Save the Date(s)

There are many fantastic events planned for 2018 so mark your calendars and save these dates:

Plant Sales – now!
4-H groups and Master Gardener Extension Volunteers across the state are having plant sales. These sales feature high quality plants for reasonable prices. While picking out your plants, find out what classes and workshops are being offered this year. Contact your county Extension office for more details.

Hands-On School Garden Day (Part of Ag Week) – Monday, March 19th
To kick-off Georgia Ag Week, Hands-On School Garden Day will recognize the importance of school gardens. Plan a special workday in your garden or use the day to remind your administrators and community members about the importance of your school garden. What makes your school garden special? We would love to see photos! Post them on the UGA Community and School Garden Facebook Page!

Healthy Soil Festival – May 5th at Truly Living Well Farm
This year’s Healthy Soil Festival will have some special activities for teachers and those who work in school gardens. Stay tuned for more details!

American Community Garden Association Conference in Atlanta – September 14th-16th
This year’s conference is in Atlanta! More details will be coming but definitely put those dates on your calendar.

Great Georgia Pollinator Count – August 2019
In August of 2019 gardeners across the state will be counting pollinators as part of a year long campaign to promote best management practices in getting and keeping pollinators in your garden! You will want to be a part of this! Again, stay tuned for more information as we get closer to 2019.

Do you have an event to add? Let us know!

Happy Gardening!

Fresh Food Translates In Any Language

My daughter, Mady, moved to Lovere, Italy, in September. I asked her to give us an international perspective on fresh food and gardens for this week’s blog post. She writes….

I would like to begin by stating that I am in fact no way professionally qualified to educate you on the knowledge of plant life. I do not know when the best time to plant spinach is or what Botrytis and I’m only about 85% certain where the pistil is on any given flower. However there is one thing I feel very qualified to speak on: EATING GOOD FOOD.

Mady Griffin enjoys fresh, local food in Italy.

About three months ago I packed up my little room in Athens, Georgia and headed across the ocean to settle in a small town in the north of Italy to teach English for a year. I took as much as I could with me such as pictures of my family, books in English, and my classic Southern charm. However, one of the most important things I took was my something my mother gave me: An appreciation for well grown and well cooked food. An appreciation that Italians are crazy about.

I was lucky enough to get settled with a host family who have given me a good education on delicious cold cuts, cheeses, wines, and of course produce. Many products here like to guarantee you that they’ve been locally produced with local ingredients and if they have not they are quick to tell you where they came from. I have had cappuccinos made with milk from within an hour of where I live and we’ve had local cheeses, wines, chestnuts, and even a fresh rabbit from the farm of a family-friend. All of these were made into a variety of different delicious meals, but one particular part I want to write about is one of my new favorite meal traditions. The tradition of after-meal fruit. After grains, meats, salads, and before coffee we indulge in whatever fresh fruits my host mother has found at the store. These happen to be whatever fruit is in season to make sure what we’re eating is fresh and local. Since we’ve transitioned into fall I’ll highlight three of the fruits I’ve gotten to enjoy lately before the frost comes in.

Persimmons (Italiano: i cachi)

My host family has lived in a couple different countries before settling back in Italy and my host mother said one of the things she missed most about home were persimmons. In the town we live in they’re very common and people even harvest from trees right in their backyards. Around the beginning of fall these red/orange fruits begin to become ready for picking. However once the fruit has been has picked that does not mean it’s quite ready. You have to wait until the fruit inside has just started peeling away from the skin which you can feel by gently squeezing the fruit. Then you easily pull the top off, dig out the tough skin just inside the persimmon and dig in!

Clementines (Italiano: le clementine)

Clementines are in abundance during this time and it’s easy to grab a couple here and there not only after dinner, but also for a quick snack or “merenda” between meals. They’re perfect since they don’t need to be washed and can be placed on the table for any time of the day. Like in America many children eat them because they’re so easy to peel and can be bought without seeds.

Kiwi (Italiano: i kiwi)

This one took me a bit by surprise since thinking of kiwi brings up images of tropic New Zealand and not cold northern Italy. However sure enough another family friend brought along a bundle of fresh sweet kiwi for the family to share. Since I had not ever tried a kiwi myself I was taught the proper way to enjoy them. Cut off the top, slowly peel of the skin with a knife and then cut off the bottom. Then you can slice it in half and eat it straight. It’s delicious and sometimes hard to not stop at just one or two.

No matter what the meal is if it’s on an Italian table you know they put in a lot of thought and effort into the quality of their meal from the ground to your plate. I am excited to see what other ways Italians use their gardens to perfect their historical art of cooking. Until next time, arrivederci.

Buon giardinaggio!

Thankful for the Harvest

The Harvest Moon by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes
And roofs of villages, on woodland crests
And their aerial neighborhoods of nests
Deserted, on the curtained window-panes
Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes
And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests!
Gone are the birds that were our summer guests,
With the last sheaves return the laboring wains!
All things are symbols: the external shows
Of Nature have their image in the mind,
As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves;
The song-birds leave us at the summer’s close,
Only the empty nests are left behind,
And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

November Gardening Chores for Georgia

Some chores to think about for November and December from UGA’s Vegetable Garden Calendar.

