Hurricane Ian Update

New Hanover County is under a Tropical Storm Warning. Visit for more information.

New Hanover County services and attractions are closed Friday but will resume normal operations on Saturday, October 1. Learn more here.

Fall Gardening

September is a transitional month for us as the nights begin to cool off and days flirting with triple digits are a distant memory. More pleasant working conditions mean that it’s a good time to get the garden organized. For the folks who have a place for every tool and every tool in its place, this is a small chore. But, if you’re like me and your old pickup truck is vaguely reminiscent of something you’d likely see on Sanford and Son, it’s time to get busy.

Before you get too carried away and aggravate your “Arthur-it is” or heaven-forbid have “the big one”, figure out what causes more problems for you completing your garden chores.

The irrigation system is a constant struggle for me. There are all those small parts like nozzles, strainers, barbs, and special tools to adjust the sprinkler heads. Every time I get ready to make some simple repair, it takes twice as long to locate the right stuff as it does to fix the problem. As an irrigation contractor I had a van with a bin package that allowed us to keep all of those small parts in a relatively organized fashion. But, that van is long gone.

Take a cue from another group of people who have lots of small stuff to keep up with – those who love to fish. They have tackle boxes that work great for keeping up with small parts. You can even find them at the home stores in sizes from small to “too large to haul around without a forklift”.

Knowing where all of the irrigation parts are will minimize your frustration and keep you from using those words that Bible-toting Ester was so offended by.

Keeping a sharp blade for the lawn mower is another battle that I don’t always win. Keeping the blade sharp minimizes the tearing of the grass and keeps the lawn mower from working so hard. Sharp blades are even more important if you’ve planted some of the newer zoysia grasses like Crowne, Empire or JaMur. These grasses have tough cell walls that put a premium on sharp blades.

Go ahead and purchase two blades for your mower. Keep a sharp one hanging on the peg board (a nail works too). When the first one gets dull replace it and get the old one sharpened immediately. That way, you’ll always have a sharp blade ready.

Speaking of sharpening things, don’t forget about your basic hand tools like shovels and hoes. Typically, a new shovel has an edge on it that’s about like sticking a 2 x 4 in the ground. Make your digging life easier with a simple sharpening. You don’t want to cut the metal so thin that it rolls up during its first encounter with a root, but you’ll be amazed at the difference a better cutting edge makes.

If you have some bench space in your garage or workshop, pick up small bench grinder to make your sharpening chores go quickly and easily. Just make sure the area can accommodate the hot metal bits coming off the wheel without creating problems.

By getting all of your garden tools organized and in great working condition, you won’t have to worry about anyone calling you “a big dummy” – at least not about your gardening anyway.

Need Help?

If you need answers to your lawn care and gardening questions visit http://, where you can post your questions via the ‘Ask an Expert’ link, or contact your local Cooperative Extension center Pender County l 259-1238; New Hanover County l 798-7660; Brunswick County 253-2610. Search Facebook for “New Hanover County Arboretum” and check out our new website at

Al Hight, NHC Extension Director

NC Cooperative Extension and Arboretum: 6206 Oleander Drive • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-7660 • Fax 910-798-7678
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