Friday, May 28, 2010

Pesticide Recertification

Ag Agents Meghan Baker and Eddy Labus recently presented a 2-hour pesticide license recertification course to 59 private and commercial pesticide applicators. Participants included folks from 7 counties and two states. Topics included "Pests in the Landscape" and "Reducing Pesticide Drift." Keep an eye on our calendar events (at the bottom of the website) for other upcoming workshops and programs.

Operation Medicine Cabinet a HUGE Success!

The drug takeback program that keeps unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications out of landfills and streams more than quadrupled in medications collected. Watauga Cooperative Extension & its volunteers played a major role in the organization and promotion of this event.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mosquito Activity on the Rise Charles Apperson and Mike Waldvogel, Extension Entomology

The recent bout of heavy but very needed rain will likely trigger a significant increase in mosquito activity in about 10-14 days. In residential areas in particular, now is the time for homeowners to take the initiative to reduce the likelihood of serious mosquito problems around your property before they become reality. Before resorting to insecticide applications, consider a few other critical tasks:

Standing water is the critical item because mosquitoes will not be able breed without it. Permanent bodies of water can pose a more formidable impediment but most of our problems in residential areas are the result of MMOs or "Man-Made Objects" (yes... we guys will take the blame).

Natural low-lying areas will begin to dry slowly but make sure you're not contributing to the problem with clogged drainage ditches, tire ruts, etc.

Other water-collecting items such as empty buckets, tires, dishes under outdoor potted plants, the tarps over boats, equipment, etc. need to be emptied, inverted, discarded or whatever is workable to remove the water.

Have birdbaths? They make great observation posts for watching mosquito larvae in the water. There's no need to add chemicals. Do yourself and the birds a favor and flush out the birdbath. Same thing applies to pet water bowls outdoors (livestock water troughs out in pastures are another issue since they're not always as easily flushed out or routinely maintained).

Excuse time is over - get out the ladder and climb up there and unclog those rain gutters. The decaying leaf material and other debris actually attract mosquitoes. If you're planning home improvements, consider gutter guards to divert the debris. Also, make sure that your downspouts direct the water away from the house and not simply create a big puddle along the side of the house. If you have those concrete or plastic splash blocks, make sure they're directing water *away* from the foundation.

Finally, if you're using rain barrels to collect that precious rain runoff, make sure you have them screened, which helps keep out the junk and the mosquitoes as well. And while you're at it, get your neighbors to do the same. Mosquito control "takes a village" but it only takes one village idiot to make life miserable for the rest of the neighborhood.

Check out our mosquito information at:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

4-H Happenings

In 4-H, you can explore all sorts of things. Here is an edited report from 15 year old club president, Emily Cornett.

Appalachian Pioneer Meeting Report
By - Emily Cornett

Our Appalachian Pioneers Group met for it's first meeting on April 9, 2010. We had a wonderful attendance turnout with a total of about 12 families (equaling about 35 4-H age kids) come out to the meeting. For the core of our meeting we learned about the many uses of farm animals both in the past and present. We had some group discussion on the various farm animals and everyone added input as to the different ways they were and are used. Our hands on project this meeting was learning to make homemade butter. This was a wonderfully fun experience. After much shaking, each family's butter turned out yellow, and firm. After everyone strained their butter and completed the project, we all ate snack. Eventually everybody toured our farm to see some of our farm animals.

Where Does Your Food Come From?

Margie Mansure, Watauga's Family and Consumer Science Agent, has been presenting on this topic to third graders at the Two Rivers Community School. Following up with a school garden program at the school last year, Margie has been tying in gardens, vegetables, and nutrition with children at the charter school. "Dirt Made My Lunch" was the theme of yesterday's lesson as she got students thinking and talking (and singing) about the starting point for all of the ingredients in yummy pizza--the soil, of course! Margie also talked about different vegetables and the different vitamins that each vegetable provides.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Watauga Cattleman's Field Day

The Watauga Cattleman’s Association and the Watauga Cooperative Extension Service held their annual field day on May 11, at Claude Austin’s farm in Boone.
Dr. Jim Turner addressed transportation of cattle using best management practices that were developed through the Beef Quality Assurance Program. This is a national program developed to improve the management of beef cattle from birth to slaughter and improve the quality of beef to consumers.
Adam Keener Extension Agent in Avery County addressed issues concerning mineral nutrition for beef cattle. Mineral nutrition is extremely important to the health of cattle. Our area is extremely low in Selenium and Copper, and the feeding of a good mineral is essential to beef production.
For more information on the Watauga Cattleman’s Association or Questions about livestock call Eddy at 264-3061.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Happy Arbor Day!

Arbor Day was celebrated in Boone today at the Daniel Boone Gardens. Mayor Loretta Clawson welcomed second graders from several area elementary schools to the gardens that have undergone months of cleanup after the 2009 Christmas day ice storm. Joan Hearn (aka "Mother Nature") and other speakers answered questions about trees and Mason's Tree Care gave a pruning demonstration. Watauga County Extension Director, Jim Hamilton, is a new member of Boone's Tree Board that reviews planning proposals related to tree species selection and planting for the town.

