A Beautiful and Edible Landscape-A Guest Post by Joshua Fuder

Herbs and shallots among evergreens and annuals.

Many of us have community areas of our gardens.  Those spaces can give us an opportunity to show how people can incorporate food crops in a home landscape.  This week our guest blogger, Joshua Fuder, gives us some ways to do this.  Josh writes:

During a vacation in France last year I had an awakening of sorts in terms of my philosophy on garden design and plant selection. A number of the gardens and public parks that we visited incorporated vegetables like Swiss chard and kale in with annual flower plantings. As an avid gardener and even more avid eater I wondered why I wouldn’t incorporate more vegetables and herbs into more traditional ornamental plantings. I’ve always appreciated the beauty of the edible plants but never considered their value in an ornamental sense.

Gardeners in Georgia might consider incorporating edibles for a number of reasons:

  • Sun Exposure-Ornamental beds are often the best or only location in homeowners yards that
    A Beautiful and Edible Landscape
    Rosemary, sage, and shallots among evergreens and annuals.

    receive sufficient (at least 6 hours) sunlight for vegetables and herbs.

  • Convenience-Ornamental plantings are often close to the areas of the yard that we use most so if your edibles are incorporated you may find using fresh ingredients easier. It is also easier to stay on top of weeds and insect issues if you are visiting the area more frequently.
  • Reduced Grocery Costs – Many edibles, especially herbs can add to your monthly food bills if you buy from grocery stores.
  • Improved Health – Fresh vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals when properly prepared and gardening can be great exercise.

The key to creating a visually appealing edible landscape is the artful combination of annuals and perennials. Most edibles are going to substitute for the use of annuals but there are some options for shrubs, vines, and small trees.

A Beautiful and Edible Landscape
Golden purslane under lilies and dahlias mixed with shallots.

Annual Color: Rainbow chard, purple mustard, kale, lettuce can all add dramatic affect with their foliage and mid-rib color variation. Calendula and nasturtium are both edible flowers that can add color to salads and nasturtium leaves can be used in pesto. Basil comes in many varieties and colors, consider the dwarf boxwood variety to create more formal lines. Taller plants like corn, okra, and Jerusalem artichokes can be planted at the back of a garden to create height and screening.

Groundcover: Thyme, oregano, and savory make great evergreen ground covers. Goldberg Golden Purslane and New Zealand spinach (or tetragonia) have succulent leaves and a sprawling growth habit. Strawberries will also sprawl out and cover an area as well.

Shrubs and Perennials: Blueberries have become a major cash crop in Georgia but are beautiful plants that have spring flowers, summer fruit and fall color. Pomegranate, figs and jujubes are all great plants that grow well in our area. American Hazelnut is deciduous shrub/small tree that grows well in our area. Rosemary is a great addition with its evergreen, needle-like foliage. Garden sage is also evergreen and has a wonderful softness to its leaves like a ‘dusty miller’ or lambs ear.

Edible Vines and Climbers: Structures like arbors and trellises are a great way to add interest in your

A Beautiful and Edible Landscape
Jerusalem artichokes in back – herbs and shallots in front

garden and there are some great substitutions for the climbing rose or clematis you may have in mind. Muscadines are extremely hardy and have few problems compared to many of the bunch grapes. If you want an annual plant that is easier to control you can consider Malabar spinach which has delicious greens and beautiful red stems. There are all types of beans that will grow rapidly and cover a structure. The Chinese Red Noodle bean will produce one to three foot long burgundy beans that will amaze.

Trees: Apples are well suited for northern Georgia and can maximize a small space with a few espaliered trees. The serviceberry (juneberry) is a great alternative to a crapemyrtle and the birds will love it. Mulberries are delicious and very easy to grow, just make sure they are planted in an area where you won’t mind a mess. ‘Montmorency’ and ‘Balaton’ are varieties of Pie or ‘sour’ cherries that are great small trees that perform well in our area as well.

Joshua Fuder is a UGA Extension agent in Cherokee County, Georgia.  Joshua has grown many different types of fruits and vegetables.  He grew vanilla, coffee, pineapple, and black pepper while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Vanuatu (an island nation in the South Pacific).

