Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia

Carrots have a reputation of being hard to grow in the clay soils of North Georgia.  But, with a little knowledge and a few tricks you can have success with carrots.  Since they are a cool-season crop now is the time to plant.

Since the interesting part of carrots grow underground you need to start with well drained, loose soil.

This is key.  No rocks or sticks.  You want that carrot to have no resistance as it grows.  If you are growing in raised beds you are probably ahead of the game here.   Carrots like a soil pH of  5.5 – 6.5.

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia
Carrot seeds are very small and can be a challenge to work with.

Carrot seeds are very tiny.  Once you have your soil rock-free, smooth it out for planting.  There are two schools of thought in how to plant carrot seeds.  One way is to plant in traditional rows.  Another thought is if you have a defined area, like in a community garden raised bed plot, to broadcast the seeds.  Either way just lay the seeds on the soil bed and then sprinkle about 1/4 inch of soil on top. Consider mixing in a few radish seeds at planting.  They come up quickly and can help mark your rows, if you are a row planter.  And, they will help prevent the soil from crusting.

To ensure good seed-to-soil contact with such small seeds it is a good idea to lightly tamp the soil down.  A tamper is useful here to put just enough pressure for that contact without compacting the soil.  Water in.  Be patient as carrots take several weeks to germinate.

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia
This homemade tamper is just a 12 inch 2 X 4 attached to a waist high 1 X 1. The weight of the tamper is enough to ensure good seed to soil contact. Just lightly tamp the ground; no need to push down.

Mulch is important here.  The temperatures are still warm and you want to try and keep the soil moisture even.

Once the carrots come up thinning is essential.

If the carrots become too crowded underground, they can become stunted.  Thinning is a pain, especially if you broadcast planted.  But, don’t skip this step.  Instead of pulling up the thinnings, just use a snipper to cut the seedlings off at the root.  This will minimize disturbance of the remaining plants.  The goal is about 2 inches between carrots.

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia
These carrots ended up a bit close to each other.

Pay attention to the days until harvest number on the seed packets.  As the soil cools the carrots actually get sweeter.  Some gardeners leave the carrots in the ground over the winter with good results.  When harvesting be very gentle so you don’t damage your crop.

When choosing a cultivar remember that all carrots don’t have to be orange.  Chantenay Red Core has a reddish color while Purple Haze is obviously purple.  Danvers 126, Scarlet Nantes, and Nantes are all recommended orange cultivars.  Look for them at feed and seed stores, old hardware stores, and even big box retailers.  If you want to try something new there are several seed

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia
Even in Skagway Alaska, people like to grow food in community gardens. This plot had a mix of carrots, lettuce, and violets.

companies like Burpee and Johnny’s Selected Seeds that have interesting choices in their catalogs.  If you have any questions about growing carrots contact your local UGA Extension Agent.  He/She will have great advice.

Happy Gardening!

Make Room For Legumes in Your Georgia Garden

In anticipation of October’s Farm to School month Georgia Organics has launched the Make Room for Legumes campaign. Schools can register and receive free seeds as well as resources for the classroom including lesson plans. This is a fantastic program for all schools.

If you are excited to make room for legumes, it is not too late to grow beans this season in your school or community garden. If you are planting in August, choose bush bean varieties. These will mature in 50-60 days. Consider Bronco, Roma, Blue Lake which are all harvested and used fresh.

A bean crop in the UGArden in Athens

Dried beans are also a possibility although they require a longer maturity time. Dragon Tongue and Tiger Eyes are used fresh or dried. The pretty black and white Calypso beans or the historic red Hidatsa beans are traditionally dried. Consider planting several varieties.

One concern planting this late are Mexican bean beetles. Keep a look out for these pests, checking regularly for eggs. Removing the eggs is the best way to handle these pests in a small garden. Scout regularly!

Happy Gardening!

Planning Your Georgia Fall Garden

Although we are in the middle of a hot summer it is time to think about your fall garden.   We have put together a list of “tried and true” cultivars of cool-season vegetables.  These recommendations come from UGA’s Vegetable Planting Chart.  The transplants or seeds should be easy to find at your local feed-and-seed store or easy to order from seed catalogs.

Read more

Thinking Ahead to Combat Disease in the Garden

The increase in rain this summer seems to have brought on an increase in vegetable diseases.  Sharon Dowdy, a news editor for UGA, recently spoke with UGA Extension pathology specialist Elizabeth Little about the problems gardeners are seeing.  Sharon writes…

Home gardeners must fight insects and diseases to keep their vegetable plants healthy and productive. Diseases are harder to identify because, unlike bugs, you can’t easily see a pathogen, says University of Georgia Cooperative Extension specialist Elizabeth Little.

“Insects can be seen on plants, but diseases are a little mysterious,” said Little, a plant pathologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “You can’t just look at the plant and know what’s going on.”

Georgia’s hot, muggy summers provide the perfect conditions for diseases to thrive in, she said.

The secret to fighting diseases in homegrown vegetables is to stay a few steps ahead of them, according to Little.

This tomato plant is in trouble. Most likely a disease is to blame.

“If you wait until after you see the disease, it’s too late,” she said. “It’s all about prevention because diseases can increase very rapidly once they start.”

To fight diseases in the home garden, Little offers home gardeners these prevention tips.

