A wonderful week at Team Ecology teaching third grade students how to be good stewards of the environment. Thanks to all the Laurens County Master Gardener Association members who willingly donated time and effort to make this program successful: Don Pezon, Gary Pierre, Susan Johnson, Bonnie Hadden, Connie Daniels, Jane and Jim Nelson, Renee and David Richmond, Pat Moberg, Sherry Edwards, Juli Ciezadlo, Victoria Blackstone, and Joanne Thomason. See the Scrapbook Tab for pictures.
Mr. James Alverson from the Laurens County Beekeepers Association was the program speaker on April 20, 2017. We all know there is a lot of fuss about bees. Some of the other things we know about bees, he stated, was 1) they sting; 2) they make honey and 3) the honey bees are dying. He then went on to talk about the DDT use in the 1950’s. Colony Collapse Disorder was recognized in 2006. Some bumblebees are endangered. The Artic bumble bees are endangered due to warming climate. Some bumble bees are endangered due to being very flower specific. Approximately 400 to 500 Mason bees will pollinate 18 tons of apples. It takes approximately 30,000 bumble bees to do the same.
Mason bees are less expensive then honey bees but they pollinate apples and pears. Bumble bees and Carpenter bees are excellent pollinators for tomatoes and bell peppers.
So what is killing the bees? Varroa mites. They suck the blood of bees. There is no known defense against the varroa mite in the bee population.
What can we do to help the bee population? Plant flowers. Any flower that has an aroma such as Chickweed, Dandelion, Buckwheat, Crimson Clover, Henbit, Purple red nettle. Be careful to only plant flowers that have nectar. English tea roses have no aroma and have no pollen. Some of the new varieties of sunflowers have no nectar. Mr. Alverson suggested googling “Native Honey Plant” for other ideas. Other good choices: marigolds, zinnias, short sedums, cone flowers, black eye susans, and Maximilian sunflowers.
Never spray a blooming plant in the day time. Wait until after 5 p.m. as pollinators will have returned to their nests. Remember that any chemical with the word “cide” in it is a product that is meant to kill. Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides. Never use Sevin Dust as the bees think it is pollen and will take it back to their hives with detrimental consequences.
When purchasing plants make sure to avoid plants with “Neonicotinoids” which is a systemic pesticide. It is a synthetic nicotine and it gets into the water and kills birds.
In China, pears are hand pollinated. Robot pollinators are not effective. No live bees have been able to be brought into the U.S. since 1922.
Spotlight on Agriculture was held March 16, 2017. Go to the Scrapbook section of this webpage to see plenty of pictures. Highlight “Spotlight on Agriculture” and then click on 2017 Spotlight on Agriculture.
The January 19, 2017 program for the Laurens County Master Gardener Association was titled “Phytoremediation”. Victoria Blackstone, Horticulturist, gave an extremely interesting and informative program.
Phytoremediation: what is it? The word comes from the Greek word: Phyto (plant) and the Latin word Remedium (something that corrects or counteracts).
There are many sources of environmental exterior pollution such as smog, vehicle exhaust, livestock, volcanos, tornadoes, etc. A couple of examples where p phytoremediation has been used: to help clean up a Texas oil pipe spill as well as an industrial sludge site in California.
Examples of indoor environmental pollution would include particulate contaminants such dust and mold and gaseous contaminants such as cigarette and fireplace smoke, radon, toluene (paint thinners, contact cement, printers, photocopiers, and caulking compound), and Trichloroethylene (TCE) found in carpet cleaning fluids.
Per the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor contaminants can be 100 times more polluted than outdoor due to homes being well sealed to lower heating and air conditioning costs. More than 300 Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) have been identified as indoor contaminants, i.e., cleaning products, carpet, perfume, dyes, electronics, furniture, cosmetics, etc. These can over time may cause significant health issues. We have all heard of “Sick Building Syndrome”. There is also “New House Syndrome”.
To counteract these contaminants, many folks use an air cleaner or purifier. These collect particulate contaminants but do not remove VOC’s such as Toluene gasses. One could purchase a Multigas Air Purifier but these tend to be rather expensive. And depending on the size and layout of your home, you may need to purchase several.
