Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Natural pest control in the garden and your home.

Natural Pest Control in the Garden and your Home.

There are many of us searching for natural ways to deter pests from devouring our gardens and us. 
Mosquitos are prevalent during the muggy, humid days of summer and are attracted to damp conditions. So our garden is a good place for them to hang out, with all the watering we do. Be sure not to leave watering cans laying around with water still in them as this becomes a perfect breeding ground for these tiny biters. However, there is no foolproof way to keep mosquitos out of your space. There are some plants that will help to repel them from your garden or living space. 

Citronella Grass & Lemongrass

Citronella grass and lemongrass are the most well known and widely used mosquito deterrents available. A lot of you may be familiar with the citronella oil that is used in torches and candles to be burnt and help keep mosquitos at bay. The grass is the original source and has the same abilities as the oils and candles. If you keep your citronella grass in a pot it is also portable. Used in the garden it helps keep the mosquitos at a distance that may allow you to tend your garden area without being bitten by a tiny buzzer.

This herb not only repels mosquitos and flies, it is also harvestable and preservable to use in the future for your favorite recipes. You can plant this herb in a pot or directly into your garden to help repel some common flying pests. If you plant basil into pots and place by doors into your house you will notice fewer flies entering your home when the door is opened. Basil also improves the flavor of some other plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and asparagus.


Lavender repels moths, fleas, flies, and mosquitos. In the garden, it helps to repel flying pests. You can dry this herb and hang the dried bouquets around your home to change the minds of flies who may consider entering an open door. Lavender oil also works as a mosquito repellent for the skin.


This herb not only repels mosquitos but also is a deterrent for many pests that are harmful to vegetable plants. This trait makes this a perfect companion plant for most of your vegetables in the garden. You can also boil the leaves and let steep and put the "tea" into a spray bottle to use as an insect repellent. The liquid can be stored in the refrigerator until it loses its scent potency.


Dill is a wonderful, all around pest repellent. It repels aphids, squash bugs, spider mites, cabbage loopers, and tomato hornworms. This herb also makes some great tasting pickles!


Oregano not only gives life to many dishes we may prepare in our kitchens this herb also repels many pests such as mosquitos, whiteflies, and fleas. When planted in the garden it also provides some groundcover that may deter weeds but it doesn't stop there it also provides humidity for peppers when planted nearby.

Stone Strong

What Does It Take To Make a Person "Stone Strong"?
Meet Lorie Stone

As Mitchell's Nursery and Greenhouse celebrates 40 years of business we also celebrate Lorie Stone and her 5 years as a full-time employee at the nursery.
Lorie was brought on board as a part-time employee in March 2014. It didn't take long before she had proved her worth and was promoted to full time. Lorie's story does not simply start and end right there. She has faced many challenges in her life and has managed to come through with dignity and humbleness that few people possess. Nothing in her difficult life could have prepared her for May 25, 2017. After seeing her family physician for some pain issues and being referred for tests, she was finally given the news that she had been diagnosed with Invasive Ductile Carcinoma, stage 2.
Lorie described that moment as " going deaf in every sense".  She tried to cry but couldn't find the tears. Her mother immediately went into mommy mode and gathered her strength and faith and assured Lorie that "God's got this. God's got you".
She then made the call to Judy Mitchell. Judy simply said, "we're going to get through this." A simple statement with a huge impact.
She began her chemotherapy on June 26, 2017, with four types of chemo every 3 weeks until November 1, 2017, when she underwent a bi-lateral mastectomy. She was once again given some traumatic news. Cancer had spread to her sentinel nodes and they were removed and drainage tubes had to be put in place to help avert any fluid accumulation. In December Lorie began the radiation phase of her treatment. Thirty treatments that left her very sick, very tired and very burned. Since Lorie's cancer was an estrogen fed type of cancer she had to undergo a total hysterectomy in February 2018.  In February of 2018, Lorie was declared cancer free. Her bout with cancer and its treatments left her with weakened bones and she still must undergo bone infusions every six months. The doctors had recommended a preventative chemo pill due to there being a high risk of reoccurrence, but it proved to be more than Lorie's body could handle and it left her exhausted and sick, so she put her faith in God and refused any more.
  Lorie has never quit working during the time that she was undergoing treatments and still had the drainage tubes she still managed to do things for the nursery from home and sometimes on site. It has been an uphill battle, but today Lorie has reestablished her full-time role at the nursery and has met some new responsibility with excitement and enthusiasm, as only she can.
When asked about the experience with cancer, she answered as follows:

