Urban Programming Report for 2018

Center for Urban Agriculture – Urban Programming Report for 2018

The Center for Urban Agriculture team magnifies the impact of Urban Extension through agent program support and advancement, innovative training programs, tools, and resources; fostering communications and outreach through newsletters, articles, alerts, publications, videos, and social media; organizing new initiatives and grant writing; collaborating on interdisciplinary projects and research; advancing and updating current program training materials; and administering multi-year programs and projects.

Key Focus Areas:

  • Agent support: collaboration on programs, research, agent resources, and special projects
  • Specialist support: collaboration on interdisciplinary initiatives, research, and grants
  • Urban water quality and management
  • Industry safety
  • School and community gardens
  • Pollinator health
  • Urban Ag industry outreach and training, labor force shortages, consumer education, best management practices
  • Collaboration and innovation using the latest available technologies

Recent Activity and Highlights:

1 . Urban Water Quality and Management:

  • Created and staffed a new statewide urban irrigation and water management agent position, bringing the talents of Rolando Orellana to the center team.
  • Established an irrigation and water management advisory board with industry representation
  • Developed a calendar of water-related training programs for industry and urban agents
  • Facilitated a University membership with the Irrigation Association
  • Developing issue-specific fact sheets on water usage and management for the industry and homeowners in urban centers
  • Working with individual companies to provide in-house training to landscape workers
  • Identifying potential irrigation training and research sites and is working with industry to develop programs and collaborations
  • Over the past two years, the center provided irrigation and water management training to 177 landscape practitioners and 33 urban agents.

2 . Green Industry Programming and Support:

  • The center collaborates and partners with urban agents and professional organizations to bring Extension outreach and develop and implement industry training programs, coordinate instructional support, moderate sessions, and assist with CEU approval and reporting. Examples include:
    • Edge Expo (Now “Landscape Pro University and Expo”), Urban Ag Council and Site One
    • Wintergreen, Georgia Green Industry Association
    • Turfgrass Research Field Day Ancillary Sessions, Urban Ag Council
  • The Center assisted agents and specialists with 70 educational events across the state, providing 307 hours of training to 2,992 people, collecting $42,670 in gross revenue.  Agents, departments, and the Northwest District utilized this service, which included program promotion, registration, and food service.
  • The Georgia Pollinator Census was conducted in September 2017 and was repeated in September 2018. This is a small census that is serving as a pilot project for the larger Great Georgia Pollinator Census in 2019 (https://GGaPC.org)

3 . Development and Maintenance of Web-Based Resources and Applied Technology

  • Getting the Best of Pests Webinar Training Series – an innovative collaboration with the Center led by Drs. Dan Suiter, Bodie Pennisi, and Shimat Joseph is now in its second year and continues to gain popularity as word gets out about this new mode of delivery for approved Georgia Department Agriculture pesticide CEUs.
    • From January 2017 through July 2018 the Team has trained 1,077 commercial and private license holders granting 2,154 CEUs during that time.
    • 86 county hosted events have been held.
    • 10 of the green industry webinars have aired with 19 speakers from across the country.
  • The Georgia Professional Certifications site trains prospective commercial, private, and GCAPP license holders statewide (a partnership between the Department of Entomology and the Center for Urban Agriculture).
    • Prepares test takers for their exams.
    • Generates a constant stream of new clientele for CEU training.
    • 1,625 students actively enrolled in current courses on the site.
  • The Center continues to develop and advance innovative web-based agent resources, training provides ongoing support and advancement of the online training and study sites including: Safety Training for Landscape Workers (English and Spanish), Tree Worker Safety Training, the Journeyman Farmer Certificate Training Program, Master Gardener Training, School Garden Teacher Training, and Getting the Best of Pests Webinar Series. The Georgia Certified Landscape Professional Training Course, Georgia Certified Plant Professional Training Course, SuperCrew (English and Spanish), GGIA Junior Certification.
  • The 40 Gallon Challenge – online water conservation education program was updated with the generous help of UGA OIT and is now fully accessible on a mobile platform. The redesign was recognized by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP) with a dotComm Gold Award.
  • Study sites for the Georgia Certified Landscape and Plant Professional programs.

