Planning Your Georgia Fall Garden

Although we are in the middle of a hot summer it is time to think about your fall garden.   We have put together a list of “tried and true” cultivars of cool-season vegetables.  These recommendations come from UGA’s Vegetable Planting Chart.  The transplants or seeds should be easy to find at your local feed-and-seed store or easy to order from seed catalogs.

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Herbicide Damage in the Georgia Community or School Garden

Herbicide Damage in the Georgia Community or School Garden

Oftentimes community gardens are located on county Parks and Recreation land or in the middle of land maintained by people other than the community gardeners.  School gardens have maintenance crews that maintain the land near the school garden.  How this surrounding land is managed can have an affect on your garden.  Sadly, herbicide damage to community garden plants when the garden itself does not allow herbicides is common.  The article below by UGA’s Donn Cooper explains:

Broad-leaf herbicides

Herbicides applied to lawns and hay fields contain compounds that selectively affect broad-leafed weeds, such as dandelion and thistle, but do not kill the grass. Tomatoes, grapes, peppers and other broad-leafed plants are damaged when the herbicides move from the lawns and fields into the vegetable garden.

These herbicides — 2,4-D and pyridine compounds — cause the most striking damage on sensitive plants by short-circuiting the plants’ hormonal system and ability to regulate growth, said Elizabeth Little, a University of Georgia Plant Pathologist.

Parallel veins and cupping are some of the symptoms in the new growth of plants affected by these herbicides.

Because Georgians love tomatoes — and hate weeds, this is an issue that Extension personnel at the UGA see again and again.

“People often do not understand how the herbicide was able to move into their gardens and will swear up and down that no herbicides were used, but the symptoms are distinctive,” said Little. “Unwanted herbicide can come from different sources.”

 

Herbicide Damage in the Georgia Community or School Garden
Tomato herbicide damage. Photo by Elizabeth Little

Means of exposure

Some of those sources are obvious. For example, herbicide sprays to the lawn can become airborne and harm plants within close proximity. Even with barely a breeze, compounds applied as sprays can drift quite far from the site of application.

But there are more subtle avenues for accidental damage. In hot weather herbicide compounds on lawns can volatize, or become a gas, and eventually affect vegetables around the home.

Gardeners using grass clippings as mulch should be mindful that the clippings could have been treated with herbicide.

Herbicide in manure

While most lawn herbicides will break down within a few months, some of these herbicides, especially those applied to hay fields, will persist in the environment for several years.

Pyridine compounds — such as picloram, clopyralid and aminopyralid — appear to be causing the most damage in home gardens. These herbicides can reach gardens through composted manure from animals fed with treated hay, said Little.

“Horse manure is a very common source of unwanted herbicide because the hay that horses eat is very often sprayed with these persistent herbicides,” said Little, who is an Extension specialist in integrated disease management with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Growers need to be mindful about the origins of their compost and mulch. Organic farmers can even lose their certification by accidentally introducing contaminated compost from off-farm sources.

“Many gardeners have stopped using horse manure, which is a shame,” said Little.

She points out that horse manure is often easy to obtain and has a balanced nutrient composition. Although likely free of 2,4-D and related herbicides, poultry manure can create problems with nitrogen and phosphorous if used in excess.

Herbicide Damage in the Georgia Community or School Garden
Another view of tomato herbicide damage by Elizabeth Little.

Ask about pasture treatments

Little suggests that gardeners who buy manure should ask what herbicides were applied to the pasture and to the hay that the animals consume. Anyone who grows hay should be able to provide a list of his or her herbicide treatments.

Hay field herbicides are used so commonly because the farmers can have persistent problems with tough perennial weeds such as thistles and dock.

“With more and more people wanting to grow their own food, I think it is something that we all need to be aware of,” said Little.

Glyphosate has different symptoms

Glyphosate, another herbicide often used around the home, causes different damage on tomatoes. It affects the whole plant, not just new growth, and can be identified in bleached, yellow leaves.

