How can you safely work in your school garden during the COVID pandemic? Here are some guidelines from the Georgia Farm to School Alliance to assist you:
How can you safely work in your school garden during the COVID pandemic? Here are some guidelines from the Georgia Farm to School Alliance to assist you:
October is Farm to School Month and schools and early care centers across Georgia are celebrating all things turnip! Turnip the Volume (Can you Dig it?) is a state-wide celebration to get kids eating, growing, and participating in turnip-themed activities. To participate in Turnip the Volume at your school, early care center, or in your community, visit https://farmtoschool.georgiaorganics.org/turnip-the-volume and sign up. Participants will receive free electronic resources to help you plan and implement your activities. Resources include standards-based lesson plans, quick activities, recipes, videos, school garden planting and harvesting information, and more! UGA Extension has been a partner in Farm to School Month celebrations and your local UGA Extension office can answer questions about growing turnips or using them in recipes.
The first 300 people to sign-up for the program will be mailed a free packet of turnip seeds, washable turnip tattoos, and a Georgia Planting and Harvest Calendar for school gardens. This information is great for educators making plans for going back to school.
Share your Turnip the Volume pictures and activities on social media with #turnipthevolume. Each week during October, anyone who uses this hashtag will be entered to win a gift card and at the end of the month and we will have a grand prize winner at the end of the month! Questions? Visit https://farmtoschool.georgiaorganics.org/october-f2s-month or email email@example.com.
Bees have such a great reputation. They are the face of pollinator conservation and we know how valuable they are in our food system. But what about wasps? Where is the love? Wasps are also fascinating pollinators. Did you know that wasps are the main pollinators of figs?
Your garden is full of beneficial wasps. They dine on the pollen and nectar provided in pollinator gardens and are valuable pollinators. They also assist in controlling grubs, caterpillars, and crickets. Wasps provide important garden services!
Sadly, wasps seem to have a bad reputation. They are seen as aggressive stingers. This is not necessarily true. Most wasps are nonaggressive and will only sting when they are grabbed or threatened. These insects are beautiful and fun to watch.
One example of a wasp you may see in your garden this summer is the four toothed mason wasp. This wasp visits all types of flowers. They are cavity nesters, laying eggs in small cavities already created by another wasp or bee. They also use holes in twigs or hollow flower stems. If you have a native bee home in your garden you probably have a mason wasp or two using those homes.
The female wasp hunts for soft-bodied caterpillars to carry back to the nest. She will lay an egg and leave a stunned caterpillar next to that egg. As the egg hatches, the emerging wasp larvae will consume the caterpillar. This is a great service to your garden as you battle caterpillars that eat your food crops.
However, mason wasps do not differentiate between pest caterpillars and the caterpillars of beloved butterflies. Gardeners do have a bit of control here. Plant milkweed, parsley and other butterfly larval plants away from plants that wasps frequently visit such as mountain mint. Otherwise, think of your garden as a whole ecospace and thank the wasps for their help in controlling the pests!
Another valuable wasp is the Scoliid wasp (Scolia dubia). This wasp lives in the soil. The adults can be seen on several flowering plants eating pollen and nectar. The females lay their eggs in the ground. At egg-laying time she will fly just above the ground looking for grubs. When one unlucky grub is spotted, the wasp paralyzes it by stinging. This grub is left with her eggs for the emerging larva to consume. Grub control is another valuable service the wasps provide.
As wasps begin to appear in your garden take some time to appreciate their beauty and the services they provide. Consider becoming more involved with pollinators by participating in the Great Georgia Pollinator Census in August (https://GGaPC.org).
Extension has designed a creative approach to school garden education this summer. On June 16th a no-cost, symposium consisting of four webinars will be conducted through a Zoom classroom.
10 AM Adding Fruit Plant to Your School Garden with Ashley Hoppers, Gilmer and Fannin County ANR agent
11 AM Seed Saving in the School Garden with Rosann Kent with University of North Georgia
Noon – 1 PM Lunch Break
1 PM Vermiculture (worm composting) with Josh Fuder, Cherokee County ANR Agents
2 PM Using the Great Georgia Pollinator Census in Your School Garden with Becky Griffin, the census coordinator
The lunch break, from noon until 1 PM, will be a chance to ask any questions about your school garden and to network with other gardens while we have our lunch.