Spread manure, rotted sawdust and leaves over the garden and plow them under; you’ll be surprised at the difference this organic matter will make in the fertility, physical structure and water-holding capacity of the soil.

Take a soil sample to allow plenty of time to get the report back. Lime applied now will be of more benefit next year than if it is applied in the spring before planting. Always apply Dolomitic limestone in order to get both calcium and magnesium.

Save those leaves for the compost heap.

Take an “inventory.” Maybe you had too much of some vegetables and not enough of others – or maybe there were some unnecessary “skips” in the supply. Perhaps some insect, disease or nematode problem got the upper hand. Make a note about favorite varieties. Start planning next year’s garden now!

You’re wise to order flower and vegetable seeds in December or January, while the supply is plentiful. Review the results of last year’s garden and order the more successful varieties.

You may have seeds left over from last year. Check their viability by placing some in damp paper towels and observing the germination percentage. If the percentage is low, order new ones.

Before sending your seed order, draw a map of the garden area and decide the direction and length of the rows, how much row spacing is needed for each vegetable, whether or not to plant on raised beds, and other details. That way, you won’t order too many seeds. This same advice applied to the flower garden. Try new cultivars, add more color, change the color scheme, layer the colors by having taller and shorter plants — don’t do it the same way year after year.

Look around for tools you do not have and hint for these for holiday gifts.

Happy Gardening!

Using Your Garden Legumes

For those of you who have been growing legumes and want a great way to use them let me introduce Terry Carter. Terry is a Family and Consumer Science program assistant for Cobb County Extension who does an amazing job sharing the wonders of Southern food.

Terry is always cooking up a healthy meal.

Terry learned her love of food from her grandmother, Annie Carter, and she has been sharing her love ever since. When asked to share her favorite recipe for beans she gave us a delicious one.

Terry’s Hearty Bean Soup

Ingredients

1 Pound of dried Beans/Peas
8 cups water (use chicken, beef, or vegetable broth for added flavor)
1 medium onion, diced (or one large whole onion for flavor that is removed after cooking)
2 bay leaves ( remove them after cooking)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoon cumin
1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz.) or 2 cups fresh peeled tomatoes (optional)
1 lb. smoked sausage, ham hocks, diced ham or beef stew meat (optional)
Our favorite is to use a leftover hambone with some meat on it or turkey parts. If you are vegan omit the animal and add more seasonings at the end of cooking. This is totally optional. If you use the whole onion and like the flavor you can add one more onion if you like. It will just add more flavor.
Salt and pepper to taste ( this is important, do add some salt or it will still have a bland taste)

Cooking Directions

No Soak Method
In a colander or sieve, rinse beans thoroughly. Sort and inspect for any unwanted debris and discard.
Drain and pour beans in a slow cooker with 8 cups of stock/water, onions, bay leaves, garlic, chili powder, cumin, tomatoes and smoked sausage, hocks, ham or beef stew meat.
Set slow cooker on high and cook for 5 hours (or low for 7-8), or until beans are tender, but not falling apart.
Please keep in mind that every time the lid is opened, your cooking time will be longer.
Add salt and pepper to taste at the end of cooking.
This time may vary depending on the variety of beans you have.

Cooking Tips

Serve with a freshly baked slice of corn bread! You can also serve over rice.
For even more flavor, substitute beef, chicken or vegetable stock instead of water.
You can also add in chicken leg quarters, smoked sausage or beef roast for a one pot meal.

Remember that this is a NO SOAK recipe, but if you have already soaked the beans, that’s not a problem, just use 1 less cup of water/stock.

If you prefer a more “brothy” soup, add an extra cup of liquid when preparing or near the end. Remember this is a soup so you may need that extra liquid to make it soupy. If you prefer a creamier soup, simply mash some of the soft bean or you can use an immersion blender stick to make them creamy. You can turn them all creamy if you like. Basically, this recipe is very versatile and you really can’t mess it up unless you don’t get your beans cooked enough. Taste the beans and make sure that they are soft with no resistance with a creamy texture.

This recipe is easily adapted to fit a variety of beans that we can grow here in The South. You can select just one variety or mix several varieties together to create a version of the popular 15 bean soup. See the 15 bean variety generally used in the 15 bean soup. Use what you harvest or have left over to create a unique soup. Any mix of these beans that make up 16 ounces or 2 cups is sufficient.

15 bean varieties to consider for soup
dried black beans
dried red beans
dried kidney beans
dried navy beans
dried great northern beans
dried baby lima beans
dried field peas
dried pinto beans
dried green split peas
dried yellow split peas
dried black eyed peas
dried red lentils
dried green lentils
dried brown lentils
dried cranberry beans

Thanks, Terry for the recipe! Happy Cooking!

October Gardening Chores For Your Georgia Garden

The weather is perfect to be out in the garden and there are chores to be done! UGA’s Vegetable Garden Calendar give us a to-do list:

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.