" My parents have been there for me from the start. My mom stayed overnight with me in the hospital while my dad brought us food. My mom was trying to stay strong for me and she did. She never lost faith and she has been my rock. My dad wanted to be there but my mom was quick to remind him how fidgety he gets. I stayed with my parents after my surgery and they took care of me. My grandparents are precious to me. When I was diagnosed my grandpa had dementia but he was aware in the moment and he cried. That nearly broke my soul. My grandma depends on me and I promised my grandpa that I would take care of her after his passing. So I ain't done living. I have not once lost my faith or fight. The devil has tried many times in my life to take me out, but he doesn't have what it takes to take me or my God down. My family has shown me so much support and love, that they along with God, are my strength. Now I just want to give back. The Mitchells have been wonderful. I think of them as family. A family does not always have to be blood. I can't think of anywhere else that would be so supportive of their employees. Nothing makes me happier than making others happy. Now that I'm back to full time I make it a goal to put smiles on less than happy faces. I love the customers. There is no place I'd rather work. I'm not perfect but I am blessed."

Most days are good for Lorie now but occasionally she just needs a little extra rest time. But her improvements have been astonishing compared to where she was. Lorie is a customer favorite at Mitchell's. No matter how bad her day is she meets each one with a smile you can often hear her infectious laughter from across the nursery. She has solid knowledge and obvious love of life that makes each customer experience pleasant and efficient. It has been an uphill battle but we have watched you overcome and we respect you.

Mitchell's Nursery feels blessed to have Lorie as an integral part of the team. Thank you, Lorie, for 5 years and here's to many more.


Southern Squash Casserole

Southern Squash Casserole

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 6 medium yellow summer squash sliced 
  • 1 cup Vidalia onion thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (divided in half)
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (for a healthier version you can use plain greek yogurt)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons butter melted 
  • 1 cup crushed Ritz crackers or any type of butter cracker
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease a 9x11 inch casserole dish.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the squash and onion. Cook until tender.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 the Parmesan and all of the cheddar cheese, sour cream, salt, and pepper.
  5. Pour mixture into 9x11 baking dish.
  6. Mix 3 tablespoon butter and crushed crackers and sprinkle evenly over the squash.
  7. Bake 20 minutes.
  8. Remove and serve warm.

This is a southern staple. If you would like to change it up a bit, you can add corn or mushrooms. I like to add some cooked wild rice to mine. If you like things a little spicy you may add 1/2 pkg of taco seasoning and substitute crushed Doritos in place of the Ritz. 

Summer Squash

Summer Squash: The benefits of growing this plentiful producer.

Almost every gardener has at some time or another, planted squash, AKA- crookneck, straight neck, and yellow squash. If you are among the many, then you know that these are some of the most prolific producers in our garden. These golden favorites offer many health benefits. Many of which are quite amazing.

The obvious plus is the fact that it is low in carbohydrates. In today's diet plans this is an important trait. It is also gluten-free, full of fiber, low calorie, and an excellent source of beta carotene. This garden powerhouse also packs folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese. We must not forget the vitamins found in the yellow wonder, with A, B6, and C packed inside you can't go wrong with this gem on your plate.
You can add it to your salad in a raw state or you can fully cook it to enjoy its smooth texture and somewhat buttery taste.

To add even more value to this treasure trove of nutritional finds you can also eat the leaves and blossoms of the squash plants. You may harvest the young leaves and blossoms, chop and fry them as you do cabbage or you can cook them as you do other garden greens. if you use the larger more mature leaves the taste may be bitter. Keep in mind that the blossom is what produces the actual squash so if you harvest these for consumption you may not see any squash.