Scouting Field Day, May 25th

The NC Cooperative Extension- Watauga and Ashe Centers will be hosting a insect and weed scouting field day on Tuesday, May 25th from 2-4PM. We will discuss various pest and beneficial insects commonly found in Christmas Tree farms and control options.  Demonstrating scouting techniques followed by actual field scouting will help growers learn how to scout on their own farms.   2  hours of pesticide credit in categories G, L, N, O, D, and X will be available to participants.
Directions: From Boone continue on Hwy. 421 South past the intersection of old 421 and new 421 (Food Lion intersection) and travel approx. 1-1.5 miles turning left onto Laurel Gap Ridge Rd. (the second left after the intersection).  Follow Laurel Gap Ridge Road for approx. 1/ 2 mile.  After coming down the hill and curving left, look for a metal farm gate on the right, just past a house trailer.  Go through the farm gate and travel down gravel road.  Veer left continuing on the gravel road and then continue until you reach a grass parking area at the end of the farm road.  Signs will be posted.
For more information:  Meghan Baker Extension Agent, Agriculture Christmas Trees and Commercial Horticulture NC Cooperative Extension Watauga County Center 971 West King Street Boone, NC 28607 Phone:828-264-3061 Fax:828-264-3067

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Be sure to ventilate your greenhouses

Greenhouses, Cold Frames, Hoop Houses, and other season-extension technologies do a great job of allowing us to continue growing tasty local vegetables during the "off-months" of winter. However, with the arrival of warmer weather, and the Springtime sun is traveling ever higher through the sky, one must be careful to avoid too much heat. These spinach leaves scorched due to a combination of too much heat and strong sunlight hitting the leaves while there was still water from morning's irrigation beaded-up on the leaves. Spinach is a cool-season crop, so it loved the greenhouse during January and February, but even by April greenhouses get too hot for Spinach to thrive.

To avoid similar problems in your own cold frames and greenhouses, be sure to water as early in the morning as possible so that water can evaporate off the leaves gradually before the sun gets too strong. Also, be sure to keep air moving as much as possible in any cold frame or greenhouse. Sides that roll-up or down are great features if you are putting up a new hoop structure. Removable end-walls will allow the hoop house to continue to be useful well into the summer: eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes all do better with some shelter from the rain and the extra heat early-on, but you need to keep maximum indoor temperatures below 90* F. or so for the plants to continue to thrive into the summer.

If your greenhouse lacks enough vents to move air passively, you may need to employ extra fans to cool things off. Keeping air moving will also help reduce disease problems such as damping-off problems in seedlings (i.e.- Pythium, Rhizoctonia).

Virtual Pond Management

On Thursday, May 13, Cooperative Extension hosted a Pond Management Seminar via Elluminate...a web-based educational networking program. Watauga County Extension served as a remote hosting site. NRCS District Conservationist, David Tucker (shown here) presented on pond construction and permitting considerations with a laptop and microphone. Over 80 participants in remote sites across the state participated in the training.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

2010 Extension Master Gardener Graduates

The Watauga County Extension Master Gardener Program congratulates recent graduates from the 2010 spring training program. Participants completed 11 weeks of training in horticultural topics including plant growth, soil health, composting, identification and prevention of insect and disease problems, and plant propagation. Volunteers are working on completing horticultural fact sheets for the general public and are also developing landscape design plans for garden beds around the Watauga Extension office.

To complete their volunteer service, graduates will each contribute at least 40 hours of assistance throughout the county. These volunteers are essential partners in meeting the vast home horticulture needs of county residents.  Graduates include: Joan Brannon, Gale Buchanan, Ana Maria Castanheira, Arlena Creasman, Jimmy Davidson, Leon Hodges, Pat Howell, Slade Howell, Russell James, Nell Kline, David Kline M.D., Kathy Lee, Coleman McCleneghan, Liz Rose, and Renee Williams.

For more information on the Watauga Master Gardener Program, please visit the Lawn & Garden section of the website. If you have an idea or need for community gardening projects or other questions about the program, please contact Meghan Baker at or 828-264-3061.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Summer Transplanting Study for Fraser Fir

So what would happen to your Fraser fir if you transplanted to the field in mid to late summer instead of spring? Would the seedling get a head start for next season's growth? Or would transplant shock and heat stress kill it? Dr. John Frampton, the Christmas tree geneticist at NC State is trying to find out. Based on some outplanting methods learned from European growers, Frampton has designed an experiment to test late outplanting with Fraser, Turkish, and Nordmann fir.

For the experiment, transplants from each species will be planted at regular intervals from May through October on the same sites under similar conditions to see how the seedlings react.  IPM Technicians Doug Hundley and Brian Davis, and Watauga County Extension Director Jim Hamilton are assisting with the research. Hopefully this research can tell us more about the transplanting thresholds or windows for outplanting Fraser fir and maybe allow growers to get a head start on field production.