4 . Grants, Research, and Collaborations with the Green Industry:

  • The center identifies, pursues, and administers grants and funding for research and training programs that benefit urban agriculture.
  • The center hosted the strategic planning meeting for the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture in Atlanta June 27–29.
    • Over 80 participants from academia, industry, and the public sector attended to generate a national strategic plan for consumer horticulture.
  • Extension Innovation Award Project – Benton, E., B. Griffin, E. Bauske, B. Pennisi, K. Braman, P. Pugliese, J. Fuder, K. Toal, B. Kelley, and L. Murrah-Hanson. Trees for Bees: Helping Georgians Improve Pollinator Habitats in the Urban and Suburban Landscape. Extension Innovation Awards. $8,000.
  • The Pollinator Spaces Project continues certifying pollinator spaces. There are currently 125 certified gardens in 33 counties.
  • Other Examples:
    • OSHA Landscape and Arborist resources development grant.
    • OSHA Emergency Response Grant for Chainsaw Users in the South and North Carolina impacted by Hurricane Florence.
    • City of Savannah Green Infrastructure to Green Jobs Initiative – The center is working with the city to develop and provide Extension outreach and training related to urban trees through a grant from the Kendeda Foundation.

5 . Professional Certification for the Industry

  • The Center promotes, coordinates, and administers the Georgia Certified Landscape Professional, Georgia Certified Plant Professional Programs, and Junior Certification program. The Center distributed 109 professional certification study manuals, tested 84 industry practitioners, and certified 67 industry practitioners.
  • A multi-year initiative to overhaul of the Georgia Certified Landscape Professional study materials, testing format, and study site is ongoing. The new study manual is being restructured as a four-part text that aligns with industry career segments and workforce training programs. Upon completion, the new material is expected to invigorate and advance the long-standing program and serve as the industry standard for green industry practitioners.
  • Promote industry advancement and lifelong learning through certification and a variety of strategic training opportunities.

6 . Green Industry Labor and Workforce Challenges:

  • Extension Innovation Award Project – Pennisi, B., G. Huber. Empowering the New Landscape Entrepreneur: Increasing Profitability through Business Training and Professional Certification. Extension Innovation Awards. $7,000.
  • The center partners with Georgia High School Ag Education and green industry professional organizations to offer junior certification, testing 120 junior participants and certifying 12 youth in 2018.
  • CEFGA (Construction Education Foundation of Georgia) – The center partners with the Urban Ag Council each year to promote green industry careers and educational opportunities to over 7,000 high school students at this event. (Participated in 2016, 2017. In 2018 the center was not able to attend due to a schedule conflict, but plans to continue participation in this event.)

7. Green Industry Communication and Engagement:

  • The center actively engages the green industry through professional organization memberships, event attendance, meetings, newsletters, and collaborations.
  • Landscape Alerts from the Center for Urban Agriculture and Extension Specialists communicate timely topics critical to over 1,700 urban clientele and industry subscribers by email and web.
  • Saw Safety Newsletter -The web and email based newsletter round out another successful year posting 87 issues to date, the weekly safety newsletter for the tree care industry is sent to 400 individuals and is further distributed by management within tree care companies.
  • The Community & School Garden blog has been delivering weekly articles for over four years. The parent homepage (ugaurbanag.com) receives approximately 19,000 page views a month.
  • The Homeowner’s Association project continues to deliver monthly articles for homeowner associations representing over 23,000 residents.

Recent Extension Publications in collaboration with the Center for Urban Agriculture:

  • Joseph, S., & Bauske, E. M. (2017). Management of turfgrass insect pests and pollinator protection (C1127)
  • Bauske, E. M., Pennisi, S., Braman, S. K., & Buck, J. W. (2017). Native Plants, Drought Tolerance, and Pest Resistance (C1122)
  • Benton, E. & Griffin, B. (2018). Creating pollinator nesting boxes to help native bees. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension (C1125)
  • Pennisi S., Braman S., Huber G., Benton E. (2017) Shade Gardens for Pollinators. (UGA Cooperative Extension AR4). Available at https://secure.caes.uga.edu/filesharing/?referenceInterface=FILE_SET&subInterface=detail_main&pk_id=2754
  • Pennisi S., Huber G. Critical Evaluation of Green Industry Certification Programs in Georgia. Manual HortScience 52 (9) S26 01 Dec 2017
  • Waltz FC, Huber G. (2017). Aerification: Restoring Turfgrass Carbohydrate Reserves. Manual. Internet publication. Available at https://ugaurbanag.com/aerification-restoring-turfgrass-carbohydrate-reserves/