Lettuce seedlings at the Trustees Garden in Savannah

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.

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

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

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

Herbs belong in the community and school garden!

Happy Fall Gardening!

Weather and Georgia Agriculture

Already this year extreme weather has been a crucial part of agriculture in our state. One tool Georgia farmers have for dealing with weather is Pam Knox. Pam is an agricultural climatologist who works on getting important weather and climate information to growers. She writes regular short informational pieces that would be of interest to anyone interested in weather and agriculture. CASE:Climate and Agriculture in the Southeast is available to everyone. An example:

Southeast quarterly climate impacts and outlook report now available
Sep 25, 2017 | Written by Pam Knox

The Southeast Regional Climate Center has released their latest 3-month seasonal climate summary and outlook for June through August 2017. It includes a look back at the major impacts of this summer’s weather and a look ahead to fall in just two pages. You can read it at https://www.drought.gov/drought/documents/quarterly-climate-impacts-and-outlook-southeast-region-september-2017.

Another one from Dr. Knox:

Interactive drought risk map for the US
Sep 26, 2017 | Written by Pam Knox

The American Geosciences Institute has an interesting map of drought risk available at https://www.americangeosciences.org/critical-issues/maps/drought-atlas. It shows a variety of parameters which are related to drought, including rainfall, stream flow and the Drought Monitor map. It also allows you to compare current droughts to previous ones. Check it out!

Remember, information about weather specific to your area is available at georgiaweather.net . This information is collected by weather stations across the state. As an old Irish blessing says, “May the sun shine warm upon your face; may the rain fall soft upon your fields!”

Happy Gardening!

Keeping Good Garden Notes

Keeping notes about your garden is worth your time and effort.   Knowing when pests or diseases have traditionally first appeared in your garden can help you plan your integrated pest management program. Learning what diseases seem to occur with frequency in your area can help you choose resistant varieties or assist you in your crop rotation plan. This time of year it is important to record which vegetable varieties worked well for you this summer and which ones are not worth planting again.

It is also very interesting to look over several years of your garden’s weather data.  Simply recording the first frost dates, temperature highs and lows, and rain amounts can be of use. This year I would add a note of which plants survived Irma. Those would definitely be worth replanting!

There are several  ways to record this data easily.  First, there are journals designed specifically for gardeners.

Several of them have prompts to inspire you and some of them are have beautiful artwork. You might be more willing to fill these out if you left them in your garden shed or in your tool box.  Storing your journal in a waterproof ziplock baggie can help keep the pages clean.

If the idea of all that writing sounds like too much trouble, using a standard wall calendar might be for you.  Just getting in the habitat of writing a word or two each time you work in the garden will still be useful.  Hang it in the shed or on your mudroom wall.  You can even use an on-line photo printing service to create a calendar with photos from your garden!  This time of year these services usually have wonderful sales.

For those of you who would rather use your computer, there are several free online garden record keepers that are useful.  Some of them even have garden plan templates.  Use a search engine like google to find one that fits your needs.

Whatever you record this fall will be of interest this coming spring, I promise!

Happy Gardening!

Using Cover Crops in Your Georgia Community Garden

Using Cover Crops in Your Georgia Community Garden

We usually think of cover crops as tools that farmers use to build soil between seasons of cash crops. According to Using Cover Crops in the Home Garden using cover crops can be beneficial to any gardener.  These plants can build the soil, control soil erosion, and limit the spread of certain diseases and insects.  

Cover Crop Benefits

For community gardeners, whether you grow in raised bed plots or in the ground, there are substantial benefits here.  First, many community gardeners decide not to plant cool-season vegetables.  Their plots become a mess of warm-season crop debris, which can harbor insect pests disease.  Or, the plots are left bare almost guaranteeing that weedy plants will take over.  Using cover crops during the cool-season months solves those issues.

Using Cover Crops in Your Georgia Community Garden
Cowpeas and millet are used as warm-season cover crops.

Cover crops can add a nice look to a community garden plot. Many of these plants also attract pollinators and other beneficial insects.

Cover crops can provide a cheap source of nutrition for your garden plants.  After maturity the crops are mowed down (use a weed whacker if you garden in a raised bed), left to dry out and are turned into the soil.  They decompose in the soil increasing the organic matter.  Much less expensive than purchasing bags of organic matter!

Using Cover Crops in Your Georgia Community Garden
Cover crops at UGA’s Ugarden

Incorporating Cover Crops in Your Garden

So now that you are sold on the benefits of using cover crops during the cool-season, what do you plant?  A combination of a cereal grain and a legume is a good choice.  An example is wheat, oat, or rye with clover or winter peas.  The cereal grain grows quickly while the slower germinating legume takes hold.

Finding small amounts of seeds for a garden plot may be a challenge.  Check local feed and seed stores that may sell cover crops by the scoop.  Check your seed catalogs.  You may want to go in with others in your community garden for seed purchases.

For more details on the use of cover crops see Using Cover Crops in the Home Garden.  Or, contact your local UGA Extension office.

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