New Year’s Resolutions in the Georgia Garden

Happy-New-Year-Linux-Fans-413000-2At this time of the year it is customary to reflect on the old and think about making the new better.  In the context of your community garden, what is your New Year’s Resolution?  Would you like to see more community involvement?  How about improving the common areas of the garden?  Or, maybe you want to try and grow something you have never tried before.

Whatever your thoughts, take action to make them happen.  The resources are out there to help you.  Make effort to attend a class given by your local UGA Extension office.  (Periodically visit the Events Page of this blog for ideas). Or, visit your local Extension office to get some ideas on what to plant and how to preserve it.  Comment on this blog to exchange tips with us, and other gardeners.  Visit some other gardens for inspiration.  The possibilities for a plentiful harvest in 2015 are endless!

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas to Gardeners

Merry Christmas to Gardeners

From the Atlanta Botanical Garden's Christmas Light Show
From the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Christmas Light Show

T’was the weekend before Christmas, and all through the yard,
Not a gift was being given, not even a card.
The tools were all hung, in the garage with care,
With hopes that St. Nicholas soon would repair.
The shovel with blade all rusty and cracked,
The pitchfork still shiny, but handle it lacked.
When out on my lawn, (it’s brown and abused)
I could see poor old Santa, looking confused.
No list had been left for Santa to see,
No gardening gifts were under the tree.
But wait there’s still time, it’s not Christmas yet,
And gardening gifts are the quickest to get.
You can forget the silk tie, the fluffy new sweater,
Give something to make the garden grow better.

From the Atlanta Botanical Garden's Christmas Light Show
From the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Christmas Light Show

If she wants a gift shiny, then don’t be a fool,
It’s not a dumb diamond, but a sparkling new tool.
If fragrance is listed you can forget French perfume,
t’s a pile of manure that’ll make gardeners swoon.
Give night crawlers, not nightgowns, a hose that sprays water.
(Anything for the kitchen is not worth the bother.)
Give a great gift that can dig in the dirt,
It’s better than any designer-brand shirt.
Now look quick at Santa, this guy’s not so dumb,
Under his glove, he hides a green thumb.
His knees are so dirty, his back how it aches,

From the Atlanta Botanical Garden's Christmas Light Show
From the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Christmas Light Show

His boots stomp on slugs, (he gives them no breaks).
The guy works only winter, you can surely see why,
For the rest of the year it’s as easy as pie.
He has elves plant through spring, pull weeds in the summer,
In fall they all harvest, but winter’s a bummer
And so Christmas gives Santa a part-time employment,
‘Till spring when the blooms are his real enjoyment.
So ask the big guy for garden gifts this year,
Seeds, plants and tools, Santa holds them all dear.
You see, malls may be crowded, vendors hawking their wares,
But visit a nursery, stress-free shopping is there.
Now Santa’s flown off, to the nursery he goes,
And his voice fills the night with loud Hoe! Hoe! Hoe!

I am not sure who to credit for this witty bit of poetry but I hope you enjoyed it!   We look forward to exchanging more useful gardening information with you during 2015.

Merry Christmas!

What is this insect and why is it inside?

Clothes moth from pubThis is a casemaking clothes moth larva feeding on wool carpet with an adult moth (inset). Clothes moth larvae feed on items of animal origin (feathers, wool, etc.) and can permanently damage items made from animal products – clothes, carpet, etc.

This information is taken from the UGA publication, Management of Pest Insects in and Around the Home

Clothes moths (Tineidae: Tineola and Tinea spp.): Shiny, light gold-colored, 1/4 inch moth with fringed wing margins. The most common species in Georgia is the casemaking clothes moth (Tinea pellionella). Larvae of casemaking clothes moths build rectangular to elliptical cases about 1/4 inch that are open at both ends and spun from materials and/or fibers in their immediate environment, often fibers they have been feeding on. Larvae live, protected, inside the case. Larvae have a dark band just behind their head, which is visible only when the larva projects its head out of the case to feed.

Habits: Moths fly at night, usually in an erratic pattern, in search of mates and food. Adults lay eggs on items of animal origin, commonly feathers and wool. Larvae crawl around and on the item while feeding from inside their case. In preparation for pupation, larvae of the casemaking clothes moth crawl away from the item they are infesting and attach their case to the wall or other nearby vertical surface.

Interventions: Wash, steam-clean or dry-clean all items of animal origin, especially wool. Have infested textiles professionally cleaned. If items cannot be washed or steam-cleaned (large quantities of material, such as area rugs) then consider small-scale fumigation or storage for at least a month in a freezer. Before cleaned items are put back in the home, remove, by hand, visible pupal cases from vertical surfaces and from shelves. Consider storing susceptible fabrics in sealed containers to prevent re-infestation. Use pheromone traps to capture male moths. If desired, apply a spot treatment with an appropriately labeled residual spray to the area where moths and larvae are found.

Might Be Confused With: Indianmeal moths; other, small, incidental moths that fly indoors, from outdoors, when doors are open.

For more information on control:

Look under Fabric Pests here for non-chemical controls

Argentine ants may move inside in the winter!

This is an excerpt from the UGA publication Argentine Ants by Dan Suiter and Brian Forschler, Department of Entomology

Argentine ant from pub
Argentine ants form strong foraging trails.

To survive the winter, Argentine ants commonly move into protected environments where temperatures are warmer and environmental conditions more stable. In structures, for example, ants commonly move into voids and other elements of construction that provide a warm, stable environment.

As spring temperatures return, Argentine ants move back into their preferred, outdoor nest sites where colonies grow steadily throughout the warm season. In the Southeast, populations typically peak in late summer. By early winter, declining temperatures once again trigger ants to begin searching for protected overwintering sites, and the cycle repeats.

To prevent large, late-season ant populations, and the resulting problems associated with winter infestations, management practices (especially outdoor baiting) should be started in the spring and continued through the warm season.

There are a number of approaches that can be utilized for the treatment of existing Argentine ant infestations, but no single insecticide-based approach is completely effective. An integrated approach, therefore, that incorporates both chemical and nonchemical techniques is best suited for the management of this ant species. If chemical controls are utilized, read and follow all pesticide label instructions, and never do more than what the label permits.

Before chemically-based Argentine ant control measures are undertaken, a thorough inspection of the indoor and outdoor premises should be conducted to determine the extent and origin of the infestation. The inspection should identify those areas where chemical control approaches should be directed.


The Argentine Ants publication discusses management techniques used to control these ants.

Victorian Neighborhood Association Community Garden

Victorian Garden SignThe Victorian Neighborhood Association Community Garden is a beautiful space framed by a decorative wooden fence and entrance arch.  It is lined up with the surrounding homes on an historic Savannah street.  There are a dozen or so raised bed plots.  A plot of flowers to attract pollinators is at the entrance.  In October there is eggplant, tomatoes, okra, carrots and herbs.  Carol Moon, of the City of Savannah, indicated that the plots are worked by a diverse group.  Some are maintained by families, other plots are worked by individuals, and  one plot is maintained by someone from a local church who uses her plot to teach the joy of growing food to young, future gardeners.

This garden is one of seven managed through a partnership with the City of Savannah through the 2012 Community Garden Initiative.  Savannah was having trouble with vacant city lots.  The lots were

Healthy Eggplants!
Healthy Eggplants!

an eyesore for the residents and a maintenance challenge for the city.  What a perfect situation for community gardens.  The neighborhood approaches the city if they want to turn a city-owned vacant lot into a garden.  The application is extensive.  The city needs to know the residents are serious about wanting the garden and have a clear plan for running the space.  Garden leadership is especially important from the beginning.   There are currently seven such gardens Victorian Garden Carrotsand three more in the works. Ms. Moon oversees the community gardening project.  She says that each garden is very different; reflective of their  individual neighborhood personalities.  The City of Savannah is justifiable proud of this program. They are a state leader in this area.  For more information on this project visit their website.

Once a quarter the city hosts a get together for the garden leaders.  They

Neighborhood President Maurice Norman cuts the ribbon when the garden was new.  Also pictured is Savannah mayor Edna B. Jackson.
Neighborhood President Maurice Norman cuts the ribbon when the garden was new. Also pictured is Savannah mayor Edna B. Jackson.

can socialize and share ideas.  The city can share any change in guidelines.  Local businesses support the gardens by donations.   Some of the gardens have fund raisers.  What an incredible use of run-down, vacant lots!  Chatham County Extension Agent, David Linville, is a great resource for community gardeners.

Happy Gardening!


Great Gardening Books for Georgia Community Gardeners

BooksWhen the weather is bleak and you can’t play in the garden, it is the perfect time for a good book.   Just in time for holiday gift giving (or receiving) we have put together a reading list full of recommendations from serious Georgia vegetable gardeners.

Fred Conrad,  Community Gardens Manager with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, likes Your Farm in the City by Seattle Tilth and Lisa Taylor as a general reference.  It is a well-organized book covering the basics of growing food in urban environments and even raising farm animals.  For people that are cheap (Fred’s word!) Fred recommends The Resourceful Gardener’s Guide by Christine Bucks and Fern Marshall Bradley.  It is full of homemade gadgets and hints for gardeners.