If you like the idea of its health benefits, but can't quite get on board with its texture or taste, there are a plethora of ideas that will please even the pickiest pallet. A few suggestions would be to dice it up and saute' it with onions and mushrooms, or if you are looking to boost your children's nutrition intake you can dice it small and add it to your corn. Trust me, they won't even know it's there. You may try it pickled or chopped up with your cabbage in coleslaw to add some extra texture. No matter how you choose to enjoy this summer favorite, you can't go wrong.

Plants that love living in the shadows.

Plants that Love Living in the Shadows

Most of us have an area of our landscape that doesn't quite get as much sun as most plants need or prefer. Try as we may, we can't quite get things to grow and look beautiful in these areas. It seems that most things that are visually appealing thrive in full sun. Most of us will feel defeated after a long arduous search. However, it does not have to be that way. There are some very attractive options available to brighten up your darkest corners. Let's begin by looking at tried and true favorites.


These beautiful plants vary widely in size and color, from dwarf that grows only a few inches high to giant varieties that can grow to a whopping 3 ft. or better and in shades and colors that range from nearly white to blue with variegated or solid color leaves. Hosta will bloom with a flower spike that hosts several bell-shaped bloom along the upper length of the spike in colors of white to purple that may be fragrant.

The biggest issue that homeowners have with hosta is the fact that deer tend to love these tender plants. There are several ways to deter them from feasting on the beautiful foliage but a few of the most common is to- 1.) Use deer repellent spray. The downside of this method is the fact that you must reapply periodically. 2.) Use swatches of human hair around the area where your hostas are planted. The human scent will often steer deer away. 3.) Get a dog! This option is obviously not an option for everyone and does not prove effective if your dog decides he needs a new friend more than you need hostas. 3.) There is a product called Deer Scram that comes in granular form and will keep deer and many other nibblers away from everything that you put the product around. You can find this product at most larger garden centers and home improvement centers.

If you can keep the critters off of your plants, they will add a lot of beauty and dimension to your area


Ajuga or Bugleweed is a very dense groundcover. Growing only 6 inches tall makes it a wonderful companion plant for other shade dwellers. The ajuga offers beautiful evergreen foliage that varies from a deep purple to a silver-green in a variegated leaf and early summer purple flowering spikes that grow about 3 inches above the foliage. This groundcover is nibbler resistant. Rabbits and deer tend to not bother their tender leaves.


Now here is a star performer. These beautiful plants offer some stunning blooms that sit above their glossy green foliage. Colors vary from white to red with shades of pink and purple in between. When the blooms are finished you may trim them off and you will be left with the attractive foliage until the first frost at which time you may want to cut them back to allow for new growth in the spring. These beauties are thankfully deer resistant.


Columbine offers a wide variety of color for your garden with blooms that tower above the foliage in early spring into early summer. The attractive foliage makes it a go-to for edge plantings. This is a deer resistant and drought tolerant plant that does exceptionally well if mulched. A fact to bear in mind is that you may want to deadhead these beautiful flowers as they will go to seed and drain the plants' energy and may weaken it enough to die out in 3 or 4 years.

Helleborus ( Lenten Rose)


Lenten Rose is by far the hardiest of all the shade lovers. It is tough enough to withstand the cold winters and even bloom among the snow. The dark green or silver foliage adds interest to your landscape even after the blooms are gone. These are the best plants to have if you have a large deer population as they will not touch them! Blooms for these perennial plants vary widely in color from green to almost black. You would be hard pressed to find anything better suited for a difficult shaded area.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019


Agritourism: Explore and Discover

Agritourism is a growing interest across the world. Defined as an agricultural based farm or business that is open for public touring and interactive learning or entertaining.
Here in the great state of North Carolina, there are a plethora of opportunities for you and your family to explore and enjoy. 

Locally speaking, there are several opportunities for discovery that may go unnoticed.

