Making It Grow Minute

Mon-Sat, throughout the day

Amanda McNulty of Clemson University’s Extension Service and host of ETV’s six-time Emmy Award-winning show, Making It Grow, offers gardening tips and techniques.

Archive: Making It Grow Podcasts, January 2011 - September 2014

Ways to Connect

Winged Sumac
Matthew C. Perry/USGS

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. The roadsides I travel on are slowly changing their hue from full summer to fall. The showy heads of sumac are now catching my eye. This plant grows nearly world wide with a half dozen species right here in South Carolina. Sumac has a stoloniferous habit, it spreads from horizontal stems at the soil line, a habit that makes it valuable for soil stabilization and provides shelter and cover for wildlife.

Goldenrod
Liz West, via Wikimedia Commons

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Although I can’t tell it from the temperatures, it’s still as hot as it was a month ago, the roadside is changing and I see signs of fall. Right now on my drive from St. Matthews to Sumter, crossing the Congaree and Wateree Rivers, the golden rod is coming into color. Golden rod gets blamed for a lot of sneezing and itchy nose problems, but nature is careful with her resources.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Thank goodness, for over 10,000 years, humans have been cultivating figs that can produce fruit without pollination – a process called parthenocarpy. Our Southern figs fit in this category and it’s a good thing, as we don’t have the wasps required for the complex pollination strategy some other figs use. Brown Turkey is our most commonly grown fig in the South and it’s delicious, plus, if it’s killed to the ground in very cold winters, it usually will have a late crop on new growth.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Some members of the fig genus Ficus are dioecious – have male and female flowers on separate plants. Others are monoecious with both male and female flowers in the same structure. You never see any of these flowers – figs are examples of a syconium – an inverted flower with all the sexual structures on the inside.

The Calimyrna Fig

Aug 18, 2016

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. The Smyrna or Calimyrna fig is very crunchy, full of seeds, and gives your Fig Newton its satisfying taste. It’s considered the tastiest of all figs. In 1880, a California grower imported 12,000 rooted fig cuttings from Smyrna. The trees grew beautifully but the developing figs dropped off when the size of marbles. After years of research and effort, Capri fig cuttings, with the necessary male flowers, were imported, but still no Smyrna figs wouldn’t set fruit except with tedious hand pollination.

Owlflies

Aug 17, 2016
An Owlfly
arian.suresh/Flickr

Contrary to what the name implies, Owlflies are not true flies. 

Hello gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. About half the cultivated varieties of figs are dioecious and have a very complicated means of pollination. The male trees have developing figs with both male and female flower parts inside them. A mated female wasp, so tiny she can fit through the eye of a needle, enters a receptive fig through a small pore, or ostiole. She lays eggs in the female flowers with short calyxes, the botanical term for floral tubes. Those eggs hatch into male and female wasps, mating takes place inside the fig.

    Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Figs have been cultivated for over 12,000 years, probably originating in the Middle East -- at least archeological remnants of figs almost that old been found in what is today Jordan.

There are over 1000 different species of figs, Ficus, --from the fig vine that grows on brick walls, to the ubiquitous indoor house plant, and of course, the delicious fruit that grew in everyone’s grandmother’s back yard.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Ants are often on okra plants – perhaps getting sugar from extrafloral nectaries or “milking” aphids for honeydew. Whatever, the reason, most of them are benign and don’t require any control. But fire ants are a different story they reduce okra production and can be harmful to the gardener. Fire ants feed on the base of the developing flower buds, causing the flowers to abort and there’s one less nice, tender pod of okra to have for supper.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. The parts of my garden that have two to three inches of mulch applied have noticeable fewer, although still some, weeds than the few areas left with bare soil. I use coastal Bermuda hay, a sterile hybrid, and my provider does a good job keeping it free of weed seeds. But the heavy rains we had in the spring ruined several harvesting of hay and I am on a list – anxiously waiting for fifty bales.

Annoying Weeds

Jul 28, 2016
Gripeweed.
Pinus, via Wikimedia Commons

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Everyone with a vegetable garden knows that there is always a chore waiting. I have three really annoying weeds in my garden – mulberry weed, gripeweed, and annual poinsettia. All have the potential to produce high numbers of seeds that are made more obnoxious as they germinate throughout the growing season and remain viable for years and years in the soil. . Mulberry weed and gripeweed came into my life via transplants and landscape container plants.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. For me, weeding is backbreaking work, my back has been hurting for the past month from constantly bending over and pulling out those interlopers. And to add insult to injury, I fairly often get stung by fire ants while I am bent over the squash or tomatoes. Although there are many products that control fire ants, only a few are labeled for use in vegetable gardens and using the wrong ones can be dangerous.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. I took golf lessons when I was a teenager, and my teachers told me bending over to pick up balls was good for my waistline. Ha! I bend over about a zillion times every time I go out in the vegetable garden and still have to rely on Spanx to have a shape.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Blueberries, figs, plums, and muscadines are plants that are suitable for the backyard orchard – you don’t have to do much to control insects or diseases. Elderberry is a plant you could add to your backyard if you have some room. In other parts of the country, there are lots of both commercial and home orchards of elderberry but for some reason we haven’t used them much here. But Dr.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. In the history plant pharmaceuticals, elderberry was an essential medicine across Europe, into Russia, the Scandinavian countries, and among the Native Americans of North America. The traditional uses included numerous respiratory ailments, especially congestion and allergies, digestive problems – especially if a laxative was needed, headaches, fever reduction, and a host of others.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. When I took botany with the my Clemson professor the late Dr. John Fairey, one of the plants we studied was elderberry. Elderberry has an interesting feature – the stems are described as “weakly lignified.” What this means is that the outer portion of the stem is actually woody while the interior is filled with pith. Dr. Fairey told us that in the days before synthetic packing material, elderberry pith was used to pack delicate scientific instruments.

