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Frequently Asked Questions

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What should I consider when buying a plant? How big will it get, how much sun or shade will it receive, how much water does it need, and what USDA hardiness zone will it be in? Perennials come back each year, but many only bloom for a few weeks or months. If your objective is all-season color, choose several plants from each bloom season and consider adding some annuals for summer-long color.

How much sun does a plant need? “Full Sun” is at least 6 hours a day, but many vegetables need 8-10 hours per day. “Partial Sun” or “Partial Shade” is 3-6 hours per day. Shade is typically 2 hours or less, and not midday sun.

What kind of soil is best? How do I improve clay soil? You want soil that is somewhat crumbly and brown. To improve clay soil, add organic matter such as a soil conditioner. (If planting a 3-gallon shrub, work about 1/3 of a bag of conditioner into the dirt from the hole or spread several inches of conditioner on top of the bed and work it into the top 8 inches of the soil) Adding some mushroom compost can also be helpful, especially for flowers. You can have your soil tested for FREE through the Clay County Extension Office from April 1 – November 15. Stop by the office to pick up your free soil sample kit.

How much mulch do I use?  2-3 inches of organic mulch helps soil absorb water and maintain moisture while discouraging weeds. Avoid placing mulch within 2 inches of the base of the flowers or shrubs. Too much mulch against a plant can encourage disease and become home to damaging pests.

How much water do I give my plants? A rule of thumb is 1 inch per week but it varies by plant and new plants need more water. You can put your finger into the ground to see if the soil seems to dry. It is best to water in the morning and to apply water to the ground (vs. the leaves) to avoid disease. Here is a great article that can help you water smarter in the garden.

What garden tasks do I need to consider throughout the year? We publish a monthly gardening task list in the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Clay County Center Newsletter. You can sign up for the newsletter or you can view archived copies.

What plants are deer resistant? Here is a great publication on how to minimize damage caused by deer in your landscapes.

How do I handle pests and diseases? The integrated pest management (IPM) chapter from the Extension Gardener Handbook familiarizes readers with a systematic approach to managing insects and animal garden pests in an environmentally responsible manner. Here is a video from Homegrown that can help you use IPM in your landscapes. For more questions or to identify a specific problem, contact the Clay County Extension Office at (828) 389-6305.

What USDA hardiness zone is Clay County? Zone 7a, which means the typical coldest weather is 0 to 5 degrees. Some areas (in higher elevations) may be Zone 6b at -5 to 0 degrees.