Planning Your Georgia Fall Vegetable Garden

Although the thermometer is rising above ninety on a daily basis and our Georgia humidity is, well, the typical Georgia humidity, it is time to do some serious thinking about your fall garden.

Did you make notes on your summer garden? Making notes about which varieties performed well for you, what pests plagued you, and your overall satisfaction from your warm-season garden will be useful as you plan for 2019. Also, make note of plant arrangement so you can practice crop rotation next year.

Think Green. Fall is the time for lettuce, spinach, collards, mustard greens and kale. Your seed catalogs will show you that there are so many varieties of lettuce that you couldn’t possibly grow them all. Do try a few new ones. They could make a real difference in the taste of your salads. I really enjoy the lettuce variety Drunken Woman!

Bush beans can be a part of your early fall garden. A planting of bush beans towards the end of summer may produce a nice crop for you if we don’t get an early frost. Take note of the days until harvest count and look for something in the lower numbers. Look for varieties that are resistant to rusts and keep a close eye on them for pests like Mexican bean beetles.

Don’t forget root crops. Short day onions and garlic are a MUST for any cool-season garden. Plant these root crops as sets and let them go until the spring. It is easy to grow all the garlic you will need for the year by careful planning. Make sure to mulch the crop.

Finally, if you don’t plan to grow a cool-season crop consider growing a cover crop. Cover crops can hold down weeds while enriching your soil. At the very least please be courteous to your fellow community gardeners and clean out your plot, removing plant debris that could harbor pests and weeds that could produce seeds that you will deal with later.

Cooler weather is on the way! Happy Gardening!

Flea Beetles in the Garden

I have seen several outbreaks of flea beetles on eggplant as I visit community gardens around Georgia this summer. Their damage is easy to identify as leaves become skeletonized due to the feeding of adult flea beetles.

If the eggplants are mature, the damage can be tolerated by the plant and you should be able to have a fine eggplant crop. If the infestation is severe or the flea beetles have found young, small plants the beetles can severely damage the plant and cause a reduced yield.

Close up of a flea beetle on an eggplant leaf.

You will notice the small beetles will jump if they are startled, which is how they came to be called flea beetles. Female beetles will lay eggs around the plant. Emerging larvae will head into the soil and could possible feed on plant roots. The mature beetle will emerge to feed on your plant leaves. The insects overwinter as adults in plant debris and litter in the top of the soil. There will be more than one generation per year.

There are chemical controls available and you should contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension office for recommendations. After your eggplants are finished definitely remove all plant debris from the soil bed. I would caution in planting collards or any other leafy green in that same soil this fall. Since you are growing leafy greens for the leaves, you will want to avoid flea beetle damage. Any larvae left in the soil after your remove eggplant debris could emerge to find your greens a tasty meal.

Happy Gardening!

A New Exotic Tick is Headed to Georgia

by Nancy C. Hinkle, Ph.D.
Dept. of Entomology, Univ. of Georgia, Athens

Anyone who has lived in Georgia probably has experienced ticks, either on themselves or on their pets. The most common of the state’s 22 native tick species is the lone star tick. The American dog tick is the next most frequently encountered tick; even though it is called a dog tick, it can be found on mid-sized wildlife of all types – coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums, etc. Gulf Coast ticks seem to be increasing in prevalence and expanding their range. Deer ticks are not very common (the ticks typically found on deer are lone star ticks).

But there is a chance that we’ll be getting a new type of tick – as if we needed it. Last year a tick species that had never been found in North America showed up on a farm in New Jersey. Despite control efforts and a harsh winter, it successfully overwintered and in 2018 has already been found in Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, and North Carolina. Its mode of distribution is unknown, but this rapid spread bodes poorly for containment.

Originally from northeast Asia, this tick showed up in Australia and New Zealand over 100 years ago, where it has established and become a significant problem on cattle and sheep. Known as the “Longhorned Tick” (scientific name Haemaphysalis longicornis), it is capable of transmitting several disease organisms infecting livestock and humans.

Why is this tick of particular concern?

