17 June 2012

Blog News

A lot has been going on around here lately - new social media, new address, new podcast.  I haven't mentioned this here, but you may know about it.  The Charleston Parks Conservancy recommends a site every Friday on their Twitter page and a couple weeks ago they recommended mine.  I was so surprised and thrilled.

I was honored, and I hope it's a sign of more good things to come.

16 June 2012

First Gardening Podcast

I just recorded the first gardening episode for "Chat Talk", a local podcast with MD and Devin.  While I was a little nervous, I think it went well.  We covered a couple of topics very broadly and I thought I would go back and give some more specific information about a few things.

First, I want to give out the Clemson Cooperative Extension and Master Gardener's Office information again:

Clemson Cooperative Extension
259 Meeting Street (2nd Floor)
Charleston, SC 29401

Master Gardener’s Office
M-F 9am-noon, 1pm-4pm
(843) 722-5940 ext. 117

To drop off soil samples, you will need at least two cups of soil.  The best way is to take a representative sample from the area you want tested, mix it up, and take at least two cups from that.  Basic soil testing costs $6, which will tell you pH, nutrient content, and instructions on amending your soil, depending upon what you are growing there.  There are "Ask a Master Gardener" booths located around the area on some Saturdays.  They can answer questions and take soil samples as well.

I have a little more information on starting a vegetable garden.

Three factors - Sun, Soil, Water
Sunlight is essential - at least 6 hours
Soil - fertile, well-draining
Water - adequate moisture

Sunlight is the most important one - the other two can be improved.  If you have poor soil, or poor-draining soil, there is always the option of raised beds.  You can control the type of soil that goes in it, and because it is raised, it will be drain better.  You probably will want to give your vegetables an inch or more water per week, depending on rainfall and time of the year.

There is one more thing I wanted to address.  We talked about kudzu bugs (Bean Plataspid).  I said I read an article that stated that pyrethriods were effective against these bugs.  I'm a little new at this and don't always know what I'm talking about - this was one of those times.  All of the pyrethr...words run together for me a little, so I'm going to clarify - as explained by the Clemson Cooperative Extension:

"Pyrethrum is made from the finely powdered flowers of a species of daisy. The word pyrethrum is the name for the crude flower dust itself, and the term pyrethrins refers to the insecticidal compounds that are extracted from pyrethrum. Pyrethroids are not botanical insecticides, but synthetic pesticides that are very similar in structure to the pyrethrins."
from: HGIC 2770 Less Toxic Insecticides

Here's a link to the podcast website, or go to the podcast page.

15 June 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.  On the fifteenth of every month, garden bloggers post photos of  what's blooming in their garden.  Let's start with potatoes.  I planted these potatoes almost a month late, and in bags as an experiment.  They were blooming the same time I was harvesting the ones in the ground.  Some of them look like they're doing really well.  We'll see in a few weeks.

As you can see, the sunflowers are starting to bloom the same time as our Echinacea.  This a smaller variation called something like "Bee's Knees".

Our Rose of Sharon, or Hybiscus syriacus, puts out a few blooms every spring, but it's never covered with them.  It's not my favorite, and I consider moving it every year - this time, back to where it was originally...

Just a smaller sunflower we have growing near the back yard.  It's only about waist-high, where the others are head-high.

I like this Canna.  I like the colors a lot.  And I hope to have more of it some day.  It's been invading our
yard from our neighbor's for the past couple of years.  It's in a shady spot, so it doesn't grow out of control, but we still get some blooms every year.

The Hostas under our oak tree are starting to bloom.  These are the first few flowers that have opened.  Ever since I started doing Bloom Day, I've been paying close attention to every possible flower bud in the yard, so I don''t miss it.  I'm talking to you, day lilies!

A few years ago, someone had dug these from their yard and put them in the trash.  I brought them home and eventually planted them.  It took them time to recover and I have about thirty of them now.  The spot I picked is less than ideal, so I've potted them and plant to transplant them somewhere that gets more sun.  Ironically, the edge of the shade is not very shady at all, and needs something there.  So, that's where they're going eventually.

Another bloom that I can't remember the plant name.  These were growing in our yard when we moved in six years ago.  They come back every year.  I like them.

We have some cucumber flowers - which means we'll be getting cucumbers soon.  I picked a trellising
variety and they're working out well.

I had some old zucchini seeds that I thought I would try - I got a few plants and this is one of the blooms.  You may be able to see some fruit at the bottom.

