Onslow County Center
In the Garden Now
November/December 2020
Moving into Winter

Despite some warm sunny days, there is a noticeable shift in the weather tending towards cooler nights and days. The first day of Autumn was September 22nd, and here we are in mid-November with the leaves on many trees still green. However, the forecast for the remainder of the week brings us into the 50s and 60s for highs and dipping down into the 30s and 40s at night, which will spur our deciduous trees and shrubs to begin shutting down photosynthesis and prepare for winter. During this time, there are a few things to consider doing in your yard to get ready for the change of seasons. 

Once the leaves have fallen and your yard is knee deep in brown leaves, you may find the urge to grab the rake and bags and clean up. Something to consider before you remove the leaves from your property is the value of those fallen leaves. For one, fallen leaves will decay and add organic matter to your soil. In a forest ecosystem, this process is essential for maintaining the balance of soil fertility to keep plants healthy. If you prefer not to have the leaves scattered throughout your yard or smothering your turfgrass, rake them onto existing flower beds or around trees and shrubs as a free source of mulch that will help suppress weeds, maintain soil moisture, and feed the soil as the leaves break down.
Photo by: UNH Extension
Additionally, many wildlife species rely on fallen leaves. Frogs, toads, salamanders, and turtles need fallen leaves as a place to nestle into during cold winter days and nights. Many butterfly and moth larvae overwinter in leaf litter, including the Luna moth (see below). One of my favorite insects, the lightning bug or firefly, overwinters in fallen leaves as a larva. So, before you remove the leaves from your yard, consider their value to plants and wildlife. Another alternative is to compost the leaves, which will still allow many of those larvae to survive the winter and grace us in their adult form next year.

Photo: Luna Moth from Bugguide.net
Now is a good time, if you haven’t already, to start bringing your houseplants from the porch or deck indoors for the winter. Many houseplants we enjoy are native to tropical regions of the world, so temperatures dipping below 45-50 degrees can lead to plant damage. First move the plants to a more protected, shady location outdoors for a few days to give them time to acclimate to lower light conditions. Check for insect pests and treat if necessary before bringing them indoors. Many houseplant pests such as aphids and mealybugs can be treated with insecticidal soap.

If you did not start the acclimation process soon enough and find yourself facing a frost with houseplants still outdoors, just be prepared for potential symptoms of shock that can come from a rapid change in environment when you bring them indoors. The most common symptoms of shock include yellowing, leaf drop, and wilting. Healthy plants will recover better than those with preexisting conditions. Do not be alarmed, but rather be patient to see how the plant recovers. Place plants in areas of your house that receive sufficient light. Southern facing windows receive the most light, while north facing windows receive the least. When the top inch of soil becomes dry, water your plants thoroughly so the excess water flows through the bottom of the container. I like to do this in the sink or bathtub.

Photo: NC State Extension
As our plants and gardens begin to hunker down for the winter, so do we. Preparing for the holidays during the COVID pandemic may seem daunting, but I do hope for each and every one of you that you find some time of quiet and solace in your garden. Enjoy this time as things slow down, because, before you know it, the seed catalogs will begin arriving in the mail and you will be busy planning your garden for spring!

Best regards,
Emilee Morrison
Tips and Tasks


• November is a great time to plant bulbs for spring flowers. It is also a good time to divide established bulb plantings if they need it. Bulbs that will perform year after year in Onslow County include: daffodils, star flower (Ipheion uniflorum), blue bottles (Muscari neglectum), Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica), summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) and lilies (both Asiatic and Oriental). Tulips and hyacinths tend to melt out after several seasons due to our warm, moist summers.

• If you are planning on making new garden beds, or expanding current ones, why not do it now and save yourself some work during the hectic spring season? You can make a “lasagna bed” or cover an area of grass with thick newspapers and mulch. In the spring you will have an area ready to amend and plant -- without having to remove sod!

• Clean up! Remove plants that had insect or disease problems, don’t compost them. Healthy plant material can be composted. Consider leaving some perennial stems and seed heads for wildlife.


Warm season grasses do not grow during late fall and don’t require any fertilizer before spring. Fertilizing at this time will encourage weed growth and disease problems like large patch and winterkill.

To learn more about large patch disease, see this NC State Extension publication: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/large-patch-in-turf

Trees and Shrubs

• Now is the time to divide and replant perennials and the best time of year to plant and transplant most trees and shrubs. Remember to keep new plantings well-watered during their first several weeks as they get established.

• Most ornamental grasses hold up to the winter weather so leave them, if you like. If they look messy, just cut them back.

• You can prune shrubs and trees to remove dead, diseased, or broken limbs but save significant pruning for the dormant season around February. Spring blooming shrubs should not be pruned until after they flower (or you will lose next spring’s blooms).

• Bring in any pots that can't take a freeze -- terra cotta, ceramic, and many plastic pots.

Choose and Cut Your Own Christmas Tree
If you are looking for a way to make memories this holiday season, consider taking the family out to choose and cut your own Christmas tree. You can enjoy an outing to a farm and give your children the opportunity to pick out their favorite tree. You can cut your tree (if you choose) and farm staff will help shake and bind the tree for transport home. It doesn’t get much fresher or more local than that.

Several species are commonly grown as Christmas trees in eastern North Carolina. Eastern red cedar is the traditional southeast Christmas tree with its dark
shiny green leaves and fresh cedar scent. White pine and Leyland cypress are also common. Many farms also offer precut Fraser fir, which are grown in great numbers in the mountains of western North Carolina. Your personal preference will determine which type of tree is right for you.

There are two Christmas tree farms in Onslow County that offer choose and cut Christmas trees. Make sure to call ahead in case there are any changes due to the COVID19 pandemic.

Justice Christmas Tree Farm
1325 Gould Road Jacksonville, NC 28540 Onslow County
Office Phone: (910) 346-6783

Mike’s Farm & Country Store
1600 Haws Branch Road Beulaville, NC 28518 Onslow County
Office Phone: (910) 324-3422
Mark your calendars for the Holiday Market!

Saturday, November 28th
Saturday, December 5th
Saturday, December 12th

For more information on our Holiday Market: