4th of July in the Community Garden

In honor of our nation’s birthday, we are looking at some vegetables that our founding fathers, and mothers, may have grown. Take notes so you can include these as you plan your future garden plots.  You will have a history lesson in the garden!

A display of patriotism at the Woodstock Community Garden.
A display of patriotism at the Woodstock Community Garden.

Tennis Ball Lettuce was one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite lettuce varieties.  He said “it does not require so much care and attention” as other types.  The seeds were first sold in the United States in the late 18th century.  During the 17th and 18th

Tennis Ball Lettuce - Photo courtesy of Monticello
Tennis Ball Lettuce – Photo courtesy of Monticello

centuries it was common for gardeners to pickle the lettuce in salt brine.  It is a parent of our current butterhead lettuces having light green leaves which form a small loose head.  In our area sow seeds early in the spring.

Yellow Arikara Beans have a very interesting history.  They were named for the Dakota Arikara tribe that Lewis and Clark met while traveling on their “Voyage of Discovery.”  They were selected by Native Americans for use in the short growing season of the Northern Plains.  Lewis and Clark sent some bean samples back east and they were enjoyed by Thomas Jefferson who said the bean “is one of the most excellent we have had:  I have cultivated them plentifully for the table two years.”  Plant these warm-season beans about 2 inches apart, 1 inch deep.  Keep rows 36-49 inches apart.  They are a bush type bean that is drought tolerant and can handle an early cold snap.  They can be harvested for snap beans or the preferred way, letting them dry on the vine and using them for soups and stews.

Costoluto Genovese is an indeterminate Italian-type tomato with ribbing.  Think of a small pumpkin-shaped tomato.  Although the large amount of seeds can be a problem for some, it has great flavor in sauces or soups.   Thomas Jefferson was one of the first Americans to plant tomatoes and he wrote extensively about them.  These plants should be started indoors 6-8 weeks before the last spring frost.  Plan for 85-90 days to maturity and they will need staking.

Costoluto Genovese Tomato - photo courtesy of Monticello
Costoluto Genovese Tomato – photo courtesy of Monticello

Thomas Jefferson left the most detailed farming records of any of the founding fathers.  We know that colonials shared information about farming as well as plants and seeds.  Martha Washington made sure fresh vegetables, fruits and berries were generously served from the Mount Vernon garden to visitors.  Diaries from guests discuss the wide variety she offered.  Mrs. Washington once commented “as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country.”  Some of our Founding Fathers liked the garden better than others.  Later in life, Benjamin Franklin gave up trying to grow much food instead visiting the local farmer’s market.  This is still a great option for us today!

Information for this post came from Thomas Jefferson’s Garden and Farm Books, www.monticello.org, Seed Savers Exchange, and experience.  Seeds for these plants can be ordered from a variety of heirloom seed organizations.  For more information on growing any type of heirloom vegetables contact your local UGA Extension Agent.

Happy Fourth of July and Happy Gardening!

 

Three Rules of Weeding in Your Georgia Garden

Weeding in Your Georgia Garden

North Georgia has seen rain over the last week.  Rain is great for our crops and also great for weeds.  This is a great time to review best management practices for weed control.

Weeds can be a big problem in a community or school garden.  A very big problem.  Knowing how to weed correctly will make this job less of a headache.   An informal poll was taken and we asked experienced gardeners to give their top three rules of weeding and we present them here:

Rule #1:  Get the roots out.

If you just remove the leaves above ground chances are the weeds will come back and you will need to perform the same weeding chore over again.  Many perennial weeds grow from underground roots and tubers.  Those need to be removed as well.

 

Weeding in Your Georgia Garden
Get those roots out!

Rule #2:  Remove the weeds before they make seeds.

If your weeds are allowed to flower and make seeds your work will get much harder.  Weed plants can make an incredible amount of seeds.  For example, common chickweed can produce 800 seeds per plant.  Dandelion flowers can make 40-100 seeds.   Crabgrass can produce 53,000 seeds per plant and pigweed can produce over 200,000 seeds per plant.  Don’t let those weeds flower!

Weeding in Your Georgia Garden
You don’t want this!

Rule #3:  Don’t let weeding get out of hand.

If you don’t routinely remove weeds you could be looking at a plot of weeds that seems overwhelming to tend.  Your vegetable production will suffer as the weeds take up the water, nutrients, and space that should be used for your plants.  And, it will take a lot of initiative to start the long process of taking back that space from the weeds.

