While loveable pets for some, and unwanted company for others, snakes will inevitably find their way into most garden spaces. Before you write these scaly travelers off as your worst enemy, consider some of the benefits that they bring to your backyard.
Snakes feed on many creatures that could damage or feed on garden plants. They help keep rat, mice, vole, and rabbit populations in check. Small mammals and rodents are the primary food sources for many snake species. Snakes may be more active in the spring or fall as they search for or come out of hibernation patterns.
There are several venomous snakes found in North Carolina, including the copperhead, cottonmouth (water moccasin), three rattlesnake species, and eastern coral snakes. When observing a snake on your property, keep a healthy distance unless the snake is positively identified as non-venomous. This can be difficult to identify. Rattlesnakes can be identified by a pit between and slightly below the eye and nostril, long movable fangs, a vertically elliptical pupil, and a triangular head. Coral snakes have a distinct pattern of red and black rings separated by a yellow ring. Nonvenomous snakes, such as the black rat snake (also known as chicken snake or simply black snake), have two rows of scales on their tails instead of the single row that venomous snakes have.
While some snake species are more common than others, there are precautions you can take to discourage snakes in general; Reducing cover and food supply by mowing closely around homes, gardens, and storage buildings, store firewood and lumber away from homes and elevated off the ground, reduce mulch layers around shrubs to discourage small animals, close cracks and crevices in buildings and around piles and utility connections.
It is not recommended to handle or kill any type of snake, particularly in situations where the snake cannot be identified. In general, most snakes will move on by themselves without the need to intervene. Non Venomous species are often valued for their ability to keep areas clean of small mammals and offer little risk to other inhabitants.
1. Butterfly Garden: Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii goldsturm / black-eyed Susan
2. Butterfly Garden: Lantana Camara 'Mrs. Huff' / Hardy Lantana
3. Butterfly Garden: Coreopsis verticillata zagreb / Threadleaf Coreopsis
4. Professional Plant: Podocarpus macrophyllus / Chinese podocarpus
5. Professional Plant: Hydrangea macrophylla / Bigleaf Hydrangea
6. Professional Plant: Aucuba japonica / Japanese Aucuba
7. Herb Garden: Salvia uglinosa / Bog Sage
8. Herb Garden: Achillea millefolium / White Yarrow
9. Perennial Boarder: Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips' / Little Leaf Sage
10. Perennial Boarder: Achillea sp. / Yarrow
Gardening and nature have long been recognized for their potential influence on solace and fulfillment in life. Horticulture therapy specifically taps into this influence by focusing on the benefits horticulture activity could have on human health and general well-being. This practice can be implemented in professional mental health settings, such as by a trained therapist in the clinical practice of horticultural therapy, or in a wider variety of settings, such as in community or residential environments. The American Horticultural Therapy Association supports and advances the horticultural therapy profession.
Therapeutic horticulture programming covers many possible activities. More traditional activities, like preparing beds, sowing seeds, planting, maintenance, and harvesting can be utilized by various age and skill levels. These activities can also be modified to better fit groups ranging from small children to the elderly. Gardening provides connections to nature and the cycle of life.
Plants often give prompt feedback on their quality of life. If their needs are overlooked or if care is overbearing, the plant will give signs. Plant care and maintenance activities can be vehicles for personal growth by developing one’s sense of purpose, self-esteem, and respect for other forms of life. Horticulture therapy programs are growing popular in retirement communities, healthcare and rehabilitation facilities, schools, and correctional facilities.
More information on existing programs can be found by joining the listserv of Horticulture Therapy professionals in North Carolina at Therapuetic-Hort@lists.ncsu.edu. For therapeutic horticulture news, please visit the NC State Extension Therapeutic Horticulture Portal.
Written By: Katie Winslow - Extension Intern
The urban gardener may not have a field to plow, but they can still certainly have a harvest worth their time and effort. Home grown groceries have a taste and satisfaction that beat out store bought produce every time. Although you’re not going to harvest the perfect pork chop anytime soon, there are a variety of ingredients that you can grow right in your backyard...or back porch!
Beans are a nutrient rich source of food that you can grow. Pole varieties sprout and spread quickly and will need a trellis or other support. A window box that is long and deep is perfect for this plant. Don’t have the space? No worries, bush beans can be grown in a smaller pot that is at least a foot deep. Sow seeds in a damp soil and refrain from watering until seedlings have emerged. Beans need full sun, warm temperatures, and a damp soil to make it to harvest (about two months from seedling).
