Welcome to the first edition of Garden Zone, the monthly newsletter produced by the Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardener program. You'll find information ranging from lawn care and native plants to garden pests and emerging issues. 

If you find this information helpful, we hope you'll share it 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.

What is a Master Gardener? 

​Our mission is to educate people of all ages on horticulture and gardening best practices using unbiased, research-based information. We believe this sets us apart from other gardening organizations. 

To be certified as a Master Gardener Volunteer in Mecklenburg County, you must complete 70 hours of classroom training and 40 hours of volunteer requirements. Once certified, other education and volunteer hours must be met each year.

Training for the 2019 class started Jan. 8. Applications for the 2020 program will be accepted starting in July. For more details​.


January tasks in the garden

​The Master Gardener program offers a monthly to-do list of things to check in your yard and garden. For example, in January: 

  • During dry weather, don't forget to water your plants. If the ground freezes, any moisture available is inaccessible to roots. 
  • Remove dead, diseased and storm-damaged tree limbs. Hold off on pruning until we're closer to spring (and warmer weather). 
  • Protect broadleaf evergreens with  blankets or burlap (not plastic) during periods of extreme cold.

Check other gardening tasks for January


Photo: Pexels

Ridding your lawn of winter weeds 

​Most lawns are sleeping now but winter weeds are up and growing, waiting until it's time to bloom and make seeds in late winter and early spring. There are numerous selective herbicides available that will do a good job, but you must get the timing right.

  • Spray only when the temperature is at least 55 degrees.
  • Spray 2-3 times from mid-fall through late winter before the weeds disperse seeds.
  • Also, make sure you read the label first to insure you are using the best product for your particular weeds. 

Some of our most common weeds are winter annuals like chickweed, henbit, hairy bittercress and red dead nettle. 

Read more.


Plant: chickweed; photo: NCSU

Expanding community and school gardens in Mecklenburg County

Did you know our Master Gardener volunteers provide guidance to organizations interested in developing successful community- and school-supported gardens? Before reaching out to us, we encourage an organization to have: 

  • One or two volunteers dedicated to the garden's success
  • Adequate funding for installation and ongoing maintenance and support
  • Volunteers signed up to do the physical labor
  • A site identified that receives a minimum of 8 hours of full sun per day and has a convenient water source.

A group can get started by completing the Request a Consultation form on our website. 


The deer are eating my plants!

​Our Help Desk volunteers have heard it all -- including deer eating plants like azaleas and hellebores. What's a gardener to do? We wish we could wave a magic wand! Unfortunately, deer will eat almost anything to survive. Strategies to minimize damage include: 

  • Installing plastic or woven-wire cylinders around trees and shrubs to fence deer out 
  • Placing wire mesh over shrubs or plants
  • Unless very hungry, deer typically do not select medicinal plants, sticky or hairy leaves and stems, and foliage with a lemony or minty fragrance. Planting some of these plants near garden borders may help deter deer.

See other strategies.

As you consider new plants for your yard and garden, check this resource, which lists plants, shrubs and trees that deer typically resist. 


Photo: NCSU

Master Gardeners in the Community

As manager of the Mallard Creek Recreation Center, Stephanie Frisbee is cultivating the next generation of gardeners! Two programs for preschoolers (Little Tykes Gardening & Little Tykes Farm Adventures) help them learn the basics of gardening and food commodities produced in North Carolina.

There's also an Agricultural Entrepreneurial Program for teens (BAARN). The youth develop a business plan for starting their own business, including identifying costs and branding needs. For details about the center, check its website.

In her spare time, Stephanie and her brother own/operate their family's NC Century farm. ​


Check these upcoming events! 

  • Sunday Nature Seekers: Winter Tree ID. Jan. 27, 2-3:30 p.m.; Latta Plantation Nature Center. Sponsored by Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Nature Centers. For details.
  • There's a Garden in my Beer! Brewing with Botanicals from Ancient Times to Now. Jan. 30; 6-8 p.m. Free Range Brewing. Sponsored by UNC-Charlotte Botanical Gardens. See details.
  • Amazing World of Ferns. Feb. 7; 10-11:30 a.m. Sponsored by Wing Haven. For details.
  • Introduction to Pruning. Feb. 16; 1-2 p.m. Sponsored by Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardeners and Matthews Public Library. More details.

A Gardener's Top 10 Resolutions

​Need some inspiration? What about some chuckles? See these Top 10 resolutions from Master Gardener Carol Koball.

Our favorites:

  • I will not start the entire packet of seeds. Even with a 70% germination rate, I do not need 30 tomato plants.
  • When attending plant sales, I will have planted everything from the previous plant sale first.
  • I will remember the difference between dwarf (grows slowly) and miniature (stays small) so I don't have to move yet another plant.

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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.