  1. It is not native to North America. That means there are no natural controls here to keep it in check – no predators or parasites to suppress its numbers. Also, our animals have not developed any natural resistance to it, so it is anticipated to thrive on both wildlife and livestock.
  2. Males are extraneous. This tick is parthenogenetic, meaning females reproduce without mating, so males are unnecessary. Of course, this means that a single female transmitted into a new area can start a new population, indicating that infestations can readily spread. And each female produces over 2,000 eggs, so populations can rapidly explode.
  3. Longhorned Ticks do well on a variety of hosts, wildlife as well as livestock. They should thrive on white-tailed deer and quickly spread to livestock. They readily feed on small ruminants, horses, dogs, cats, humans, and several common wildlife species.
  4. This tick is tolerant of a wide range of environmental conditions, but will flourish in the Southeast, which has climate similar to its native range. As has been shown, it successfully overwinters in New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia, so may well be active year-round in Georgia.
  5. The Longhorned Tick is capable of transmitting several animal and human pathogens. Large numbers of ticks feeding on an animal can produce anemia, particularly in young animals.

Unfortunately this invader looks like many of our native ticks, small and brown before it feeds, then swollen and gray after it takes a blood meal. So what should Georgians be looking for to alert them to the Longhorned Tick? High numbers of ticks per animal. Because each tick can produce over 2,000 eggs, tick populations expand rapidly and frequently exceed hundreds per animal. If you find an animal with lots of ticks on it, pull off at least a dozen, put them in a small bottle with alcohol, and take them to your county Extension office. Tell them to send them to Dr. Hinkle in Athens and we will identify them for you (be sure to include your contact information). Then treat the animals to kill the remaining ticks (consult the Georgia Pest Management Handbook for recommendations on tick control).

We may not see Longhorned Ticks in Georgia any time soon, but we do not want to miss them if they do show up.

A Country of Gardening Immigrants

Happy 4th of July week!   I hope your celebration will a good one full of fresh Georgia tomatoes, onions, watermelons….

As we think about the birthday of our country and how Americans celebrate there is always some type of food involved.  And, depending on your cultural background it could include extra garlic, long beans, or tomatillos.  The world is our garden and we have always been a country of immigrants.

A County of Gardening Immigrants
Chinese Long Beans

A Garden is Common Ground

Across our country experienced gardeners are welcoming immigrants and refugees from all over to the United States in a garden setting.  A garden is common ground.  There may be language barriers but we can all “talk” seed, soil, and water.

Having the privledge of working with some of these gardens it is exciting as cultures are shared through the growing of food.  Gardeners from Somalia are interested to see what the gardeners from Burma are growing.  Gardeners from Kenya are poking their heads in the Syrian’s garden to see what is coming up there.  Our American melting pot is alive and well in the garden.

People especially seem to enjoy growing foods from their homeland and their childhood.  This is true even within the United States.  Many a displaced Southerner has taken the family collard green seeds when being transferred to “the North”.  Year after year, I grow family bean seeds brought down from the hills of Kentucky to Georgia.  So, it is to be expected that our collective palate would be enriched by foods brought with immigrants from other countries.

A Diverse Dinner Plate

If you are fortunate enough to be invited to a pot-luck dinner at one of these gardens, it is an experience worthy of a 5-star restaurant rating.  And, it will make you truly thankful for our county and all of its diversity.

A County of Gardening Immigrants
North Fulton Extension Garden

A special “Thank You” goes out to a local food partner Global Growers who does such tremendous work with these gardeners in Georgia.  And to gardens like the International Garden of Many Colors in California, the Fresh International Garden in Anchorage, Alaska and the North Fulton Extension Garden in Sandy Springs, Georgia.

Happy Birthday, America!

Avoid Heat Stress in the Georgia Community Garden

I have gotten some requests to repost this information about heat stress. It is definitely summer in Georgia so we all need to take care.

Summer heat can be dangerous, especially with the heat and humidity we are experiencing this summer.   We went to a professional to get tips on how to stay safe in a hot, humid Georgia garden.

Heat Stress in the Georgia Community Garden
The Weather Channel knows heat!