Refereed Journal Articles:

  • Dorn, S. T., Newberry, M. G., Bauske, E. M., & Pennisi, S. V. (2018). Extension Master Gardener Volunteers of the 21st Century: Educated, Prosperous, and Committed. HORTTECHNOLOGY, 28(2), 218–229. doi: 10.21273/HORTTECH03998–18
  • Bradley, L. K., Behe, B. K., Bumgarner, N. R., Glen, C. D., Donaldson, J. L., Bauske, E. M., … Langellotto, G. (2017). Assessing the Economic Contributions and Benefits of Consumer Horticulture. HORTTECHNOLOGY, 27(5), 591–598. doi: 10.21273/HORTTECH03784–17
  • Griffin, B. & Braman, K. 2018. Expanding Pollinator Habitat Through a Statewide Initiative. Journal of Extension [Online], 56(2) Article 2IAW6. Available at https://www.joe.org/joe/2018april/iw6.php
  • Bauske, E. M., Cruickshank, J., & Hutcheson, W. (2018). Healthy Life Community Garden: food and neighborhood transformation. In Acta Horticulturae. Athens, Greece

Popular Press:

CAES Newswire Articles:

Landscape Alerts and Updates:

Videos:

Awards & Recognition:

  • Extension Materials Award, May 31, 2018
    Extension Division Of the American Society for Horticultural Science
    Nominated by: Bauske EM; Martinez-Espinoza A; Orellana R; Kelley P
    Video Award
  • Bronze Award, May 1, 2018
    Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals
    Nominated by: Bauske EM; Hutcheson W; Maddy B; Orellana R; Peiffer G; Kolich H; Kelley P
    In Recognition of Outstanding Educational Materials
  • Urban Ag Innovations Award, November 15, 2017
    Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture
    Nominated by: Hutcheson W; Bauske EM; Kolich H; Maddy B; Pieffer G; Phillip K; Orellana R
    Received for the Saw Safety Newsletter
  • dotCOMM Gold Award,
    Received for 40 Gallon Challenge redesign, Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP)
  • Journal Cover Photo: Georgia Entomological Society Conference – pollinator photo chosen for 2018 journal cover.

Turnip the Volume- Farm to School Month is Coming!

October is Farm to School Month and schools and early care centers across Georgia are celebrating all things turnip!  Turnip the Volume (Can you Dig it?) is a state-wide celebration to get kids eating, growing, and participating in turnip-themed activities. To participate in Turnip the Volume at your school, early care center, or in your community, visit https://farmtoschool.georgiaorganics.org/turnip-the-volume and sign up. Participants will receive free electronic resources to help you plan and implement your activities.  Resources include standards-based lesson plans, quick activities, recipes, videos, school garden planting and harvesting information, and more!  UGA Extension has been a partner in Farm to School Month celebrations and your local UGA Extension office can answer questions about growing turnips or using them in recipes.

The first 300 people to sign-up for the program will be mailed a free packet of turnip seeds, washable turnip tattoos, and a Georgia Planting and Harvest Calendar for school gardens. This information is great for educators making plans for going back to school.

Share your Turnip the Volume pictures and activities on social media with #turnipthevolume. Each week during October, anyone who uses this hashtag will be entered to win a gift card and at the end of the month and we will have a grand prize winner at the end of the month! Questions? Visit https://farmtoschool.georgiaorganics.org/october-f2s-month or email kimberlykoogler@georgiaorganics.org.

Garden Wasps – Where is the Love?

Bees have such a great reputation.  They are the face of pollinator conservation and we know how valuable they are in our food system.  But what about wasps?  Where is the love?  Wasps are also fascinating pollinators.  Did you know that wasps are the main pollinators of figs?

