How much soil do you need to refill your raised beds?-A Guest Post by Steve Pettis

How much soil do you need to refill your raised beds?-A Guest Post by Steve Pettis

This week we are excited to have Steve Pettis, UGA Extension Agent for Rockdale County, join us for a math lesson on raised bed gardening!  Steve writes….

If you have have raised beds eventually you will need to add more soil. Over time soil compacts, organic matter dissipates, and soil erodes. So, what was once a box full of soil can end up half empty.

How much soil do you need to refill your raised beds?-A Guest Post by Steve Pettis
Raised beds at Green Meadows CG

Bagged soil is sold by the square foot. How do you determine how many square feet of soil you need to refill the beds?

I would suggest using the formula for determining volume of a rectangular prism –

vol. of rectangular prism = a b c or length x width x height

Multiply the width, height and length in inches. Divide that by 12 inches to get cubic feet. Bags of soil will say how many cubic feet of soil are in the bag. Divide the number of cubic feet in a bag into the cubic feet of your space and you have the number of bags needed.

Thanks, Steve!  Happy Gardening!

Horticultural Therapy Week in Georgia

Horticultural Therapy Week in Georgia

In honor of National Horticultural Therapy Week (March 20th – 26th) we have asked Katrina Fairchild, a registered horticultural therapist (HTR), to share some thoughts on these types of gardens.  Katrina writes:

Thinking back on my time of working with and developing a program for teenage at-risk students, I present you with a series questions to ask yourself when deciding to undertake this significant project of offering and developing horticultural therapy (or therapeutic horticulture).

Horticultural Therapy Week in Georgia
Photo credit:

What’s the primary purpose of offering the program and the garden?

Is it for profit? Social or emotional therapy? Educational opportunity, be it vocational or academic? Purposeful in terms of feeding local families in need, or teaching certain socioeconomic groups to eat healthier to keep certain diseases at bay? Simply aesthetic? This key question begins to address the size of the garden, its proximity (location), the people it serves, its longevity, community resources to assist you, and the big question of “how much will it cost?”

Do I have the time to dedicate to planning and running a whole year of gardening?

Who will help me keep the garden going when I have a class to teach? What happens in the summer? Will I need to do one-on-one supervising in the garden or as a group?

What’s involved in programming a school garden?

It’s not just planting veggies, herbs and flowers as the seasons arrive; it’s pre-planning what to buy, how much space to dedicate, the material used, finding available resources, the return on what goes in the ground (is there continuity, for example, like seed-saving that turns into yet another session/project), planting for the holidays, student’s birthdays, special causes, and educational opportunities, just to name a few.

Am I making it fun, interesting, stimulating?

It’s very important to make the whole or a part of the garden personal and relevant. It should reflect the kids’ personalities, age, character, and life. To avoid mental or physical disengagement, you may need to plan a special “personal” square plot versus group gardening. One student I had was only intrigued by goth, so we stuck with black pansies and tulips. Play their music (not yours) while gardening. Make it relevant now: for example, select seeds that germinate quickly, and bring in samples they can eat now. Make it tangible: buy seedlings instead of seeds.

What timing and program constraints must I consider to satisfy the kids with VAK learning modalities?

An hour’s worth of outdoor gardening may end up being three different projects to capture and hold the interest of those who are visual, auditory and/or kinesthetic. More programming means less time in the garden.

How can I make this less work for me?

Get them involved from the beginning! From concept to crop, it’s their place. Get them involved in the planning stages of cost, design, layout, building, selecting favorite or new plants, colors, garden art, and what to do with excess crop. Assign or let them pick jobs or lead roles. Ownership is key.

How can I get the parents and community involved (and funding coming)?

The program is only as good as its longevity and engagement. Post photos of the garden and gardeners on social media. Send press releases. Maintain an ongoing photo album of the garden and its gardeners that is readily viewed in the classroom as well as online.

Am I making all this too complicated and burdensome?

It can be…unless you keep it simple. Sometimes we get too excited and over-inspired by what can be. Remind yourself to stop and re-analyze often: most things can be simplified. This is true from the types of material used to build the garden to the selection of herbs and vegetable.

Katrina Fairchild, is a registered horticultural therapist (HTR), certified landscaped designer (APLD), GA Certified Plant Professional (GCPP), and avid gardener and nature lover. She can be reached at (678)314-9082 or via her website

Thanks, Katrina, for the great information.  For more information about National Horticultural Therapy Week visit American Horticultural Therapy Association.

Happy Gardening!

Spring Bleeding: Maple, Birch, Elm, Grapevines

Following a late winter or early spring pruning of Maple, Birch, Elm, or Grapevines it is common to observe “bleeding” from the pruning wounds.  This phenomenon usually occurs just before and during leaf emergence in the spring, especially during years of abundant soil moisture.  The temporary bleeding is generally not detrimental to the health of the plant and primarily consists of a watery sap solution. The bleeding usually ceases once the leaves have fully emerged and water begins to evaporate through the leaf stomata, creating transpirational pull that overshadows the root pressure.

The upward flow of water is caused by osmotic pressure in the root system that begins with the imbalance of water molecules between the soil and the root system.  A high concentration of minerals and carbohydrates in the root system generally translates to a lower concentration of water molecules when compared to the surrounding soil. Water molecules enter the root cells to equalize distribution, causing root cells to become turgid and force water upwards in the vascular system.  (Incidentally, the reverse is true when too much fertilizer is applied and a higher concentration of minerals in the soil prevents the osmotic absorption of water into the root system.)