Additional at-home activities will be available for those who want to put their new skills to immediate use. For those who complete all four webinars and all four at-home activities a Certificate of Completion will be issued. This can be presented to your school administration for proof of course completion.
You will be ready to get results from your school garden before school starts back in the fall. This is open to anyone who works with school gardens – Master Gardeners, volunteers, and educators of all types.
To register for the free symposium visit https://schoolgardenwebinar0616.eventbrite.com. For more information contact Becky Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org. The details of the day are listed below:
From UGA’s Entomology Department:
A flurry of recent press coverage has created a surge of interest in the Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia. The coverage is not traced to any recent event. The insect was found last September 2019 in Vancouver Island (Canada) and again in December 2019 in Washington state. But to date, this invasive insect is not present in the state of Georgia, nor indeed, east of the Mississippi.
The Asian giant hornet is a “true” hornet and the world’s largest, ranging in size from 1.5 to slightly over 2 inches long (38-50mm). The stinger is nearly ¼-inch long and stings are extremely painful. Each year in Japan, 30-50 people die from being stung by these hornets. The venom is not the most lethal among bees and wasps, but due to the insect’s large size, the dose is larger than any other stinging insect Americans typically encounter. Human sting deaths are biased toward individuals who are prone to anaphylactic reactions or to individuals who receive large numbers of stings. One or a few stings from an Asian giant hornet should not be life-threatening to an average individual.
The Asian giant hornet is not necessarily aggressive towards humans, livestock or pets but will sting if provoked. However, this giant killer can inflict a devastating blow to honey bee colonies, with several hornets capable of annihilating 30,000 bees within hours. There are three phases to an Asian giant hornet attacking a honey bee colony. The first is the hunting phase where individual hornets will capture bees at the entrance of the colony, cut off their heads, and form a “meat ball” from the thorax. They then return to their nest to feed their young this protein-rich meal.
The second phase is the slaughter phase. Hornets will mark a particular colony with a pheromone to recruit their sisters to the site. Then numerous hornets will descend upon the colony, killing all of the workers by ripping their heads off, dumping their bodies onto the ground below, and returning to their nest with their prey.
Once the bee hive is dead, hornets enter the occupation phase. Hornets take over the hive, collect pupae and larvae, and return to their own nest to feed their carnivorous young. The hornets now guard the hive entrance as if it were their own nest. The aftermath of an attack will be piles of decapitated or ripped apart bees in front of a colony. The visible key to an Asian giant hornet attack is “decapitated” or “ripped apart” bees, and not just a pile of intact dead bees, which could be the result of pesticides, starvation, or something else.
This is the hornet that incites the famous bee defensive response of “cooking” hornets to death. Asian honey bees grab an invading hornet, pile around it and raise their thoracic temperatures to the critical temperature that is lethal to wasps but tolerable to bees. Unfortunately, American honey bees, of European not Asiatic descent, do not have this behavior.
The Asian giant hornet’s life cycle is typical of that for other social wasps and yellowjackets. A solitary female emerges from winter hibernation and founds a subterranean nest, at first performing all nest duties including foraging and incubating the young. The colony steadily grows until workers eventually take over all foraging duties. New queens and males emerge in late summer and mate. Eventually the males and workers die, leaving only the newly-mated queens who overwinter in isolation.
At this time there have been no confirmed cases of this hornet’s presence in Georgia or anywhere outside of Washington state. Other wasps and hornets already residents in our state that may be confused with the Asian giant hornet are:
The Asian giant hornet and cicada killer may be similar in size but very different in coloration. The Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health have put together an “Asian Giant Hornet and its SE US Lookalikes” photographic fact sheet (link below) which is extremely helpful for distinguishing between the different species in our state.
At this time, we need to be vigilant but not over-reactive since, again, there is no evidence that the Asian giant hornet has journeyed East. However, sightings and/or disturbances to honey bee colonies should be reported. If you think you have seen an Asian giant hornet, found evidence of an attack (decapitated or ripped apart bees) or have a specimen, please contact your County Extension Agent immediately. They will be able to collect your information and any specimens for identification. You can call 1-800-ASK-UGA1 to find an agent near you. For photos and more in-depth information about the Asian giant hornet, please check out the followin
Georgia Department of Agriculture
Washington State Department of Agriculture website https://wastatedeptag.blogspot.com/2019/12/pest-alert-asian-giant-hornet.html
April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970 in schools and communities around the United States as a way to call attention to environmental issues. According to the Earth Day Network, the occasion is now celebrated in over 190 counties.