Rain Barrel Sale Now in Progress

Protect our Water Resources.
Since we can’t see into future weather patterns, and we don’t know what this summer holds, why don’t you go ahead and get your Moby 65 gallon rain water harvesting system today.

How to order:
Go to the following website to order your rain barrel.
You must place your order by May 28th, 2010 in order to get the discount on the barrel. The barrels will be shipped up June 4th for the one-day pick up event.
The June 4th pick up event will host The Town of Boone Every Drop Counts program, demonstrations on how to set up the barrel, and hourly door prizes. Bring your kids by after school to receive activity books and other goodies.

Enter to win a free barrel from the Town of Boone Public Utilities office at 321 East King Street or call 268-6250 for more info.

What sets this rain barrel apart from others?
- Made in NC from 100% recycled plastic.
- The shape of the barrel is designed not to crack and split when frozen. Check online for winterization guidelines.
- Mosquito proof
- Best in class overflow set up to withstand heavy rains so barrel won’t back up into gutters. This barrel has optional flow direction with capabilities to attach multiple barrels.

Rain barrels are a great way to conserve water and save money. Use a rain barrel for watering lawns and flowers, as well as, washing cars and driveways.

Monday, May 10, 2010

WNC Hort Association Landscapes at Horn in the West

As part of their commitment to community outreach, the newly formed Western NC Horticultural Association mulched, mowed, and weeded areas around the Horn in the West on Friday. Crews from Lawn Ranger Yard Services, A Cut Above Lawncare, Wren's Nest Landscape, and Dreamscapes of Boone volunteered their time and equipment for several hours to get the grounds ready for the summer's 58th season of the outdoor drama. The WNC Hort. Association recently obtained their non-profit organization status with assistance from Cooperative Extension.

WNCHA members John and Wren take questions from High Country Press reporter, Anna Oakes.

Friday, May 7, 2010

They're back... Eastern Tent Caterpillars

The Eastern Tent Caterpillar has begun its annual consumption of tree leaves and many people are curious about these visibly dramatic insects. Tent Caterpillars tend to prefer sourwoods, apples, and wild cherry trees however they can be found on a number of native and ornamental trees in the forest and landscape.

Tent caterpillars are commonly referred to as “bagworms” however this is misleading as the actual insects known as bagworms are very different in their damage and form. Tent caterpillars appear in the spring when the caterpillars emerge from their eggs. The caterpillars will then begin spinning their white silken webs and feeding on leaves. Tent caterpillars create the webs in the crotches of branches, rather than on the tips of branches.

The goal of most all caterpillars is to consume as many leaves as possible in order to prepare for pupation into an adult form. Tent caterpillars can defoliate young trees and if severe defoliation of larger trees occurs year after year, they will noticeably decline. The caterpillars themselves are not harmful to humans, pets, or dwellings however they can be considered a nuisance as they crawl around looking for new locations to spin their cocoons.

The best control for Eastern Tent Caterpillars is disruption of the webs as soon as they are observed. Parasitic wasps and other insects, as well as many bird species will help naturally control the caterpillars. A stick or broom handle can be used to rip into the silken web, exposing the caterpillars to a myriad of predators. NEVER attempt to burn the webs in the tree, as this creates a potentially dangerous situation that could harm both the tree and other structures or property.

Other control options are to spray the caterpillars or uneaten foliage surrounding the webs. Orthene and Sevin formulations for household use are effective treatment options, as are Dipel (Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki), Conserve (spinosad), and Olympic Insecticidal Soap. Follow the label directions on spraying guidelines and applicable rates.

Remember that Eastern Tent Caterpillars are found throughout North America and are generally considered to be an aesthetic pest rather than a serious forest or landscape pest. Whenever possible, always choose the most effective, least toxic option for pest control.

Pesticide recommendations are included as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and commercial products or services written here does not imply endorsement by the NC Cooperative Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products not mentioned.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WNC Horticulture Association Hosts Rep from MAXLawn

During its May monthly meeting, the newly formed Western NC Horticulture Association heard from invited speaker Scott Marks from MAXlawn Artificial Landscape Turf. Marks brought samples of an artificial turf product used for high-end landscaping and specialty jobs. According to Marks, artificial turf is "another tool for the landscaper's toolbox" for clients who prefer low maintenance or for high-traffic areas such as playgrounds and dog-runs where natural grass, sod, or mulch doesn't hold up as well. He presented information on installation and a slideshow highlighting before-and-after pics of areas installed with the product. Scott invited other landscapers to contact him at if they had any questions.

Big Turn-Out for Cover Crops Workshop

With spring gardening and farm preparation and planting in full swing, around 40 area producers attended Richard Boylan's "Cover Crops for Vegetable Growers" workshop on May 3. Richard covered rotation plans, soil management, and methods to help small farms sustain harvests despite the unpredictable weather here in the high country. Participants included growers from the New River Organic Growers and local gardeners. The workshop was an updated version of a Cover Cropping workshop he presented at the 2010 Organic Growers School in Asheville earlier this year.