Archives
You are currently viewing archive for June 2008
Posted By Tony Melton Florence County Extension Agent

   Pardon me, but it’s just ain’t the fourth of July without a crisp, ripe, sweet watermelon.  I get many questions on how to select a ripe or quality watermelon.  Nothing is more disappointing than to gather or buy, wait to cut, and then the melon is green or worse – mushy! My wife loves watermelon, but she‘s really disappointed when it’s not top quality. As a County Agent, many people give me melons. I can’t control what people give me, but when you buy or harvest a melon, there are certain traits you can look for to get a the best possible melon.

   First of all, a watermelon is ripe when its belly turns from white to a cream or yellowish color.  The belly of a watermelon is the part that rests on the ground and is white when the melon is green and will get, as we say in the south, “yellower” as the melon gets riper. But be careful --    if it’s real bright yellow, it’s probably over-ripe.
   Next, if your melon is an oblong-type melon, slight longitudinal (lengthwise) ridges can be felt on the upper surface when it is ripe.  Like Ruffles, ripe melons have ridges.  If the belly is yellow but no ridges the melon may have been picked green, allowed to ripen, and will be of poor quality.  If harvested green, the watermelon flesh will turn red but will not be sweet.  In the real world, unless they are picked out of a garden or bought on the farm, most melons are harvested a little early to allow for shipping and handling.  The earlier they’re picked, the less time for the fruit to get sugars from the plant and the poorer quality.
   Next, if you are picking a melon out of the garden, the curl (tendril) nearest the melon’s stem will be dried when ripe.  However, once ripe, the curl dries, and if you wait too long to check the curl, you may be harvesting the melon over-ripe.
Next, if the stem is completely dried the melon most likely has been harvested for a long time.  Sometime vendors keep cutting the stem as it dries to make it appear that the melon has been harvested recently.   If the stem has been removed, most likely it has totally dried.
Finally, don’t depend on the old method of thumping the melon – thumping is a rather poor test of ripeness. The thumping method relates to the relative density of the interior flesh which varies with the rate of ripening, growth rate, water levels, sugar content, and other factors.  
   Watermelon not only tastes good but is good for you. Fresh watermelon contains higher levels of lycopene that any other fresh produce item, including tomatoes.  A number of studies have drawn a correlation between lycopene consumption and the possible prevention of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
   Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.  If you enjoy gardening and using flowers and plants in decorations, please watch Down Home with Tony and Amanda on Thursday nights at 8:00 pm on the SC Channel (ETV's digital station). If you don't get that channel, you can go to www.mig.org, select streaming video, and scroll down to where our shows are archived.


 
Posted By Tony Melton Florence County Extension Agent

   As my daddy would say, “It is hot as fire.”  In actuality he would pronounce it “pharr.”  Well, I have been to Pharr, a city in Texas, and it is hot there also.  When it is hot we need to remember that plants and animals need plenty of fresh cool water.
   First of all, if you are working in the yard or garden do it in the morning or late evening and drink plenty of water.  I have had heat exhaustion, and I can tell you it is no fun.  It can sneak-up on you so just be careful.
   Next, most vegetable gardens and lawns could benefit from about 1 inch of irrigation per week if it doesn’t rain.  However, keeping the foliage of plants wet will encourage diseases.  So, if you are wetting the leaves water at night between midnight and 7 a.m. and no more than twice a week.  The theory behind this is that the foliage is already wet from dew at night and you are not extending the wetness period.  The longer the leaves are wet the longer diseases have to have a party on your plants.
   Finally many animals especially birds need water.  With our extended drought less and less water is available to wildlife. When you add water to your back yard, there are a few points and tips to consider. For example, if you have an outdoor cat, an elevated birdbath is a necessity. Place the water source in an open area, away from nearby garden shrubs and trees, to prevent predation. If you don’t have a cat, put the bath near trees and shrubs so the birds have a place to wait and to preen their feathers after bathing.
   If you opt for the traditional concrete or a similar birdbath design, place a flagstone in the bowl off to one side to give small bird’s easier access. Avoid placing your birdbath too near the bird feeder, so seed and bird waste do not fall into the birdbath.
   To give an added dimension to your backyard water plan, use drippers and misters. The sound of dripping water is irresistible to birds.  A dripper is usually constructed in the form of an arch, which can be attached to an existing birdbath. Some have a catch basin already attached below the dripping arch, which provides an additional bathing area all its own. A mister is similar to the dripper, only smaller. It sprays a fine mist. It is usually hung from a tree or shrub. Bird drippers and misters can be found at specialty nature/bird stores and catalogs.
   Cleanliness is a must for birdbaths, since birds use them daily for drinking as well as bathing. Clean the birdbath weekly with a brush and a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water. This solution will help prevent diseases and algal growth.  During extremely hot weather, replace the water daily. Just think, if you had to drink your bath water, you would want it replaced daily too.
   Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.  If you enjoy gardening and using flowers and plants in decorations, please watch Down Home with Tony and Amanda on Thursday nights at 8:00 pm on the SC Channel (ETV's digital station). If you don't get that channel, you can go to www.mig.org, select streaming video, and scroll down to where our shows are archived.