Groundbreaking Food Gardens and The Year Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour are two favorites of Ramoa Hemmings, Senior Horticulturist at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.  Groundbreaking Food Gardens is a collection of seventy-three interesting food gardens.  It is a great book for inspiration.  In The Year Round Vegetable Gardener the author gives readers tips and techniques for growing food all four seasons.  Ramoa also recommends Starter Vegetable Gardens by Books 2Barbara Pleasant.

Liz Stultz, a serious gardener, cook, and food preservationist likes Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  This book has been around for awhile and explores growing food in small, organized spaces.  Liz uses the spacing guides for her raised bed garden and says her copy is stained with dirt and water marks from being using IN the garden.

Suzanne Girdner, Atlanta Local Food Initiative (ALFI) director says that her book recommendation would be The Complete Garden Kitchen by Ellen Ecker Ogden. She bought this book three years ago and it travels between the garden and kitchen regularly. Ogden’s approach to designing and building a kitchen garden is not only inspiring but doable. It delivers simple, concisely written instruction, is beautifully illustrated and has many delicious recipes to celebrate the fruits of your labor!

For community gardens wanting to expand their fruit plants, ALFI is having their 6th Annual Fruit Tree Sale on Saturday, January 24, 2015 from 11am-2pm at Georgia Organics, 200-A Ottley Dr., Atlanta, GA 30324. Presale is open now through Jan. 9th.

Liz Porter of Buckeye Creek Farm likes Walter Reeves’ Guide to Georgia Vegetable Growing.  Liz likes the easy to understand language of Walter’s books and she likes anything he writes.

Amy Whitney,  who works in horticulture at Cobb Extension, recommends Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener.  This book emphasizes the use of new scientific information in gardening practices.  Amy also likes Culinary and Salad Herbs by Eleanor Sinclair Rhode.  This is an older book first published in 1940 given to Amy by a great uncle.  Books definitely can have sentimental value, can’t they?

So, what are you reading?  What are some of your favorite vegetable gardening books?  Leave a comment and share your literary finds with other gardeners.

Happy Reading!


Getting the most from pansies and violas in the landscape

Info is taken from the Georgia Guide for Production and Landscape Use of Pansy and Violas by Paul A. Thomas and Jean L. Williams-Woodward, Extension Specialists, UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Here are some tips on care for pansies and violas in the landscape from this publication.

  1. Maintain a soil pH of 5.4 to 6.2. If your pH rises above 6.2, you will run into nutritional and disease problems. If your pH falls below 5.2, you risk nutrient toxicities.
  1. pansies and NO3 with labelUse fertilizer containing the nitrate (NO3) form of nitrogen (as opposed to ammoniacal nitrogen (NH4) or urea) Nitrate is taken up more readily in cold weather, and it does not cause as much stretching in hot weather. Products such as 15-2-20, and other products especially formulated for pansies have enhanced nitrate over ammoniacal nitrogen ratios, possess low phosphorus, and generally have the fertilizer elements in the right ratios for pansies.
  1. If you use calcium nitrate [Ca(NO3)2] as a nitrogen source without added boron, you run the risk of saturating the plant with calcium. This abundance of calcium can cause a boron deficiency since calcium blocks boron uptake by the roots. Frequent irrigation and use of less-expensive fertilizers without balanced trace elements can also cause serious boron imbalances. A boron deficiency appears as tightly bunched up new growth that eventually leads to deformed leaves and poor flowering. If you need to supplement Boron, use a drench by mixing 0.85g borax (11%B) or 0.48g Solubor(20%B) per 100 gallons of water.
  1. Pansies B def
    Boron deficiency in pansies

    Carefully monitor irrigation and keep pansies slightly on the “dry side of moist soil” to “harden” growth prior to very cold weather. If your beds are continuously wet, even in periods of normal rainfall, consider adding organic matter and other materials next year to increase drainage for the next pansy season.

  1. Pine straw, applied 2 to 4 inches thick, over the top of the entire bed (plants and all) during extreme cold is one of the best ways to save a pansy planting from freeze injury. This helps trap heat in the soil, prevents it from freezing and greatly reduces plant exposure to cold and desiccating wind. Carefully rake the pine straw off the bed when the cold weather passes.
  2. These freeze protection measures are generally taken only when the air temperature is expected to drop below 20 degrees F for a considerable length of time, and when dry, cold winds accompany the weather change, and especially when the soil is in jeopardy of freezing solid. Healthy plants can generally survive short periods of temperatures down to the single digits without protection.