In the 1970’s NASA tested indoor air quality in sealed spacecraft and found that plants could assimilate benzene and toluene gasses. In 1984 Environmental Scientist Bill Wolverton’s experiments found that certain plants could remediate up to 70% of chemicals tested within 24 hours. The key to the removal was the plant rhizosphere. The rhizosphere is the region of soil in the vicinity of plant roots in which the chemistry and microbiology is influenced by their growth, respiration, and nutrient exchange. Rhizo means “root” and Sphere means “circle or area surrounding”. See picture of Spider Plant roots.
One of the NASA experiments testing this solution was the BioHome, an early experiment in what the Agency called “closed ecological life support systems.” The BioHome, built in 1989 was a tightly sealed building constructed entirely of synthetic materials, and was designed as suitable for one person to live in, with a great deal of the interior occupied by houseplants. Before the houseplants were added, though, anyone entering the newly constructed facility would experience burning eyes and respiratory difficulties, two of the most common symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome. Once the plants were introduced to the environment, analysis of the air quality indicated that most of the VOCs had been removed, and the symptoms disappeared. The BioHome was in used until 2005 when it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Studies had been performed there to learn plant specific efficacy.
So for today, what are some options for us in our homes? As mentioned earlier, a contaminant air purifier or a multigas air purifier might be purchased. Or we might what to try phytoremediation. Plants are much more pleasing to view. The 5 plants that have been identified as having the most phytoremediation qualities are for the indoors are by common name: Spider Plant, Purple Waffle Plant, Golden Pothos, Nerve Plant, and Peace Lily. Most of these plants do not like direct sun and are resilient to low light situations.
Then one might ask “how many plants do I need to clean the air in my house?” The best answer to that question is: As many as you would like! Research is still going on to give more specific answers but now the recommendation is about 1 per 100 square feet. Place the plants in as large of pot as space allows. Try to use clay pots as plastic pots can give off gas.
The graduates of the 2016 Master Gardener class at Clemson University Extension celebrated the completion of their course on December 2 after finishing their final exam. A wonderful pot luck meal was enjoyed by all. One comment that was made by an attendee: “Master Gardeners are very good cooks!”
Graduates pictured (left to right) Stacey Darrah, Melanie Kennemore, Yana Allen, Doris Gomez, David Greider. Not pictured: Stefanie Griffin. They are holding The Golden Glove Award (a very well made extendable bypass lopper) that will be given to Stefanie Griffin for obtaining the highest weekly test average.
At the annual meeting officers elected for 2017: President: Gary Pierre; Vice President: Pat Moberg; Secretary: Renee Richmond; Treasurer: Bonnie Hadden. Approval to pursue 501(c)3 status was approved.
Leaf Casting with Kelly Toadvine October 20, 2016
There are some “hints” or “tricks of the trade” to be successful in making leaf castings and Kelly Toadvine from the Greenville, SC Master Gardener Association was kind enough to educate us about leaf castings for our recent MG program. Kelly started out by telling us about various leaves that are good leaves to use for leaf castings. Elephant Ear and cabbage leaves are good examples of leaves with deep veins. Deep veins show better in the finished leaf casting. Canna leaves are almost too flat. Hydrangea leaves are good for small leaf casting to use for tea candles. If you have chosen a leaf that is ideal for your purpose but the leaf has a hole or tear, tape the hole with duct tape. Kelly likes to use leaves that have a shape other than flat. Fern leaves are not for beginners. Leaves with hair filaments are difficult. And Kudzu leaves are somewhat boring. It’s just possible occasionally that a heavy duty leaf sprayed with cooking spray may allow you to use the leaf twice.
Start your project with clean construction or play sand. Wet the sand to a damp condition, like making sand castles. Important Hint: Cover the mound of sand with plastic from the dry cleaners as painter’s plastic is too thick. Place the leaf on top of the plastic. Keep the sand in a mound and do not handle the leaf with a sandy hand. Gently cut the stem at an angle without poking a hole in the leaf. To have the veins show well in your leaf casting, rock the side of your hand (the edge of your hand is perpendicular to the concrete) between the veins on the leaf to make indentations between the veins. Hold the leaf with one hand while pressing down with the other hand.