If you have any questions about whether herbicide damage has affected your community or school garden, contact your local UGA Extension agent.  He/she has experience with this.

Happy Gardening!

 

Avoid Heat Stress in the Georgia Community Garden

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!

 

 

Thinking Ahead to Combat Disease in the Garden

The increase in rain this summer seems to have brought on an increase in vegetable diseases.  Sharon Dowdy, a news editor for UGA, recently spoke with UGA Extension pathology specialist Elizabeth Little about the problems gardeners are seeing.  Sharon writes…

Home gardeners must fight insects and diseases to keep their vegetable plants healthy and productive. Diseases are harder to identify because, unlike bugs, you can’t easily see a pathogen, says University of Georgia Cooperative Extension specialist Elizabeth Little.

“Insects can be seen on plants, but diseases are a little mysterious,” said Little, a plant pathologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “You can’t just look at the plant and know what’s going on.”

Georgia’s hot, muggy summers provide the perfect conditions for diseases to thrive in, she said.

The secret to fighting diseases in homegrown vegetables is to stay a few steps ahead of them, according to Little.

This tomato plant is in trouble. Most likely a disease is to blame.

“If you wait until after you see the disease, it’s too late,” she said. “It’s all about prevention because diseases can increase very rapidly once they start.”

To fight diseases in the home garden, Little offers home gardeners these prevention tips.

  • Plant in an open, sunny location with good drainage and plenty of air circulation.
  • Choose disease-resistant and/or Southern-adapted varieties, if available.
  • Start with healthy seeds and transplants.
  • Plant summer crops, such as tomatoes and cucurbits, as early as possible.
  • Rotate different crops within the garden each year if possible.
  • Give plants plenty of space for good air movement. Trellis tomatoes and cucumbers.
  • Limit the frequency of overhead irrigation to keep foliage dry.
  • Use drip irrigation if possible.
  • To help keep plants healthy, improve soil conditions with organic matter.
  • Adjust pH and soil fertility based on a soil test.
  • Remove old crop debris at the end of the season.

Following these practices will help home gardeners avoid most disease problems. If persistent problems occur, contact your local UGA Extension office for a correct diagnosis of the problem and a recommendation on how to treat it.

Thank you Sharon, for sharing this great advice!  

Happy Gardening!

4th of July in the Community Garden

In honor of our nation’s birthday, we are looking at some vegetables that our founding fathers, and mothers, may have grown. Take notes so you can include these as you plan your future garden plots.  You will have a history lesson in the garden!

A display of patriotism at the Woodstock Community Garden.
A display of patriotism at the Woodstock Community Garden.

Tennis Ball Lettuce was one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite lettuce varieties.  He said “it does not require so much care and attention” as other types.  The seeds were first sold in the United States in the late 18th century.  During the 17th and 18th

Tennis Ball Lettuce - Photo courtesy of Monticello
Tennis Ball Lettuce – Photo courtesy of Monticello

centuries it was common for gardeners to pickle the lettuce in salt brine.  It is a parent of our current butterhead lettuces having light green leaves which form a small loose head.  In our area sow seeds early in the spring.

Yellow Arikara Beans have a very interesting history.  They were named for the Dakota Arikara tribe that Lewis and Clark met while traveling on their “Voyage of Discovery.”  They were selected by Native Americans for use in the short growing season of the Northern Plains.  Lewis and Clark sent some bean samples back east and they were enjoyed by Thomas Jefferson who said the bean “is one of the most excellent we have had:  I have cultivated them plentifully for the table two years.”  Plant these warm-season beans about 2 inches apart, 1 inch deep.  Keep rows 36-49 inches apart.  They are a bush type bean that is drought tolerant and can handle an early cold snap.  They can be harvested for snap beans or the preferred way, letting them dry on the vine and using them for soups and stews.