The publication also includes information on diseases, in-depth soil and plant fertility info and other good sources of information. See the entire publication.

Healthy Georgia Soil 101

Soil From a Community Garden in Woodstock.
Soil From a Community Garden in Woodstock.

Healthy plants start with healthy soil.  Period. No exceptions. You will be more happy with yields and vegetable quality if you start with good soil.  You will deal with frustration and possibly more disease and pest problems if you ignore your soil.

Soil is NOT just dirt.  It is alive and complex.  It is a relationship of soil minerals, organic matter, organisms, water, air, and plants.  The mineral component is made up of a mixture of sand, silt, and clay.  Organic matter is important as it contributes to moisture and nutrient retention.  Soil is a habitat for fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes, algae, protozoa, nematode, and earthworms and small mammals.  All this is important to the health of your plants.

Sometimes cities and municipalities donate land for community gardens that may have been undesirable for other uses.  Do you know what the land was used for before your garden was started?  A site that was previously used for manufacturing could have lingering by-products in the soil that could be a problem.

Many times community gardeners use raised beds and import soil and compost.  Know where that soil or compost comes from.  One community garden got a large amount of horse manure donated.  That manure contained herbicide residue that affected the tomatoes the gardeners tried to grow.   Also, soil that has been sterilized is void of desirable microorganisms.  Consider adding a compost pile to your garden (see June 25th post – Composting in the Community Garden).

Soil Sample Bag
Soil Sample Bag

If you have not been happy with the quality of your plants, the first step is to get your soil tested.  You can get information on soil testing from your local UGA Extension Office.  Instructions can be found in the publication Soil Testing.  In general, take a few sub-samples of your soil at a six inch depth.  Mix these sub-samples for an overall sample.  When you submit this to your Extension office it goes to the University of Georgia soil testing laboratory and within a couple of weeks you will get a test result page with information on your soil fertility and pH.  You will also get recommendations on how to improve your soil based on what you are growing.  There is a small fee (approximately $6-8)  involved but it is the best investment you will make!  Also, depending on the size and layout of your garden, not everyone in your garden needs to soil test.

Just think of all the things at work in your soil.  You will never call it “dirt” again!

Happy Gardening!

Protect landscape plants from winter temperatures

Frank Watson is the University of Georgia Extension Agent in Wilkes County

Landscape plants get plenty of attention during the summer, but they need protection during Georgia’s winter months. Rather than trying to keep plants warm, gardeners should help protect plants from wind, snow, ice, drastic soil temperature changes and heat from the sun on cold days.

Reducing water loss can protect evergreen plants. All plants transpire, or lose, water through their leaves. Evergreens continue to lose water during the winter, so the plant’s roots must be able take up moisture.

Homeowners are more conscious of watering shrubs during the summer and often neglect to water plants during cold weather. Roots absorb moisture when it’s available, but during a dry period or even when the ground is frozen, moisture isn’t available. The plants continue to transpire water, drawing moisture from living cells. If too much water is released, the plant’s cells die, causing the plant’s leaves to turn brown and die.

High winds and warm sunshine on cold days result in a higher rate of water transpiration. Protection can be offered by relocating susceptible plants to a sheltered location. Also, provide them additional water during dry periods or prior to expected hard freezes.

An additional layer of mulch is also recommended during winter months after the first freeze. Mulch will reduce water loss from the soil, aid in transpiration and reduce “heaving” of the soil as the ground freezes and thaws. Soil heaving, or frost heaving, occurs when soil swells during freezing conditions and ice grows towards the soil’s surface.

To protect plants from cold damage, University of Georgia Extension horticulturists recommend following these six steps:

  • Plant only varieties that are hardy for the area. Buy plants using the USDA hardiness zones.
  • Given a choice, plant less-hardy plants in the highest part of the landscape. Cold air settles in the lowest area.
  • Protect plants from cold wind with a fence or a tall evergreen hedge of trees or shrubs.
  • Shade plants from direct winter sun, especially early morning sunshine. Plants that freeze slowly and thaw slowly will be damaged the least. The south side of the house, where there is no shade, is the worse place to plant tender plants.
  • Stop feeding plants quickly available nitrogen in late summer to allow them to “harden off” before cold weather arrives.
  • Plastic covering provides excellent protection. Build a frame over the plant or plants, cover them with plastic and secure the plastic to the ground with soil. Shade plastic to keep temperatures from building up inside. Plastic traps moisture and warm air as it radiates from the soil and blocks cold winds. Do not allow the plastic to touch plants.

For more information on how to care for ornamental plants in the winter, see the UGA circular Winter Protection of Ornamental Plants.