Many instances of damage to warm-season turf grasses in North Carolina this year haven't been attributable to the usual suspects—insects and disease. Rather, experts at N.C. State University believe the colder than normal winter and lingering cool spring may be the culprit in many cases of irregularly damaged turf, especially zoysiagrass in the Piedmont region. Young plantings (two years or less) seem to be more vulnerable to winter kill, as are lawns that are already stressed due to other factors. Typical diseases of zoysiagrass include "large patch" and "spring dead spot." For help with diagnosis and other information, visit www.turffiles.ncsu.edu, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Drought, salt spray, poor soils, heat and scalding rays of the coastal climate comprise a hostile environment that few plants can handle. Suitable species for these conditions include eastern red cedar, live oak, yaupon, yucca, pittosporum, bottlebrush, leatherleaf mahonia, cabbage palm, saw palmetto, prickly pear cactus, lantana, blanket flower, daylily, rosemary and rugosa rose.
- To harvest and save tomato seeds for subsequent planting, cut a ripe tomato in half and squeeze the seeds and pulp into a small plastic container with a lid. Place in a warm area for several days to ferment. Rinse the seeds well and place on a paper towel or plate to dry. Store in refrigerator. Note that seeds of hybrid tomatoes will not produce identical plants.
- Harvest the heads of edible sunflower varieties when the outer shells of the seeds have hardened and the back of the flower head is dry and brown. Cure in a paper bag for several weeks in a warm, well-ventilated place.
- Cure onions in a well-ventilated area, out of direct sunlight, until tops are dry and peels are papery. Trim stems to about an inch. Hang in mesh bags in a cold, dry, well-ventilated area.
- Harvest winter squash when the rind is hard. Most varieties, such as butternut and acorn, will keep up to 3 months if stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location. Spaghetti squash has a shorter shelf life.
- Positively identify pest damage or disease before reaching for a pesticide that may do nothing to solve the problem and cause more harm. A handy resource is the Plant Pest Handbook, which you can view free at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Web site www.ct.gov/caes/cwp/view.asp?a=2823&q=378182.
- To effectively and safely handle, measure and apply pesticides, read all instructions first—more is not better. Labels on pesticide and herbicide containers bear three-tiered descriptions for indicating levels of toxicity to the consumer. "Caution" indicates the lowest degree of toxicity, "Warning" the next, and "Danger" the most hazardous. These labels refer only to degree of potential harm to the user, not to the environment.