Important Hint: Use Quickrete Vinyl Concrete Patch only. Use gloves as concrete burns the skin. If you end up with a little left over concrete, you can put it in small containers for “feet” for whatever you are making. Try not to let concrete go to waste. Tape the leaf down using a drywall tape (mesh tape). This tape can also be used as a “rebar” between layers of concrete. Kelly mixes the concrete with an amount of water so that the final mix is similar to a moist brownie mix. Typically “less is more” when adding water. Make sure the concrete is lump free. If you plan to hang your leaf casting on the wall, now is the time to make sure you have a metal hook available.
When you cut your leaf for the casting, keep it moist and in the shade and use it within a day of cutting.
You are now ready to start covering the leaf with the concrete mix. Start with the stem with a round ball about ½” in diameter in the center as you will want more concrete in the center. Then flatten out the concrete over the leaf gently. If the concrete starts to dry out, simply spray with water. Gently push additional concrete toward the center and out to approximately ¼” of the edge of the leaf. Make sure the area where the stem is has a good amount of concrete. Keep pulling the concrete to follow the leaf. The entire casting at it thinnest area should still be about ½” thick or so.
If you want, you can use the leaf stem to make indentations on the back of the leaf in the concrete or put in your initials, etc.
Cover the concrete with the plastic and let the concrete dry covered for a day and a half before checking. When you check by pulling up an edge of the plastic and the concrete appears dark gray, it needs to dry more. If the color is light gray, very gently check by taking off the concrete leaf casting. The leaf casting should be left to dry in the shade or in a garage, not out in the direct sunlight.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
The first thing we learned from Eliza A. H. Lord about Seed Saving is to forget trying to save seeds from any hybrid plants. You will want to save open-pollinated seeds from heirloom plants or wild plants. Open–pollination is when pollination occurs by insect, bird, wind, humans, or other natural mechanisms. The plant dries and splits or shatters to show seeds.
Once you have collected the seeds, dry them in a single layer spread out. When they are absolutely thoroughly dried they can be saved in a Baggie. Be sure to check to see if the seeds you want to save have any special requirements such as stratification (cold storage). If the seeds require a cold period, they can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. For some seeds, i.e. tomato seeds, the gel needs to be removed from each seed. These seeds dry well on parchment paper out of direct sunlight.
Some seeds should not be dried at all. These seeds require moist storage in the refrigerator. Examples would be a Pawpaw, Maypops, Black Locust and citrus fruits.
Once you have harvested and fully dried your seeds you may need to separate the seeds from their pods or remove them from the seed heads, and then winnow them to remove bits of stems, shells, and other matter. Winnowing is blowing a current of air through the seeds in order to remove the chaff. Just make sure you don’t blow away your seeds with the chaff.
The internet provides sources of information on the longevity of seeds. When you have collected and processed your seeds, make seeds packets or use Baggies to store them. Be sure to label your seed packets with the genus and species.
Some easy plants from which to save seeds are Peppers, Melons and Squash, Snap Beans, Zinnias, Cosmos, Tomatoes, Lettuce, Basil, Arugula, Sunflowers, Black-eyed Susan and Rudbekia.
Some excellent reference books are: Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener by Joseph Tychonievich; Breeding Organic Vegetables by Rowen While and Bryan Connolly and Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties by Carol Deppe.
Eliza Anne was kind enough to teach us how to make small seed packets using Post-It Notes and then she gave us all some of the seeds she had saved from her permaculture garden.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Who knew the subject of fire ants could be so interesting?? Bryan Smith, Clemson Extension Agent certainly did. And he made it very interesting for those of us who were able to attend the MG meeting last Thursday. He started out with an interesting agricultural sidebar: Hay grown in S.C., or any location where fire ants live, cannot be shipped to locations where there are no fire ants. Think feeding the fire ants grits will kill them? Nope, doesn’t work. But let’s start at the beginning….
Did you know that 99.9% of all mated fire ant females (queens) will die before creating a nest. This is a good thing. The queens who live will lay between 100,000 and 300,000 eggs per year for 6-7 years. This is a bad thing.
