The Orange Gardener

research-based, eco-friendly gardening information from the
Master Gardeners of Orange County, NC

Garden Questions?

Master Gardeners are here to help!


Orange County Cooperative Extension Office
306-E Revere Rd, Hillsborough
10am–noon M–F

North Carolina Botanical Garden Green Gardener Desk
100 Old Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill
noon–2pm M–F March–October

Farmers Markets
We staff the Carrboro and Eno River (downtown Hillsborough) farmers markets. The Explore tab, in addition to other handy information, provides a map of all of the farmers markets in Orange County, a schedule of their hours, and days/times when we are present.


919 · 245 · 2061
10am–noon M–F
Leave a message at other times, we’ll call you back.


[email protected]
Send questions (and photos) anytime, we’ll research and reply.


In addition to our website, the state Cooperative Extension Service provides gardening information on a variety of topics that are relevant at a statewide level:


Seasonal interest

Below is a simple ‘shortlist’ of plants that are normally in bloom this month or are of interest for fruit, bark or foliage. See Bloom & Berry for comprehensive lists with links to photos and cultural information.

Perennials Shrubs Trees
Beautyberry (frt)
Hollies (frt)
Nandina (frt)
Pyracantha (frt)
Washington hawthorn (frt)

Success with Pansies in the Winter Landscape


Bermudagrass lawn maintenance calendarNC CES: AG-431
Tall fescue lawn maintenance calendarNC CES: AG-367
Organic Lawn Care NC CES: AG-562
Lawnsour page
Toxicity of Lawn Care Products[TX CES]


Keep tree leaves from collecting on your lawn.

It is very important that tall fescue be maintained at the proper mowing height to allow it to mature before winter and to minimize weed incidence. A 3.5″ mowing height provides the best growth condition while minimizing disease incidence and weed encroachment.

Turfgrass science: Controlling Winter Annual Broadleaf Weeds


Fall is the true growing season for cool-season lawns, so it is the best time to renovate and seed. Cool-season lawns seeded in the spring don’t last through the summer because their roots don’t have a chance to grow deep into the soil before hot weather arrives.

You can still seed fescue and bluegrass early in October. NCSU’s turf files website has an excellent tool to help you select the right type of grass for your situation. Germination normally occurs in 10–21 days. Before seeding, aerate (core) your lawn to reduce soil compaction and control heavy weed populations.


Fall armyworms are a problem this year. Newly-installed or renovated lawns are especially susceptible and may not recover. To be effective, treatment needs to be applied before damage is visible, so weekly scouting is recommended.

Ornamental plants


Reduce watering somewhat to encourage plants to prepare for dormancy. A little water stress enhances fall color on many trees and shrubs. However, be sure to water foliage plants like hosta and plants that are/will produce flowers/berries.


Mulch newly-planted plants to a depth of about 1″, keeping it away from plant crowns, to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.

Wait to mulch established plants until early winter after a hard freeze. Because mulch traps heat, heavy mulching in fall is counterproductive: it prevents plants from entering dormancy properly and thus increases susceptibility to winter damage.


Planting, propagating

Fall is the ideal time to plant, divide, and transplant most species. Warm soil and cool air let plants focus energy on roots rather than foliage. Because our soil stays warm enough for root growth almost year-round, roots can establish before the heat and drought stress of summer.

Read our detailed instructions for all aspects of planting. Learn how to choose soil amendments, prepare the soil and install plants (including special advice for planting trees).

It is not necessary to add bonemeal or vitamin B12 to stimulate root production and decrease transplant shock.


Divide spring- and summer-blooming perennials. Because plants put enormous energy into blooms, most fall-blooming perennials, including many ornamental grasses, are better divided in spring.

Plant, transplant

Plant and transplant most perennials, shrubs and trees.

Root-prune any woody plants that you plan to move next spring.


Fertilize spring flowering bulbs at planting time with a balanced fertilizer. Bonemeal is not necessary.

Dig and store summer bulbs like gladioli, dahlias (hardier cultivars can overwinter in the ground in protected locations) and caladiums before frost.

The Three ‘C’s’ Among Fall-flowering Bulbs: Colchicum, Crocus and Cyclamen


Rake up debris around and under rose bushes — blackspot can overwinter in fallen leaves and appear again next spring.


Winter annual weeds
Now is the time to stop winter weeds

Focus on cool season weeds such as annual bluegrass, chickweed, and henbit and managing vines such as trumpet creeper and blackberry. Treat perennial weeds such as mock strawberry (Duchesnea indica, an invasive alien — please distinguish this from our native barren strawberries, Waldsteinia sp.) and wild garlic with a broadleaf herbicide when temperatures are above 50°F.



Cover Crops
Summer Cover Crops
Winter Cover Crops

Plant a cover crop in your vegetable garden to prevent erosion over the winter and add needed organic matter when tilled in next spring. Legumes such as clover and alfalfa will further enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen. Alternatively, you can till organic material like tree leaves into the soil, then mulch with shredded leaves.


Dig sweet potatoes before frost kills the plants.

Dig and divide rhubarb.


Start salad vegetables like lettuce, green onions, carrots, radishes, and most leafy greens in a cold frame and enjoy them all winter.


