Food Safety in the Georgia Community and School Gardens

Food Safety in the Georgia Community and School Garden
Food Safety in the Georgia Community and School Garden
Everyone enjoys harvest time!

How much do you know?

How much do you know about food safety in the garden?  In the heat of the summer do you immediately store your harvested produce in iced coolers?  Do you know the safe practices for using manure or compost in your garden?   How about sanitizing the containers you use to transport your produce?

No gardener ever wants someone to become sick from the food they have grown.  Whether growing food for your family, a food pantry or a farmers market you need to take time to learn some basic food safety.

Food Safety in the Georgia Community and School Garden
Fresh produce ready for delivery to a food pantry.

On-Line Food Safety Course

UGA Extension Food Specialist Dr. Judy Harrison has adapted one of her trainings to become a free on-line self-study course.  Enhancing the Safety of Locally Grown Produce is training for small and very small farms but the information is applicable to community and school gardens.  Included in the course are printable fact sheets and even a safe practices check sheet.  Topics covered include land and water use; worker hygiene; sanitation of equipment; and safe storage and transport.

The course takes about two hours or so to complete.  At the end of the course you can take a short survey and print a certificate of completion. THIS IS NOT A CERTIFICATION COURSE, however, it is good training that follows the USDA’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) principles and gets you started with basics of food safety.  If you have any questions contact Dr. Harrison at

You local UGA Cooperative Extension office may also by offering food safety courses.  I encourage you to invest the time in learning food safety practices and

Happy Gardening!

Sweet Potato Harvest Time in Georgia

Sweet Potato Harvest Time in Georgia
Sweet Potato Harvest Time in Georgia
Sweet Potatoes in Basket

It is sweet potato (Ipomea batatas) harvest time in Georgia.  At this point your potatoes should have been growing for 90-120 days and you will want to harvest them just before frost.

School gardeners sometimes use sweet potatoes as a way to keep their gardens productive, and relatively carefree, during the summer.  Harvest is a fun way to get students involved.

Community gardens sometimes have a plot just for community potatoes.  Maybe it is time for a harvest party!

Sweet Potatoes Harvest Time in Georgia
Victorian Garden, Savannah

Home Garden Sweet Potatoes is a useful guide to growing and harvesting this delicious crop.

Harvesting Your Sweet Potatoes

Northern Georgia has already experienced a light frost (October 19th) so set aside some time to get this chore completed.  Once temperatures get cold your potatoes may start to rot in the ground.

On harvest day your soil should be dry.  It is difficult to harvest underground crops in the mud!

Find the primary stem of your plant.  The crop may be formed up to 18 inches from that stem so use that as a guide.  Garden forks work well if your soil is loose enough.  Be careful; the potatoes can bruise very easily.

Storing Your Sweet Potatoes

After harvest, cure the unwashed potatoes by letting them air dry in a shady location at a warm temperature for several days.  Next, carefully store them in a cool, dark area for several months.  Do not store them in the refrigerator.

Some gardeners report success by wrapping each potato in newspaper and storing them in plastic bins. Others store their harvest in plastic bins of clean sand.  Many community gardeners don’t have a large storage area and they use their attic or garage for storage.  Which ever method you choose, protect your potatoes from rodents.

You can enjoy sweet potatoes in many forms – baked, mashed, and in muffins.  Most Southerners have delicious memories of sweet potato pie!

Happy Gardening!



2016 UGA Pizza Farm

UGA Pizza Farm 2016

Welcome to the 2016 UGA Pizza Farm!

Bring your 4th and 5th graders to the 2016 UGA Pizza Farm which will be held 9:00 am until 2:00 pm on March 29th, March 30th and March 31st at the Georgia State Farmers Market in Forest Park.

Eleven time slots are available for groups of 50 each day.  You should allow 2.5 hours to complete the event.  Everyone will receive a pizza card passport, stamped with each station, which contains educational facts about the Pizza Farm.  At the end, each participant will enjoy a pizza lunch – with fruit, ice cream and water, and a gift bag with a brochure designed for the parental guardians about the educational components of the event.  Reserve your group’s time slot by contacting Beth Horne at 770.228.7214 or at e-mail address

By using the theme of a pizza, the Pizza Farm:

  • Exposes urban youth to Georgia’s agricultural commodities
  • Shows how physical activity and a healthy diet play a role in a healthy life style

In addition to being a fun and educational event, participants will receive a healthy pizza recipe that could be shared with family and friends.

