September 2020
Onslow County Center

Fascinating Garden Insects
By Emilee Morrison
Not everyone may be interested in insects, but I hope after reading this you may at least be more aware of their diversity and importance in the environment. Often, when people think of insects they think of the pests that can drive us crazy or damage our plants. However, the majority of insects in the world are actually considered beneficial, or at least harmless. Only about 3% of all insects are considered harmful. That means that many of the insects we encounter are not here to do harm, and may even be useful to us by helping control pest insect populations, or pollinating our food crops.
During the month of August, I was sent photos and given samples of some very curious insects that were found in different parts of Onslow County. Some I had never seen before, so I did some research to learn more about their role and behaviors.
The first insect is the Robbery Fly in the family Asilidae. When one of the Onslow County Master Gardener Volunteers brought this to me, I thought it looked like something from another planet.  Others commented it looked like a "mosquito on steroids" or some giant wasp.

Photo by Ebony Harrison

This Robbery Fly was the size of a quarter! These insects, although they look a bit freakish, are actually considered beneficial in the garden because they eat other insects, including many of the pests we want to get rid of like grubs, leaf hoppers, and beetles. Being a generalist predator, however, they will eat whatever they can catch, including beneficial insects like bees and even dragonflies. These insects are not harmful to humans but are best left alone because, if threatened, could deliver a painful bite.
The other interesting insect that was brought to my attention was this Hickory Horned Devil caterpillar (Citheronia regalis).

Photo by Diana Rashash

Although slightly terrifying in appearance, these caterpillars are harmless. They are sometimes found on walnut, hickories, pecan, sweetgum, persimmon, and even sumac.  They are considered fairly rare, so if you see one, count yourself lucky! They are not considered a pest, but are definitely a fascinating insect. After their time as a caterpillar, they will undergo metamorphosis and become a Regal Moth.
These were just two insects that were brought to my attention in August. There are myriad fascinating insects everywhere. I hope you will take time to look around your yard or along a trail or even the coastline. Most likely you will encounter some type of insect. The more I observe them, the more I am fascinated by their diversity and behavior. If you find something interesting, send me a picture and I will help you identify it and learn more about its role in the environment.

September Tips & Tasks

Peak Season Soil Sample Testing Fees
If you haven't sampled your soil recently, go ahead now to avoid the peak season sample fee! 
If you send your sample through the Onslow County Extension office, make sure it is received by November 15th to ensure that it reaches NCDA by deadline.
Wait times are significantly shorter if you submit your samples during the off-season! It usually only takes about 7-10 days for the lab to process samples during the non-peak season; during peak season, sample turn-around times can stretch to 8 or 9 weeks.
  • There is still time to plant! In September, you can plant onions, radishes and second plantings of short season hardy crops like leaf lettuce and spinach. Cabbage, kale, collards, Swiss chard and leaf lettuce can be set out through mid-October. Plant garlic cloves and onion sets until November. Choose short-day varieties of onions like Grano or Texas Supersweet.
  • Cool season herbs like dill, parsley and cilantro can be direct sown or set out as transplants and will stay green into winter.
  • Extend the growing season of tender summer crops like tomatoes and peppers by covering them through the first couple of frosts. We often have several weeks of nice growing weather after the first fall frost.
  • Clean up time! Remove old plants, as well as any foliage that has fallen on the soil and compost them. Do a final weeding, and mulch the bed with compost, straw, grass clippings, or chopped leaves. These mulches can be turned into the soil next spring to help fertilize next year's crops. Collect leaves and debris for composting but don't compost insect or disease-laden plant material or weeds that have gone to seed.
  • As perennial beds go dormant, you can either cut dry dead foliage back to ground level, or leave it as overwintering sites for native bees and other insects. Seed heads may be left for winter interest or to feed the birds (Sedum, Echinaceae, Blackeyed Susan, etc.).
  • Warm season grasses do not grow during late fall and don't require any nitrogen before spring. Fertilizing with nitrogen at this time will encourage weed growth and disease problems like large patch and winterkill. Instead, opt for a September application of a potassium fertilizer on sandy soils. Potassium can improve winter hardiness while improving disease and drought tolerance.
  • Raise the height of your lawn mower by one-half inch in mid-September to encourage your lawn to store energy for winter and protect your grass from winterkill.
  • Resist the urge to overseed your permanent lawn with ryegrass. While this provides winter color, competition with ryegrass in the spring can stress your lawn - particularly Centipede and St. Augustine.
  • If you had Large Patch diagnosed this spring, apply protective fungicides in the beginning of September and again in October for control. Also, make sure that you are not irrigating through the fall.
Trees and shrubs
  • Fall is the best time of year to transplant trees, shrubs, and perennials. Keep new plantings watered as they get established.
  • Prune shrubs to remove dead, diseased or broken limbs; however, save significant pruning for late winter or early spring. Spring blooming shrubs shouldn't be pruned until after they flower, or you will lose next spring's blooms.
  • Once all of the leaves have fallen, give your landscape plantings a layer of mulch over top. Three to four inches of mulch is good but excessive mulch can also cause problems, so check the thickness of your mulch. Old mulch can be freshened up by raking. Don't let mulch lie against the trunks of trees and shrubs or it will encourage pest and disease problems.
Upcoming Events