Costoluto Genovese is an indeterminate Italian-type tomato with ribbing.  Think of a small pumpkin-shaped tomato.  Although the large amount of seeds can be a problem for some, it has great flavor in sauces or soups.   Thomas Jefferson was one of the first Americans to plant tomatoes and he wrote extensively about them.  These plants should be started indoors 6-8 weeks before the last spring frost.  Plan for 85-90 days to maturity and they will need staking.

Costoluto Genovese Tomato - photo courtesy of Monticello
Costoluto Genovese Tomato – photo courtesy of Monticello

Thomas Jefferson left the most detailed farming records of any of the founding fathers.  We know that colonials shared information about farming as well as plants and seeds.  Martha Washington made sure fresh vegetables, fruits and berries were generously served from the Mount Vernon garden to visitors.  Diaries from guests discuss the wide variety she offered.  Mrs. Washington once commented “as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country.”  Some of our Founding Fathers liked the garden better than others.  Later in life, Benjamin Franklin gave up trying to grow much food instead visiting the local farmer’s market.  This is still a great option for us today!

Information for this post came from Thomas Jefferson’s Garden and Farm Books, www.monticello.org, Seed Savers Exchange, and experience.  Seeds for these plants can be ordered from a variety of heirloom seed organizations.  For more information on growing any type of heirloom vegetables contact your local UGA Extension Agent.

Happy Fourth of July and Happy Gardening!

 

They’re Back! Japanese Beetles in Your Garden

Did you know that Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica) feed on over 300 plant species?  Plants in the rose or cherry families seem to be a favorite targets.   The first one in my North Georgia garden appeared on June 1st.

Japanese beetle damage

In the past gardeners reached for an insecticide to handle the problem.  Sevin spray, Carbaryl (1-naphthyl N-methylcarbamate), was a popular choice.  However, Sevin is a broad spectrum insectide that kills other beneficial insects!  Sevin kills over 100 different insect species, including bees.

If you want to attract the beetles to your garden, add a pheromone trap.  You will attract them from all over your area.  Seriously, they will bring more beetles to your garden.  Maybe you can talk a neighbor into purchasing one!

There is an easier way to handle a Japanese Beetle infestation.

Fighting Back!

A jar of soapy water is your best weapon against Japanese Beetles.

To control the beetles simply pick them off of your plants and drop them in a jar of soapy water.  Be aware that they will fly away so act quickly.  So practice your technique of grabbing or forcefully knocking the insects into the jar.  They will drown quickly.

When I was younger my family planted a fruit orchard.  When the orchard was young one of my jobs was to pick off Japanese Beetles and deposit them into a jar of gasoline I carried around the orchard.  Wow, the gasoline was not needed.  Soapy water works just as well.

Worst case scenario, hang in there.  They won’t be around for long!

Happy Gardening!

Pollinator Week 2017

It is Pollinator Week 2017!  Since last year the rusty patched bumble bee has been put on the Endangered Species List and honey bee keepers in the United States reported hive losses of 33% over 2016-17.  How can the average Georgia gardener help our pollinators?  These steps are easy and will make a real difference to our pollinating insects:

Read Georgia’s Pollinator Protection Plan

University of Georgia entomologists collaborated with stakeholders across the state to develop Protecting Georgia’s Pollinators.  There is a role for every Georgia citizen whether you are a farmer, a landscaper, or a homeowner.

Plant Flowering Plants

Adding flowering plants to your food garden attracts pollinators and as a bonus can also attract other beneficial insects.  To attract butterflies, adding plants that sustain the caterpillar stage of the butterfly is important.   The University of Georgia has done research on pollinator plants and has suggestions for plants that do well in our climate.

There are many pollinator plants that thrive in our Georgia climate.

Plan for a Succession of Bloom

Strive to have plants flowering as much of the year as possible.  Even during the winter months if temperatures rise above 50 F, bumble bees and honey bees are flying and looking for nectar and pollen.

Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is not a true honeysuckle and blooms in the winter months.

Create a Water Source

Adding pebbles or stones to your birdbath makes a wonderful water source for small insects with  delicate legs.  By cleaning the birdbath once a week you will avoid any mosquito problems.  If you don’t have a birdbath the drainage pans used to catch the water running out of potted plants can be used.