Some of our other Echinacea started blooming the other day.  It's a lot taller than the first one - a little paler too, I think.  You can see there's going to be a lot more blooms where that one came from.

I know it's not quite a bloom, but I noticed that our night-blooming cactus was trying to make a flower.  Maybe next month it will be ready for some good pictures to post here.

And, finally, some daylilies...

09 June 2012

Strange Eggs

One of our chickens must have broken her broody streak and started laying again.  Why do I say this?  Because I have started finding strange eggs almost every day this week.  I've heard the eggs can be a little weird when hens start laying, but I had never experienced it before.

The first few days we got a couple of tiny eggs, almost like that of a wild bird - Robin, Blue Jay, etc.  The third egg was a lot bigger and very elongated.  And finally the fourth egg had a weird shell - actually all of them seem to have weird shells - like they are really thick.  Maybe it's due to excess calcium that is being used up with these egg shells.  I'll be interested to break one open this weekend and see what we get.

The picture at the top represents a couple of the variations.  The middle egg is a normal size bantam egg.  The one to the left is one of the smaller ones that we got this week.  The one on the right is the elongated egg.  Now that I see this photo, it looks a little deformed as well.  The photo below is the weird shell.  There is as spiral pattern on the end of the egg, like something went wrong during the beginning or the end of egg formation.  I wonder if we'll get any more strange eggs?

08 June 2012


For more than a year, I've been tracking our rainfall.  I decided it should be more of an almanac, tracking the temperature as well.  I have an indoor/outdoor weather station that seems accurate most of the time.  It is good with lows, but sometimes the highs get thrown off when the sun hits it - it may read 124 degrees on summer afternoons.  I'm going to try to keep track of the temperature around here as well, and, if it gets wonky, I'll try to remedy the situation by moving it, or shading it, or whatever I need to do.  Instead of monthly posts, I've dedicated a page to the almanac and will update it every few days with temperature and rainfall information, instead of posting it on a monthly basis.

02 June 2012

At The Master Gardener's Office

Part of my Master Gardener training is working a number of shifts at the Master Gardener's office at the Clemson Cooperative Extension answering people's gardening questions.  Every time has been different - from a little scary to very boring.  Before I ever stepped foot in the office, it seemed a little intimidating, to answer a call from someone who expects answers about something you can't even anticipate.  I was put at ease during our orientation, when we were being shown the office and the phone rang.  Amy answered it, took down their question and told them she would find out the answer and get back to them shortly.  That was a big relief for me - I was expecting to have to know answers to questions off the top of my head.

My experiences at the office have been varied.  The first several times I worked the afternoon shift.  There was always another volunteer there and we got no more than five calls each time - one afternoon, the phone never rang.  I decided to try mornings recently and for my two shifts last month, I was the only volunteer in the office.  It was definitely busier - I probably got seven or eight calls.  It seems to be quiet the first hour and then by 10:30am, the phone calls start, and then before you can find the answer to one question the phone rings again.  It was nice being by myself, but I'm happy that I will have help this month.  Once you do about seven shifts at the office, you are not required to do any more.  You can volunteer elsewhere.  Probably most people do that, and I thought I would be one of those, but after three or four shifts, I decided this would be a good way to get the volunteer hours and learn something in the process.

The questions that people have vary, but there seems to be a cycle - as the seasons change the questions change accordingly.  Earlier in the year, there were a lot of calls about soil testing.  When it was time to fertilize the lawn, we got calls about that.  Now we're getting calls about vegetable gardens, etc.  There is a lot of strange things I've learned during my time and I thought I would start sharing them - here are just a few things:

I was reading about Centipede grass and came across its origin: "Centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) was introduced into the United States from seed found in the baggage of Frank Meyer, a USDA plant explorer who disappeared on his fourth trip to China in 1916."

I thought this was a very strange origin story - something that I'll remember for a long time.  The same is true about what I learned about Rhododendrons:  "People have been known to become ill from eating honey made by bees feeding on rhododendron and azalea flowers. Xenophon described the odd behavior of Greek soldiers after having consumed honey in a village surrounded by Rhododendron ponticum during the march of the Ten Thousand in 401 BC. Pompey's soldiers reportedly suffered lethal casualties following the consumption of honey made from Rhododendron deliberately left behind by Pontic forces in 67 BC during the Third Mithridatic War."

People have called about sterilizing Sweet Gum trees and even mailed in leaves, asking us to figure out what's wrong with their plants.  I plan to post more of these as I work at the Master Gardener office, so stay tuned.