Weeding in Your Georgia Garden
Don’t let weeds take over your community or school garden plot.

Knowing what weeds you have could be helpful in coming up with a long-term weed management plan.  Your local UGA Extension agent can help with weed plant identification and help you find strategies to minimize weed issues.

Happy Gardening!

 

Insect Scouting Hints

Insect scouting is an important part of integrated pest management, whether you are a large scale farmer or just “farm” a 4′ X 8′ raised bed.   Here are some hints to help you scout successfully so that you can manage garden insect pests:

Hint #1  Look under plant leaves

Damaging insects often stay on the underside of leaves or in leaf crevices and plant whorls.  Check those areas carefully.

Hint #2  Look for insect eggs

Insect eggs are small and by spotting and removing them you limit future damage.  Squash bug eggs are a good example.

Hint #3  Confirm insect identification

The majority of insects are not harmful to your plants.  Many are actually beneficial and can help you manage pests.   If you are unsure of an insect identification contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension office for confirmation.  Oftentimes you can send your agent a photo and that is all he/she needs to assist you.

This lady beetle larva looks menacing but is really helpful in the garden. Photo: bugguide.net

Hint #4  Scout at night

Some insects do their damage at night.  Grabbing a flashlight and scouting after dark could yield some interesting results.

Happy Scouting!

Simple Raised Beds for Your Georgia Garden

Josh Fudor, UGA ANR Agent in Cherokee County, developed this simple raised bed design that is perfect for community or school gardens.  This is the plan that we use in our teacher training workshops and the teachers appreciate the simplicity.

Simple Raised Beds for Your Georgia Garden
Teachers find this raised bed design easy to construct.

Gardening in raised beds is an easy way to get started growing great vegetables. The benefit of raised bed gardening includes: ease of management, prevention of soil compaction, better drainage, longer growing season, and ease of soil improvement.

Raised beds can be constructed out of just about any material and there are a number of kits available that are quick and easy to assemble. With a few tools and minimal time commitment the ambitious gardener can construct their own and save money.

Materials List

Qty.

Material

Cost

3

8’ 2”x10” Boards (cost will vary depending on choice, i.e. cedar, pine, treated) We will use treated pine for this example

37.00

16

1⁄4” x 4” Galvanized Lag Screws

14.50

16

1⁄4” zinc plated washer

1.90

1

Cubic yard or 27 cubic feet of soil/compost mixture

40.00

* Prices may vary depending on location and if delivery is required

Total: $ 93.40

Tools Needed

  • Saw-hand or electric powered
  • Speed square
  • Tape measure
  • Drill
  • 1⁄4” socket driver bit
  • 3/16” drill bit for pre-drilling
  • Safety Glasses and gloves

Step One:

Choose the straightest boards with little to no knot holes. This will make things much easier and make for a longer lasting finished product.

Step Two:

Cut one of the 8’ 2×10” boards in half. 8’ boards should 96” long but be sure to measure first just to be safe.

Step Three:

Make a notched cut out of the ends of all the boards. These notches provide added stability to the bed without the use of additional reinforcement. A 10” board is actually 9 1⁄4” wide so the mid-point of the board is 4 5/8” a cut 1 1/2” deep is needed to ensure the boards are flush at the corners.

The graphic below shows what the cuts should look like on all 4 of the boards when done, note that the notches are cut out on opposite sides of the board, this should be done on all boards.

Simple Raised Beds for Your Georgia Garden
Figure 1: Notch Cut Detail: 4 5/8” x 1 1/2” notch to be removed from opposite ends of all boards

Step Four:

Once all 4 boards have been notched on opposite sides of the board, lay them out to form the box. If cuts were made to proper measurements the boards should fit together smoothly. Pre-drill 2 holes in each end of all the boards approximately 3/4” from the end of the board. See Figure 2 below:

Simple Raised Beds for Your Georgia Garden
Figure 2: End of board detail – position of holes for lag screws.

Step Five:

Afer holes have been pre-drilled place one washer on 4” lag screw and drive them through the pre-drilled holes. 16 lag screws will be inserted with 4 on each corner.

Step Six:

Position bed in a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight on a North-South axis.

Happy Raised Bed Gardening!