With most of our country sheltering-in-place, we have an opportunity to really embrace Earth Day at home with our families. Hopefully, you have taken time over the last days to really slow down and appreciate nature around you. Let’s celebrate that with a special Earth Day! Plant a garden or create nature poetry. It can be a great day while safely staying within recommended shelter-in-place guidelines. Following are some other ideas to get you and your family in an Earth Day spirit.
Hold a family nature photo contest. Give the members of your family 24 hours to take nature photos from places nearby using their cell phones. Give simple prizes for the most creative photos. You can use an online photo service to create a book of the photos as a memento.
Explore your pollinator garden. Practice identifying and counting insects to get ready for the Great Georgia Pollinator Census on August 21 and 22. The project website at https://ggapc.org/ contains all you need to learn more about the pollinators in your garden.
Learn to identify the birds in your yard. For added fun learn their calls. Cornell’s bird lab has free resources on bird identification. Feeding birds is a wonderful family hobby. Get tips on now from UGA Extension Circular 976 at extension.uga.edu/publications.
Discover more about the trees in your yard. Can you identify them? The Arbor Day Foundation has a great website for tree identification. What role does each tree play in the wildlife ecosystem? Create some leaf rubbings to decorate your home. For more information, see UGA Extension Bulletin 987 on native trees and shrubs at extension.uga.edu/publications.
Organize your recyclables. If you don’t already recycle, spend some time creating an area in your home to place and organize your recyclables. Research where to take your recyclables locally. Does your trash pickup service also take recyclables? For more tips, see UGA Extension Bulletin 1050-2 on recycling at extension.uga.edu/publications.
Plan an Earth Day dinner. This is a tradition with my family each year — we choose a theme and plan dinner and activities around it. For example, plan a pollinator dinner choosing foods that need a pollinator. Strawberry shortcake is a great dessert for this theme! Other themes are foods grown underneath the earth’s crust like potatoes, radishes, sweet potatoes and onions. Or perhaps a spring greens dinner with different lettuces and salad toppings. Cooking together is a wonderful activity for stress relief. Decorate your table for the occasion and plan some relevant dinner conversation topics.
Whatever you decide to do, stay safe and enjoy the day!
For more information on Earth Day visit https://www.earthday.org/.
Leading up to the Great Pollinator Census we will be looking at the benefits of adding pollinator habitat to your school or community garden. Today we will look at milkweed.
Attracting Monarch butterflies to your garden involves including their larval host plant, milkweed or Asclepias, in your garden. Common milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a popular milkweed with orange blossoms that frequently appears along roadsides. The beautiful plant also provides nectar to bees and other pollinators. Many gardeners feel that growing milkweed from seed is challenging and it can be. However, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you find success.
Common milkweed seeds need to be stratified before they will germinate. This means that they need a period of moist cold. In nature, it is easy to see how this is accomplished. Our winters provide the chill and the rain provides the moisture. You can mimic this process at home with a few easy steps.
For more information on milkweed join us on the Georgia Pollinator Census Facebook group or on @gapollinators Instagram. This week we will be exploring milkweed types, ways to grow it, and how it benefits our pollinators. Leading up to the Great Georgia Pollinator Census we will be exploring all types of pollinators and pollinator habitats in our social media groups. This year’s Great Georgia Pollinator Census will be on August 21st and 22nd. You can find out more at the project website: GGaPC.org.
Happy Garden Planning!
To better understand how we can ensure that the seeds we collect will result in the plants that we want, let’s go back to high school biology and review plant reproduction basics!
The male parts of the flower are called the staman, made up of the anther and filament. The pollen sits on the anther waiting to be moved to the female part of the same or a different flower.
The female part of the flower are called the carpel made up of the stigma, style and ovary. Pollen lands on the stigma (this is pollination) moves down the style to find an ovule in the ovary (this is fertilization).
Some pollen is light and is presented on high anthers. Wind moves this pollen to female flowers and corn is a wonderful example. Some pollen is very sticky and needs an insect or other agent to move it to female flowers. This is true of goldenrod.