Millard Griffin is a Certified Safety Professional with Environmental Resources Management (ERM).  He has vast experience dealing with heat related issues on environmental projects from the Florida Everglades to the Gulf Coast of Louisiana.  He knows heat and humidity.

Heat stress is a real concern for those working in the garden.  Especially for those of us who aren’t out there every day.  Heat stress is defined as any situation where the human body is unable to cool itself by sweating.  This can lead to several conditions including heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (a medical emergency).

Tips to Prevent Heat Stress

To prevent these conditions Mr. Griffin gives us the following tips:

  • Acclimatize to the heat.  Work a limited amount of time outdoors and gradually increase your amount of time in the heat.
  • Avoid the high heat periods of the day.  Get your work done early in the morning or late in the day.   Avoid the hours between 2 and 6 as the heat loads are typically higher during these hours.
  • Take frequent breaks in a cool area.  Taking breaks in an air conditioned area is preferable but, a shady area will work.
  • Limit exposure to direct sunlight when possible.  Plan your workday to take advantage of shaded areas.
  • Drink plenty of water.  Take a water break at least every hour, drinking cool water.  Also, drink water before working in the garden.  Hydration is key.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol.  These are diuretics and cause your body to lose water.
  • Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing and a hat.  Certainly use sunscreen to protect against UV rays on all exposed skin.
Heat Stress in the Georgia Community Garden
Work in shade whenever possible.

Monitor Yourself

It is preferable to work with another gardener so you can monitor each other.  If you notice extreme sweating, dizziness, nausea, or muscle cramps STOP WORKING.   Head indoors, hydrate and cool down.

Certain people are more susceptible to heat stress – the elderly, children, pregnant women, and people who have just moved here from a cooler climate.  Certain medications can also make someone more prone to heat stress.   Mr. Griffin recommends checking with your doctor if you take medications.

Knowing this information will help keep you safe in the Georgia summer heat and make your gardening experience a more pleasurable one.

Remember georgiaweather.net is a wonderful resource for weather information.

Thanks Mr. Griffin for the tips!  Stay safe and

Happy Gardening!

 

 

The Great Georgia Pollinator Census August 2019

August 23rd and 24th of 2019, citizens of Georgia will be conducting the first ever statewide pollinator census. This includes YOU if you live in Georgia! You will want to be a part of pollinator history!

We have been working towards this project for some time and even though it is still 14 months away, we want to make sure that every Georgia citizen has the date marked on their 2019 calendar. We have already been asked a few questions so I wanted to answer those most frequently asked:

What is the Great Georgia Pollinator Census? The Great Georgia Pollinator Census is a statewide project where all Georgia citizens will be asked to count pollinators on either August 23rd or 24th of 2019. Training and all supporting information will be provided through the website, https://GGaPC.org, closer to the August 2019 date.

How will it work? Each citizen scientist (YOU) will choose a favorite pollinator plant that is blooming in their garden for counting. You will count all the insects that land on that plant during a 15-minute period. After you tally the counts, you will upload your data to the webpage. Very simple. The data will be used for researchers to see a snapshot of which pollinators are at work in Georgia on those dates.

Do I have to be an entomologist to participate? NO, definitely NOT. We will be asking you to place the insects you see into one of eight categories:

Carpenter bees
Bumble bees
Small bees
Honey bees
Wasps
Flies
Butterflies
Other insects

The online training, conducted and posted online in 2019, will teach you how to tell the difference between flies, bees, and wasps. We will give you the tools to understand the basic skills needed to place insects in the categories. It will be very simple and straightforward. Of course, we will be available for any questions.

Can school groups participate? ABSOLUTELY! One of the reasons for the August date is to make sure school groups do participate. We will have lesson plans available for teachers use. We have conducted smaller censuses and school groups have really enjoyed the activities. The teachers can tie the census to their STEM activities.

If you are a teacher and have a lesson plan on pollinators that you want to share we would love to put the plan on our website and to feature you on upcoming social media. Just email me at beckygri@uga.edu to submit a lesson or for more information.

What about families? Can my small family participate? OF COURSE. The census is set up so that individuals can count in their gardens.