The stations include:

  1. Get Moving – physical activity through dance
  2. My Plate – basis for good nutrition
  3. Dough & Wheat – connecting wheat to dough
  4. Herbs, Vegetables, & Tomatoes – produce used for sauce
  5. Dairy – associating a cow to milk and cheese
  6. Meat Toppings – live stock commonly used in meat toppings
  7. Evaluation – assessing what was learned

Registration is $20 per classroom.   Please register by contacting Beth Horne at 770.228.7214 or at e-mail address

Pizza Farm 2016 – Promotional Flyer

Pizza Farm 2016 - Register Now

Ten Rules for Pesticide Use in Your Georgia Garden

Ten Rules for Pesticide Use in Your Georgia GardenUsing pesticides can be intimidating.  When using pesticides all gardeners want to get it right.  We want to eliminate the pest with little consequence to our plants, our health or the environment.

UGA Extension partnered with Extension services from Alabama, North Carolina and Mississippi to create some helpful rules for pesticide applications.

Dr. Ellen Bauske, part of the development team, says “Gardeners need simple, straight-forward guidance on pesticide use.”

Follow the Golden Rules

Put the right plant in the right place.  Healthy, stress-free plants suffer less from pests.

Identify the plant first.  Be aware of its normal, healthy appearance.

Identify the pest second.  Not all suspicious characters cause problems.

Ask yourself, “Do I really need a pesticide?”  This could save time, money and the environment.

Read and abide by the pesticide label.  THE LABEL IS THE LAW.

Avoid having leftover chemicals.  When choosing chemical controls, buy and mix only what you need.

More is not better.  Use the lowest labeled concentration rate that will get the job done.

Protect beneficial creatures.  Spot treat the pest and avoid broadcast applications of pesticides.

Buy separate sprayers.  Don’t mix herbicides with insecticides and fungicides.

Follow the label instructions for disposal.  Do not put unused pesticides in household garbage containers.


Ten Rules for Pesticide Use in Your Georgia Garden
Read and follow all label instructions.

Pesticide Safety for the Homeowner has information about reading pesticide labels, storing pesticides and first aid.

If you have any questions about identifying a pest or determining what pesticide to use don’t hesitate to contact your local UGA Extension agent.  He/she is trained to help you.

Happy, Pest-free Gardening!

Celebrate National Pizza Month With Pizza Herbs

Celebrate National Pizza Month With Pizza Herbs

October is National Pizza Month and gardeners can celebrate using pizza herbs from the garden.  October is the time to harvest those delicious herbs before first frost.  If you haven’t added herbs to your community or school garden, you should.  They are easy to grow and wonderful to use.

Celebrate National Pizza Month with Pizza Herbs
Basil is a favorite pizza herb and is easily grown in your community or school garden.

Growing Pizza Herbs

The pizza herbs oregano and basil can be easily grown in-ground, in raised beds, and in containers.  These need at least six hours of sun a day and well drained soil.  The plants are easy to find at local nurseries or big box stores, usually available all summer long.  You can also start pizza herbs from seeds early in the spring.

Celebrate National Pizza Month with Pizza Herbs
The pizza herb oregano can be grown in containers.

Herbs are most flavorful just before the plant blooms.  As you see flowers develop, pinch them off.  Throughout the summer it is very satisfying to harvest these fresh pizza herbs for homemade pizza night.  They are delicious as a pizza topping or in homemade pizza sauce.  Adding them to commercial jarred sauce adds a taste of freshness.

Harvesting and Preserving Pizza Herbs

Know that basil is especially susceptible to frost.  You need to harvest all of your basil before the first frost.  If you are growing in containers you can avoid those first frosts by bringing the containers indoors at night.

Herbs are best harvested in the morning hours, rinsed clean, and air dried.  The pizza herbs are very easy to dry.  Cut the stems as close to the soil as possible.  Tie the stems together and hang the bunch upside down in a warm, dry, well ventilated area.

Celebrate National Pizza Month With Pizza Herbs
Tie herb stems together to hang in a warm, dry well-ventilated space.


Once the leaves are dry you can crunch them between your fingers and store them in jars.  Discard the stems. This is an easy way to enjoy homemade pizza all winter long.  There are other ways to preserve the leaves.  See Herbs in Southern Gardens for more information.

Herbs are a great way to reduce salt in your diet.  Cooking with Herbs, Spices, and Seasonings gives great suggestions in using all of your garden herbs.

Enjoy National Pizza Month.  Creating homemade pizza with those end-of-the season tomatoes and herbs from your garden is a delicious end to the summer!

Happy Gardening!