Is this starting to sound familiar? This is very basic and plants have evolved many tricks to make their pollen more available for pollination. Some plants have evolved with specific insect pollinators. Flowers, you may know, exist to assist the pollinator in finding the pollen. To a bee’s eyes some petals seem to have landing stripes leading straight to the pollen and nectar. It is a fascinating topic! The Community Seed Network has information on a few different pollination types.
For our purposes this basic model will work. Next time we will look at plant types: hybrid vs. open pollination.
School gardens routinely grow food crops, create pollinator habitat, and even replicate historic gardens. They are an integral part of school curriculum used to teach botany, math, nutrition, history, literature and even geography. However, the one area lacking in the hundreds of school gardens that I have visited is seed saving. Seed saving can be an important horticultural part of the garden as well as an additional avenue for tying the garden to school curriculum. With a bit of botany background, proper seed saving is not difficult and will be a fun part of your garden!
Until modern times seed collecting was the only way a gardener had seed for the next year. Seed was shared with neighbors and passed down from generation to generation (heirloom seeds). Seeds were taken across oceans and over the American prairie and they are an important part of our agricultural history. Your students may have heirloom seeds stories to share. In my area of Southern Appalachia seed saving is part of many family heritages.
Hybrid plants are not appropriate for seed saving. They are bred to amplify a certain trait such as disease resistance or larger fruit and are produced by cross-breeding two plants with different genetics. Tomatoes are a great example. Most of the tomatoes grown in backyards are hybrid tomatoes with names like Better Boy and Early Girl. Although these varieties produce delicious tomatoes, they are not appropriate for seed saving.
Hybrid plants produce seeds that are genetically unreliable or not true-to-type. These seeds are undesirable for seed saving.
Open-pollinated plants are the type of plants we want for seed collecting. They are pollinated naturally and will produce seeds that are true-to-type if they are isolated from other varieties. So, it is important for the school gardener to choose only one variety of the seed producing plant. For example, do not plant Calypso beans in the same area as Hidatsa beans. They could possibly cross-pollinate resulting in seeds not true-to-type. A garden of only Calypso beans will produce true Calypso bean seed! Larger gardens follow the recommended isolation distance for seed saving for most beans that is 10-20 feet.
With the smaller space of a school garden, it is best to choose one variety of the seed producing plant type for seed saving.
Lesson ideas are numerous:
Seed Savers has a website full of seed collecting information. Your local land grant Cooperative Extension office can assist you in choosing varieties of plants that will work well for seed saving and will grow well in your area. Over the next several weeks we will explore seed collecting in more detail so grab your seed catalogs and start planning your spring seed collecting garden.
It is the time of the year when Georgians look to the sky to watch for signs of Monarch migration. These butterflies are on their way to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico to overwinter on the oyamel fir trees of the area. The fir trees provide the perfect climate with a combination of optimal temperature and humidity to ensure the butterflies survive the winter. It is amazing to realize that this super-generation of migrating butterflies endure the hazards of the trip to go to a place that they have never been before.
Fall Monarch Migration Routes Source: USGS National Atlas
Reports around Georgia are that Monarch populations are high. A poll taken of insect enthusiasts showed that 83% have seen Monarchs heading south this year. Thirty percent of the respondents indicated that they are seeing a higher number of Monarchs than last year. This is terrific news as Monarch population numbers have been inconsistent over the last several seasons.
To increase the chances of seeing this phenomenon and to assist the butterflies create a fall migration garden. Monarchs will descend from their high migration path looking for food resources. Research shows that migrating butterflies respond to tall flowers that are easily accessible. Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum), goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) are all proven Monarch attractors in the fall. Several of our fall-blooming native aster plants (Aster spp.) are perfect for these butterflies as well. The butterflies do not need milkweed (Ascelpias spp.), their larval host plant, at this time of the year. But be sure to include milkweed in your summer butterfly garden.
To follow the Monarch migration and to report your butterfly populations visit Journey North (https://journeynorth.org/monarchs). This organization has tabulated the reports of citizen scientists for many years and is a great resource for school groups. Monarch Watch (https://www.monarchwatch.org) provides online information for learning about these insects and their habitat needs. Contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension agent for more information about butterfly gardening and habitat building. If you miss seeing the fall migration spend time getting your garden ready for the Monarch return in the spring!
Happy Butterfly Watching!