Fayette County is Famous for this Garden

There is a garden in Fayette County that is considered the model for gardens donating vegetables to local food banks, Plant A Row Garden for the Hungry sponsored by Fayette County Master Gardener Association and Fayette County Master Gardener Extension Volunteers.  In 2016, their garden yield was 22,194 pounds of produce.  That is alot of food! Potatoes, okra, peppers, corn, peas, watermelon, are all grown on the one acre garden plot.

How do they consistently get such a high yield?

I sat down with three of the gardeners, Lester Bray, Vauna Bellury, and Ginger Vawter  to ask that question.  This garden is run by volunteers with many people working several hours a week.  It is a labor of love as they know that what they grow will be on the plates of people who really need the food.  Meeting this need is a driving force for all of the gardeners.

Fayette County is Famous for this Garden
Lester Bray

Their horticultural secret is plasticulture.

The garden uses plasticulture to keep down weed, insect, and disease pressure.  Recently they acquired the machine that punches holes in the plastic.  Until then, all of those planting holes were punched by hand.  They have had so much success with this method that Mr. Bray has written a book on the subject.  He says he wants to get the word out that this is the way to grow food in Georgia.

The information is posted on plasticulturefarming.com.  Mr. Bray allows anyone to download the information free of charge.

The gardeners use the garden to grow food all year long.  Many gardeners enjoy a break in the cool-season but many cool-season crops (broccoli, spinach, onions, peas, lettuce) grow well in Georgia.

Fayette County is Famous for this Garden
Peas!

This garden is known throughout the region.  Others who want to start a Plant a Row visits with Mr. Bray and his crew to get tips.   A peach grower reached out to the group to help him distribute extra peaches.  It has snowballed into an incredible operation.

Fayette County Extension Agent Kim Toal says, “Our volunteers dedicated to this project and to the individuals it serves embodies the true spirit of a volunteer and giving back to our community.   Not only do our volunteers do an outstanding job every year to provide nutritious food to those in need, they willingly share their knowledge at garden workdays and to other organizations interested in starting a similar garden.”

To those of us who garden in the Georgia soil their garden is an inspiration.  For those in Fayette County that have fresh vegetables and fruit on their plates the garden is a true blessing.

Be inspired!

Earth Day 2017

Happy Earth Day week.  How will you celebrate?  Here, we are celebrating the bees – honey bees and native bees.

Photo by Joe Thompson

The decline in managed honey bee colonies in the United States is well documented.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports a decline from 6 million colonies in the 1940s to approximately 2.3 million in 2008.  In 2015, beekeepers reported hive loses of 40%.   This is a global problem with countries worldwide trying to understand bee loses.   There are even calls for a coordinated multi-country initiative.   Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a term used to describe a certain type of mysterious honey bee deaths.  No one can pinpoint the cause of CCD but scientists have proposed that many factors combine for a synergistic tragedy.  The factors considered include habitat loss, poor honey bee nutrition, varroa mites, and pesticide issues.  Several of the issues affecting honey bees also affect native bees.

Honey bees. Photo by Joe Thompson.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is looking at a more proactive approach to protecting bees, especially honey bees.  In 2013 the agency proposed specific pollinator protection language for products containing imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, or dinotefuran – all neonicotinoid insecticides.  The agency has expanded this policy with the January 12, 2017, updated “U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Policy to Mitigate the Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products”.  The 2017 document is the result of an earlier proposal that was amended following public comment.   This policy is designed to help managed honey bee colonies.  The thought is that the measures taken to protect honey bees will inadvertently protect native bees as well.   What can we as Georgia citizens and gardeners do to protect our bees?

Read the Georgia Pollinator Protection Plan

This plan, created by a collaboration of experts and stakeholders across Georgia.  There is a role for every Georgia citizen.

Limit insecticide use.

  1. Make sure you know for sure what insect pest you are battling. Confirm any pest identification with your UGA Extension Agent.  Have your agent help you devise a suitable integrated pest management plan for this pest.
  2. Spray only when other measures have failed.
  3. Thoroughly and carefully read the pesticide label and follow instructions.   Remember, the label is the law!
  4. Spray only when other measures have failed.
  5. Do NOT spray blooming plants.
  6. If you have weeds in your lawn that have blooming flowers, mow them down.  This eliminates the flowers that the bees would visit.
Solitary bee home in the ground.

