April 2020
Onslow County Center
Vegetable Garden Update 
by Lisa Rayburn- Area Agent for Commercial Horticulture

Understanding Last Average Frost Dates
Every spring offers its own opportunities and challenges in the vegetable garden and 2020 is no exception.  An unusually warm March and start to April lured many of us into planting tender crops like tomatoes early. Unfortunately, Mother Nature provided a reality check with two frost warnings in the last two weeks (April 9 and April 15-16).

Many people use the "last average frost date" as their threshold for planting out warm season crops like tomatoes and peppers.  In Onslow County, that last average frost date is somewhere around April 7. The issue with this approach is that the last average frost date means that 50% of the time, the last frost will be before that date and 50% of the time, the last frost will occur after that date.  In Onslow County, in 1 or 2 out of 10 years that last frost can be as late as May 2-7.  

For this reason, I recommend planting out warm season crops on or after April 21.  Not only does this reduce the likelihood that you will need to cover tender crops, it also ensures that soil temperatures are warm enough to promote rapid growth.  If you can't resist the urge to plant early, be prepared to cover tender crops on frosty nights with row covers or old sheets.  

Frost risk varies throughout the county.  Coastal areas and properties along the New River will be more protected from frost while the northwestern portion of the county typically experiences colder temperatures.  I encourage gardeners to use a max-min thermometer to measure the temperatures in their gardens (at plant height). By comparing this information to the actual temperatures at your nearest weather station, you will be better able to determine the frost risk in your garden in subsequent seasons.   

Vegetable Gardening Site Selection
If you are new to vegetable gardening, now is a good time to think about site selection.  Most vegetables require full sun - 8-10 hours is ideal. If you don't have full sun, leafy greens, root vegetables, cole crops (like broccoli, cabbage, collards) and leafy herbs (dill, cilantro, parsley) will grow in lower light conditions.  

Choose a site that has easy access to water.  Water makes up to 90% of the plant's weight and regular watering will be needed during the growing season.  During rainy periods, you may not need to irrigate but we often alternate between wet and dry conditions. During dry conditions, you will need to be prepared to irrigate.  Frequency of irrigation depends on soil type and plant needs. It can range from once a week in heavier garden soils to daily for container gardens.  

If you are growing vegetables in the ground, look for a well-drained site where water does not stand after a rain event.  If your site has poor drainage, consider building raised beds or using containers.  

Finally, make sure you avoid the competing root systems of trees and shrubs.  They will find your well-fertilized, irrigated vegetable garden and compete with your plants for water and nutrients.  

What to plant now?
Now is the time to plant warm season crops including: basil, beans, cantaloupe, corn, cucumber, squash, tomatoes and watermelons.  Peppers, eggplant, okra and sweet potatoes thrive in warmer soils so wait another couple of weeks before planting them.  

Warm-Season Lawns
by Emilee Morrison - Agent for Consumer Horticulture
In Onslow County, most home lawns are comprised of what are referred to as warm-season grasses. Warm-season grasses actively grow during the warm months from spring into the fall and then go dormant during the colder months. Warm-season grasses include Centipedegrass, Bermudagrass, St. Augustinegrass, and Zoysiagrass. Depending on your site conditions and desired function of your lawn, one of these grasses may work better for you than the others. 
Centipedegrass performs best in more acidic soils, and is considered low maintenance due to low fertilization and mowing requirements. However, centipede does not tolerate heavy foot traffic, drought, or heavy shade. Bermudagrass has excellent heat, drought, and salt tolerance, but doesn't do well in shade. It is often used on athletic fields due to its high tolerance of foot traffic. St. Augustinegrass is the least cold-tolerant of these grasses, but is tolerant of salt and shade. It grows best in warm, humid environments. St. Augustine is often confused with centipede but can be differentiated because it has opposite leaves at the nodes whereas centipede has alternating leaves at the nodes.  Lastly, zoysiagrass is considered a dense, wear-resistant turf. Zoysiagrass grows well in sun and light shade.  
Knowing your site conditions, including soil pH, amount of sunlight, and also your desired use for the turf can greatly assist you in choosing which grass is right for your yard. For more detailed information about each of these types of grass, and a good overview of recommended lawn care practices, read the Carolina Lawns publication from NC State here: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/carolina-lawns

Upcoming Events

Due to precautions being taken to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in Onslow County, all public programming has been cancelled or postponed. The Plant Clinic is currently closed to walk-ins, but gardening questions are still being answered by our Master Gardener Volunteers at onslowplantclinic@gmail.com. You can also contact Emilee Morrison with questions, click here for her contact information.
Stay tuned to our website and social media for updates on Extension programming moving forward. If you haven't "liked" us on Facebook at Gardening in Onslow County, please do so. You will receive updates and timely gardening tips.