 
Posted By Tony Melton Florence County Extension Agent

   Forget spring the heat is on!  Wheat and winter weeds are drying so watch out for thrips.  As these winter host plants dry, the thrips start moving to find other plants on which to feed.  In fact millions upon millions of thrips are looking for a good meal, and your tomatoes, beans, roses, and etc. look mighty delectable.  In fact, a worried homeowner called me the other day concerned about his home, which was setting in the middle of a drying wheat field, being totally covered with a layer of thrips.
   Thrips are very small, longer than they are wide, and look like a fine pencil mark.  They love to congregate in flowers because they are attracted to color, especially light blue.  My favorite way to detect thrips is to take a flower and observe as it is being torn apart.  The thrips will scurry around bringing them out of their hiding places where they can be seen.  A flower is a regular buffet for thrips.  After being damaged by the thrip feeding, many flowers will fall off or just look ugly.  With vegetables, this means no fruit.  With ornamentals (especially roses), this means ugly damaged flowers.
   Thrips, also, carry or transmit certain diseases.  We all remember the 2002 tomato fiasco, where almost all locally grown tomatoes were destroyed by Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV). Well, thrips transmit TSWV.  However, controlling thrips doesn’t do a very good job of preventing TSWV because it only takes one thrip to give your plant TSWV and there are millions of thrips out there. Thrips also transmit other virus to both vegetables and ornamentals.
   Since total thrip control is impossible, we recommend monitoring the thrip population and control when you see a lot of them in the flowers.  Where an organic control is wanted, insecticidal soaps work fair and beneficial insects are available for thrip control. Chemical sprays such as Orthene, Malathion, and Thiodan are very effective and labeled for many ornamentals and vegetables. Remember the label is the law; therefore, always follow all label directions.

   Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.  If you enjoy gardening and using flowers and plants in decorations, please watch Down Home with Tony and Amanda on Thursday nights at 8:00 pm on the SC Channel (ETV's digital station). If you don't get that channel, you can go to www.mig.org, select streaming video, and scroll down to where our shows are archived.


 
Posted By Tony Melton Florence County Extension Agent

   Everything and everyone in the Pee Dee is dying, mostly of old age.  I'm sorry, but no matter what the all-knowing-TV-talk-show-hosts say we need to face the facts that everything has a lifespan.  Trees, shrubs, lawns, pets, and people have a typical number of years on this earth.  People are always coming up to me and asking what is causing all the people to die.  What they want is for me to blame it on the farmers, ranchers, and the chemicals in our food, and they're  disappointed when I say "Old Age."  The fact is we are living longer than ever before, averaging somewhere around 78 years of age in the United States, but this doesn't make exciting TV shows. Maybe farmers are killing us by producing the best, safest, and most abundant food supply in the world which allows us to eat ourselves to death through obesity. We are a spoiled nation.

  Believe it or not, centipede lawns have a lifespan, too, and in my travels around the Pee Dee I see many dead lawns.  When a centipede lawn that is 20 to 30 years old experiences a very stressful period like drought, excessive heat, or a sudden cold snap, many times it just gives up the ghost and dies.  Our scientific term for this is centipede decline.
   I can't take the stresses I easily withstood in my youth. It's the same with plants -- when they reach the end of their typical lifespan, little things that were just annoying in their youth are now life threatening situations.  However, you can extend the lifespan of many plants with some preventative maintenance. For instance, if it's needed, dethatching centipede (which removes thatch and old runners and encourages new runners) may extend the life of your lawn many years.  Also, you can shorten the lifespan of centipede by what I call spoiling 
it. Over-fertilization, over-irrigation, too much shade, mowing too high, and scalping will slowly kill centipede.

   Also, trees, shrubs, and perennials have a typical lifespan,
too. Bradford pear trees usually live about 25 years and then fall apart, Laurel (Darlington) oaks do the same at about 30 years, and
sections of limbs die in redbuds after about 25 years.  Azaleas need
rejuvenating pruning every few years, and aucuba has a lot of stem
dieback that requires pruning. I consider gerbera daisies, one of our
favorite perennials, a short lived perennial.  The moral of the story is
when something dies try to find the cause and correct it if possible,
but if it's natural mortality,  plant something else and keep-on-gardening.

   The best way I know to extend your lifespan is simply
getting outside enjoying nature and gardening.  This works better than any apple at keeping the doctors away, but works most efficiently when it starts in your youth and continues all throughout your life.  A great
  for a youngster is the 4-H20 Water Quality/Outdoor Summer Adventure Camp for youth ages 8 to 14, offered by Clemson Extension and Kalmia Gardens of Coker College.  The cost is $14, and call Mrs. Harris at (843) 992-9620 or Mr. Hill at (843) 383-8145 for more information. Also, we are now taking applications for the 2008 Master Gardener Class at Kalmia Gardens in Hartsville.  Classes will be held Tuesday evenings from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., July 15 through September 30.  The cost is $150.  Again call (843) 383-8145 to register or for more information. 
  


 

 

 
Google

Recent Entries
 
Archives
 
Links
 
Visitors

You have 279513 hits.