Three Tools that Will Improve Your Indoor Seed Starting

Starting your garden seeds indoors is simply FUN.  It means Spring is almost here.   And, it is almost magical to see those green seedling emerge from the soil.  Planting many seeds requires organization and we have three tools you need for seed starting 2016.

Three tools you can use:

Tool #1 Bleach

Three Tools that Will Improve Your Indoor Seed StartingYour seedling trays and pots need to be sterilized.  You do not want to start the season with trays contaminated with fungal spores.  Simply mix 1 part bleach to 9 parts water soak your pots for a minimum of ten minutes.  Rinse well and you are ready!



Tool #2 Masking Tape

Three Tools that Will Improve Your Indoor Seed StartingWhen planting many trays of seeds it is easy to forget what seeds went in which tray.  If you label on the clear tray tops you may accidentally remove the top and replace it differently – labeling is lost.

A great way to label your plants is to use masking tape on the seed tray side.  Using a sharpie marker write your plant names and dates.  The masking tape stays secure on the tray and the sharpie marker shouldn’t fade.  When the seedlings are ready to transplant the tape is easy to remove.  It can’t get much simpler.

Three Tools that Will Improve Your Indoor Seed Starting
Labeling your seeds is very important. Masking tapes and sharpies make this job easy.

Tool #3 Plastic Tweezers

Three Tools that Will Improve Your Indoor Seed Starting
Plastic tweezers are available from educational science stores.


Handling small seeds is tricky.  Using your fingers to pick one seed from a group is a challenge.  Plastic tweezers are very handy for moving those seeds.  They aren’t as dangerous as the very pointy metal ones and can be used by students.  They are easily purchased through a educational science website.



Three Tools that Will Improve Your Indoor Seed Starting
These plastic tweezers are not as dangerous as the metal ones.

If you need more information on indoor seed starting see Starting Plants from Seeds for the Home Gardener or contact your UGA Extension agent.  He/she has loads of experience and may be having a seed starting class.

Happy Gardening!

Pollinator Protection Plan for Georgia

Pollinator Protection Plan for Georgia

Because of real concerns about our pollinator population the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked each state to develop a customized pollinator protection plan with recommendations on improving pollinator health.  This is not a regulatory document but just guidelines to help our pollinators.

Georgia’s plan is finished!  Protecting Georgia’s Pollinators (PGP) was developed as a joint effort between UGA’s Department of Entomology and the Georgia Department of Agriculture.  The author committee is made up of Jennifer Berry, Kris Braman, Keith Delaplane, Mike Evans, Philip Roberts, and Alton Sparks.  Those of you who are beekeepers may recognize several of these names as people heavily involved in pollinator research.

The draft of the plan was sent to over 35 groups across the state for their input – Georgia Beekeepers Association, Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, the Peach Commission, the Blueberry Commission to name a few.  The result is a plan that has a role for all of Georgia’s citizens.

As community and school gardeners we have a vested interest in pollinator health.  More pollinators means more food from our gardens.  Not to mention the beauty of enjoying the insects at work.

Guidelines from the pollinator plan that we can garden by include:

If possible leave areas of your property permanently undisturbed for soil-nesting bees.  Sun-drenched patches of bare soil, roadsides, ditch banks, and woodland edges are prime bee habitats.

Dedicate pollinator habitat spaces in your garden.  UGA’s Pollinator Spaces Project has many resources to help with this.  Bees need a season-long unbroken succession of bloom.  Many plant species bloom in the spring.  Remember to plant plants to bloom in mid- to late-summer including Vitex, sages, and sunflowers.  Your local UGA Extension office will have information on what pollinator plants grow well in your area.

Pollinator Protection Plan for Georgia
Pollinator spaces are useful and beautiful!

Know the beekeepers in your area.  If your garden has a bee hive you want to be very careful about pesticide application and you will want to review in detail the section on pesticide users in the plan.

Pollinator Protection Plan for Georgia
Bee hives can be located in urban areas

Consider increasing bee nesting sites by providing bee homes.  These consist of solid wood pre-drilled with 1/4 to 1/2 inch holes that are at least 3-inches deep.  It is important that the tunnels terminate in dead-ends.  These are easy to create and a nice addition to any garden.

Pollinator Protection Plan for Georgia
A easily constructed bee home – photo from PGP

Educate your gardeners about insect behavior.  For example, the flight and nesting behavior of certain solitary bees happens in bursts of extreme activity.  In the spring or summer you may see a large number of bees flying out of tunnels in the grass over your garden all at once.  These are solitary bees and they are gentle, and their sting risk is extremely low!  Enjoy watching them!

Pollinator Protection Plan for Georgia
Digger Bee Nests

If you think insects are a problem in your garden take steps to correctly identify the insects and determine, with the help of your UGA Cooperative Extension Agent, if remedial action is necessary.

If your garden is located in a park or other public space that is maintained by local landscape crews, make sure that if they need to apply insecticide for turf pests that they mow the grass immediately before applying the pesticide.  The mowing will get rid of weed flowers that may attract bees.

White Clover
Clover, a bee favorite, is often found in lawns.

Follow all pesticide label directions and precautionary statements.  THIS IS THE LAW.  EPA is now requiring a “Protection of Pollinators” advisory box on certain pesticides labels.  Look for the bee hazard icon and instructions for protecting bees and other pollinators.

Pollinator Protection Plan for Georgia
Bee Hazard logo – photo from PGP

Take some time to look at Protecting Georgia’s Pollinators and you will see we all have a role to play.  If you need any information about the plan or protecting pollinators contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension Agent.

