Friday, October 27, 2017

Kirkland Family Cemetery of the Ayr Mount homestead, Hillsborough, NC. Photo by J.S. Corser, Editor, EMG.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Highlights of the GCNC District 9 Meeting in Mebane

The Mebane Council of Garden Clubs hosted a rollicking 1930's-themed "In My Grandma's Garden"
for the GCNC District 9 Annual Meeting.
The District 9 of The Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc. met Oct. 18 for its annual meeting, "In My Grandmother's Garden" hosted by the Mebane Council of Garden Clubs. (District 9 includes all state-federated garden clubs in Alamance, Caswell, Durham, Granville, Orange, Person, Warren, and Vance counties.)
The Mebane Council put on a rollicking 1930-40's Grandma's Garden-themed meeting complete with granny aprons, antique gardening tools, autumn harvest decorations and a welcome from the Council President Linda Nunemaker's 1930s Willys-Overland Whippet parked outside the Mebane Arts Council Center. The silent auction also featured original paintings by artist and Gay Blades Garden Club member Carolyn Bell.
Among several District announcements at the meeting were the 2017 District 9 Yearbook Award Winners:
  • Chapel Hill Garden Club – Elma K. Porter Bowden Yearbook Award #195
  • Hillsborough Garden Club -- Ethel Daughtridge Yearbook Award #196 
  • Roxboro Garden Study Club -- Catherine Williams Yearbook Award #197
  • Woodland Garden Club -- Rusty Van Pelt Yearbook Award #198 
  • Friendly Garden Club -- Beverly Shearon Yearbook Award #201

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Pansy Particulars: a Growing Guide

See this handy guide from the University of GA Extension before putting in your mailbox pansies!

The Seed Library Program at Durham County Library

Bring your winter crop seeds or find some for yourself at your local Durham County Library.
By Jenny Levine
Humanities and Adult Programming Coordinator
Durham County Library

Maybe you have noticed the card catalogs that have popped up at several library locations? If not, take a look inside one the next time you are in the library! They are currently housed at North, South, East, Southwest and Main Libraries. Each patron can take up to four packets of seeds per season from the Seed Library catalogs to take home, grow and enjoy.

Available at these locations are a selection of vegetables, herbs and flowers. Thanks to generous donations from patrons, as well as our partners at SEEDS, we have enough seed packets for every gardener in the community. When we get low on seeds, we purchase them from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Virginia (, or from our neighbors at Stone Brothers & Byrd. We have made every effort to offer a variety of organic seeds and are not currently accepting or offering hybrid seeds.

The Seed Library was started by Joanne Abel (now retired) in 2014. With the help of a great community of supporters, the Seed Library committee and the Durham Library Foundation, Joanne was able to purchase the card catalogs, seeds and supplies. Growing information is also available next to each catalog of seeds. Further assistance for the project was provided by our Library Webmaster, Matt Clobridge, who created a very useful website: At the site, users can find information on seed saving and planting. There is also a section where local gardeners can share stories about their heirloom seed varieties.

Along with the seed saving workshops, we have had the pleasure of hosting Mr. Craig LeHouiller, aka ‘The Tomato Man” for tomato plant giveaways! We hope to see him soon with his pickup truck full of great plants. If you have not started your garden yet, young plants can be a great way to get your garden growing. Spring and summer seeds are currently available, and fall seeds will arrive in the catalogs closer to September.

The long term hope for the seed library is that will someday be fully supported by donations from local growers. That way, all of our seeds will be tried and tested in local Durham soil! It will be wonderful to someday say that all of our stock was locally grown and supplied by local farmers. If you don’t know already how to save seeds for next season, check out or the library for seed saving workshops.

For questions about the Seed Library and how it works, please contact Claudia Alemán at 919-560-0116.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Ask a Master Gardener...

South Durham Farmers Market. Photo by Julia Fiori, EMG.
Ask a Durham County Master Gardener your lawn or gardening questions and pick up free soil test boxes at these upcoming events:

Friday, October 13, 2017

Great Pumpkins: Winter Squash and Heirloom Varieties

Pumpkins/Winter squash varieties offer so many possibilities.
1. 'Black Fatsu' 2. 'Musque de Provence' 3. 'Galeaux D'Eysines'
4. 'Tiger' 5. 'Strawberry Crown' 6. 'Jarrahdale'  7. 'Lakota'
8. 'Marina Di Chioggia' 9. 'Cinderella'
By J.S. Corser, Editor
Durham Co. Extension Master Gardener