Fall Gardening

Virtual program offered through the Onslow County Public Library. 
Airing: September 3rd, 2020 at 2PM EST 
This program features our very own Master Gardener Volunteer Rich Mullins!

Fall Garden Series
A series of virtual gardening talks featuring the Onslow County Master Gardener Volunteers and Extension staff.

*Pre-registration will be required*
Stay tuned for details.

If you would like to have your name placed on the sign-up sheet, please contact
Emoni Burgess at (910) 455-5873 or
Are you interested in becoming a
Master Gardener Volunteer of Onslow?

The Master Gardener volunteers of Onslow County provide outreach and education to the residents of Onslow County using research-based gardening information. They also help maintain the Discovery Gardens, work with youth, provide outreach at public events, and are provided with exclusive training opportunities to learn more about horticulture topics. 

For more information about this our Master Gardener Volunteer program:

What's in season?  
Summer favorites are coming to an end, although we still have some peppers, okra, ad eggplant.  

Fall is in the air!  
Pears (great for preserves), peanuts, Muscadines and Scuppernongs are available!

For more information on operation times, product availability, and vendor applications please 

Like their Facebook page: 
Visit their website: 

2020 Season

The last Tuesday market was August 18th, 2020

Saturday, April 18 - Nov 14
830am - 130pm
4024 Richlands Hwy, Jacksonville, NC
(Rain or Shine)

Mark your calendars for the Holiday Market!
More details to follow
Saturday, November 28th
Saturday, December 5th
Saturday, December 12th

If you have any additional questions please contact our Local Foods Coordinator, Marie Bowman, using the information below.

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


Our North Carolina Cooperative Extension - Onslow County Center has started a hashtag 
#GrowOnslow to show our support of our Local Farmers, Agriculture, Family and Consumer Education, 4-H & Youth Development, and Community & Rural Development

Show your support by using #GrowOnslow
in your related Facebook and Instagram photos and posts!

Do you live in Onslow County and have garden-related questions?
Are you wondering why your plants are not looking great, or maybe want to know what a certain weed is?

The Plant Clinic is a free service through the NC Cooperative Extension and staffed by Extension Master Gardener Volunteers. The physical clinic is currently closed to the public, but questions are being answered!

Let us know how we can help by:

1. Call 910-455-5873 
*Due to COVID-19 our Master Gardeners are temporarily out of the office*

While you are there, you can post your questions to be answered by email using the 'Ask an Expert' tool.

3. Email a Master Gardener your questions or sample photos at

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