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Posted By Tony Melton Florence County Extension Agent

   Some of my earliest memories are of playing at the end of Granddaddy's cotton field.  All the moms would bring their kids and leave them in the shade while they picked cotton.  Instead of attending kindergarten like most of y'all, I learned many of life's important lessons at the end of that field.  I could list the lessons learned, but the most important one on my list was that when you get big enough to pick, you pick, and you never stop picking.  Granddaddy made me a special picking sack that was small enough for me to handle by putting a shoulder strap on an old flour sack.  I was never much of a cotton picker, but I started my first savings account with the money I made picking Granddaddy's cotton.  Even though Granddaddy grew his cotton on the bottomlands, unless it was an exceptional season, the relatively poor soils near McBee didn't produce much cotton.  We called it "Bumble Bee Cotton"---where the cotton plants were so small that the bumble bees would bump their tails on the ground when they tried to pollinate it. It's no surprise that my grandfather quit growing cotton and starting planting snap beans, butter beans, and peas.  Those crops weren't easy to pick either, but I kept on picking.

   I love working (picking) as a County Agent in the Pee Dee area of S.C., especially the Lake City area which at one time was considered the "Bean Capital of the World."  I still think it is one of the leading bean production areas in the nation.  We grow, eat, and enjoy beans. Also, we have the one and only National Historic Bean Market Museum located in Lake City.  The Museum hosts its Holiday Market December 5-7. Not only will you be able to do a lot of your holiday shopping, but yours truly and Amanda McNulty will be there on Saturday afternoon to do demonstrations on making Christmas decorations.  Call 843-374-1500 for more information.  We can't be there until the afternoon because that morning (Dec. 6) we will be riding on a float in the great Barineau Christmas Parade.  My good bean-growing friend Stanley McKenzie does a terrific job of organizing the parade and this year has asked us to join in.

   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

   Contrary to popular belief I am not old enough to remember the Victory Gardens of the WWII era; however, I have had many folks asking if I think the Victory Gardens are returning.  These are tough times and growing your own food is an excellent way to reduce your grocery expenses. We are a spoiled nation, and getting outside and doing a little gardening may help our bulging waistlines, teach us what is required to produce our food, and make us more thankful.  With nine hungry kids to feed, my parents knew all about the necessity of gardening but their eyes still sparkled when it came to planting or harvesting.  Even though I spent many a hot summer day in McBee bent over practically kissing the ground picking things like butter beans, I still love gardening and the fruits of my labor.  In fact, due to this cold spell I am really enjoying my last homegrown tomatoes for this year.

   Even Santa loves gardening -- that way he can HOE-HOE-HOE all he wants. What to get a gardener that has everything?  That's easy, pay her
materials fee for her to take the Master Gardener Course.  Gardening is
truly the gift that keeps on giving; a healthy vegetable here, a tasty
fruit there, and beautiful flowers everywhere.   The Master Gardener Class is an intensive thirteen week horticultural training.  Training includes topics such as basic plant botany and physiology, entomology, plant pathology, vegetable gardening, fruit culture, annuals, and perennials.  Topics also include woody ornamentals, turf management, interior plants, pest control, basic landscaping, and identification and usage of common landscape plants. The Master Gardener class will be held from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon. and 6:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. at the Florence County Extension Office.  You may choose either the morning or evening session.  The class will start on Monday, January 26, 2008 and continue every Monday through February, March, and April for a total of 13 classes.  The total cost for the course is a $150 materials fee.  Since acceptance in the course is on a first come, first serve basis, you may register anytime by paying your
materials fee at the Florence County Extension Office.  Our office is
located at the rear of the Public Services Building on the corner of Third Loop and Irby and open 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  When registered, you
will receive more information before our starting date.

   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

Move over Lizard Man, the PEE DEE SWAMP MONSTER RETURNS.

Sounds  like some B-rated horror film, but with the recent wet weather many Pee Dee area folks are waking up to the horror of moisture problems.  Many years of drought conditions have hidden these monsters but recent rains have brought back to mind the fact that many Pee Dee area communities, including Florence, are built on a series of swamps
.

Some things you  need to know about moisture problems are:

1. No matter how many loads of sand-clay you or your builder hauls in to raise your mansion, lawn, or garden, The Swamp Monster Can Return.

2. Sand-clay is a terrible medium for healthy plant growth.

3. A depression, or what we call in McBee, "A Hole," must have some way and someplace for excess water to drain or, even in McBee's sandy soil, it soon becomes a pond.

4. Without a pump, water never drains up hill.

5. The only way to eliminate moisture problems is to not allow moisture to enter.

6. Plants, lawns, or homes do not swim very well (ha).

7. Only a few hours of standing water at any time of year is very bad news for plants, lawns, or homes.

8. A musky or sour smell, mold growth, or sweating indicates moisture problems.

9. Drowned plants turn yellow, wilt, and die (similar to drought stricken plants).

10. Someone is always selling swamp land, especially when it is dry.

Many times homeowners do not recognize they have moisture problems let alone how to handle or control them.  Therefore, at 6:30 p.m. on
Thursday, November 20th at Horne's Restaurant located at 829 South Irby
St. in Florence, we are having a presentation on "Proper Drainage and
Irrigations Solves Many Problems" by Dr. Ani Jayakaran of Clemson's
Agriculture & Biological Engineering Department.