Your garden is full of beneficial wasps.  They dine on the pollen and nectar provided in pollinator gardens and are valuable pollinators.   They also assist in controlling grubs, caterpillars, and crickets.   Wasps provide important garden services!

Sadly, wasps seem to have a bad reputation.  They are seen as aggressive stingers.  This is not necessarily true.  Most wasps are nonaggressive and will only sting when they are grabbed or threatened.  These insects are beautiful and fun to watch.

Four toothed mason wasp

One example of a wasp you may see in your garden this summer is the four toothed mason wasp.  This wasp visits all types of flowers.  They are cavity nesters, laying eggs in small cavities already created by another wasp or bee.  They also use holes in twigs or hollow flower stems.  If you have a native bee home in your garden you probably have a mason wasp or two using those homes.

The female wasp hunts for soft-bodied caterpillars to carry back to the nest.  She will lay an egg and leave a stunned caterpillar next to that egg.  As the egg hatches, the emerging wasp larvae will consume the caterpillar.  This is a great service to your garden as you battle caterpillars that eat your food crops.

However, mason wasps do not differentiate between pest caterpillars and the caterpillars of beloved butterflies.  Gardeners do have a bit of control here.  Plant milkweed, parsley and other butterfly larval plants away from plants that wasps frequently visit such as mountain mint.  Otherwise, think of your garden as a whole ecospace and thank the wasps for their help in controlling the pests!

Scoliid Wasp

Another valuable wasp is the Scoliid wasp (Scolia dubia).  This wasp lives in the soil.  The adults can be seen on several flowering plants eating pollen and nectar.  The females lay their eggs in the ground.  At egg-laying time she will fly just above the ground looking for grubs.  When one unlucky grub is spotted, the wasp paralyzes it by stinging.   This grub is left with her eggs for the emerging larva to consume.  Grub control is another valuable service the wasps provide.

As wasps begin to appear in your garden take some time to appreciate their beauty and the services they provide.  Consider becoming more involved with pollinators by participating in the Great Georgia Pollinator Census in August (https://GGaPC.org).

 

 

Summer 2020 School Garden Training

Extension has designed a creative approach to school garden education this summer.  On June 16th a no-cost, symposium consisting of four webinars will be conducted through a Zoom classroom.

10 AM Adding Fruit Plant to Your School Garden with Ashley Hoppers, Gilmer and Fannin County ANR agent

11 AM Seed Saving in the School Garden with Rosann Kent with University of North Georgia

Noon – 1 PM Lunch Break

1 PM Vermiculture (worm composting) with Josh Fuder, Cherokee County ANR Agents

2 PM Using the Great Georgia Pollinator Census in Your School Garden with Becky Griffin, the census coordinator

The lunch break, from noon until 1 PM, will be a chance to ask any questions about your school garden and to network with other gardens while we have our lunch.

Additional at-home activities will be available for those who want to put their new skills to immediate use.  For those who complete all four webinars and all four at-home activities a Certificate of Completion will be issued.  This can be presented to your school administration for proof of course completion.

You will be ready to get results from your school garden before school starts back in the fall.  This is open to anyone who works with school gardens – Master Gardeners, volunteers, and educators of all types.

To register for the free symposium visit https://schoolgardenwebinar0616.eventbrite.com. For more information contact Becky Griffin at beckygri@uga.edu.  The details of the day are listed below:

Facts about the Asian Giant Hornet

From UGA’s Entomology Department:

A flurry of recent press coverage has created a surge of interest in the Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia. The coverage is not traced to any recent event. The insect was found last September 2019 in Vancouver Island (Canada) and again in December 2019 in Washington state. But to date, this invasive insect is not present in the state of Georgia, nor indeed, east of the Mississippi.

The Asian giant hornet is a “true” hornet and the world’s largest, ranging in size from 1.5 to slightly over 2 inches long (38-50mm). The stinger is nearly ¼-inch long and stings are extremely painful. Each year in Japan, 30-50 people die from being stung by these hornets. The venom is not the most lethal among bees and wasps, but due to the insect’s large size, the dose is larger than any other stinging insect Americans typically encounter. Human sting deaths are biased toward individuals who are prone to anaphylactic reactions or to individuals who receive large numbers of stings. One or a few stings from an Asian giant hornet should not be life-threatening to an average individual.

