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!

Pollinator Week 2017

It is Pollinator Week 2017!  Since last year the rusty patched bumble bee has been put on the Endangered Species List and honey bee keepers in the United States reported hive losses of 33% over 2016-17.  How can the average Georgia gardener help our pollinators?  These steps are easy and will make a real difference to our pollinating insects:

Read Georgia’s Pollinator Protection Plan

University of Georgia entomologists collaborated with stakeholders across the state to develop Protecting Georgia’s Pollinators.  There is a role for every Georgia citizen whether you are a farmer, a landscaper, or a homeowner.

Plant Flowering Plants

Adding flowering plants to your food garden attracts pollinators and as a bonus can also attract other beneficial insects.  To attract butterflies, adding plants that sustain the caterpillar stage of the butterfly is important.   The University of Georgia has done research on pollinator plants and has suggestions for plants that do well in our climate.

There are many pollinator plants that thrive in our Georgia climate.

Plan for a Succession of Bloom

Strive to have plants flowering as much of the year as possible.  Even during the winter months if temperatures rise above 50 F, bumble bees and honey bees are flying and looking for nectar and pollen.

Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is not a true honeysuckle and blooms in the winter months.

Create a Water Source

Adding pebbles or stones to your birdbath makes a wonderful water source for small insects with  delicate legs.  By cleaning the birdbath once a week you will avoid any mosquito problems.  If you don’t have a birdbath the drainage pans used to catch the water running out of potted plants can be used.

Wisely Use Any Pesticide

Examine your use of any pesticide.  Is the pesticide really necessary?  Your UGA Extension agent can assist you with any pest situation and guide you in deciding if a pesticide is the best answer.  Make sure you thoroughly read and follow any pesticide label.  The label is the law.

Have Your Garden Certified as a Georgia Pollinator Space

The Georgia Pollinator Spaces program is an initiative designed to recognize gardeners that consciously make an effort to improve pollinator health by creating pollinator habitat.   To get inspiration take a look at some of the gardens that are part of the program.

However you decide to celebrate Pollinator Week be sure to check our daily pollinator posts on the UGA Community and School Garden Facebook page.

Happy Pollinator Week!

 

 

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!

Celebrating Compost at Marietta City Schools

To celebrate International Compost Awareness Week I asked Michelle Gambon, a Cobb County Master Gardener who volunteers at Marietta City Schools, for a great compost story.  Anyone who knows Michelle knows she is passionate about composting and inspires those around here.  She sent us this:
When asked to reflect on the value of compost six grader Jaylin Cabrera, Marietta City Schools wrote:

What is composting? By: Jaylin Cabrera, 6th Grade, age 11

Composting is nature’s process of recycling decomposed organic materials into a rich soil known as compost. Composting transforms garden and other vegetable waste into a dark, rich productive soil amendment that gardens call “Black Gold.” Composting is nature’s way of recycling . Composting is also a natural biological process. Composting comes in many different ways for example worm composting.

What is compost? Compost is an organic matter , such as raw food scraps  from fruits like apples or bananas,fallen leaves ,and coffee grounds ,that has been decomposed and recycled to use as fertilizer for growing new plants . Why is composting important ? Composting is beneficial in many ways it is used as an organic fertilizer for soil and greatly contributes to a cleaner environment by composting your raw food scraps you are reducing the amount of trash that is put into a landfill and recycling pollutants in the air.

Celebrating compost at Marietta City Schools
Jaylin Cabrera , writer and lover of compost

During each lunch period an average from 13 to 18 pounds of vegetative waste is saved from the landfill. Under the guidance of a Cobb County Master Gardener volunteer, our Middle Grades Earth Ambassadors compost over three lunches twice a week totaling 540 pounds per week 2655 pounds per school year. That is a lot of “BlackGold.”

We are proud of biodiversity full of good bugs and beneficial organisms. We are always sure to keep all levels of brown and green waste true to science therefore keeping temperatures uninhabitable for anything dangerous. We are smart about the food chain and are sure to never have any animal byproducts in our compost, keeping it’s kept strictly vegetative.  Because our students are so knowledgeable there is never any worry of inviting critters with eyes, (beside a bird or two who want a snack.) Teachers in Science Math, Social Studies and ELA offer many outdoor classroom experiences benefited through our diverse ecosystem.
Thank you, Michelle and Jaylin, for the great things you are doing! 
Happy Compost Week!

Farm to School Week and the Golden Radish

The Golden Radish Award is a way to recognize school systems who engage in farm to school activities.  University of Georgia Extension is proud to be a partner in this very worthwhile program.  Across the state UGA Extension agents work in Farm to School efforts.  This includes Agriculture and Natural Resources Agents (ANR), Family and Consumer Science Agents (FACS) and 4-H Agents.

UGA ANR Agent James Morgan assisting students in their school garden at Turner Elementary School.

Farm to School Successes in Georgia

From the project website, almost one-third of Georgia school districts were recognized for their farm to school work during the 2015-2016 school year. Awardees collectively:

  • Served 39 million school meals that included local food
  • Held 8,246 taste tests of fresh, local food to students
  • Taught 3,406 garden, food and nutrition lessons to students
  • Tended 575 edible school gardens
  • Hosted 1,935 hands-on cooking activities with students
  • Incorporated farm to school into 390 staff professional development opportunities
  • Championed and sustained district-wide policies or procedures into 29 schools districts

How Can You Earn the Golden Radish?

If you work in a school garden you could be on the way to earning the Golden Radish award.   Having an edible school garden and conducting student taste tests are two of the ways to start qualifying for the award.  Other possible criteria include hosting a farmer to your school, integrating farm to school activities into school curriculum and having students work with local chefs to create delicious meals.  If a teacher from the school attends any of UGA’s school garden teacher trainings, that also counts towards the award.

Applications are Now Open

Applications are now open for the 2017 Golden Radish Award.  Applications are due by June 30, 2017 and the online application is easy to use and with save and return capability! Application details, award criteria, and examples of programs and activities that meet the criteria requirements are available at the website.

Let Extension know if we can help!

Happy Farm to School Week!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

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