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

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. A recent caller to Making It Grow complained that nearby growing Eastern Red Cedars, Juniperus virginiana, were causing his dogwoods to die. Actually, these trees have no disease interaction but both are beneficial to wildlife and should be planted in our yards. In large spaces, use them as windbreaks.  

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. The weather is still unseasonably warm but not blazing hot and we are all ready to catch up on outdoor chores. How tempting to give the garden a haircut – all those spent flower heads and stems that are no longer a blaze of color but a drab brown don’t seem very attractive.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. There is a huge pine tree fell in my vegetable/flower garden and it broke two sprinklers along with all the other mess. Thankfully, they feed off a well separate from the city water that goes to the house. I’ve got three hoses joined together to keep the large containers we use are bird baths filled with fresh water.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Although the production of anthocyanin, the pigment that gives us reds, purples, and blues in leaves, flowers and fruits is enhanced by increased sugar concentrations and cooler nights, some plants in the midlands and coastal plain can still produce those compounds. In my yard, dogwoods and black gums have those red pigments developing in their leaves in spite of the less than ideal conditions required by certain maples for that pigment to develop.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. October Glory, Autumn Blaze – these are just two of the improved cultivars in the Red Maple collection that are supposed to have drop dead fall color. Sadly, they may be show stoppers in cooler areas but probably not going to stop traffic in the coastal plain of South Carolina.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Hickories, tulip poplars, catalpas, gingkoes and other deciduous trees owe their yellow and golden fall colors to the presence of chemical compounds called carotenoids and flavonoids that served as accessories to   the life-giving cycle of photosynthesis that takes place in green leaves. Now that the shorter-lived chlorophyll molecules, responsible for the green color in leaves, are declining in concentration, these longer-lived compounds are becoming visible to us.

The decreasing intensity of sunlight in the Fall causes production of chlorophyll to decrease, giving other pigments a chance to "shine."

Fall Colors

Oct 3, 2016

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Some of the colors that make autumn leaves so beautiful have actually been in the leaves all along, but only become visible in the fall. Their presence was masked by the chlorophyll molecules held in structures called chloroplasts. Chlorophyll absorbs red and blue light to power the process of photosynthesis – the chemical reaction that turns carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates – the ultimate source of all food we eat!

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. People fuss about our native catalpas – both species grow here bignoniodes and speciosa – saying they are weedy and then go right and plant a horrible invasive non-native tree that closely resembles catalpa. Paulownia tomentosa, Princess Tree, has similar large heart shaped leaves and a showy cluster of flowers, purple in this case. One paulownia tree can produce 20 million seeds each year, and they’re moved all over by wind or water.

The Catalpa Sphinx Moth Caterpillars

Sep 30, 2016

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. A nearby stand of catalpa trees is kept pruned so that the owners can easily reach catalpa sphinx moth caterpillars that use the leaves as their larval food source. This stout but dully colored caterpillar is actually hard to find – most stands of catalpa I see don’t have them feeding on them. Their infestations seem to be sporadic; many other insects parasitize these creatures and some people actually purchase pupae to inoculate their trees.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Since summer seems interminable this year, I’m desperate for signs of fall. Several catalpa trees on my daily drive have caught my eye recently with their large leaves sporting a yellow autumnal color. Catalpa is known as a fisherman’s tree since it the larval food source for the catalpa sphinx moth. It has large, ten inches or so across, heart-shaped leaves that are yellow-green.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Although persimmons have consistently beautiful and early fall foliage, they aren’t often highly valued by homeowners but people who plant them as a food source for wildlife and soil stabilization properties know their importance. The ripe fruits are relished by deer, possums, foxes, and raccoons and people – although you have to wait until they’re so soft you can only eat them with a spoon.

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. The area around the Dixiana exit off 1-26 is one of those deep sand spots with stunted pines and black jack and turkey oaks. Right now, there are surprising spots of color from persimmon trees that have colonized certain parts of the roadside. Diospyros virginiana has lustrous green leaves that early in the fall begin to show purple and orange color. A few of the trees, the females, have beautiful orange fruits hanging from them.

Writing Spiders

Sep 10, 2016

Writing Spiders make beautiful webs, don't bother humans, and they catch a lot of insects!

The Brown Recluse spider is rarely sighted in South Carolina, but, it gets blamed for a lot of mischief.

    

Spiders aren't interested in biting people, but they will chow down on the insects in your home.

    

Only 44 Brown Recluse Spiders have been found in South Carolina since record keeping began.

Spider Myths

Sep 5, 2016

Amanda shares some myths about spiders.

Fragrant Sumac doesn't smell all that great, but, it's a great choice for dry areas where it will get little maintenance.
Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, via Wikimedia Commons

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making it Grow. Rhus aromatica, or fragrant sumac, may not quite be worthy of the name fragrant. Other common names are skunkbush or polecatbush so smell, like beauty, maybe in the eyes or nose of the beholder or sniffer as the case may be. This sumac member is relatively slow-growing, topping out at about 7 feet, and grows in both sun and shade. Michael Dirr recommends this smaller sumac as a good choice for an exposed, dry area where it will get little care or maintenance. .

Sumac Gets a Bad Rap

Aug 26, 2016
"Poison" Sumac, not all that common, is not a member of the Sumac family. It is recognizable by its reddish stems.
Rusty Clark/Flickr

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Sumac has a bad rap as there is one plant with that name that causes a terrible rash. It’s been moved from the genus Rhus and is now called Toxicodendron vernix. Many people freak out whenever you speak identify a plant they’re examining as sumac -- they think it’s going to give them a horrible rash. The facts are that , poison sumac has more usushiol than either poison oak or poison ivy does.

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Five species of Sumac, deciduous woody shrubs in the genus Rhus, are found across the State. Right now Rhus copalllinum, known as winged sumac or shining or dwarf sumac, is showing its attractive flower heads as I cross the Congaree and Wateree causeways on my way to Sumter. A creamy , greenish white now, these showy heads turn a handsome reddish brown in fall. Birds enjoy the seeds and also find shelter in the dense colonies this stoloniferous plant forms.

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.

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