The Asian giant hornet is not necessarily aggressive towards humans, livestock or pets but will sting if provoked. However, this giant killer can inflict a devastating blow to honey bee colonies, with several hornets capable of annihilating 30,000 bees within hours. There are three phases to an Asian giant hornet attacking a honey bee colony. The first is the hunting phase where individual hornets will capture bees at the entrance of the colony, cut off their heads, and form a “meat ball” from the thorax. They then return to their nest to feed their young this protein-rich meal.

The second phase is the slaughter phase. Hornets will mark a particular colony with a pheromone to recruit their sisters to the site. Then numerous hornets will descend upon the colony, killing all of the workers by ripping their heads off, dumping their bodies onto the ground below, and returning to their nest with their prey.

Once the bee hive is dead, hornets enter the occupation phase. Hornets take over the hive, collect pupae and larvae, and return to their own nest to feed their carnivorous young. The hornets now guard the hive entrance as if it were their own nest. The aftermath of an attack will be piles of decapitated or ripped apart bees in front of a colony. The visible key to an Asian giant hornet attack is “decapitated” or “ripped apart” bees, and not just a pile of intact dead bees, which could be the result of pesticides, starvation, or something else.

This is the hornet that incites the famous bee defensive response of “cooking” hornets to death. Asian honey bees grab an invading hornet, pile around it and raise their thoracic temperatures to the critical temperature that is lethal to wasps but tolerable to bees. Unfortunately, American honey bees, of European not Asiatic descent, do not have this behavior.

The Asian giant hornet’s life cycle is typical of that for other social wasps and yellowjackets. A solitary female emerges from winter hibernation and founds a subterranean nest, at first performing all nest duties including foraging and incubating the young. The colony steadily grows until workers eventually take over all foraging duties. New queens and males emerge in late summer and mate. Eventually the males and workers die, leaving only the newly-mated queens who overwinter in isolation.

At this time there have been no confirmed cases of this hornet’s presence in Georgia or anywhere outside of Washington state. Other wasps and hornets already residents in our state that may be confused with the Asian giant hornet are:

  • Cicada killers, Sphecius speciosus, size range 0.6 – 2 inches long (15 – 50mm)
  • European hornets, Vespa crabro, size range 1-1.4 inches (25-35mm)
  • Southern yellowjackets, Vespula squamosa, size range 0.5inches (12mm)
  • Baldfaced hornets, Dolichovespula maculata, size range 0.75 inches (19mm)

The Asian giant hornet and cicada killer may be similar in size but very different in coloration. The Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health have put together an “Asian Giant Hornet and its SE US Lookalikes” photographic fact sheet (link below) which is extremely helpful for distinguishing between the different species in our state.

At this time, we need to be vigilant but not over-reactive since, again, there is no evidence that the Asian giant hornet has journeyed East. However, sightings and/or disturbances to honey bee colonies should be reported. If you think you have seen an Asian giant hornet, found evidence of an attack (decapitated or ripped apart bees) or have a specimen, please contact your County Extension Agent immediately. They will be able to collect your information and any specimens for identification. You can call 1-800-ASK-UGA1 to find an agent near you. For photos and more in-depth information about the Asian giant hornet, please check out the followin

Georgia Department of Agriculture
http://www.agr.georgia.gov/invasive-pests.aspx

Washington State Department of Agriculture website  https://wastatedeptag.blogspot.com/2019/12/pest-alert-asian-giant-hornet.html

Celebrating Earth Day 2020

April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970 in schools and communities around the United States as a way to call attention to environmental issues. According to the Earth Day Network, the occasion is now celebrated in over 190 counties.

With most of our country sheltering-in-place, we have an opportunity to really embrace Earth Day at home with our families. Hopefully, you have taken time over the last days to really slow down and appreciate nature around you. Let’s celebrate that with a special Earth Day! Plant a garden or create nature poetry. It can be a great day while safely staying within recommended shelter-in-place guidelines.   Following are some other ideas to get you and your family in an Earth Day spirit.

