By Jim Janke
The purpose of Master Gardener programs is to increase the knowledge of horticulture among home gardeners. Master Gardener Volunteers are trained to answer questions about lawns, fruits, vegetables, trees and ornamental plants. Their efforts in getting information to the public significantly increase the effectiveness of full time agricultural agents.
The primary way we communicate gardening information to folks in Haywood County is through our plant clinic. From mid-April through October, Master Gardeners are at the Extension Center from 9 a.m. to noon every business day. Any horticultural question is welcome. If we don’t know the answer right then and there, we’ll consult the experts and someone will get back to you with research-based information.
In 2008 the plant clinic answered 450 different questions in many categories:
• Insect and disease damage to plants: 42 percent. (The single most common dealt with Hemlock Woolly Adelgid.)
• General gardening questions: 29 percent.
• Control of insect infestations: 8 percent.
• Control of weeds & invasive plants: 6 percent.
• Wildlife & animal pests: 5 percent.
• Lawns: 4 percent.
• Other: 6 percent.
Some of the “other” questions are quite interesting. Here’s a sample:
• Why does my neighbor plant his tomatoes in a butter tub? Some crawling insects can’t climb over the lip of a butter tub (or any similar plastic container). Neither can they dig under the tub to get at the plant.
Cut out the entire bottom of the container, forming a ring. Place the ring around the stem when you put the plant into the hole. Then fill the hole normally and press the ring into the soil so about half of it is visible. This little trick helps protect tomatoes, peppers, and squash from insects like slugs and cutworms.
• How can I control fall webworms? Poke a hole or two in the fall webworm sacks as soon as they appear. A parasitic wasp will enter the sack to kill the webworm pupae inside. My 18 foot telescoping golf ball retriever is an excellent tool for this, because it can reach a long way up a tree.
• Why is there sometimes frost at lower elevations when there is no frost higher on the mountain? Warm is lighter than cold air, so warm air rises and cold air falls. When there is no breeze to mix the cold and warm air currents, the cold air settles, allowing frost to form on the valley floor. Because it’s a couple of degrees warmer higher on the mountain, there might not be any frost there. Or, put another way, even though there’s no frost at my place, the golf course 200 feet below might still be closed because of frost.
Do you have a gardening question? Give the plant clinic a call at 828.456.3575. We’d love to help!
Jim Janke is a Master Gardener Volunteer in Haywood County. For more information call the Haywood County Extension Center at 828.456.3575.