Insect control can be a challenge on fall-grown cabbage-family crops. Some of the best controls are organic. For aphids, strong water sprays or insecticidal soap works well. Don’t miss the lower leaf surfaces. For cabbage worms and other caterpillars, pick them off or use weekly applications of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).


Check your houseplants for insects before bringing them indoors. A few insects on plants outside can easily turn into a problem inside. Wash leaves thoroughly and soak the soil in a bucket of water for 3–5 minutes to encourage any insects hiding in the soil to come out.

Landscape idea


Use shredded leaves as mulch. While fallen leaves contain nutrients, they decompose slowly. Grind the leaves to speed decomposition and ensure that they don’t mat and create an impenetrable barrier once wet. Don’t have a shredder? Rake the leaves into rows and run over them with a mower.

Wildlife & insects


October is ladybug season. These beneficial insects sometimes gather in large groups and choose your house as a warm spot to spend the winter. If they are finding their way inside, check the condition of weather stripping and caulking around windows, doors, ceiling light fixtures and other possible entryways.

Kudzu bugs

Kudzu bugs also try to winter indoors. Fortunately, numbers are much lower this year due to our cold snap last winter and to the appearance of their natural enemy, a parasitic wasp, in the Southeast. To prevent them from invading your home, caulk and weatherstrip as for ladybugs.


Although most hummingbirds are heading south, you might want to leave feeders out for late travelers and the occasional rufus hummingbird.

Most birds select their winter feeding stations by October. If you put out seed or suet only in the winter months, now is the time.


Soil Moisture

Colors indicate inches of precipitation deficit/excess with a resolution of 4km.

Alabama State Climatologist Lawn/garden moisture index

This live feed maps the difference between recent garden-effective precipitation and the amount normally adequate for the time of year. Soil water-holding capacity is not considered, but the index still provides a good idea of current soil moisture.

Check drought conditions



See and Do


Our radio show features stories that explore gardening in our region, the intersection of horticulture and innovation, and the people who are leading the way.
— Durham Master Gardeners

Getting Dirty is wonderful and unique! It is the first radio show in the country to be produced solely by Master Gardener volunteers. You can listen live on Tuesdays at 2pm on WCOM FM 103.5 or use the link to stream, subscribe in iTunes and read transcripts.

Hikes & walks

NC Botanical Garden
Eno River Association
Duke Gardens


Duke Gardens
NC Botanical Garden
JC Raulston Arboretum
Hillsborough Spring Garden Tour May 16–17


Our custom map is a handy guide to the Triangle’s natural beauty and fine public gardens. Placemark balloons give site highlights and, where applicable, trail maps, plant checklists, etc.

State parks and natural areas
Triangle Land Conservancy
Greenways trails in Chapel Hill
Orange County parks with gardens or trails
Gardens and arboreta in Orange County
Gene Strowd Community Rose Garden    120 S Estes Dr

Local Food

NCDA list
Farm stands, U-pick
Community Gardens
Farmers markets
2015 Farmers Market Schedules
Tues Wed Thurs Sat
Carrborowebsitemap 3–6
MG weekly

Chapel Hillwebsite map 3–6
Eno Riverwebsite map
MG monthly
3rd Sat

Hillsboroughwebsite map 4–7
10– 1
S. Villagewebsite map 3:30–6:30
Durhamwebsite map 3:30–6:30
(mid April)

Local Sourcing

Garden Centers

Barnes Supply Co.
Fifth Season Gardening
The Garden Hut
Garden Supply Company
Orange Garden Center
Piedmont Feed & Garden Center
Southern States
Stone Brothers


Architectural Trees
Camellia Forest
Cooper-Payne Tree Farms
Durham Garden Center
For Garden’s Sake
The Garden Hut
Get Rooted Nursery
Homewood Nursery
Kiefer Landscaping
Lakeview Daylily
Ludy Tree Care
Multiflora Greenhouses
Niche Gardens
Plant Delights
The Plant Lady
Red Mill Nursery
Southern States
Stone Brothers
The Unique Plant
Witherspoon Rose Culture
NCDA FarmFresh
Grow Local Raleigh

Japanese maples, new & rare shrubs, trees
camellias, Asian trees & shrubs, primroses
mature specimen trees, shrubs, conifers, hardy palms
general, 20 acre garden
Japanese maples
Japanese maples, conifers, aquatics
mature field-grown daylilies adapted to our area
locally grown mature Japanese Maples
premium annuals, vegetables, mums, poinsettias, pansies
natives, display garden
new & rare perennials
5715 Guess Rd, Rougemont, 919.644.0087
large nursery, perennials, woodies, many B&B trees
general, Japanese maples
general & aquatics
Japanese maples, new & rare plants, display garden
roses, some perennials, display garden
search by county or region, type of plant, etc.
NC nurseries used by these garden centers

Mulch, topsoil & compost


Orange County Solid Waste Management compost & mulch, including ‘Class A’

STA-certified compost

NC sources
The Rock Shop


B & B Top Soil Mine
JV Brockwell Trucking
Can Do Landscape Materials
HL Harrelson & Son Bark Plant
Mellott Contractors
Moldenhauer Landscaping
Piedmont Feed & Garden Center
Poultry Villa Landscaping-Supply