Most of you are aware that I volunteer at the Clemson extension office every Thursday morning. I’ve been doing this for almost 11 years.

During that time, I have seen just about every condition that can occur in the lawn and garden and cause problems for the homeowner.

Today, I will share some of the humorous and not so humorous highlights.


After completing the Master Gardener course, interns are required to spend 25 of their volunteer hours in the office.

A regular Master Gardener is always required to be present to show them normal office procedures and how to interact with the public.

The Master Gardener answers the telephone and uses the speakerphone so that everyone in the office can hear the problem and the answer. A written record is made of each call.

One very slow phone call day in February of 2008, there were four interns in the office. I excused myself to get a cup of coffee from the kitchen.

About a minute after I left, the telephone rang and the caller explained his problem to the interns. He mentioned that he grew strawberries in fairly large quantities and that he also had three horses.

The manure, which was free, makes a great organic addition to the soil once it has composted and has virtually no smell.

The caller wanted to know if and how he could use it to make better strawberries. The interns, doing the right thing, called me to answer the question.

Since I didn’t hear any of the previous conversation, I introduced myself and asked the caller to repeat his question. He said, “Can I put horse manure on my strawberries”?

I said, “I suppose so, but I prefer cream and sugar on mine!”

He hung up and never called back!


In 2004 a retiree moved to Aiken from the Boston area. He knew nothing about warm season grasses but after some research, he decided to install about 4,000 square feet of Emerald zoysia grass.

A local contractor did a beautiful job, and the new Aikenite was very pleased.

One day, he noticed that he had several weeds growing in the cracks of his sidewalk and driveway.

After consulting with a neighbor, he purchased some Roundup and a sprayer from a local store and sprayed the weeds. In a very short time, the weeds were wilting, and he was pleased.

Then one morning he noticed some strange looking weeds growing in the new zoysia. Remembering the great results he had with his driveway weeds, he sprayed the Roundup on the zoysia. (You are already way ahead of me, right)?

I received his call about 10 days later. His lawn had disappeared, and he was in total panic.

Breaking my rule of not making house calls, I visited his home.

I was impressed with the way he handled the sprayer because there wasn’t a patch of green anywhere. He also destroyed a few of his neighbor’s azaleas, but there was no greater damage.

We then had a cup of coffee and discussed the use of the instructions on a chemical label.

Humor and Tragedy

I answered the telephone one Thursday morning, and a gentlemen’s voice barked: “I have a problem; I have pigeons in my house! How do I get rid of them?”

He went on to say: “I can catch the ones in the kitchen but I have trouble with the ones in the living room!”

He explained that he was in a wheelchair and had a 6-foot fishing net. The kitchen had an 8-foot ceiling, and he could reach the pigeons if they flew.

The living room had a 12-foot ceiling, and he couldn’t reach the rafters when the pigeons were roosting.

I asked him how the pigeons were getting into the house. He replied that they were just flying through the open windows.

I suggested that he close the windows, and he told me that he would melt in the 100 degree heat if he didn’t have ventilation.

I suggested screens, and he told me that he was on a pension and couldn’t afford them.

I finally asked him what he did when he caught the pigeons and he said that he takes them into a field behind his home and releases them.

I asked him if they just didn’t fly right back inside. Very calmly he responded: “Well, now you see my problem.”

I turned his problem over to the County, and they said that they would find some screens for him.


Jim Bennett spoke at the last Lunchbox Lecture meeting and we discussed the unusual recent rainfall.

Since Jim is also an ordained minister, I asked him if he would ask his congregation that prayed for rain last February to adjust the prayers and ask for a little sunshine.

Jim responded that we did have a definite dry spell on July 3 from 1:05 p.m. until 1:22 p.m.

We have had reports of up to 22 inches of rain in June in some parts of Aiken and more than 11 inches so far in July.

This is causing problems with plant and vegetable root rot and an influx of weeds that cannot be sprayed since the herbicides need some drying time.

Spittle bugs and various lawn disease issues are also a nuisance. The future doesn’t look too promising as we approach the hurricane season.

The Master Gardeners will be at the Farmers Market on Aug. 3 from 8 a.m. until noon.

The next Lunchbox Lecture will be on Monday, Aug. 19, at Trinity UMC.

Clemson Extension Agent Gary Forrester will speak on “The Ten Most Common Gardening Crimes.”

If you are a member of the Aiken Academy for Lifelong Learning at USCA, I will be doing a two-day session on turfgrass problems on Oct. 21 and Oct. 23.

This will be my last monthly article for the Aiken Standard.

I have been writing them since April of 2006, and it is time to pass the baton.

Starting next month, Pam Glogowski will write the column. She is younger and smarter than me and is an outstanding Master Gardener. I know that you will enjoy her articles.

To the hundreds of local gardeners that I have met through the Aiken Standard and the Farmers Market, I want to thank you for your kind words and enduring friendships.

I will continue to volunteer at the Extension office and the Farmers Market and hope to see you there.

Bill Hayes has been in Aiken since 1982 after moving from Chicago, Ill. He was in the chemical process industry for more than 40 years before retiring in 1999.