  • Plant in an open, sunny location with good drainage and plenty of air circulation.
  • Choose disease-resistant and/or Southern-adapted varieties, if available.
  • Start with healthy seeds and transplants.
  • Plant summer crops, such as tomatoes and cucurbits, as early as possible.
  • Rotate different crops within the garden each year if possible.
  • Give plants plenty of space for good air movement. Trellis tomatoes and cucumbers.
  • Limit the frequency of overhead irrigation to keep foliage dry.
  • Use drip irrigation if possible.
  • To help keep plants healthy, improve soil conditions with organic matter.
  • Adjust pH and soil fertility based on a soil test.
  • Remove old crop debris at the end of the season.

Following these practices will help home gardeners avoid most disease problems. If persistent problems occur, contact your local UGA Extension office for a correct diagnosis of the problem and a recommendation on how to treat it.

Thank you Sharon, for sharing this great advice!  

Happy Gardening!

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!

 

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!

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!

 

 

Growing the Underappreciated Radish

If you haven’t grown radishes in your garden, you should.  They are the underappreciated cool-season vegetable and perfect for raised beds in the community or school garden.  What radishes have going for them:

  • They mature quickly, sometimes as short as 28 days!
  • They are nutritious – full of vitamin C, vitamin K and B6
  • They are easy to grow

Radishes also come in many shapes and sizes.   The variety “Watermelon” is large, think soft ball size, but the traditional “Cherry Bell” is smaller.  “Icicle” is long and white, almost like a small carrot.  Visit your local feed-and-seed stores to see what varieties they have available or order from one the seed catalog companies.

Planting

The seeds are small but easy to plant in a prepared bed with plenty of drainage:

After the seeds are spread, cover with 1/4 -1/2 inch of soil and tamp down the soil using a light touch.  This ensures good seed to soil contact.

Finally, cover with mulch to keep the soil temperature and moisture levels even.  Water in and keep the soil slightly moist until the seeds germinate.  Thin using scissors, not pulling up seedlings.

Start looking at your radish recipes because your crop will come in quickly!

Happy Gardening!

A Refresher on Indoor Seed Starting in the Georgia Garden-A Guest Post by Amy Whitney

I have been asked to re-run this wonderful post from seed starting expert, Amy Whitney, of Cobb Extension.  It is time to start your indoor seeds.  Amy gives us all the details….

What you’ll need:

  1. Seeds
  2. Planting medium
  3. A container with a clear lid
  4. Light source
  5. Time

Which seeds can I start now?

Seeds that are good to start ahead of the usual spring planting typically are those that have a long time-to-maturity, like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Other seeds to start indoors include many kinds of greens.

Will any potting mix work?

Seed tray with pellets made of peat moss. The pellets expand with the addition of water. - photo by Amy Whitney
Seed tray the pellets made of peat moss. The pellets expand with the addition of water. – photo by Amy Whitney

Regular potting mix is not the best choice; instead, choose a seedling starter mix. Such a mix will be finely textured, so that small seeds don’t wash too deep down into the mix. Also, it should be sterile (or nearly sterile), so the damping-off fungus that attacks seedlings is less likely to strike. Seedling starter mix can be purchased in small bags to use in your own containers or as flat pellets of either peat moss or coconut coir that inflate as they absorb water.

Why does the container need a lid?

Jiffy seed tray with lid in place. Labeling your seed trays with the seed type and date of planting is helpful. - photo by Amy Whitney
Jiffy seed tray with lid. Labeling your seed trays with the type of seed planted and date of planting is helpful.- photo by Amy Whitney

Seeds need to be kept evenly moist but not soggy. If seeds are too wet, they tend to rot rather than germinate, and if they are too dry they won’t germinate, either. The lid helps moderate moisture levels in the container. The lid should be clear to let light in for the growing seedlings. As the seedlings grow taller, the lid will need to be removed.

If the seedlings are in a very sunny window, the “greenhouse” lid may allow too much heat to build up inside the container. Check your seedlings to make sure the young plants don’t end up being cooked under the lid!

Trays and flats especially designed for starting seeds can be purchased at most garden supply stores, but “clamshell” type containers that previously may have held salad greens from a grocery store can also work, after a few holes have been made in the bottom half to allow excess water to drain away.

How much light will my plants need?

After germination has occurred and seedlings have pushed their seed leaves up above the soil level, a strong light source will be needed. A very sunny window is good, but more hours of light would be better. A fluorescent light kept a couple of inches above the tops of the plants for 14-16 hours each day can help provide the needed light.

This sounds easy. When can I start?

You can count back the correct number of weeks for your seeds from the last expected frost date in your area. As an example, a seed that should be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost in an area with an average last frost date of April 10 should be started between February 11th and 25th. Most seed packets include the information about when to start seeds indoors.

Your seed-starting flats or containers will also need to be kept at an adequate temperature range for best germination results. The good news is that the same temperatures that work for most humans, 65-75 degrees F, are also good for seed germination and seedling growth!

As the seedlings mature, they will need to be transferred to more-roomy accommodations (new pots!) with fresh potting mix, to encourage further growth and development.

For additional information and expanded explanations of the above steps, check out UGA’s new guide to seed starting, “Starting Plants from Seed for the Home Gardener” by Horticulturists Sheri Dorn and Bodie Pennisi. UGA’s “Home Garden Transplants,” by UGA Horticulturists Wayne McLauren, Darbie M. Granberry, and W.O. Chance, is another great source of helpful information.  Of course, your local UGA Extension Agent is always ready to help!

Amy is a Horticulture Program Assistant for Cobb Extension. She loves seed saving and saves seeds from a heirloom tomato given to her by a guy she met at a seed rack in Home Depot many years ago.  Amy will talk plants with anyone!  Thanks again Amy.  Great information.

Happy planting!