Blueberry Chill Hours. What are they?

BlueberriesBlueberries are a perennial shrub that is relatively easy to grow.   Rabbiteye types are popular statewide and their fruit is delicious!  You may have read in agricultural science articles about “chill hours.”   What are they?  Why do they matter?  To answer those questions we are going to turn to science so, please pardon the charts!

According to UGA scientists Gerard Krewer and D. Scott NeSmith (Blueberry Cultivars of Georgia) blueberries require a certain number of chill hours each winter to produce the optimum fruit harvest.  Chill hours are the number of hours of winter temperatures 45 degrees F and below.  If blueberry plants do not receive the adequate amount of chilling, bloom and leaf development can be late and erratic.  This can result in a lackluster harvest.  To sum it up – blueberries have to have some cold winter weather.

Rabbiteye Cultivar Chilling Requirement
Premier550 hours
Climax400 to 450 hours
Brightwell350 to 400 hours
TifBlue600 to 700 hours
Powderblue550 to 650 hours
Vernon500 to 550 hours

How do we know how many chill hours we have had in our area?  The weather stations of georgiaweather.net have chilling hours calculators.  As of February 22nd:

Weather StationNumber of Chill Hours between Oct 1, 2015 and February 22, 2016
Blue Ridge1357
Atlanta941
Cordelle661
Valdosta369

So what does this all mean?  As noncommercial blueberry growers, it can give us some scientific information about our blueberry harvest and it gives us some insight into plant biology.  It also gives us another reason to watch the weather forecast and welcome cold winter weather.

If you don’t grow blueberries yet, give it a try!  See Home Garden Blueberries for more information.  Also contact your local UGA Extension office.  Many of them have plant sales this time of year and blueberries are often for sale.

Happy Gardening!

A Valentine’s Day Tribute to Vegetables by Georgia Gardeners

A Valentine's Day Tribute to Vegetables by Georgia Gardeners

As community and school gardeners we love our vegetables and in honor of St. Valentine we asked several lifelong gardeners to tell us about their favorite.   The interesting part is how they all waxed poetically about their love for growing food.

A Valentine's Day Tribute to Vegetables by Georgia Gardeners

Fred Conrad, the Community Gardener Coordinator for the Atlanta Community Food Bank, is well known throughout metro Atlanta for his love of community gardens.   You can often see him riding through the Atlanta streets on a tractor!

Fred loves growing tomatoes.  He says,  “I like the on-going interaction of training them during the season as they grow and how great your hands smell when you handle the foliage. I also like that there is some finesse in growing them, that you can use little tricks here and there to improve your plant health and your harvest.”   Doesn’t that make you want to get started on your own tomato planting??

A Valentine's Day Tribute to Vegetables by Georgia Gardeners

Kyla Van Deusen, a Program Manager for the Captain Planet Foundation, spends her days passionately working in school gardens.  She loves connecting children with their food!  When asked about her favorite vegetable she told us about a special variety of crowder peas.  She says that they “pop up in my garden now 3 years running without re-sowing, and I let them take over a couple of beds where they produce massive amounts of beans that I harvest as they dry and store for winter soups. They are a truly effortless crop.”

Betty Janacek is the Director of Capacity Building in the Friends of the Park programs for Park Pride Atlanta.  Betty spends her days connecting people with A Valentine's Day Tribute to Vegetables by Georgia Gardenersparks.  This often involves helping them build community with food gardens.  Betty loves growing English peas.  She says “they are easy to grow, are one of the first veggies to ripen, their vines and flowers are pretty and you don’t even have to cook them- you can just pick & eat.”

This Valentine’s Day we hope you spend some time preparing some delicious Georgia grown food and dream of the garden with your special someone.

Happy Gardening!

Congratulations Georgia Certified Plant Professional and GGIA Jr. Plant Professional Graduates!

On Thursday, January 28th, the testing room at the GGIA Wintergreen Conference was buzzing with industry professionals and middle school students who gathered to take the written and plant identification exams for the Georgia Certified Plant Professional and the GGIA Jr. Plant Professional Certification Programs. Congratulations to the six industry graduates who achieved professional certification and the six middle school students who certified in the junior division.

Georgia Certified Plant Professional Graduates:
Anna Testa
Dan Smith
Michele Sarti
Amy Rothenberg
Amy Collier

Georgia Certified Landscape Professional Graduates:
Charles Daniel

Please congratulate these graduates when you see them.