Hold a family nature photo contest. Give the members of your family 24 hours to take nature photos from places nearby using their cell phones. Give simple prizes for the most creative photos.  You can use an online photo service to create a book of the photos as a memento.

Explore your pollinator garden. Practice identifying and counting insects to get ready for the Great Georgia Pollinator Census on August 21 and 22. The project website at https://ggapc.org/ contains all you need to learn more about the pollinators in your garden.

Learn to identify the birds in your yard. For added fun learn their calls. Cornell’s bird lab has free resources on bird identification. Feeding birds is a wonderful family hobby. Get tips on now from UGA Extension Circular 976 at extension.uga.edu/publications.

Discover more about the trees in your yard. Can you identify them? The Arbor Day Foundation has a great website for tree identification. What role does each tree play in the wildlife ecosystem? Create some leaf rubbings to decorate your home. For more information, see UGA Extension Bulletin 987 on native trees and shrubs at extension.uga.edu/publications.

Organize your recyclables. If you don’t already recycle, spend some time creating an area in your home to place and organize your recyclables.  Research where to take your recyclables locally.  Does your trash pickup service also take recyclables? For more tips, see UGA Extension Bulletin 1050-2 on recycling at extension.uga.edu/publications.

Plan an Earth Day dinner. This is a tradition with my family each year — we choose a theme and plan dinner and activities around it. For example, plan a pollinator dinner choosing foods that need a pollinator. Strawberry shortcake is a great dessert for this theme! Other themes are foods grown underneath the earth’s crust like potatoes, radishes, sweet potatoes and onions. Or perhaps a spring greens dinner with different lettuces and salad toppings. Cooking together is a wonderful activity for stress relief. Decorate your table for the occasion and plan some relevant dinner conversation topics.

Whatever you decide to do, stay safe and enjoy the day!

For more information on Earth Day visit https://www.earthday.org/.

Adding Milkweed to Your School or Community Garden

Leading up to the Great Pollinator Census we will be looking at the benefits of adding pollinator habitat to your school or community garden.  Today we will look at milkweed.

Common milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, has a beautiful orange blossom.

Attracting Monarch butterflies to your garden involves including their larval host plant, milkweed or Asclepias, in your garden.  Common milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a popular milkweed with orange blossoms that frequently appears along roadsides.  The beautiful plant also provides nectar to bees and other pollinators.  Many gardeners feel that growing milkweed from seed is challenging and it can be.  However, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you find success.

Common milkweed seeds need to be stratified before they will germinate.  This means that they need a period of moist cold.  In nature, it is easy to see how this is accomplished.  Our winters provide the chill and the rain provides the moisture.  You can mimic this process at home with a few easy steps.

  • First, purchase some clean sand from your local hardware or craft store. Craft or playground sand will work.  Moisten the sand with water until you have a paste.  You want damp sand, not wet sand.
  • Add your milkweed seeds and mix them in the moistened sand.
  • Put all of this in a plastic baggie or jar and label it with the date.
  • Place this in your refrigerator for thirty days. Mark on your calendar the date the seeds will be ready so that you don’t forget them.   Once they have stratified they are ready for planting.
  • Lay the seeds across planting soil, not covering them.  They need light to germinate.  Use your greenhouse or home light set-up.
The rewards of growing milkweed are Monarch caterpillars!

For more information on milkweed join us on the Georgia Pollinator Census Facebook group or on @gapollinators Instagram.  This week we will be exploring milkweed types, ways to grow it, and how it benefits our pollinators.  Leading up to the Great Georgia Pollinator Census we will be exploring all types of pollinators and pollinator habitats in our social media groups.  This year’s Great Georgia Pollinator Census will be on August 21st and 22nd.  You can find out more at the project website:  GGaPC.org.

Happy Garden Planning!

The Seed Catalogs are Here!

The Seed Catalogs Are Here

It is a great time of year for gardeners.  The seed catalogs are starting to arrive in our mailboxes.  What a thrill to open the mailbox and see the hint of one of the beautiful catalog covers.  These catalogs are mesmerizing.   The photos are works of art and the vegetable descriptions are literature.