April Tips and Tasks

Different Types of Gardening

Lisa and Emilee answer frequently asked questions and share information about different types of gardening on episode 1 of #InTheGardenNow, a video series on our Gardening in Onslow, Facebook page!

Easy Container Vegetables And How to Grow Them

Lisa  walks us through the different containers that can be used for gardening on episode 2 of #InTheGardenNow, a video series on our Gardening in Onslow, Facebook page!

Here are some vegetables to consider when using containers for gardening:
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Any other leafy green
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant Tomatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes
Click here to read tips and tricks on growing the above vegetables in containers on our website!

Quick Tricks for the Garden

Have you ever gone to sow seeds but find you don't have any plant tags to keep your varieties straight? I keep a metallic paint pen in my gardening tote for these moments!

Materials Needed: Plastic Pots (Dry) (Black works best!), Metallic Paint Pen(s), Seeds
Directions: Write the variety name on the outside of a cell pack or plastic pot before you fill it with potting soil. 

Farms, Farmers Markets and Garden Centers are Essential (and Open for) Business

A lot has changed in the last month. For many of us, we have seen changes in how we live, work and shop. One thing that hasn't changed, is that local farms, farmers markets and garden centers are (mostly) still open. These businesses are considered essential services in accordance with statewide stay at home orders.

These businesses are allowed to continue operating because they fall into several important key areas. For one thing, these are businesses in which it is possible to maintain adequate social distance up to the point of sale. Many of these businesses are essential for food production. Farmers markets, farm stands and u-pick operations are critical aspects of our food supply chain, just like grocery stores while garden centers supply essential services for industries like agriculture.

That said, these businesses have all adapted to further protect customers and their employees health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some farms are offering an option to preorder by phone or text and then have your order delivered to the car when you arrive. In some cases, farms are now accepting no touch payment options like Venmo, Zelle or Paypal. U-pick strawberry farms are spacing customers out so there is adequate social distancing in the field.

Farmers markets are spacing vendors further apart, encouraging produce to be pre-packaged, asking customers not to handle produce they aren't purchasing and making hand sanitizer readily available to customers and vendors. If you would rather do your grocery shopping at the farm or farmers market rather than the grocery store or if you want to find transplants and start growing your own vegetables, those options are available to you. Make sure you call ahead as some of these businesses have chosen to close for their own reasons or may have limited hours or availability.

Remember that all recommended practices to avoid COVID-19 still apply. Do not shop if you are sick, maybe be sick or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. 

Stand at least 6 feet apart, avoid high touch surfaces, wash or sanitize your hands regularly and don't touch your face.

Local Grower Resources (Available Now!)

Onslow County

Business Name:  Bryant Produce
Address:   6583 Gum Branch Rd, Jacksonville, NC
Contact Number:  910-324-3083/910-324-1678
Produce Availability:  Boiled peanuts, butter beans, purple-hull peas, sweet potatoes, fresh eggs, tomatoes, and corn
*Call ahead before arriving and for produce availability*
Business Name: Parker Produce
Address: 230 Goshen Rd, Pollocksville, NC
Contact Number: 252-224-0420
Produce Availability: U-pick and picked strawberries. Seasonal veggies
*Call ahead before arriving and for produce availability*
Business Name: Mallard Farms
Address: 2486 Belgrade Swansboro Rd, Maysville, NC
Contact Number: 910-389-2905
Produce Availability: Produce available at The Market at Cedar Point
Business Name: Mike's Farm
Address: 1600 Haw Branch Rd, Beulaville, NC
Contact Number: 910-324-3422
Produce Availability: U-pick and picked strawberries.
*Call ahead before arriving and for produce availability*
Carteret County

Business Name: The Market at Cedar Point
Address: 1046 Cedar Point Blvd, Cedar Point, NC
Contact Number: 910-330-7937
Produce Availability: Chicken, lamb, pork, beef, duck, quail, tomatoes, strawberries, root and greens. Organic options are available as well
Business Name: The Farm at Bogue
Address: 5411 Hwy 24, Kinston, NC
Contact Number: 252-224-0420
Produce Availability: Lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes
*Call ahead before arriving and for produce availability*
Lenoir County