Special thanks to GGIA executive director Chris Butts, Jennifer Addington, Sarah Mickens, and the entire group of energetic staff and volunteers who sponsored the testing site, provided reservations, contributed prizes for the Junior certification, and hosted a terrific conference that brought the industry together. Thanks to Josh Allen and the Ag Education Instructors for challenging their students and creating this opportunity for young people, the future of the industry. Thanks to Wayne Juers for thoughtfully collecting, presenting, and labeling an excellent variety of fresh plant samples for the participants. Thanks to Betsy Norton of Going Green Horticulture for speaking to the Ag Education students about careers in the green industry. Thanks to Aaron Paulson, Katherine Buckley, and the students of Gwinnett Technical College for helping with setup, speaking to the Ag students about educational opportunities, providing prizes, and helping with all the details to make it happen. I want to thank Todd Hurt and Becky Johnson for testing support and all of the University of Georgia Extension Team who provided educational outreach and support to the green industry.

For more information about the Georgia Certified Plant Professional, Georgia Certified Landscape Professional, and other programs visit the UGA Center for Urban Agriculture certification page at https://ugaurbanag.com/certification/.

The 2016 Sod Forecast has Arrived

The Sod Forecast has Arrived

The Georgia Urban Ag. Council has released their twenty-second annual sod producer survey outlining the inventory levels and pricing data for spring 2016.  The sod forecast provides the green industry with valuable insight when estimating expenses and availability for the upcoming season.  Dr. Clint Waltz, Extension Turfgrass Specialist with the University of Georgia, notes that the inventory for all warm-season species is expected to improve marginally over the previous two years and half of the larger growers predict a poor supply of bermudagrass for early 2016. Sod prices for 2016 are expected to stabilize at 4% to 15% over 2015.

Looking ahead, 57% of growers have indicated an increase in production acreage for 2016 to meet the anticipated market demand for 2017 and 2018.  According to Waltz, there are still 45% to 52% fewer acres in turfgrass production relative to pre-recession levels, but it appears that the total acres in turfgrass production are rebounding. His advice: “Don’t let sticker shock curtail projects, plan ahead.”

For the full report, refer to the January/February 2016 issue of Urban Ag Council Magazine or visit www.GeorgiaTurf.com.

Hyperlink:<www.commodities.caes.uga.edu/turfgrass/georgiaturf/Publicat/Sod_Survey/2016%20Sod%20Survey%20UAC.pdf>

February Chores for Your Georgia Garden

February Chores for Your Georgia Garden

As we all wait patiently, or impatiently, for Spring there are things we can do this month to be ready.  This chore list was taken from UGA vegetable specialist Bob Westerfield’s Vegetable Garden Calendar.

Indoor Chores

This is the time to start your seedlings indoors.  Peppers and eggplants take about eight weeks to grow from seed to transplant size.  Tomatoes will take about six weeks.  For detailed information about indoor seed starting visit our January 2015 post on seed starting by Amy Whitney.

February Chores for Your Georgia Garden

Check in with your local UGA Extension office to see what type of classes are being offered near you.  Agents plan their trainings on what you want to learn!  There is also an upcoming events page on our website.

Outdoor Chores

Now is the time to repair any raised bed materials and think about adding compost.  If you haven’t done a soil test in the past three years get that done now.

February Chores for Your Georgia Garden

Make early plantings of your choice from the following: carrots, collards, lettuce, mustard, English peas, Irish potatoes, radishes, spinach and turnips.

February Chores for Your Georgia Garden

Use “starter” fertilizer solution around transplanted crops such as cabbage.

Replenish mulch on strawberries.

February Chores for Your Georgia Garden

These chores will keep us busy until the temperatures warm up!

Happy Gardening!

Winter Scouting for Burweed (Soliva pterosperma)

Burweed

Winter is the time to scout for lawn burweed (Soliva pterosperma), a broadleaf weed producing seed clusters in mid to late spring that delivers a rather irritating jab to bare feet.  The tiny spines on the seeds are actually quite fragile and tend to break off in your skin during the removal process, leaving an itchy reminder of their presence.  My children who love to run barefoot in the backyard can testify to the annual “de-spurring” event each spring.

December through February is the best time to manage this cool season annual because plants are juvenile and haven’t developed the seed burs. In addition, warm season turf species are dormant and have a better tolerance to certain herbicides. While control is possible in spring, spurs have already formed and will persist after treatment.  If the spurs are not a concern, the weeds will take care of themselves by May as the hot weather sets in and concludes the annual life cycle of this bandit.  A dense canopy of dormant or actively growing turf can deter weed establishment.

For broadleaf herbicide recommendations, reference the UGA Pest Management Handbook for your specific turf. Perform scouting several weeks after the application to determine if follow-up applications are necessary.

Other resources on this topic:

Willie Chance. (2015, May 5). Lawn burweed: What is this weed with sharp spurs in lawns? [Web log comment]. Retrieved from https://ugaurbanag.com/lawn-burweed-weed-with-sharp-spurs/