Create bee habitat

In Cherokee County, Georgia, construction of new homes and apartments has exploded over the last twelve months.  This means that natural bee forage is being destroyed at about the same rate.  Cherokee County is a snapshot of what is going on all across the United States as we lose our wild spaces.

Add pollinator habitat to your garden.  You will find this helps bees and other beneficial insects as well.  Choose plants suitable to your climate and have include things that bloom throughout the year.   Visit the pollinator spaces webpage to get ideas.

Pollinator Garden at the Healthy Life Community Garden in Griffin, Georgia.

Support Your Local Beekeepers

Get to know your local beekeepers.  Their bees provide pollination to your food crops!  Do they sell their honey?

Learn what insect are in your garden

I ask each of you to spend some time this week in the garden just observing the insects that visit your space.  Take a chair out with some sweet tea and just watch!  Allow yourself to be fascinated by insect biology – what they look like, how they move, what flowers they visit, how they interact.  Send photos of what you find to me at beckygri@uga.edu.  I will repost photos on our UGA Community and School Gardens Facebook Page so we can all see what is flying in our gardens.

Happy Earth Day 2017 – Celebration of the Bees!

 

Vegetable Varieties to Try in Your Community or School Garden

I was asked to rerun this popular post on vegetable varieities from 2015.  So by popular demand….

One major step towards success in a community or school garden is to start with varieties that are proven in Georgia.  As you may have experienced, some varieties of vegetables that work well in a large farm setting don’t always do well in a school or community garden setting.

Tomatoes growing at the Reconnecting Our Roots Garden in Cobb County
Tomatoes growing at the Reconnecting Our Roots Garden in Cobb County

Happily we have recommendations from Robert Westerfield and UGA’s Research and Education Garden specifically for smaller, intensive gardens.  These varieties should be easy to find in big box retailers as well as feed and seed stores:

Tomatoes – Salad or Cherry:  Juliet, Maskotka, Cherry Falls, Tumbling Tom

Tomatoes – Determinate:  Celebrity, Rutgers Select, Amelia, Bush Beefsteak, Super Bush Hybrid, Roma

Tomatoes – Indeterminate:  Beefmaster Hybrid, Delicious, Princess Hybrid, Big Beef

Peppers:  Big Bertha, Cubanelle, Giant Marconi, Banana Sweet,

Jalapeno

Eggplant:  Patio Baby Hybrid, Black Beauty, Ichiban

Squash:  Easy Summer Crookneck, Easy Pick Gold Zucchini, Sunburst (Pattypan type), Raven Hybrid (Zucchini type), Commander Hybrid (Zucchini)

Squash plant from Reconnecting Our Roots Garden
Squash plant from Reconnecting Our Roots Garden

Cucumber:  Bush Cucumber, Burpless Hybrid, Straight 8, Lemon

Beans:  Roma II, Blue Lake, Tender Crop

Asparagus:  Jersey Supreme Hybrid, Jersey Knight Hybrid, Purple Passion

Thinking ahead towards fall planting try –

Cabbage:  Kaboko Hybrid, Minute, Rubicon

Broccoli:  Packman Hybrid, Green Magic

If you have any questions about vegetable varieties contact your local UGA Extension agent, he/she has experience with lots of vegetables.

Whatever plants you choose, Happy Gardening!

 

 

Blueberry Pollination in Your Community or School Garden

With the recent cold damage to the commercial blueberry crop in South Georgia, the blueberries in our community, school, or home gardens are all the more precious this year.   As a result, it seems like gardeners are paying more attention to their blueberry flowers.  I have gotten several emails asking about slits appearing in the sides of blueberry flowers.  This is not unusual and it probably happens every year, gardeners just don’t notice it.

The slits are made by carpenter bees who are “robbing” the flower.  They chew slits in the sides of the flowers and get the nectar without having to go into the flower.  A result of robbing is that the bees don’t leave or pick up any pollen.   Pretty sly bees, right?  Research shows that this action still results in some pollination, it is just not ideal.   Other bees may use these slits as well to retrieve whatever nectar is left.

Blueberry Pollen is Heavy

Blueberry pollen is heavy and sticky.  It does not move around easily and isn’t wind blown.  The blueberry flower shape does not lend itself to adequate self-pollination so pollinators are needed even with the self-pollinating types of blueberry plants.

Blueberry Pollination in Your Community or School Garden
Southeastern Blueberry Bee. Photo by Hannah Barrack of NC State.