Occasionally, bleeding can be a nuisance where these plants drip on parked cars and pedestrian spaces.  In such cases, delay pruning of these species until late spring-early summer to help to reduce the issue.

If prolonged bleeding occurs and you observe any unusual signs or symptoms of pests or disease, report the information to your local extension agent for further assessment.

This is the Year to Add Pollinator Spaces to Your Garden

Adding pollinator spaces to your community or school garden is a fabulous idea.  If you are a food grower, more pollinators means more pollination and increased food production!  Even if you aren’t growing food the benefits of attracting native bees, butterflies, and even honey bees are numerous.

This is the Year to Add Pollinator Spaces to Your Garden
Honey bee on winter honeysuckle

UGA’s Center for Urban Agriculture has created the Pollinator Spaces Project.  The mission is to make it easy to add pollinator habitat to any sized garden.  The process is easy:

Step #1  Learn

Learn about pollinators and pollinator plants using the Pollinator Spaces Project webpage.  The page includes a research-based plant list as well as links to pollinator events around the state and instructions on building bee homes and butterfly puddles.

Step #2  Create

Create your pollinator space.  Your garden can be as simple or as detailed as you want to make it.

Step #3  Share

Once your garden is complete and blooming send Becky Griffin (, our community and school garden coordinator, a photo of your new space.  Be creative.  If you work in a school garden, get your students in the picture.   When sending your photograph include some information about your garden.  You will then receive a beautiful certificate acknowledging your participation in this part of Georgia pollinator history.

This is the Year to Add Pollinator Spaces to Your Garden

At the end of 2016 we will create a map of Georgia showing the new pollinator spaces and we will design a storyboard telling the story of the project.  We will also feature new garden spaces during the year on our UGA Community and School Gardens Facebook page.

During the year we will be sharing pollinator facts, tips, and information through the webpage and the Facebook page.  So stay tuned!

Make 2016 the year YOU help pollinators by adding a pollinator space to your garden.  For more information about the project contact Becky at  If you want more information on creating a garden unique to your area your local UGA Extension agent is a great resource.

Happy Gardening!

Landscape Alert: Companies Report an Uptick in Equipment Theft

Equipment theft

The Urban Ag Council, a professional organization representing the Georgia landscape industry, reports that members are experiencing an uptick in equipment theft at worksites, offices, and storage facilities. To address the issue, the UAC is summoning a “call to action” from all landscape companies and compiling data from those who have experienced recent or past theft (2014-2016). Armed with this data, the UAC hopes to meet with law enforcement agencies, equipment manufacturers and suppliers to determine a course of action to reduce these losses.

The organization is collecting information via a confidential “equipment theft worksheet” available from the Urban Ag Council. To access the worksheet, visit

Here are some general equipment theft prevention strategies to consider:

1. Train employees on company procedures to deter equipment theft.  In addition, discuss what to do in the event of a theft or robbery.
2. Take Inventory: Establish a routine of equipment inventory. Keep documentation and photo records of serial numbers, makes, and models of equipment.
3. Parking strategy: Be strategic about where you park your vehicle on each jobsite or lunch destination. Park in well lighted locations visible to the work crew and avoid leaving equipment unattended in back lots or hidden areas that are conducive to theft. Position trailers so they aren’t easily accessed or swapped to another vehicle.
4. Deterrents: Lock vehicles, trailers, trailer tongues, and secure equipment when unattended. Don’t leave keys in trucks or commercial mowers.
5. Tracking Devices:  Install tracking devices on large equipment.
6. Be Alert: Pay attention to suspicious activity.
7. Insurance: Review your policy and ask your insurance provider about theft prevention.


Spring Greens for your Georgia Garden

Spring Greens for your Georgia Garden

Spring Greens for your Georgia GardenSpring greens are fun to grow in the cool weeks before the heat of summer begins.  We have picked three favorites for you to try in your Georgia garden.  You will be glad you did:


Arugula is a fast-growing green (about 40-45 days) that comes from the Mediterranean.  It has a wonderful, peppery taste that works well in sandwiches as well as salads.  It is even popular as a pizza topping.

Drunken Woman

Drunken Woman is a great addition to any garden.  These bright green leaves have red, ruffled tips.  This lettuce is a loose-leaf type that resists bolting (about 55 days).  That makes it a great choice for Georgia.  It has a sweet taste and remains crisp and flavorful even when stored in the refrigerator for several days.

Salad Bowl

Salad bowl (about 40 days) is a standard when it comes to spring lettuce.  The bright green leaves are ruffled and are a nice addition to any salad.  When fully mature it makes a loose head but can be harvested as leaf lettuce.

Spring Greens for your Georgia GardenWhen planting greens in the spring choose loose-leaf varieties instead of head producing ones; you will have more success.  You can simply cut off leaves to add to your salads instead of waiting for heads to form.  The leaves don’t have to be fully mature to harvest. If we have a short spring and hit those warm summer weeks early, you will be able to enjoy some wonderful salads before the greens bolt.  Homegrown greens have much more taste than anything you can purchase at the grocery store.

These seeds can be purchased at some seed racks at hardware and big box stores.  They are easily ordered through seed catalogs.  You can direct seed them or start them indoors.   Sometimes they can be found as plants in specialty plant nurseries.   For detailed instructions on planting these seeds see Lettuce is Luscious in a Georgia Community Garden, a past blog post.  As always, your local UGA Cooperative Extension Agent is a great resource.

Happy Gardening!