The fire ants will forage when the soil temperature is between 70° and 95° Fahrenheit. If you are unsure if the fire ants are foraging, put out a few potato chip crumbs to see if they come to them. Fire ants forage 100 yards from their mound. Each mound has a tunnel to groundwater, even is the groundwater is 28’ plus deep! But because each mound has a tunnel to groundwater, please don’t pour anything toxic into the mound such as gasoline, etc. The mound is higher (for ventilation) on very hot days and will be lower on cooler days. The mound height can vary daily. The mounds are incredibly detailed. To see some interesting visuals of ant colonies, go to anthillart.com. Also, fire ants are very adaptable in case of flooding. They will create a raft by interlocking their legs and will float until they land on something durable.
One of the benefits of fire ants is that they will reduce the population of certain insects such as ticks, fleas and cockroaches. But enough about the benefits! Eliminating fire ants will not happen in the near future so the best we can do is control them. For control, it is imperative that the bait for the fire ants be broadcast at the appropriate time and temperature and that the bait is fresh. Most baits are corn/soy based and will become rancid. The soil needs to be dry when bait is spread. After the initial broadcasting of bait using “strip application”, i.e. every 20 yards in rows, then 7-10 days later treat individual mounds. This should give you 80%-95% control. Fire ants do not eat solid food. They place solids on the “lip” of the late stage larvae. The larvae secrete digestive enzymes into this “lip” and convert the solids to a liquid. The bait that is spread is so small that it is hard to see coming out of your hand seed spreader. Regular lawn fertilizer spreaders do not work well because you cannot get the seed setting small enough. As far as products are concerned: READ THE LABEL! Extinguish Plus Fire Ant Bait is an excellent product along with Amdro Fire Ant Bait. These baits are applied typically in our area in late April or early May and then a second application in early August. Make sure the ants are foraging and that there will be no rain for at least 6 hours. For individual mound treatments, there are several products: Orthene, Sevin, etc. have products labeled for individual fire ant mound treatment. Another fire ant control option that is more expensive than either Extinguish Plus or Amdro is Over-N-Out Fire Ant Killer. This product is applied once each year during February (in S.C.). One of the individuals at the program last Thursday evening had used Over-N-Out and was quite pleased with its effectiveness. The once a year application certainly sounds appealing.
Anyone with any questions concerning specific circumstances with fire ants may contact:
Area Extension Agent-Agricultural Engineer
Livestock and Forages Program Team, Laurens County Cooperative Extension Office
Irrigation and Animal Manure Management
Phone: 864-984-2514 x 112
TEAM Ecology report and pictures are in the Scrapbook section of the website under 2016 TEAM Ecology. Check it out!!
A large group of attendees heard a really interesting speaker at the LCMGA meeting on March 17. One of the LCMGA members, Mr. Glenn Blocker, arrived in full St. Patrick’s’ Day attire!
Katherine Mizell from Red Fern Farm in Gray Court presented a program on Growing and Using Herbs for Nutrition and Health. She started out by with some basic truths such as herbs do not work like drugs, herbs do not work in a vacuum, not all herbs are safe and you definitely cannot trust everything you read online about herbs. She went on to say that if one wants to be successful in growing herbs, one has to first lay a good herbal foundation. Invest in good reference books and then use them. Before you use an herb, cross-reference it uses and contraindications in at least three different sources (no online sources). She then talked about basic herbal preparations such as teas, tinctures and oils and salves along with instructions on how to make these. She ended her program with a listing of easy herbs to grow here in the Upstate along with their uses.
Katherine then issued an invitation to the public to attend one of her 2016 Free Herb Walks. The next one will be Sunday, April 3 at 3 p.m. A cross between a walking tour and a class, her herb walks are a fun and easy way to learn more about culinary, medicinal, and aromatic plants. Seeing, smelling, and tasting individual herbs is one of the best ways to get to know them, so she offers herb walks three times a year–in the spring, summer, and fall–so you can experience herbs that are typical of each season. These seasonal walks are offered free of charge and last approximately 90 minutes.
Though the walks meander through well-maintained areas of the farm, attendees will pass over uneven terrain so be sure to wear appropriate shoes. Hats and/or sunglasses, comfortable clothes, and bug spray are recommended during the warmer months. Guests are welcome to take photos for reference. All ages welcome. No RSVP needed. More information about Red Fern Farm along with the address and phone number can be found on their webpage at http://redfernfarms.com/
Gardening with Native Plants
A fascinating presentation at the Laurens County Master Gardener Association on February 18 from Pat Tuleibitz, a Greenville County Master Gardener. The subject was Native Plants. She opened with a quote she had seen on a t-shirt in Barbados: “It’s a big job, being caretakers of everything that lives. Remember….all things are connected. Act with dignity. Live lightly as you go.” Food for thought, for sure.
