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,, 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  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

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,


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.


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!


Plant Cool-Season Vegetables Now – a Guest Post by Paul Pugliese

Since we have had ample rainfall and moderate temperatures in Georgia, it is the perfect time to think about cool-season food gardening.  We are fortunate enough to have Paul Pugliese of UGA Extension give us some tips!  Paul writes….

Late January and early February are great times to plant cool-season vegetables. Many gardeners gave up on planting a fall vegetable garden last year due to the exceptional drought conditions. However, the great thing about living in Georgia is that we have a second window of opportunity in late winter to plant a number of cool-season vegetables.

Plant Cool-Season Vegetables Now - a Guest Post by Paul Pugliese
Lettuce in the Trustees Garden, Savannah, Georgia

Cool-season vegetables include beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, English peas, Irish potatoes, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips. You can even start planting asparagus roots, asparagus is a perennial plant that takes two years to mature and start producing harvestable spears.

Most cool-season vegetables, if planted around the first week of February, will be ready to harvest around early April or May, depending on the variety. By the time you harvest these cool-season vegetables, you can turn the garden over for planting your summer vegetables at the ideal time.

Cool-season vegetables are generally very fast growing and are easily planted by direct seeding into the soil. There is no reason to purchase or grow transplants this time of year, since the soil moisture and weather conditions are ideal for seed germination. Transplants are more often used in fall planting, since it’s usually too hot and too dry in late summer or early fall for cool-season vegetables to grow from seed.

Most cool-season vegetables are medium to heavy feeders, which means they will require around 20 to 30 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of garden space. Ideally, this fertilizer should be divided into two or three applications (i.e., 10 pounds of fertilizer at planting and at four- to six-week intervals). Because most cool-season vegetables grow close to the ground and have direct contact with the soil, avoid using fertilizer sources such as animal manure that could increase the chance of contamination by foodborne pathogens.

It’s also a good idea to do a soil test to determine your soil pH and how much lime you need to apply, if any, to adjust the soil pH. (For more information about submitting samples to the University of Georgia for soil testing, call your local UGA Cooperative Extension office.)

A pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is recommended for all vegetables except Irish potatoes, which require a pH of 5.0 to 6.0. If you decide to grow Irish potatoes, dedicate a separate garden space solely to them due to their unique pH requirement.

As with all vegetables, try to select a garden site that receives at least eight to 10 hours of sunlight a day. Select a location that is conveniently located near your home and a water supply. The soil should have a good texture and be well drained. Most of the leafy greens and some of the cole crops – those in the Brassica family ­– can also be grown in containers due to their smaller size.

Adding a mulch of wheat straw, leaves, compost or pine straw will help conserve soil moisture, control weeds and reduce cultivation. Apply enough mulch to have 2 to 4 inches after settling. Newspaper can also be used as a mulch. Place newspapers two to three layers thick around plants. Apply 3 inches of straw or compost on top of the newspaper. Avoid using hay bales for mulch, since most hay fields are sprayed with herbicides for weed control that could carry over into your garden and kill your plants.

For more information on seeding rates, recommended varieties and row spacing, check out UGA Extension publications “Vegetable Gardening in Georgia” and “Home Gardening” online at More detailed information on home gardening potatoes, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts and rutabagas can also be found on the publications website.

Paul Pugliese is the ANR agent for Bartow County Cooperative Extension.  He has extensive experience in vegetable gardening as he grows all types of vegetables on his farm in Cartersville, Georgia.

Happy Planting!

Orange Bulldog Pumpkins to the Rescue

Do you want to grow beautiful orange pumpkins for Halloween?  But, after years of seeing your crop succumb to disease you have become discouraged.  And, after learning that most of the pumpkins you see for sale at church pumpkin patches are grown in New Mexico (think LOW humidity), you have given up.  Well, I have great news for you!

University of Georgia researchers have developed and released a new pumpkin variety bred especially to handle Georgia’s summer climate.  Orange Bulldog was developed by UGA researchers from germplasm collected in South America.  It shows greater resistance to viruses than conventional pumpkins.  The vines show resistance to powdery mildew and downy mildew.  This is really great news for Georgia gardeners!

Orange Bulldog Pumpkin. Photo credit: UGA
Orange Bulldog Pumpkin. Photo credit: UGA

The pumpkins average about 10 pounds.  Most have an internal cavity which is perfect for carving.  The color ranges from a salmon color to a burnt orange.  And, seeds were readily available for 2016 and should be for 2017.

Experts recommend following good growing practices.   Commercial Production and Management of Pumpkins and Gourds contains great information from UGA.  North Carolina Extension also has some good information in Growing Pumpkins and Winter Squash.

So, as you enjoy this year’s Jack-o-Lanterns make your growing plans for next Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

October Chores for Your Georgia Garden

The checklist for October gardening chores according to UGA’s Vegetable Garden Calendar:

October Garden Chores

  1. Choose the mild weather during this period to plant or transplant the following: beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collards, lettuce, mustard, onions, radishes, spinach and turnips. Plant your second planting of fall crops such as collards, turnips, cabbage, mustard and kale.  For variety recommendations see the Vegetable Planting Chart.
There is still time to plant lettuce and other cool-season greens.
There is still time to plant lettuce and other cool-season greens.

2.  Refurbish mulch to control weeds, and start adding leaves and other materials for the compost pile. Store your manure under cover to prevent leaching of nutrients.

3. Water deeply and thoroughly to prevent drought stress. Pay special attention to new transplants.

Seedlings will need water during October, which is usually one of our driest months.
Seedlings will probably need supplemental water during October, which is usually one of our driest months.

4. Harvest mature green peppers and tomatoes before frost gets them — it may not come until November, but be ready.

5. Harvest herbs and dry them in a cool, dry place.

Happy Fall Gardening!