years ago, was chairing the Community Education committee where Master Gardeners would provide monthly gardening and horticulture programs at Recreation Centers across Mecklenburg County. 

    Today, Hallie is leading a partnership with the Matthews Public Library where a series of seven gardening programs are offered to the public. Topics to date: what you need to know about invasive plants; an introduction to pruning; landscaping design basics; and, bringing the outdoors indoors during the holidays. 

    The programs are free and taught by experienced Master Gardeners like Hallie, Margaret Genkins and Sandy Fussell. The next program is March 14 (see "upcoming events" below).  

    Hallie is also a member of the North Carolina Native Plant Society and her garden is certified as a Native Plant Habitat. 


    Check these upcoming events! 

    • Charlotte Camellia Society's Annual Flower Show. March 9; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Location: MapleWalk, garden of Tom Nunnenkamp and Lib Jones, Master Gardeners Emeritus; 4255 Kingswood Rd., Charlotte. Free event; park on the street. 
    • Landscape for Life: Designing a Sustainable Garden. March 11; 7-9 p.m. UNC-Charlotte Botanical Gardens. More details
    • Going Native for Blooms, Birds and Bees. March 14; 1:30-2:30 p.m. Sponsored by Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardeners and Matthews Public Library. The session is free. See details.
    • Orchid Show. March 15-17; 1-5 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sat/Sun. Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. For details.
    • Hay Bales to Flower Fields with Augustus Jenks Farmer​. March 19; 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sponsored by Wing Haven. More details.

    Visit our booth at a farmers market!

    Bring your questions and samples of your problem plants or mystery pests to the Master Gardener booth at one of these farmers markets:

    • Matthews Farmers Market -- We're there the 1st Saturday of each month; 8 a.m.-noon
    • Davidson Farmers Market -- You'll see us the 3rd Saturday of each month; 9 a.m.-noon
    • Charlotte Farmers Market -- Our Master Gardener group will be there on Saturdays starting April 13; 8 a.m.-noon

    Or, send us questions online

    Follow us on Social media


    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.