The seed catalogs are here

Garden Catalog Tips

We have asked Robert Westerfield,  UGA vegetable specialist, to give us a few tips on navigating our way through these catalogs and all of the vegetable choices.

The Seed Catalogs are Here!

Tip #1  If you are gardening for high yields or dependable results, use recommended varieties for your area.  UGA’s Vegetable Planting Chart has a list of varieties that have proven to do well in Georgia.  These are the least risky choices.

Tip #2 When trying a new vegetable variety order only a small quantity to start.  Experimenting is one of the great pleasures of the garden.  Succeed or fail, it is fun to try.  Just don’t over-invest in seeds until you know how they will perform in your garden.

Tip #3 Remember the vegetables you grew up with may not necessarily be the best ones to plant now.   There are many improved hybrid varieties that can hold up to our disease and heat issues.  A good example is Silver Queen corn.  While popular, it is definitely not the best variety to grow in Georgia.  There are many new corn hybrids on the market that are much sweeter and maintain their sweetness longer when stored.

Hopefully, these tips will be a helpful guide as you enjoy making your 2019 garden seed selections.  One bonus tip especially for school gardeners – the photos in the catalogs can be laminated and used as plant markers or in gardening lessons.

Happy Reading!

Plant Reproduction Basics

To better understand how we can ensure that the seeds we collect will result in the plants that we want, let’s go back to high school biology and review plant reproduction basics!

The male parts of the flower are called the staman, made up of the anther and filament.  The pollen sits on the anther waiting to be moved to the female part of the same or a different flower.

The female part of the flower are called the carpel made up of the stigma, style and ovary.  Pollen lands on the stigma (this is pollination) moves down the style to find an ovule in the ovary (this is fertilization).

Some pollen is light and is presented on high anthers.  Wind moves this pollen to female flowers and corn is a wonderful example.  Some pollen is very sticky and needs an insect or other agent to move it to female flowers.  This is true of goldenrod.

Describes pollination and fertilization
This visual explains pollination and fertilization.

Is this starting to sound familiar?  This is very basic and plants have evolved many tricks to make their pollen more available for pollination.  Some plants have evolved with specific insect pollinators.  Flowers, you may know, exist to assist the pollinator in finding the pollen.  To a bee’s eyes some petals seem to have landing stripes leading straight to the pollen and nectar. It is a fascinating topic!  The Community Seed Network has information on a few different pollination types.

For our purposes this basic model will work.  Next time we will look at plant types:  hybrid vs. open pollination.

Happy Gardening!

Increase Your School Garden Scope by Saving Seeds

School gardens routinely grow food crops, create pollinator habitat, and even replicate historic gardens. They are an integral part of school curriculum used to teach botany, math, nutrition, history, literature and even geography.  However, the one area lacking in the hundreds of school gardens that I have visited is seed saving. Seed saving can be an important horticultural part of the garden as well as an additional avenue for tying the garden to school curriculum. With a bit of botany background, proper seed saving is not difficult and will be a fun part of your garden!

Bean seed

Until modern times seed collecting was the only way a gardener had seed for the next year. Seed was shared with neighbors and passed down from generation to generation (heirloom seeds). Seeds were taken across oceans and over the American prairie and they are an important part of our agricultural history.  Your students may have heirloom seeds stories to share.  In my area of Southern Appalachia seed saving is part of many family heritages.

Seeds 101

Bean seed

Hybrid plants are not appropriate for seed saving. They are bred to amplify a certain trait such as disease resistance or larger fruit and are produced by cross-breeding two plants with different genetics.  Tomatoes are a great example.  Most of the tomatoes grown in backyards are hybrid tomatoes with names like Better Boy and Early Girl.  Although these varieties produce delicious tomatoes, they are not appropriate for seed saving.

Hybrid plants produce seeds that are genetically unreliable or not true-to-type. These seeds are undesirable for seed saving.

Open-pollinated plants are the type of plants we want for seed collecting.  They are pollinated naturally and will produce seeds that are true-to-type if they are isolated from other varieties. So, it is important for the school gardener to choose only one variety of the seed producing plant.  For example, do not plant Calypso beans in the same area as Hidatsa beans.  They could possibly cross-pollinate resulting in seeds not true-to-type.  A garden of only Calypso beans will produce true Calypso bean seed! Larger gardens follow the recommended isolation distance for seed saving for most beans that is 10-20 feet.