Want something a little more green? Plant lettuce! Most varieties grow well in a pot or window box. Romaine, red leaf, and other types of lettuce can be planted in the same pot next to each other. Although they can tolerate direct sun, most types prefer indirect light. Fertilizing every two weeks and keeping the soil damp will ensure that in two to three months, you’ll have a leaf that can fit your appetite.
Peppers, sweet or spicy, elongated or bell, grow very well in container gardens. For summer peppers, plant in March or April. Allow the plant full sun and a healthy break between waterings. Peppers can be harvested while green or later in the season. One plant will easily supply a dinner’s worth of peppers, so be mindful when planting a large amount.
The most important thing about urban gardening is to read the seed packet! The back of a seed packet will provide you with the most valuable information pertaining to growing your plant to harvest. Things like how deep to plant the seed, how far apart to plant, and days until harvest are worth taking note of. Consider throwing your newly grown ingredients into a colorful summer salad, or add them to any meal for a pop of flavor!
By: Katie Winslow - Extension Intern
1. Plant Professional: Hibiscus syriacus / Rose of Sharon
2. Plant Professional: Kerria japonica / Japanese Kerria
3. Plant Professional: Buddleja davidii / Butterfly Bush
4. Wet Site: Heliopsis helianthoides / Oxeye Sunflower
5. Wet Site: Hosta 'Inniswood'
6. Wet Site: Canna x generalis / Canna
7. Wet Site: Osmunda regalis / Royal Fern
8. Wet Site: Hydrangea macrophylla 'Merritt's Supreme' / Bigleaf Hydrangea
9. Wet Site: Hibiscus coccineus / swamp hibiscus
10. Perennial Border: Perovskia atriplicifolia / Russian Sage
1. Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb' / Thread Leaf Coreopsis
2. Achillea 'Moonshine' Yarrow
3. Asclepias tuberosa 'Butterfly Weed'
4. Abelia chinensis / Chinese Abelia
5. Zinnia marylandica 'Double Zahara Fire'
6. Erigeron strigosus 'Prairie Fleabane'
7. Salvia uliginosa 'Bog Sage'
8. Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'
9. Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue' speedwell
10. Mint Marigold-Tagetes lucida
Written By: Katie Winslow - Extension Intern
Calling all young gardeners to-be! Determining your soil texture is an important part of establishing your garden. The feel method for soil texture provides a quick and easy way to get an idea of your soil type. To start, place approximately 25g of dry soil in your palm. Add water and knead the soil to break down aggregates until the soil is moldable.
Does the soil remain in a ball when squeezed? If not, consider adding more soil or continuing to knead it if it is still too wet. If it still remains too loose, the soil may be sand.
If the soil remains in a ball when squeezed, take it between the thumb and forefinger and gently push the soil, squeezing it upwards into a ribbon. Allow the ribbon to emerge and extend until breaking under its own weight. If the soil does not form a ribbon, it may be sandy loam. If it does, then excessively wet a small pinch of the soil and rub with your forefinger.
If the soil makes a weak ribbon less than 2.5 cm long and feels very gritty, then it may be sandy loam. If it feels very smooth, then it may be silt loam. If neither girttiness or smoothness predominates, then the soil may be loam.
If the soil makes a medium ribbon 2.5 - 5 cm long before breaking and feels very gritty, then it may be sandy clay loam. If the soil feels very smooth, it may be silty clay loam. If the soil feels neither predominately gritty or smooth, then it may be clay loam.
If the soil makes a strong ribbon 5cm or longer before breaking and feels very gritty, then it may be sandy clay. If it feels very smooth, it may be silty clay. If the soil feels neither gritty or smooth, then the soil may be clay.
This quick and easy test is a fun, hands-on experiment with soil. The results may vary with the gardener and depend on variations of saturation and soil sample. Consider trying this with children or young gardeners who aren’t afraid of getting their hands a little dirty!
written by: Katie Winslow - Extension Intern
A new plant sale corner is featured in the covered area of the butterfly garden! This corner advertises plants from the Arboretum gardens and from the personal gardens of our Master Gardener volunteers. Each plant comes with a label detailing the plant name and qualities, along with a QR code. The QR code leads to the Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox website for that specific plant.
The Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox is a valuable tool for both Extension agents and the curious public. This website offers research based information on a variety of plants that can be grown in any North Carolina garden. Pay particular attention to details such as lifecycle, light conditions, and maintenance level.
The plant sale accepts donations in a black donation box located next to the sale corner. Each plant has a suggested donation located on the label. Donations collected go towards supporting the Master Gardener program and their continued work in the Arboretum. Interested in getting more involved with the Arboretum and Master Gardener program? Check out our support page and learn more about volunteering!
Written By: Katie Winslow - Extension Intern
1. Walking Garden: Hydrangea macrophylla / Big Leaf Hydrangea
2. Butterfly Garden: Hibiscus syriacus 'Aphrodite' / Rose of Sharon
3. Wet Site: Heliopsis helianthoides / Oxeye Sunflower
4. Wet Site: Hydrangea macrophylla / Pink Bigleaf Hydrangea
5. Fruit Garden: Punica granatum / Pomegranate
6. Children's Garden: Achillea 'Moonshine' yarrow
7. Perennial Garden: Echinacea 'Evan Saul' / Big Sky Sundown Coneflower
8. Perennial Garden: Stokesia laevis 'Blue Danube' / Stokes Aster
9. Container Garden: Euphorbia martinii 'Ascot Rainbow' / Martin's Spurge
10. Herb Garden: Salvia uliginosa / Bog Sage
Low maintenance gardening does not mean no maintenance gardening - careful planning, effort, and well designed time are still a must in any garden space. More time dedicated to this garden up front though will pay off in its relatively little need for attention later on. Finding the right combination of colorful foliage, well timed flowering habits, and beneficial ground coverage is the key to creating your own low maintenance garden.
First, identify the areas in your garden or landscape that you spend the most time on. Are these areas worth the upkeep, or would you rather redesign them? Evaluating space is a key initial step in a low maintenance garden. Design around lawn or turf areas, simple spaces are easier to mow. Consider utilizing walkways, paths, and patio spaces for easy access to garden areas and to reduce the space needed for gardening. Minimum maintenance materials such as concrete, brick, or flagstone keep borders well-defined and decrease upkeep time.
Invest early on in issues that could be long term. Drainage, for example, is important to evaluate at the start of your low maintenance garden. Adequate drainage is essential for proper soil aeration and to keep water in a usable form for plants. If water drains in less than 5 minutes, the soil is too sandy; if it takes more than 15 minutes, the soil has too much clay. Tube or tile drainage are popular methods for piping out excess water.
Understanding your soil is another important early step. The most accurate way to determine your soil type is to have it tested professionally. A complete soil analysis will offer valuable information on how to improve your soil content to its optimal state. Your soil may need additives such as lime or sulfur. Soil amendments such as compost, peat, and well-rotted manure offer nutrients to condition soil. Please contact your Extension office for a professional soil test before adding nutrients to your garden soil.
Lastly, select plants that will thrive in your low maintenance conditions. Ground covers such as Ivy, Hedera species, Wild Ginger, Asarum europaeum, and Japanese Spurge, Pachysandra terminalis, offer evergreen coverage that will thrive in shade areas. Other ground covers like Periwinkle, Vinca minor, Moss Phlox, Phlox subulata, and Snow-in-Summer, Cerastium tomentosum, offer seasonal flowering that varies from blue to pink to white. If incorporating trees, Crabapple, Malus species, Hornbeam, Carpinus betulus, and Dogwood, Cornus kousa, are excellent options.
When planning for flowers, take the time to research which perennials and annuals grow well in both your zone and in the specific garden area you would like to cover. Perennials such as Peonies and Daylilies need full or part sun and would not do well in particularly shady or covered areas. Wildflower or meadow gardens are also an excellent choice for low maintenance areas. Wildflowers need little to no care once established and can survive in harsh or difficult climates and soil. When selecting seeds, look for 100% pure seed without any fill. The right combination will keep your garden flowering for months and benefit native pollinators and wildlife.
Low maintenance gardens are a perfect option for gardeners on the go and those looking for a more casual experience. This style can impress even the most professional gardeners! Give yourself more time to enjoy your garden space by cutting down on the time required to cultivate your garden space!