Great pumpkins, aka. winter squash, grow in a multitude of colors, sizes, skin textures, not to mention edibility and flavors. These ubiquitous members of the Cucubitae family line front porches and always lend their sweet, savory flesh to soups and bakery sweets from October through November. With some research and diligent care, Durham gardeners can also grow a sincere pumpkin patch and expand their fall vegetable bounty.
The term “pumpkin” is a generic term for vine-growing winter squashes like Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita moschata or Cucurbita maxima. What differentiates pumpkins/winter squashes from summer squash is that winter squashes are varieties that are grown to maturity and store well.(1) They have a hard rind, firmer flesh and will keep for months in a cool pantry. Pumpkins are harvested when the foliage dies back and stems begin to toughen. Conversely, summer squashes are harvested when small and tender while vines are still healthy.

Pumpkin History (2)
The word pumpkin derives from the Greek pepõn for a large melon. The English termed it pumpion or pompion. Use of this term dates to 1547, yet did not appear in print until 1647. Native Americans planted pumpkins with their vegetable crops and introduced the vegetable to English colonists. The colonists quickly embraced Cucurbita pepo cooking it into sidedishes, soups, desserts and even beer. (In keeping with the spirit of our forefathers, several pumpkin ales are available at Triangle alcohol retailers: ) However, pumpkins also enjoy a celebrated, contemporary use for autumn and Halloween decoration. The tradition of carving pumpkins into Jack-o'-lanterns for the celebration of All Hallows Eve was brought to the United States by Irish immigrants who originally carved turnips. They switched to pumpkins given more availability, and since then, pumpkin carving has become a competitive, laser-precision artform for many Americans every October.
Growing Pumpkins (1)
Choosing a Site
Full sun, good air circulation, rich, well-draining soil and appropriate space are all key to growing pumpkins. Eight hours of sun is needed per day. Air circulation is crucial to fend off powdery mildew, which can be a significant problem in late summer. The soil should be enriched with compost and composted manure. Cucurbitae vines are long, so a large garden is non-negotiable unless using smaller varieties that can be trellised.

Growing From Seed
Using seeds is the easiest way to grow pumpkins. For Durham County, sow the seeds between April 15 - June 15. (Seeds can be started indoors under grow lights four weeks, then plant them after the soil has warmed.) Seeds should be planted 1.5 inches deep, spaced 48 inches apart. (Different varieties of pumpkins will require different spacing between plants; read the seed packet for recommendations.)

Growing Organic Pumpkins: Watering and Fertilizing
Vines grow quickly, and they extract nutrients from the soil just as quickly. Using compost-enriched soil at planting is the best way to ensure the proper amount of nutrients, however, granulated organic fertilizer can be substituted, as well as alfalfa meal that can provide an appropriate amount of potassium. After initial planting, feed the plants every month with fish emulsion or kelp meal. Be sure to water regularly; most plants need about an inch of water per week during the summer. Check the soil before watering! If the soil is moist, don't water or the plants will drown and be subject to rot. (Pumpkin leaves frequently wilt during the hottest part of the day, then recover.)

Pests and Diseases
Squash vine borers and powdery mildew are the villains to growing healthy pumpkins. Scout for squash vine borer moths which have bright red abdomens and are likely laying eggs. The eggs will hatch, and the pupa will start tunneling into the stems of vines. Cover the plants with floating row covers (though they must be removed when the plant starts blooming so the pollinators can do their job). Check the stems, especially near the soil, for signs of tunneling and/or frass. Slit the vine and kill the borer, then bury the damaged part of the vine under a couple inches of soil. The plant will often recover, since pumpkins are able to root all along their vines, wherever a node touches the soil. Powdery mildew can spread in areas of poor air circulation. If it's a regular problem, consider spraying vines with a homemade baking soda spray for prevention.

Maturity will occur between 115-120 days. A telltale sign to harvest is when the skin is hard and unpenetrable with a fingernail. Pumpkin skin color stops developing once it is harvested, so wait until it's the shade most desired. Harvesting simply entails cutting the pumpkin from the vine with pruners or a knife, leaving a few inches of stem attached.