Mitchell's Nursery and Greenhouse 

Mitchell's is a full-service tree and plant nursery that offers tours to groups. Here you will tour the greenhouses and be educated on the growing processes and irrigation. Then you will move on to the nursery, where you will see the hundreds of varieties of trees and shrubs. Mitchell's team of associates will be more than happy to answer questions along the way. A tour typically lasts for 30 minutes. Spring and late summer offer the most activity across the entire nursery, however, mid-November to December offers thousands of poinsettias in full bloom. Certainly, a sight to behold. Tours can be booked at any time. You may book by calling 336-983-4107 or by email at info@mnandg.com

Buffalo Creek Farms

Here you will find a 34-acre goat dairy and will be educated in the processes of cheese making and other day to day operations of a goat dairy.  Bring the kids and enjoy the day. Buffalo Creek Farms also has many different types of animals to see on the farm, such as miniature zebu cattle and llamas. To book your tour you may visit their website at BuffaloCreekFarmandCreamery.com for more information.

Plum Granny Farm

On this gently rolling 54 acre farm you will find a USDA certified organic farm where they grow raspberries, blackberries, garlic, ginger some vegetables and many more specialty items. You may book your tour by calling 336-994-2517 or by email at cheryl@plumgrannyfarm.com

Shelton Vineyards

 Located at 286 Cabernet Ln. Dobson, NC.
Here you will find an expansive vineyard along with the complete process of winemaking from start to finish. The vineyard also offers a restaurant and a retail area. You may call ahead to book your tour 336-366-4724 or visit their website for more information at Sheltonvineyards.com

The Farm

Located in Dobson, The Farm has something for everyone. It is very kid friendly and is loaded with activities for the entire family. We encourage you to visit The Farm if you are looking for something the whole family can enjoy. They offer pony rides and hay rides and games. you can visit their website at  letsgotothefarm.com or call them at336-817-5208

Mayberry Spirits

Located at 461 N. South St. Mount Airy NC. 
At the distillery, you will see first hand what goes into the process of creating whiskeys. They offer tastings to guests 21 and older. You may book your tour by visiting their website at MayberrySprits.com

Miss Angels Heavenly Pies

This unique bakery is located at 153 North Main St. Mount Airy NC
All of their fruit pies are made from their own seasonal fruits that are grown in their own orchard.
Baking tours will be available Monday -Friday at noon and baking classes are conducted monthly.
You may contact the bakery at missangelsheavenlypiesinc.com  or by email at purdieladies143@aol.com or by phone at 336-786-1537

This is just a small list of endless possibilities. If you are interested in exploring all the possibilities you can visit the North Carolina Department of Agriculture's website at VisitNCFarms.com.  There are so many working farms that make the world go round and offer education to children and adults everywhere.

I encourage you to check out what your area has to offer and if you are fortunate enough to be able to travel, I suggest you check out the offerings at your destination. Agritourism is an underexplored activity option for families and groups everywhere. Explore and discover with agritourism.

Strawberry cobbler


  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, diced
  • ½-3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. In a medium bowl, add strawberries and ¾ cup sugar.
  3. Stir to coat strawberries in sugar and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  5. Add in milk, vanilla extract and melted butter.
  6. Stir until combined. A few lumps are ok.
  7. Grease a 9-inch casserole dish.
  8. Pour batter evenly into dish.
  9. Spoon strawberries evenly on top of batter. Do NOT stir.
  10. Baked for 35-40 minutes or until golden.
  11. Serve warm or cold.




Spring has sprung and the world is coming alive! What a wonderful time of year it is. It seemed the winter would never end and now the birds are singing, the peep frogs are peeping and the crickets are chirping. Life is good! Now is the time of year that all that cold weather work outside really pays off. Now you can actually start to drop those seeds and plant your plugs and get this garden party started.

 Our vegetable garden should be calling out to us about now. It is longing for its usual capture of tiny seeds that it will nurture and grow. Deciding what to plant can be based on your preferences or your needs. Either way, you can put those seed directly into the ground with all confidence that the tiny, tender plants that will soon emerge, are safe.

Tomatoes are a staple that we find in just about every garden. They are easy to grow and give us enough fruit to provide for our family and usually some neighbors too. These are also good options for your patio plot or container garden. You can grow these from seed that you put straight in the ground but you may find greater success if you start them indoors, acclimate them to sunshine, and transplant the seedlings to your garden. Or you may simply buy young plants from your local nursery or garden center. That is the easiest way. Loose, well-drained soil is best for these plants and they thrive in full sun. Consistent moisture in well-drained soil is a must. You will need to stake or cage your tomato plants and do not remove any leaves that may be shading some of the fruit. Follow these simple guidelines and you will have fresh tomatoes in no time. There is nothing quite as delicious as a fresh tomato sandwich on a hot summer day unless it is one with basil leaves on top.