Wisely Use Any Pesticide

Examine your use of any pesticide.  Is the pesticide really necessary?  Your UGA Extension agent can assist you with any pest situation and guide you in deciding if a pesticide is the best answer.  Make sure you thoroughly read and follow any pesticide label.  The label is the law.

Have Your Garden Certified as a Georgia Pollinator Space

The Georgia Pollinator Spaces program is an initiative designed to recognize gardeners that consciously make an effort to improve pollinator health by creating pollinator habitat.   To get inspiration take a look at some of the gardens that are part of the program.

However you decide to celebrate Pollinator Week be sure to check our daily pollinator posts on the UGA Community and School Garden Facebook page.

Happy Pollinator Week!

 

 

Mummy Berry in Community Garden Blueberries

Mummy Berry is a disease that can be controlled easily by home gardeners.

You probably have seen them and not given them much notice, growing among  your blueberry fruits. They look like something just went wrong in fruit development.   These are mummy berries and they are actually part of a fungal pathogen, Monilinia vaccine-corymobosi.  This is a blueberry disease!

Mummy berries are caused by a pathogen

Over the season mummies fall off of the plant and oversummer and overwinter on the ground.  When conditions are just right in the spring, these bodies will germinate and can produce 650,000 disease-causing ascospores.  The ascospores can re-infect your plants creating a disease cycle.

Mummy Berry Disease Cycle from Jade Florence, Oregon State University

Control is not difficult for hobby blueberry growers

This disease affects leaves and affects the fruits when the pathogen is spread to the flower bloom, by wind or by insects.  For commercial growers this can be a serious problem.  For the casual blueberry grower it is much easier.  Simply remove the mummies and throw them away.  Also, check the ground to remove those mummies that have fallen.

Remove mummies from the blueberry plant area

For those of you interested in pathology, Jade Florence has an excellent article, Mummy Berry, in The Plant Health Instructor.  If you are unsure if mummy berry is your problem, contact your local UGA Extension office for assistance.  If you don’t have blueberries in your community garden, they are a great addition and easy to plant.

Happy Gardening!

Three Rules of Weeding in Your Georgia Garden

Weeding in Your Georgia Garden

North Georgia has seen rain over the last week.  Rain is great for our crops and also great for weeds.  This is a great time to review best management practices for weed control.

Weeds can be a big problem in a community or school garden.  A very big problem.  Knowing how to weed correctly will make this job less of a headache.   An informal poll was taken and we asked experienced gardeners to give their top three rules of weeding and we present them here:

Rule #1:  Get the roots out.

If you just remove the leaves above ground chances are the weeds will come back and you will need to perform the same weeding chore over again.  Many perennial weeds grow from underground roots and tubers.  Those need to be removed as well.

 

Weeding in Your Georgia Garden
Get those roots out!

Rule #2:  Remove the weeds before they make seeds.

If your weeds are allowed to flower and make seeds your work will get much harder.  Weed plants can make an incredible amount of seeds.  For example, common chickweed can produce 800 seeds per plant.  Dandelion flowers can make 40-100 seeds.   Crabgrass can produce 53,000 seeds per plant and pigweed can produce over 200,000 seeds per plant.  Don’t let those weeds flower!

Weeding in Your Georgia Garden
You don’t want this!

Rule #3:  Don’t let weeding get out of hand.

If you don’t routinely remove weeds you could be looking at a plot of weeds that seems overwhelming to tend.  Your vegetable production will suffer as the weeds take up the water, nutrients, and space that should be used for your plants.  And, it will take a lot of initiative to start the long process of taking back that space from the weeds.

Weeding in Your Georgia Garden
Don’t let weeds take over your community or school garden plot.

Knowing what weeds you have could be helpful in coming up with a long-term weed management plan.  Your local UGA Extension agent can help with weed plant identification and help you find strategies to minimize weed issues.

Happy Gardening!