Will groups be holding special events around the census? YES, the State Botanical Garden in Athens and the Coastal Botanical Garden in Savannah have already started planning special events. Other gardens will follow. Also, contact your local UGA Extension office to see what they have planned.

Starting in January 2019 we will have supporting social media so that as you get ready for the census you will have fun, and educational, snippets to use in classrooms or in family discussions.

Why are you announcing the census so early? So that everyone can mark those dates on their calendars. And, it gives those who don’t have a pollinator garden time to design and plant one! (https://ugaurganag.com/pollinators)

What can we do now to get ready for the census? Plan and plant a pollinator garden, check the webpage and bookmark it (https://GGaPC.org), and contact me at beckygri@uga.edu if you have any questions.

Be part of Georgia pollinator history. Mark your calendar! Happy Pollinator Week 2018!

Becky Griffin

Insect Scouting is an Important Part of Vegetable Growing

Whether you work a large family farm, a home vegetable garden, or a 4’X8’ community garden vegetable plot, routine scouting for insects should be an important part of your vegetable growing plan. Insect pests can be a costly problem on vegetables and the lifecycles of some of our insect pests are so short that missing a week of scouting can lead to damaged crops and increased pest numbers.

Scouting involves carefully and deliberately walking though the garden looking for insects on a routine basis. Inspect the leaves and fruits/vegetables. Look on the undersides of leaves and on the stem. Evidence of boring insects can be seen on the plant stem while insect eggs are often deposited on the leaf undersides. If you are unsure of an insect identification, contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension agent for assistance. Do not automatically reach for an insecticide!

Insect eggs are easily removed. Simply remove the entire leaf and fold the leaf over on itself and smash the eggs. Or, if you want to preserve the leaf, use sticky tape to remove the eggs. Place tape on top of the egg mass and gently pull removing the eggs. Fold the tape on itself and smash the eggs.

Squash bug eggs are easy to remove.

Eggs like these are easy to miss if you don’t routinely scout your garden! Dealing with squash bug eggs is easier than managing the 30+ pest insects that could mature from these eggs. A helpful video goes through the easy steps.

Learning about the insects that are common pests for the food crops you are growing can be very helpful. Leaf-footed bugs (Leptoglossus spp.) are a problem for tomatoes while squash bugs are pests in cucumbers, squash and pumpkins. Aphids (Aphidoidea superfamily) are a common problem especially when plants are full of liquid, after a rain, or when plants are growing quickly. Mexican bean beetles (Epilachna varivestis) can easily destroy a bean crop but these insects have been mistaken for beneficial lady beetles.

Pest Mexican bean beetles can be mistaken for beneficial lady beetles.

It is estimated that only 3% of insects are pests so the insects you find in your garden are not always problematic. Don’t assume every insect you find is a “bad bug!” Take time to learn about beneficial insects such as assassin bugs, parasitic wasps, and lady beetles. These can be tremendous allies in your garden. Often these insects need floral resources and the plants you have added to attract pollinators will also help other beneficial insects.

The copper colored ovals in the photo below are aphid mummies. A helpful parasitic wasp laid an egg inside an aphid pest (green insect below). As the egg hatched the resulting larva consumed the aphid insides for nutrition. When the wasp matured it emerged from the aphid leaving the empty shell, aphid mummy, behind. Adult wasps will be looking for some nectar so your pollinator garden will be useful here.

Aphid mummies mean that parasitic wasps are working for you.

Scouting is just one tool of an integrated pest management (IPM) program. Other tools include:

¥ Altering planting time to miss large insect populations
¥ Using trap crops
¥ Starting with healthy soil
¥ Keeping the garden clean of debris
¥ Hand-pulling weeds
¥ Creating habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators
¥ Watering wisely
¥ Using plants that are proven to do well in your area

Happy Gardening!

2018 Tropical Storm Alberto

Guest Post Written by Pam Knox,

Long-time residents of Georgia may remember the devastating floods of Tropical Storm Alberto in July 1994. The rain was so intense that Georgia’s one-day rainfall record was set during that storm, with 21.10 inches recorded at Americus for a 24-hour period ending on July 6, 1994, as the storm stalled over the state. In spite of that incredible record and the resulting damage, the National Hurricane Center did not retire the name of Alberto. This year, Alberto is the first name on the list of Atlantic tropical storm names for the season which begins on June 1.