Peppers are a favorite among gardeners. These plants are high yield when given proper care. Water deeply and provide good drainage and you should have plenty of peppers to pick.  Peppers are not frost tolerant and need warm soil, so they definitely need to be planted after the threat of frost, which in our zone, zone 7, is usually around the first of May. The plant itself is an attractive addition to any garden. Some smaller peppers such as banana peppers or jalapeƱo peppers are often used in pots for their ornamental properties as the peppers will turn to bright red on the vine if not harvested in their green stage.

Lettuces can be sown straight into the ground and fare much better through the early season than in the hottest part of the growing season. However, you can still grow this crunchy favorite nearly all year long with properly timed re-sowing of new seeds. This leafy lovely will attract critters to your garden so you may need to take some precautions such as fencing or netting to keep the nibblers away. This can be put into containers and grown quite successfully.

Cucumbers are a long time favorite of the container gardener as they will grow vertically with a little guidance.  The cucumber has two ways of growing. There are the vining types, best for container growing in tight space and the bush type that are good for smaller areas and containers. Many gardeners use fencing panels or PVC arches for their vining cucumbers while some will use a trellis or even wooden stakes and some twine. Whatever you choose for your cucumbers. The key to an abundant cucumber crop is consistent watering.

 These are just a few of the available choices for your vegetable garden. But what about the flowers? Maybe you prefer blooms to veggies or maybe you are a gardener of both! Either way we could not talk about spring gardening without mentioning the bloomers.

 Let’s kick this section off with the geraniums. These longtime favorites have been a southern staple for the front porch for generations. While they are not frost tolerant at all, you want to make sure you don’t get them outdoors too soon. These beauties love full sun but they do appreciate a reprieve in the evenings, especially in hotter climates. They like their soil a bit on the dry side. After a thorough watering, they appreciate fast draining soil. Pinching them back will keep them looking bushy and not so leggy. The blossoms also need to be broken off as they fade. Most people grow this plant in containers. In the right spot though, they can be planted into the ground and either pulled up at the onset of cooler weather or you can take cuttings to start for next year. Keep in mind that in zone 7 this is not a perennial plant. With consistent watering and a weekly dose of liquid fertilizer, you should enjoy geranium success.

 Let’s hear it for impatiens! Who doesn’t love these gems of the garden? For a few years, they were not seen as often due to a widespread disease issue. Now, with new varieties that have been bred to resist disease we expect to see a rise in their popularity again. They will produce an abundance of flowers if they are placed in filtered light or morning sun where they can spend part of their day in the shade. These are excellent container flowers or if placed in the right location they make very dramatic border plants.

One of my favorites is the petunia. These are some of the easiest flowers to grow. They complement any porch or landscape. These summer bloomers will tolerate some shade but really show off their blooming power in full sun. If you will remove the fading blooms, your petunias will be encouraged to produce many more. This plant will produce blooms into early fall with regular watering and water-soluble fertilizer. Some of the newer varieties such as Supertunias, don’t need the dead blooms picked off.

Finally, the one plant that really needs to be in your plans whether you choose vegetable gardening or flower gardening or both, is the marigold. These come in many different varieties and are certainly beautiful, but what makes them so beneficial is their ability to deter pests of all sorts. While it is their scent that deters some nibblers and suppresses nematodes, it is their attractiveness that draws Japanese beetles and slugs to them. Marigolds provide a food source so that insects leave the other members of your garden family alone- a beautiful sacrifice from a beautiful plant.

These are only a tiny portion of all the possibilities for your garden and every garden is as unique as the gardener. When we finally make it to these first days of the planting season, it seems to stir joy in our hearts that only gardening can. My hope is that each of us can reach for a tiny hand and look into some very young eyes and pass this joy right along. It is the future of our world that lies beneath the soil and the roots of our families that lie just beneath our skin. When the two come together, it builds hope for the future and memories for all time.