Happy Gardening!

Winter Bloom: Will the Azaleas Flower Again this Spring?

Dr. Bodie Pennisi, University of Georgia Horticulture Extension Specialist, reports that the azaleas will likely still bloom, only with a few less flowers.  “Many of the flower buds remained dormant during the warm spell. Keep in mind however, that the flower buds on azaleas developed last summer and any pruning done prior to the spring will potentially remove those flower buds.” The same applies to Hydrangea macrophylla (Bigleaf Hydrangea) and H. quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea). Microclimates also affect cold damage, for example, overhangs, tree canopies, evergreen shrubs, and built features in the landscape often provide frost protection, buffer against radiant heat loss, and provide wind breaks.  Flower buds can be inspected for cold damage by opening a bud and looking for brown or black water-soaked tissues, indicating ruptured cells.

So far, January has delivered steady cool temperatures and allowed most plants to adjust to the cold with minimal damage.  Typically, it is the rapid fluctuations from warm to cold that cause issues, so we shall see what unfolds over the next few weeks.

Suggested Readings:

Westerfield, R., Lindstrom, O. PhD, (2015). UGA Extension Bulletin (C 872). “Winter Protection of Ornamental Plants.”

Using Signs in Your Georgia Community and School Garden

Using Signs in Your Georgia Community or School Garden

Have you thought about the best way to use signs in your Georgia community or school garden?  Gardeners often use small signs as plant labels but larger signs can be just as useful.  They can be an important way to tie your garden together.

A creative, welcoming sign at the entrance can tell who you are:

Using Signs in Your Georgia Community and School Garden
SCAD in Savannah

Since gardeners don’t always work at the same time, signs can be a great way to communicate between gardeners:

Using Signs in Your Georgia Community and School Garden
From Cherokee County Senior Community Garden

More permanent signs can hold announcements, maps and other documents.

Using Signs in Your Georgia Community and School Garden
Green Meadows Community Garden

They can be a great way to tell the story of your garden:

Using Signs in Your Georgia Community and School Garden
From Blue Heron Community Garden

And, they can be instructional for beginning gardeners:

Using Signs in Your Georgia Community and School Garden
From Food Well’s Healthy Soil, Healthy Life Initiative

Signs can also be a way to make sure all gardeners know the rules:

Using Signs in Your Georgia Community and School Garden
From Tobie Grant Manor Community Garden

You can brag on your certifications.  Many certification programs have an option to purchase a weatherproof sign:

Using Signs in Your Georgia Community and School Garden

For school gardens, signs can encourage teachers to use the garden by giving them basic lesson facts:

Using Signs in Your Georgia Community and School Garden
Due West Elementary School’s Math Garden Sign

Or they can be inspirational:

Using Signs in Your Georgia Community and School Garden
Ford Elementary School

Signs for the garden should be weatherproof, easily readable, and securely attached to a post or a building.  The next time you are at a large botanical garden like the Atlanta Botanical Garden or the State Botanical Garden of Georgia notice their signs and labels.  You will be inspired.

How do you creatively use signs in your garden?

Happy Gardening!

The Window to Plant Spring-Flowering Bulbs is Closing


Daffodil (Narcissus sp.) bulbs and other spring-flowering bulb-like plants (corms, tubers, tuberous roots, and rhizomes) make excellent additions to the landscape.  These plants add color and interest to the late winter/early spring garden while other plants are still dormant.  They can be placed most anywhere in the garden and make great additions to beds, borders, and containers.

The ideal planting time for spring-flowering bulbs is fall to mid-winter to allow enough chilling time (below 40-50 degrees) to induce flowering.  For landscape companies looking to generate some wintertime business, perhaps a bulb planting service in order.  Established daffodils have already started to emerge and the window for planting is closing fast, so grab your planting tools and get to work!

Plant Narcissus bulbs 3-6” deep, root side down of course, and backfill with a clean topsoil.  Fertilize during planting and just after flowering to provide plants with adequate nutrients for next year’s flowers.  For more information on selecting, planting, and installing bulbs, refer to UGA Extension Bulletin (B 918), “Flowering Bulbs for Georgia Gardens.”


Thomas, P.A., Wade, G.L., Pennisi, B. PhD, (October 2012). Flowering Bulbs for Georgia Gardens. Retrieved from 918_3.PDF

The Rains and Unusual Weather of December 2015

Winter Arrives after Unusual December

The conclusion of 2015 marked one of the soggiest Decembers on record with many areas of the state receiving in excess of 13 inches for the month (roughly 20% of the annual rainfall.) In addition, high temperatures hovered in the mid 70’s for much of December leaving Bermuda lawns green and irises, roses, magnolias, and azaleas blooming.  Perpetual rainfall kept soils waterlogged for an extended period of time and many folks ended the season wondering how the unusual weather might affect their gardens.

Total Precipitation – December 2015 2014
Blairsville 13.35” 3.06”
Griffin 13.94” 5.41”
Tifton 8.41” 6.48”

University of Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network

Average Daily Temperatures – December 2015 2014
Avg. Max. Temp. (°F) Avg. Min. Temp. (°F) Avg. Max. Temp. (°F) Avg. Min. Temp. (°F)
Blairsville 62.01 41.21 54.68 33.82
Griffin 66.29 48.22 58.19 39.16
Tifton 70.65 52.47 63.94 44.59

University of Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network

Will the azaleas bloom again this spring? Read more at Alerts.