2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School Synopsis

What an awesome day I had yesterday at the 2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School! Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, the Clemson Extension Master Gardener Program, and various local nurseries and sponsors put together an incredible day of lectures and hands-on workshops. After the initial key note address in the morning, there were several concurrent classes and workshops throughout the day.

2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School Key Note Stage

2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School Key Note Stage

The key note address was given by Steven Boyce of Oelschig’s Nursery in Savannah, GA. His landscaping talent and beautiful container arrangements are well known in Georgia, and he has created some beautiful containers for chef Paula Deen. His presentation concentrated on creating the perfect container arrangement by choosing the correct type of plants for the correct yard environment (shade vs. sun). I saw several varieties of flowers and plants I had never seen before and marked them down for future reference!

2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School ~ Steven Boyce, key note speaker

2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School ~ Steven Boyce, key note speaker

For that perfect container, be sure all plants love sun or all plants love shade. Never mix. And choose three types of plants for each container: a thriller (tall and eye catching), a filler (takes up most of the container and surrounds the thriller), and a spiller (trailing plants around the edge that spill over the outside of the container).

2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School

2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School

My first class was Garden CSI: True Stories Against Horticulture, and I surely needed it! Although I knew a few things taught, I learned some very important information, especially about trees.

  • The root-to-shoot ratio of a plant (especially a tree) must be in balance for the plant to survive. If something happens to the roots – via disease or cutting or construction, etc. – the top of the plant or tree will die.
  • NEVER cut a tree (or even a shrub) back by “topping” it (lopping off the top)! Prune properly.
  • Never cut a branch off a tree flush with the trunk; always leave the branch collar because that’s where the healing cells are located. A tree will never heal if the branch is lopped off at the trunk.
  • Never plant a tree too deeply. Always leave the graft above the ground, if it’s a grafted tree; and always be sure that all trees show their root flare above the ground. Otherwise, the tree will suffocate.
  • Don’t stake a tree when transplanting, unless it is absolutely necessary to keep the tree from falling over. If you must stake, stake very loosely. The tree must be able to sway in the wind to get strong. (Once the tree can stay up by itself, remove the stakes.)
  • Always use the native soil to back fill the hole the tree is transplanted into. You may amend the soil with compost and/or sand, but never use potting soil or other types of enhanced soils. It will cause the tree to stagnate because the tree will not want to branch its roots out into the native soil around the hole.
  • NEVER pile your mulch like a volcano around your trees or shrubs! It can kill the tree. Mulch should be only 2-4 inches thick.
  • Never allow mulch to touch the trunk of the tree, else the trunk can become diseased. (I had to run home and correct this around my fruit trees!)

With all the pictures of what NOT to do, as well as how to do it correctly, this was a valuable class!

2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School ~ tomato root stock & grafting supplies

2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School ~ tomato root stock & grafting supplies

My next class was Grafting Vegetables. Of course, I knew about grafted trees, but I had no idea one could graft vegetables. Watermelons and tomatoes are the predominant veggies being grafted by nurseries and farmers. Our workshop gave us hands-on experience grafting tomatoes.

The rootstock (shown in the picture above) is a very hardy, disease resistant tomato. The tops were cut off at a 45 degree angle, leaving the root to await the graft of our choice of scion (the plant from which we want fruit).

We had several to choose from. I chose the heirloom Cherokee Purple to graft onto my rootstock. I again took the razor blade and cut the tops off the scion at a 45 degree angle. These were then attached to the rootstock stem – VERY carefully – and held together with grafting clips.

2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School ~ my grafted Cherokee Purple tomatoes

2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School ~ my grafted Cherokee Purple tomatoes

My grafted tomatoes are now sealed in a gallon-size plastic zip baggie with a couple of very wet paper towels on the bottom. They have to stay in an air tight, environment of 90-100% humidity for 7 days in a window WITHOUT direct sunlight (else they’ll bake inside the baggie). Then I will slowly acclimate them to normal air temperature and humidity for 7 days before starting the hardening off process for planting outside. It’ll be interesting to compare these tomatoes to my non-grafted heirlooms!

2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School ~ Making a pallet herb garden

2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School ~ Making a pallet herb garden

After a wonderful lunch, I attended a class on how to garden vertically with a pallet herb garden. With a small pallet (size 20″ x 18″ shown), landscaping fabric, a staple gun, good potting soil, and lots of herbs, you can grow vertically. After two weeks of lying flat (so the roots will take and hold the soil in), you can hang the pallet on any sunny wall or fence. I was amazed at how many herbs (and flowers) she got into one small pallet – and they WILL grow this tightly packed!

2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School ~ Pallet Herb Garden

2013 Carolina Yard Gardening School ~ Pallet Herb Garden

I’m going to make one this spring. I’ll post the directions of how I did it, along with pictures and testimony, here on the site.

My last class was on landscaping techniques. I learned about garden styles, design elements, plant selection, proper planting and pruning, and cultural practices. I wrote down several ideas for my own yard!

The entire day was well worth the expense and the time! It was eight hours of learning, as well as meeting fellow gardeners. The only thing better than that is gardening itself!

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