Even though this will  be a presentation to a commercial association called
the Pee Dee Plant Professionals, anyone may attend.  There is no cost for attending but each attendee must pay for his meal.

No matter what you thought about the Lizard Man, it got Lee County
national recognition. Anyone got a leftover Halloween costume?

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

   I love my job.  Growing up poor, barefooted, and worst of all red-headed in the big city (ha) of McBee, a place which Daddy called plum nearly (plum out of the world and nearly out of the universe), never did I dream that I would be working as an educator for, with, and through such fine folk as the people of the Pee Dee (including the fine folks of my hometown).  I think we have the greatest Master Gardeners, agri-business men, and farmers in the world.  Often I hate to brag on
one individual because we have so many great, interesting, and world
changing folks that I literally could be constantly boosting and everyone would wish for me to shut-up.

   But I love citrus and Stanley McKenzie (aka, Stan-the-Citrus-Man) of
lower Florence County is world known for his work with cold hardy citrus.   Ever since I was a small child I loved Christmas and to me Christmas meant citrus.  In our family, the only Christmas gift we children would receive was the shoe box, from our yearly pair of shoes, filled with fruit (mostly citrus) and maybe a pair of blue jeans.  Kids today would be very disappointed, but every year I looked forward to getting those citrus fruits.  Even as we got older, up to the year he died, Daddy always gave all nine of us kids a box of citrus every year for Christmas.  I really miss my Daddy and it lifts my spirits every time I get to work with citrus and Stan-the-Citrus-Man.

 

   Stan McKenzie is having his first ever McKenzie Farms Nursery Open House on Tuesday, November 11th.   The Open House will be from 9 am until 5 pm and will feature a tour of the only citrus grove in the Pee Dee, a tasting of locally grown citrus, and a grafting demonstration. The Nursery is located approximately half way between Lake City and Olanta on Highway 341.


   Stan is also working with many other citrus fanatics to put on the
Sixth Annual Southeastern Citrus Exposition on Saturday, November 15,
2008 in Tifton, Georgia.  The Expo and seminars will be held at the
University of Georgia (UGA), Tifton Campus Conference Center, located at
exit 64 off I-75.  The expo will feature expert speakers, a citrus contest, plant sales, and tours of the UGA Horticulture Research Center. Every year I look forward to being a judge in the citrus contest.   It's a tough job sampling all the beautiful, wonderful tasting citrus, but someone has to do it.  You'll  find more information about the Expo at www.sepalms.org <http://www.sepalms.org> .

   Finally, Stan will be helping me with his famous citrus and grafting talk in my 2009 Master Gardener Class.  Details will be posted in future news articles.

   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 <http://www.mig.org> , select streaming video, and
scroll down to where our shows are archived.

 


 
Posted By Tony Melton Florence County Extension Agent

    We are between Halloween and Election Day, and I don’t know which is scarier.  Some of the mugs (faces) presented on those election signs make me wonder which day they are advertising for.  If I ever run for an elected office, I vow not to post my face for all to see because “that really would scare the children.”  Since “fall is the time for planting tree and shrubs,” we need to be sticking more beautiful things than election signs in the ground.

    What really scares me are improper planting techniques. We have determined that most of the trees planted in S.C. are planted too deeply; as a result Clemson Extension has revamped our recommended planting techniques.  We now include that all trees need to be planted with their root flare right above the intersection of the soil.  The root flare is the fancy term for the area of the trunk that flares outward as the roots begin.  This has absolutely nothing to do with Rick Flare and wrestling, but if you don’t make sure your tree is planted at the proper depth and the soil level is at the root flare your tree may soon be out for the count.  Just look for the flare, dig your planting hole no deeper than this point, and keep the root flare at or slightly above the soil line when planting is complete.  You may have to dig down into the pot or root ball to locate the root flare because many tree-growers don’t look for the root fare either and cover it up with extra soil when moving trees up from small to larger containers.

Planting at the root flare ensures that your tree’s root system is at the proper level and soil is not placed against the bark of the tree. You may be surprised but even the largest tree has over 90% of its root system within the top 18 inches of the soil.  This is because even though they are under the soil, roots need oxygen to function properly.  If trees (or shrubs) are planted too deeply, the roots and therefore the tree literally drowns from the lack of oxygen.   Also, external surfaces of the root flare and the roots are resistant to the conditions present under the soil.  However, bark is resistant to weather conditions above the soil line and not resistant to the conditions under the soil.  Therefore, many times when soil is placed against the bark of a tree, the bark simply rots away and results in girdling of the tree.  The water and nutrient transportation system of the tree is located just under the bark and is destroyed by girdling. Therefore, the tree thirsts, starves, and dies.

    Also, remember to cut the root ball longitudinally to discourage encircling roots, dig the planting hole 2 to 3 times wider but no deeper than the root ball, and water in to remove air pockets. Several inches of pine straw or another organic mulch is the cherry on top of this piece of pie; don’t pile mulch up like a volcano, but spread it evenly and keep mulch three or four inches away from the trunk.

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.


 

 

 
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