Elderberries
Jonathunder, via Wikimedia Commons

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. If you’ve been out driving recently, you should have noticed one of our showiest wild flowers in bloom. Elderberry has a coarse texture due to its large, pinnately compound leaves held on stems eight to twelve feet tall. It’s the flowers and fruits that are so eye-catching though. The flowers, although individually small, are borne in flat, broad clusters and with their white color contrasting with the green leaves, are very noticeable.

Elderberry flowers
Pixabay

    Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Elderberries are decorating South Carolina roadways and river banks right now. These large, eight to twelve feet tall, clumps of bright green foliage are topped with large, flat clusters of white flowers. You see them were there is associated water – along ditches or bordering streams and rivers. Interesting, those large clusters of flowers, botanically categorized as corymbs, are not particularly attractive to pollinators.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Grafted watermelons use a delicious, usually seedless variety for the top of the graft and a fusarium resistant plant – often a squash for the bottom. But that is just the beginning of growing the delicious watermelons that we relish throughout the summer. Pollination is a critical component and at the Edisto Research and Development Center in Blackville Dr. Gilbert Miller has beautiful patches of zinnas tucked amongst the melons to help attract the honeybees he also nutures.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. We talked about the alphabet of letters used to describe resistance in certain fruits and vegetables. F, FF, and FFF mean resistance to difference races of fusarium wilt. This pathogen can persist in the soil for years and years and years and is the biggest problem for watermelon growers. I remember when I was a student at Clemson hearing our professor, Dr. Ogle, talk about how watermelon growers were always looking for virgin soil not contaminated with fusarium.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Nate Bradford descends from a family that loved to tinker with plants; his great grandfather made crosses of various crops on his farm and one successful result was a delicious watermelon.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. When I was little, we would occasionally go the Bruce’s house for to eat watermelon and we didn’t throw away or compost the rinds.  Mrs. William R. Bruce was a wonderful cook and she wanted the rinds to make pickle. As a southern condiment, this is one of the best. Old fashioned watermelons had a thick rind which was easy to peel and cut into small pieces; newer varieties don’t have this characteristic.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. There is a host of letters following descriptions of vegetable plants when you look at seed catalogs and often these letters appear on the labels accompanying transplants for sale in garden centers. The land grant universities work closely with seed companies to come up with plants that can resist the many diseases and pests that destroy crops. When you look at tomato plants, these are some of the letters you see and the resistance they indicate.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. If your tomatoes show signs of tomato spotted wilt virus, remove them from the garden immediately and dispose of them in the trash. Don’t compost them.  The diseased plants can serve as a source of inoculum for other thrips which can acquire the virus and pass it to healthy plants. It is a viral infection, and although some parts of the plant may look healthy, remember that a virus moves throughout the entire infected organism's system.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. The western flower thrips is the most important insect that serves as a vector of tomato spotted wilt virus for us in South Carolina. Thrips are not strong flyers but they are easily moved by wind currents and the range of the western flower thrips has been expanded as it travels from state to state on infested plants in the nursery trade.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Ah, what greater pleasure can a gardener have than to scout the garden on a coolish morning with a cup of coffee in hand and admire the budding okra pods, the plump cucumbers, and the bean pods dangling from their trellis. All of that happiness evaporates when you get to the tomatoes and see distorted, purplish colored leaves. Tomato spotted wilt virus is just like the common cold – there is no cure, but the plant doesn’t recover from it.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Oh, the elusive garden tomato. Juicy, slightly acidic, firm fleshed. Summer suppers of BLT’s are the dream of both the cook and those cooked at the end of a long day. Nothing is more highly prized and these days nothing is harder to grow.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. The mahonias our mothers grew, Mahonia bealias, were called leatherleaf, and you needed leather gloves to mess with them as because they had such sharp spines on their leaves. But they added drama to dark, dry areas of their gardens. Then came a much softer and graceful variety, Mahonia fortune, which I planted by our north-facing porch steps, and its grown well but gets leggy and every year I have to cut a third of it back to keep it attractive.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. When I was growing up every single yard in our neighborhood had Aucuba japonica, aka Gold Dust plant, growing in a shady spot in the garden. This handsome, coarse textured medium sized shrub, was introduced to England in 1783 by a prominent botanist, John Gaeffer. Aucuba must grow in shade, if planted in sun the leaves will become so scorched they’ll turn black and die. It roots beautifully, and since the foliage is so  handsome people often cut it for indoor displays.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Fatsia japonica, which doesn’t have a common name but is just called fatsia, is a striking plant to grow in shade. Like nandina, it does branch if you make heading cuts to the stem,  the stems just get longer, and   you can easily have a    ten foot tall, dramatic multi-trunked specimens with very large, ivy-shaped, dark evergreen leaves. If you want it to stay smaller and more dense, just make heading cuts on a third or the shoots each year.

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