With the smaller space of a school garden, it is best to choose one variety of the seed producing plant type for seed saving.

SEED SAVING AND YOUR SCHOOL CURRICULUM

Lesson ideas are numerous:

  • Pollination – what exactly is pollination and fertilization
  • Pollinators – how is pollen spread
  • History – heirloom seeds
  • Geography – how did crops spread around the world
  • Math – how many seeds produced per plant/fruit/bean pod
  • Genetics – Hybrid plants and gene traits
  • Cultural Studies – choose plants with cultural significance such as Chinese long beans or tomatillos
  • Literature – research how seeds came from Europe and Africa to become part of our agricultural system

Seed Savers has a website full of seed collecting information. Your local land grant Cooperative Extension office can assist you in choosing varieties of plants that will work well for seed saving and will grow well in your area.  Over the next several weeks we will explore seed collecting in more detail so grab your seed catalogs and start planning your spring seed collecting garden.

Garlic Planting Step-by-Step

Late October is prime garlic planting time for the Atlanta area.  The bulbs overwinter in the garden and are harvested in the spring.  If you don’t traditionally plant winter crops, garlic is a great one to start with.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a member of the onion family.  Its use dates back to 4000 BC in central Asia.  According to Seed Savers Exchange garlic was found in King Tut’s tomb, eaten by Olympic athletes, and used as medicine by Hippocrates.  There are over 600 types of garlic grown all over the world.   Why not give it a try?

There are two basic categories of garlic:  hard-necked and soft-necked.  Georgians have better luck growing soft-necked garlic as the hard-necked ones require the long, cold winters and long, cool springs of more northern climates.  There are three types of soft-necked garlic that grow well in Georgia:  silverskin, artichoke, and elephant garlic (actually a type of leek).  Recommended cultivars include Inchelium Red, California Early, and Chet’s Italian – all artichoke types.  If you want to try the silverskin type consider Mild French.

Garlic Production for the Gardener is a useful publication on the types of garlic, planting, and harvesting.  Planting involves just a few simple steps.  Your local UGA Extension Agent will also have information to help you get started.

Garlic D

Step 1:  Start with prepared soil.  Garlic needs rich, loose soil with a pH of about 6.5.  Make sure you add some compost after removing the summer plants; don’t just pull up spent plants and put the garlic in the ground.   If soil test results indicate adding fertilizer, do so.  Garlic is a medium-heavy feeder.  Nitrogen can be incorporated in the soil before planting, either with traditional fertilizers or bone meal.  Side dress in the spring when shoots are 4 to 6 inches tall.  Hold off on nitrogen after April 1st because you want to encourage bulb formation not leaf growth.

Garlic A

Step 2:  Pull the garlic head apart just before you plant.  Use the larger bulbs for best results.  Also, leave the skin on the bulb.

Garlic C

Step 3:  Plant the bulbs about 2 inches deep with the pointed end up.  Space them about 6-8 inches apart.

Garlic Mulch

Step 4:  Be generous with mulch.  A generous amount of  mulch helps keep the soil moisture and soil temperatures even.

Tops may show through the mulch by the end of  October and the bulbs should be well rooted by November.   Since October is one of our driest months of the year, irrigation is important at planting.  Watering may be needed in early spring, but be careful not to over water.  Stop irrigation once the tops begin to dry and fall over.

Garlic should be ready for harvest between mid-May to mid-July.  Look for the tops drying and following over.  When 1/2 of the tops are in this condition it is time to harvest.  Don’t leave the bulbs in the ground too long or they may rot.  Be very careful when harvesting not to damage your crop.

Allow the heads to dry in a warm, dry place.  Keep them out of direct sunlight.  After the garlic has dried store it in a cool, dry, dark place to keep it fresh as long as possible.  Garlic braiding is a unique way of storage.

A community garden plot can yield a year’s worth of garlic so you’ll be able to enjoy those delicious Italian meals all year long.  Garlic bread, calazones, tomato sauce, garlic chicken….

Happy Gardening and Mangiate bene!