8 Winter Squashes to Grow in Your Garden (3)
Here are eight beautiful, tasty, and unique heirloom winter squash varieties to expand your vegetable garden.
  • 'Musque de Provence':  This beautiful French variety is becoming more popular. Its gorgeous buff color and flat, deeply ribbed shape make this perfect for displaying for fall. The flavor of this squash is amazing: sweet, complex, and absolutely delicious roasted. These are large squashes, weighing in at fifteen to twenty-five pounds at maturity.
  • 'Long Island Cheese':  A classic pumpkin of the 19th century. Skin: Pale cheese colored. Ribbing: Light. Flesh: Deep orange. Shape: Medium; averages 10 pounds. Keeps well. Edible: Sweet Varieties include 'Long Island Cheese' 'Shakertown Field'. 
  • 'Marina di Chioggia':  This Italian heirloom variety has stunning greenish gray, bumpy skin and a sweet flavor that only improves in storage. The fruits typically weigh in at around six to twelve pounds.
  • 'Kikuza':  The somewhat cinnamon-colored rind of this Japanese heirloom variety is definitely unique, as is the flavor. There is a bit of a spicy note to the firm flesh of these small (four to seven pound) squashes. They are excellent baked or roasted.
  • 'Queensland Blue': This Australian variety has a deeply ribbed greenish-blue rind. The bright orange flesh is quite dense and very sweet. This is also an excellent keeper.
  • 'Strawberry Crown': Gorgeous squash is absolutely perfect for fall decorating. The brown rind of these squashes is accented by just a touch of salmon color at the crown. It is tasty as well; excellent baked or roasted.
  • 'Black Futsu': This rare Japanese squash has a black rind that is bumpy and heavily ribbed. The black fruits will eventually turn a chestnut hue in storage. The nutty flavor of this squash is perfect for roasting or even baking.
  • 'Galeaux D'Eysines':  The pinkish rind is covered with buff colored "warts." Good flavor to make "pumpkin" butter and puree with: sweet, deeply orange.
Best Porch Pumpkins (4)
  • Musquee de Provence  (see above Heirloom pumpkin list)
Blue and Green Pumpkins
  • Blue Lakota: An heirloom variety from the Midwest. Color: A mix of blue and green. Ribbing is slight, shape is oblate; top at step comes to a point or cone-shape
  • Kabocha:  Also known as Japanese Pumpkin, Ebisu, Delica, Hoka, Hokkiado Pumpkin. Popular in Japan; grown in other nations for export to Japan. Skin is tough and green, flesh is yellow, stays firm and retains shape after cooking. Shape is rounded, irregular.
  • Kakai: Produced in Japan. Skin: Grey with orange stripes or ribbing. Size: 5 to 8 pounds. Carvability: Good. Edible: Not a first choice for cooking, but Kakai is popular for its blue seeds, which can be roasted.
  • Jarrahdale: An Australian heirloom pumpkin that was developed as a cross between the Cinderella and Blue Hubbard. Shape: Flattened but rounded like Cinderella. Skin: Light blue/gray. Ribbed: Deeply. Flesh: Golden yellow. Edible: Some pumpkin experts believe 'Jarrahdales' are the finest pumpkins for making pumpkin pies.
  • Marina Di Chioggia (see above Heirloom pumpkin list)
Cheese Pumpkins
  • 'Long Island Cheese': So-called because they resemble a wheel of cheese, the pale yellow-orange cheese pumpkins come in a variety of sizes and are striking displayed at different levels on the porch or porch steps by themselves or with bright orange pumpkins and flower pots filled with fall-blooming flowers like chrysanthemums and calendulas.
Ghostly White Pumpkins
  • 'Baby Boo': Bright white skin; tends to turn yellow if exposed to direct sunlight. Size: Miniature. Ribbing: Deep. Edible: No. Carvability: Too small
  • 'Lumina': Skin: Brilliant white. Texture: Smooth. Flesh: Bright yellow and valued for its flavor; good for baking. Carvability: It can be carved or painted; however, it doesn't last long.
  • 'Casper:' Bright white. Shape: More round than squat with only slight ribbing.
  • Edible: Good for pies and baking. Carvability: Better to leave alone or paint than carve
  • 'White Ghost' (also known as 'Valencia'): Skin: Pure white. Flesh: Bright yellow and thick. Shape: Squat. Edible: Good. Carvability: Challenging.
Grayish Green Pumpkins
  • 'Fairytale': An old French heirloom variety. Skin:Dark green with orange/peach blush when young. As it ages, the dark green turns to buff orange. Flesh: Bright orange. Shape: With its flatness and deep ribbing, Fairytale bears a striking resemblance to the Cinderella pumpkin. Size: About 15 inches diameter; 6 inches high and 20 to 30 pounds. Carvability: Not good. Edible: A good choice for cooking or baking pumpkin pies.  
  • 'Baby Boo': See above, Ghostly Whites
  • 'Pump Ke Mon': Also known as 'Lil Pump Ke Mon'. Skin: Variable coloration; usually white or yellow with green or yellow stripes and splotches. Keeps well.
  • 'Tiger':  Skin: Yellow with orange mottling. Ribs: Deep at the top, then fading at the bottom. Shape: Flat with recessed stem. Size: About 5 inches diameter; 3 inches high
Red-Orange Pumpkins
  • 'Cinderella' ('Rouge', 'Rouge Vif d'Estampes'): Cinderella pumpkins have become increasingly popular in recent years for their shape, bright color and fairytale-enchanting name. To add further intrigue, legend has it that this variety inspired the pumpkin carriage in the story of Cinderella. Shape: flattened, yet rounded -- like that carriage. Ribbed: Deeply. Edible: Semi-sweet and good for pies.Display: Attention-getters because of their bright red-orange skin and whimsical shape.
  • 'Lakota': An heirloom variety that hails from the Midwest. Skin: Red with green and black markings that follow light ribbing (lines). Shape: Pear-shaped. Size: Weighs 5 to 7 pounds. Edible: Delicious butternut squash-like flavor.
  • 'Red Warty': Skin: Warty, bumpy, pimply red skin. Flesh: Non-stringy. Size: Can grow up to 20 pounds. Edible: Better for cooking and eating than carving a face. Display: Since it resembles a warty Halloween witch or creature, one or more Red Warties are effective displayed unadorned, maybe next to something slightly spooky.
Pumpkin Storage (5)
Store in a cool, dry place, such as an attic or spare room (root cellars are too damp) at 45 to 60 degrees F. up to a month, or refrigerate for up to three months. For extended storage, wash skins in a solution of about a tablespoon of chlorine bleach to a gallon of water to disinfect the skin and discourage mold or rot. Dry immediately as dampness encourages spoilage. If mold is present, wipe with vegetable oil to remove the mold and seal the spot. Leftover cooked pumpkin can be frozen up to 16 months or canned. (Canned pumpkin puree is actually retentive of vitamins and minerals.) Fresh pumpkin can be pared and cooked in the same manner as most any winter squash, usually by cutting into chunks and simmering for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on size and age. Drain. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and puree.