A huge benefit of using native plants is having a balanced ecosystem among plants, insects and birds. Sometimes when non-native plants are utilized that balance is destroyed: the plant takes over (think kudzu) and the balance among the plant, insects and birds is destroyed. That allows various pests to come in and take over. Pat gave the example of the Carolina Chickadee. This bird rears its young almost exclusively on caterpillars. Caterpillars are leaf specialists, restricted to certain plants. It takes 6,240 to 10,260 caterpillars to feed a single clutch of chickadees.
Data taken from The New American Landscape, copyright in 2011 showed the following:
54,000.000 Americans now mow their lawns each weekend using 800,000,000 millions of gas per year producing tons of pollutants; high levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide – 5% of the nation’s air pollution. 67,000,000 pounds of synthetic pesticides are added to U.S. lawns each year – three times as much on lawns per acre than is used for agricultural products. 2002 data show that we spend $28.9 billion yearly on lawns. 50% to 70% of residential water use is needed for landscape, mostly lawns…roughly 10,000 gallons of water per summer for a 1000 square foot lawn.
Pat covered a lot more about native plants and then closed with a review of why it is beneficial for us all to “go native”. The reason I liked best, personally, is that “It makes life easier for the gardener and promotes a healthier environment”. Love making life easier!
Donna Hopkins was the speaker at the January 21 meeting of the Master Gardeners. She was kind enough to supply us with a synopsis of her presentation. One needs to plant “host” plants as well as “nectar” plants to help increase the butterfly population. Read on……
Beginning Butterfly Gardening Synopsis with Donna Hopkins 1.21.16
A butterfly garden is the right flowers in the right location in a garden free or mostly free of insecticide use. Insecticides are harmful to butterflies themselves but also affect the flower nectar causing the butterflies to not feed from them.
Butterflies have several needs that we can meet in our gardens.
The hardest part of making a special place for butterflies in your garden is feeding them…host plants are the plants butterflies choose to lay their eggs on. After the eggs hatch the butterfly larva or caterpillars feed on the host plant. Caterpillars can quickly strip a host plant of leaves but they seldom kill the plants. Some common host plants are clover, cabbage, passion flower, liatris, fennel, dill and mistletoe.
The top eight nectar plants in the upstate are lantana, zinnia, verbena, butterfly bush, milkweed, phlox and sedum.
Some of the most common butterflies in the upstate are cloudless sulphur, cabbage white, silver spotted skipper, gulf fritillary and eastern tiger swallowtail and black swallowtail.
Butterfly populations fluctuate year-to-year due to weather conditions and predators meaning next year there may be more or less of each of the butterflies we enjoy.
Master Gardener and S.C. State Forestry Commission employee Dale Curry reads an Arbor Day proclamation which proclaimed December 4, 2015 SC Arbor Day at an Arbor Day celebration at Laurens Academy in Laurens today. Last year the 4th grade students planted a Sunset Red Maple donated by the Laurens County Soil & Water Conservation District. This year a commemorative plaque was installed. The current 4th grade students were there to learn from Tom Brandt, Clemson Extension Forestry Agent, how to continue to take care of the tree as every year the 4th grade class will be responsible for the health of the tree. The now 5th graders (who planted the tree in 4th grade) were able to learn more about the care of the tree in regard to diseases, insects, and physical damage. The last educational piece was provided by Gary Hankin, NRCS Soil Scientist who taught about the soil in which the tree is growing.
Mr. Robert Whitmore was the lucky winner of the Worm Bin Factory that was a fundraiser for the Laurens County Master Gardener Association. The drawing was held December 1 at the final class of the Master Gardener program. Mr. Whitmore owns a Laurens County business restoring antiques. He is a founding member as well as a current board member of the Laurens County Museum. He is a school bus driver and a proud grandparent. He anticipates that he and his grandson will have much fun and a great educational experience with the worm bin.