Address: 100 N Herritage St., Kinston, NC
Contact Number: 252-560-1617
Produce Availability: Strawberries, asparagus, sweet potatoes, collards, and kale.
Craven County
Business Name: New Bern Farmer's Market
Address: 421 Southfront St., New Bern, NC
Contact Number: 252-635-7814
Produce Availability: Cabbage, collards, asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers.
Business Name: Potter's Vegetable Patch
Address: 6325 US HWY 17 N, Vanceboro, NC
Contact Number: 252-634-7142
Produce Availability: Sweet potatoes, and mushrooms.
*Call ahead before arriving and for produce availability*
Business Name: David Parker Farms
Address: 2755 HWY 55 W, New Bern, NC
Contact Number: 252-514-8286
Produce Availability: Sweet potatoes
*Call ahead before arriving and for produce availability*
Jones County

Business Name: Parker Farm Produce
Address: 230 Goshen Rd, Pollocksville, NC
Contact Number: 252-224-0420
Produce Availability:  Camarosa Red Berries
*Call ahead before arriving and for produce availability*
Business Name: Ross Farms Livestock
Address: 961 Lees Chapel Rd, Pollocksville, NC
Contact Number: 252-623-FARM
Produce Availability:  Beef steak, beef roast, ground beef. You can even buy a whole cow!
*Call ahead before arriving and for produce availability*
Business Name: Morgans Meats
Address: 234 Green Rd, Trenton, NC
Contact Number: 252-917-1204
Produce Availability:  Multiple types of sausage including but not limited to hot sausage, mild sausage, maple breakfast links, bratwursts, chorizo, smoked andouille, ham roast
*Call ahead before arriving and for produce availability*

Greene County

Business Name: Rainbow Meadow Farms
Address: 1065 Lloyd Harrison Rd, Snow Hill, NC
Contact Number: 252-747-5000
Produce Availability:  Grassfed beef and lamb. Pasture raised pork, chicken, turkey, and rabbit. Gourmet sausages and charcuterie.
*Call ahead before arriving and for produce availability*

NC Dairy Extension has provided us with a list of businesses with Local Dairy Products Available. 

See below.


Would you like to add your business to the list?  We're collecting as many contacts as possible from businesses, produce stands, farms, etc that have fresh produce, meat, dairy, or grains in Onslow and surrounding counties.
If this is something you would like to contribute to submit your information now.
Click here and fill out the form.

Thank you.

The Onslow County Farmers' Market has opened it's 2020 Season, Saturday April 18th at 830.  We will temporarily be limiting vendors to produce and food at this time.   Please like 
O nslow County Farmers Market
 on Facebook and visit our website,  onslowcountyfarmersmarket.com for more information.  

2020 Season
Every Saturday, April 18 - November 14
4024 Richlands Hwy., Jacksonville
830am - 130pm

Every Tuesday, April 21 - July 28
512 New Bridge St., Downtown Jacksonville
830am - 130pm

Marie S Bowman
Local Foods
4024 Richlands Hwy., Jacksonville NC  28540
(910) 455-5873

Fun At Home Gardening Activities

Sunflower House
Grow a sunflower  �� "house" with your kiddos to give them a shady spot to explore and discover the wonders of pollinators!

Materials needed: 
Sunflower seeds, and hand tools to work the soil

1. Pick a location that is well-draining and receives 6-8 hours of sun per day. Your house can be any shape or size, but start with at least 4'x4'. We planted our sunflowers along the fence line to double as a privacy screen!
2. Create a planting bed by removing the grass and weeds along your "walls." 12" is a good width for these beds.
3. Following the instructions on your seed packet, plant the sunflower seeds where you want your walls. You can plant different varieties that grow to different heights and plant more than one row to create dimension and texture. Be sure to leave an opening for the doorway. Don't worry if your children are enthusiastic about planting the seeds - you can thin them out later!
4. Water frequently to keep the soil moist. Once your seedlings are a few inches tall, thin to the proper spacing indicated on your seed packet. Keep the beds weeded. After your sunflowers have a few sets of leaves, you can also put mulch around them to discourage weeds and hold in moisture.
5. Decorate! Make a path to the doorway or add a small table and chairs inside. Ask your little ones how they would like to furnish their new house.

If you have questions about lawn, landscape or garden problems, contact your local Cooperative Extension office.  In Onslow County call 910-455-5873, Mon - Fri. 8 am - 5 pm, or visit us online anytime at http://onslow.ces.ncsu.edu.  While you are there, you can post your questions to be answered by email using the "Ask an Expert' widget (in the upper left hand corner).

North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status or disability.  In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.  North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.  
Emilee Morrison, Extension Agent, 
Agriculture - Horticulture
4024 Richlands Hwy, Jacksonville, NC 28540