1. Colleen Vanderlinden. (2014).  Grow Your Own Organic Pumpkins.” Retrieved from, Peggy Trowbridge Filippone. (2014). “Pumpkin History: Native Americans wove mats out of dried pumpkin strips”. Retrieved from:  Colleen Vanderlinden. (2014). “Heirloom Pumpkins and Squashes.” Retrieved from,  Lisa Hallett Taylor. (2014). A Guide to Pumpkin Types: The Best Pumpkins to Display on Your Porch. Retrieved from,

5. Peggy Trowbridge Filippone. (2014). “Pumpkin Selection and Storage: Choose smaller pumpkins for eating.” Retrieved from:

Sunday, October 8, 2017

2017 Sandy Creek Monarch Festival: Oct. 14

From Keep Durham Beautiful...
Join us Saturday, Oct. 14 as we celebrate the amazing journey of the Monarch butterfly!
In celebration of the Monarchs, the third annual Sandy Creek Monarch Festival will feature music, family friendly activities & food. The activities include face painting, balloon animals, story walks, and others. 

Experts will be giving talks about Monarch biology, ecology, and conservation and pollinator friendly plants will be available for purchase.
WHEN: Saturday, October 14 at 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
LOCATION: Sandy Creek Park, 3510 Sandy Creek Drive Durham, NC27705

Ticket Information:

BOOKS: 2017 Winners of AHS "Growing Good Kids" Book Awards

Since 2005, the Junior Master Gardener Program and the American Horticultural Society (AHS) have honored engaging, inspiring works of plant, garden and ecology-themed children’s literature through the annual “Growing Good Kids–Excellence in Children’s Literature Awards.” 
The awards selection committee includes AHS staff members, Junior Master gardener specialists and coordinators, teachers, youth leaders, and kids. The committee’s goal is to recognize children’s books that are especially effective at promoting an understanding of, and appreciation for, gardening, nature, and the environment.  
The 2017 winners of the growing good Kids Book awards are:
  • Secrets of The Vegetable Garden, by Carron Brown, illustrated by Giordano Poloni;
  • Because of an Acorn, by Lola M. Schaefer and Adam Schaefer, illustrated by Fran Preston-Gannon;
  • Sleep Tight Farm, by Eugenie Doyle, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander;
  • Good Trick, Walking Stick, by Sheri Mabry Bestor, illustrated by Jonny Lambert; and
  • The Night Gardener, by Terry Fan and Eric Fan. 
This year’s winners received their awards in July during the AHS’s national Children & Youth gardening Symposium in the greater Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington, area. 
To learn more about the growing good Kids awards and view previous winners, visit