Where have all the flowers gone? by Bill Hayes(March 2013)

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Many of the recent calls to the Clemson Extension office have been about our cool to cold spring. It certainly has been a different start than last year. One of the first trees to bloom is the Bradford Pear. Last year was a banner blooming period and it started in mid-February and continued well into March. This year, the early blooms were hit by some extended cold evenings and there was some concern that we would have an abundance of brown flowers. A few warm days have helped to bring out the white flowers although they are almost a full month behind last year. Most Aikenites want our community to be in full bloom during the Masters tournament. Last year, most of our dogwoods and azaleas were waning by the opening day. This year, we should be putting on a real show!

This is the time of year when our winter weed friends do their best to show off. They have been hanging around waiting for a warm up to get some energy and spread like crazy. They are difficult to treat at this time of year since two of our turf grasses, St. Augustine and centipede, are not completely dormant. It would be better to hand pick weeds than risk damaging your lawn with some of the available chemicals. To complicate the issue, most of these weeds now have an established root system. That means that it will probably take more than one herbicide application to kill them. That’s just more danger to the turf grass. I would pull the worst of the weeds and let nature kill them off when the temperatures rise. Next October, be sure to put down a pre-emergence herbicide which should prevent them from germinating in the first place. And, don’t forget to put down the pre-emergence herbicide for summer weeds. Crab grass and all of its relatives are getting close to opening their eyes after a long nap. If your lawn is unprotected, they will use it for their summer home. I can’t make my appeal any stronger than to say: “Do it now”! If you have Internet access, go to Clemson’s HGIC website at http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic and get bulletins HGIC 2300, 2301 and 2325. These three bulletins will give you the proper herbicides for your specific grass type.

One of our most famous Master Gardeners has had a serious accident. Jim Bennett is known to just about everyone in Aiken in a variety of ways. Some know him as Reverend Jim, Minister of Senior and Adult programs at St. John’s UMC. Aiken’s gardeners know him as the host of a radio show that had national fame. Then, there are those of us that use Preacher Jim’s “Lake of Fire” hot sauce and can no longer feel their tongues. However you know Jim, you appreciate his kindness, his character and, most of all, his humor. Jim had a run-in with a power saw and suffered damage to three of the fingers on his left hand. After speaking with him on the telephone you would never know that he was in pain. His good nature masked the problems he was having getting used to operating with one hand. His recovery will be fairly long but it won’t stop him from his regular chores at the church, home and garden. You can drop a card or note to Jim at St. John’s UMC, 104 Newberry St NW, Aiken, SC 29201, Attn: Rev. Jim Bennett. I know he would appreciate your good wishes.

It’s getting pretty busy around the Master Gardener office and there are a number of events coming in April. The Master Gardeners will be at the Farmers market on April 6th from 8 A.M. until noon. Our next Lunchbox Series lecture will be on Monday, April 15 at 12:30 PM at Trinity UMC (2724 Whiskey Road, Aiken, SC). Jim Burke will present “Bluebirds Over Aiken County.” Find out how to transform your yard into a welcoming habitat for birds at this free lecture. Jim Burke is vice president of the North American Bluebird Society and president and co-founder of the SC Bluebird Society.

Spring Education Day, Plant Sale and Perennial Plant Exchange will be held on Saturday, April 20 from 8 am until noon at Aiken Farmers Market. Gardening demonstrations, “Free to a Good Home” table, discussions with Master Gardeners, Bluebird Society, Beekeepers, Camellia Society, CoCoRaHS, Orchid Society and Rose Society members and much more.

The new edition of the Gardening Almanac for Aiken County is now available. The seventh edition has been updated with ideas for the lawn and garden including new varieties of plants, updated weather information, pest problem answers and much more. Copies will be available for $15 at all Master Gardener events and at the Clemson Extension office. If you are new to Aiken or a long time resident, this almanac will save you time and prevent common errors in gardening.