Bee Pollination

Several native bee species pollinate blueberries including the Southeastern blueberry bee.  This bee also pollinates several flower types that bloom at the same time.  The male Southeastern blueberry bee has a yellow face.

The smaller native bees are shown to be superior pollinators in these plants.  You will also see bumble bees in the blueberry patch.  They vibrate their flight muscles inside the flower aiding in pollen exchange, flower sonication.  Also, honey bees are often brought into blueberries fields to aid in pollination.  To learn more about bees in the blueberry patch visit North Carolina State’s Blueberry Pollinators .

Blueberry Pollination in Your Community or School Garden
Honey bees on the fly! Photo by Joe Thompson.

I enjoy pulling up a chair near my blueberry plants to watch the pollinators at work.  Try it and you will be amazed at the different insects you see.

If you don’t have blueberries in your community or school garden, why not?  They are a fantastic addition to the garden.  Being perennial shrubs they add a nice permanent shape to the space.  School gardeners should look at later season varieties.

Happy Gardening and I wish you all a very large blueberry harvest this year!

Georgia Ag Awareness Week

This is Georgia Ag Awareness Week, a week that has been set aside to celebrate Georgia’s agricultural industry.  There are events planned across the state to connect farmers with schools, to support local food banks, and to celebrate eating local.

As community and school gardeners we are all well aware of how hard it is sometimes to grow our own food.  It can seem like disease, pests, and weather are all against us.  But, we know that if we fail we can rely on the grocery store to fill our dinner plates.   And, we all want to eat as local as we possibly can.  Thank you Georgia farmers!

We are all a small part of Georgia Ag by raising our own food, growing food for Farmers Markets, and/or supplying food for your local food banks.  Take a moment to celebrate what you do!  It is important.

If you want to really get involved in the celebration this week, take a look at recipes featuring Georgia products.  Several of the crops won’t be in season yet, but you should be able to find something delicious for your dinner table.  What are you growing in your garden that you are harvesting now?  The warm winter means I have delicious greens at my house and I will be hosting a Georgia Grown dinner during the week.

Goods and services related to Georgia’s agriculture and natural resources affect each of the state’s communities every day. Agriculture is Georgia’s largest industry, with $74.9 billion of direct and indirect economic impact annually. More than 411,000 Georgia jobs are involved directly in commodity or food- and fiber-related industries.

UGA Extension faculty and staff play a key role in the success of this industry by sharing university-based research for Georgians to use on the farm and at home. Recommendations in areas including soil fertility, pest management, plant and crop varieties, water quality, and herd health and management focus on maximizing production and profits while minimizing environmental impacts.  Make sure you are connected with your local UGA Cooperative Extension office!

Happy Georgia Ag Awareness Week!  #GAAgWeek  #agdawg

 

Finding Grant Money for Your Garden

One of the most frequent questions I hear is “how do I get grant money for my garden?”  The answer is not simple.  But, here are a few hints to help you be ready when the perfect grant application comes your way:

Keep Records

Does your garden donate produce to a food bank?  If so, do you keep records of how much food is donated?

Do you  host community events?  What about story time for students in the summer?  How many students attend?

These events could matter with certain grants.  So, keep records of dates and numbers of attendees.   This task be a great job for a garden manager or designated volunteer.

Take Photos

Many grant applications open in the winter months when your garden is probably not looking its best. Take photos of your garden during the spring and summer months.  Many grantors want to see your space and pictures may be required for the grant application.

Finding Grant Money for Your Garden
This photo of story time in the Healthy Life Community Garden in Griffin is a great example of a photo to keep in your garden archives.

Think Local

When looking for grant monies, think local first.  Your local hardware or landscape store may be willing to donate materials without a grant application.  Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are often looking for projects for their Eagle Scout and Gold Awards.  Boy Scouts especially enjoy building projects like benches and garden beds.

Also, your local high school’s National Honor Society and Beta Club may require their members to do community service.  They may be able to assist with a few of your garden chores.

Find Out About Large Company Grants

Large companies like Walmart and Home Depot have grant programs.  Walmart’s Community Grant Program is an annual program.  Home Depot’s Community Impact Grant application process is open now.

Keep In Touch with Your Local UGA Extension Office

UGA Extension agents would be contacted if there was a garden grant specifically for your county.  By keeping in touch with your Extension office, you would be informed about any of these opportunites.

Happy Gardening!