The latest 5-day outlook for the Atlantic tropical region from the National Hurricane Center indicates that there is an 80% chance of this year’s Tropical Storm Alberto to develop in the Gulf of Mexico in the next five days, even before the season officially begins. While it is not likely to bring extreme winds and storm surge to the area, it is expected to bring copious rain to an area that has already received up to six times as much rain as usual in the last week, covering most of Georgia except the northwest corner. Another six inches is expected across a wide area of Georgia in the next seven days from the slowly moving storm. While this is not likely to be as wet as the 1994 TS Alberto, the wind and rainfall are still going to cause tremendous problems for us here in Georgia, along the coast and inland across most of the state.

Now is the time to think about what you need to do to get ready for the rain, whether or not it organizes enough to be designated as a named tropical storm. If you have weekend activities planned along the Gulf Coast for this Memorial Day weekend, be prepared for intermittent heavy rains, gusty winds, high waves and rip currents in the water along the coast from New Orleans to the west coast of Florida. If you are inland, prepare for localized flooding which will be worse because the ground is already saturated in many areas. Move equipment and livestock out of low-lying areas. Expect some trees to fall because of the wet soil conditions, even if the winds are not that strong. This may mean blockage of roads or disruptions in power, so check your generators now if you need supplemental electricity for your operations. If water covers the road, do as the National Weather Service recommends and “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” You won’t be able to tell if the road has been undercut or washed away, and water has a tremendous potential to move cars and trucks even when only a few inches deep. The Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) has several useful publications on preparation and recovery at https://eden.lsu.edu/educate/resources.

I have heard from a number of contacts that the rain and cloudy conditions over the past two weeks has caused a lot of problems for producers, leading to splitting blueberries, increased fungal diseases, slow growth of crops, and the inability to get into the field to do side dressing of corn, application of fungicides and other treatments, and planting. Unfortunately, I don’t see a shift in this current pattern, and above average rainfall is likely to continue for the next several weeks, although there will be some drier periods that may allow you to get work done.

For updated information follow @SE_AgClimate or on Facebook at SEAgClimate. An excellent source of updated weather information is the local National Weather Service office, but you can also get information from many commercial vendors and the National Hurricane Center. Do not count on your smartphone weather apps to give you the most current information, since many of them are only updated once or twice a day. Keep monitoring for changing conditions, since above average sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico could lead to a rapid drop in pressure and increase in winds as the center of the storm gets closer to land, or the storm could move in a different direction under weak steering currents.

If you have comments to share about how the current rainy and cloudy weather is affecting your work and your crops, please feel free to send them to me at pknox@uga.edu. I always like to hear how the weather and climate are affecting Georgia agriculture.

Pam Knox
Interim Director, Georgia Weather Network
Crop and Soil Sciences, CAES

Tomato Hornworms and Parasitic Wasps

Tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) are a serious problem for tomato growers. These caterpillars have a large appetite and can quickly defoliate a tomato plant. If you find hornworms in your tomatoes, simply pick them off and drop them in soapy water. However, if you find a hornworm with white oblong obtrusions, leave it!

The white obtrusions are actually the cocoons of a parasitic wasp. A female wasp has laid her eggs under the skin of that hornworm. As the eggs hatch the larvae actually feed on the hornworm insides. The larvae eat their way out of the caterpillar and spin the cocoons you see. Eventually adult wasps will emerge from the cocoons and the weakened hornworm will die.

Photo credit: Texas A&M

The hope is that the emerging wasps will find other tomato hornworms to parasitize and you will have managed that pest. There are some generalist parasitic wasps that will provide that service for you. There is a braconid wasp, Cotesia congregates, that specifically looks for tomato hornworms. This small wasp has clear wings and as an adult they are nectar feeders. To persuade the wasps to stay in your garden you will need to have flowers. The small braconid wasps are attracted to small flowers like yarrow and small asters.

Instead of reaching for an insecticide for tomato hornworms encourage the ecosystem to assist you in managing that pest!

Happy Gardening!