Happy Gardening!

 

Pollinator Week 2015

Pollinator Week 2015Welcome to Pollinator Week 2015!

This is a great opportunity for your gardeners to reflect on the role of pollinators and their role in your food production.

If you are getting flowers from your cucumbers or squash plants but no fruit – you NEED pollinators.  Even plants like tomatoes and beans that are self-pollinating can benefit from pollinators.

If the homeowners around your garden use pesticides, your garden can suffer.  If your garden is part of a park do you know the pesticide program of the grounds maintenance crew?

This pollinator week I challenge you to plan something for the pollinators.  Need ideas?

 

Pollinator Week 2015
A clump of pollinator plants in the Cherokee County Senior Center Garden

Happy Gardening!

Harvesting Garlic from Your Georgia Garden

Harvesting Garlic

If you planted your garlic in the fall it is probably about harvest time for you.  Here are 5 easy steps for aHarvesting Garlic from Your Georgia Garden successful harvest:

Harvesting Garlic from Your Georgia Garden
Carefully dig out the garlic bulbs!

Step #1 Harvest at the right time.  Look for the garlic tops to start turning yellow.  When they start to fall over it is time to harvest.  Don’t wait until the tops are totally dry.

Step #2  Discontinue watering a week or so before harvesting to give the garlic bulbs a chance to dry out.

Step #3 Don’t pull the bulbs out by the tops (leaves) but gently dig them out using a garden fork.  Be very careful not to puncture the bulbs.

Harvesting Garlic from Your Georgia Garden
After the garlic has dried cut off the roots and leaves.

Step #4 Brush off the soil and let them air dry in a shady, dry spot for a couple of

weeks.  Many gardeners use the leaves  to hang the garlic up to dry.  Stay away from humidity.  Hard to do in a Georgia summer, I know.

Step #5  Once the bulbs are dry remove the leaves and trim off any roots.  Brush off any dirt, keeping the wrappers in tact.

Bonus Step  Start planning those delicious garlic dinner dishes!

For more information on growing, harvesting, and storing garlic see UGA’s Garlic Production for the Gardener.  Your UGA Extension agent also has answers to all of your vegetable gardening questions.

Happy Harvesting!

 

International Year of Soils: Raising Awareness of Soil’s Importance

International Year of Soils

International Year of Soils: Raising Awareness of Soil's ImportanceThe United Nations General Assembly has declared 2015 the International Year of Soils.  With this initiative the UN hopes to raise appreciation of the importance of soil for human life, educate the public about the role soil plays in food security, and promote investment in sustainable soil management activities.  Basically, the UN wants to raise awareness about the importance of soil.

Their website states “Soil is where food begins! It is estimated that 95% of our food is directly and indirectly produced on our soils. Therefore, food availability relies on soils. Healthy and good quality food can only be produced if our soils are healthy. A healthy living soil is a crucial ally to food security and nutrition.”  As food growers we already know how important our soil is to the overall health of our plants.  Their website lists the following reasons that soil is important:

  • Soils are the basis for the production of food, fibers, fuel and medicinal products.
  • Soils absorb, store, alter, purify and release water, both for plant growth and water supply.
  • Soils interact with the atmosphere through absorption and emission of gases (e.g. carbon dioxide, methane, water vapour) and dust;
  • Soils make up the greatest pool of terrestrial organic carbon (over double the organic carbon stored in vegetation).
  • Soils regulate carbon, oxygen and plant nutrient cycles (N, P, K, Ca, Mg, etc.)
  • Soil is the habitat of several animals and organisms such as bacteria and fungi and thus sustain biological activity, diversity and productivity.
  • Soil is the habitat for seed dispersion and dissemination of the gene pool.
  • Soils buffer, filter and moderate the hydrological cycle.
  • Soils are the platform for urban settlement and are used as materials for construction.

International Year of Soils: Free Workshops

In conjunction with the International Year of Soils there are events all over the world scheduled to

International Year of Soils: Raising Awareness of Soil's Importance
Healthy soil means more nutrition for the plants, less incidence of disease, and less water input needed.

educate people about soil health.  Closer to home a collaboration effort in Atlanta, Georgia, is providing 30 free workshops on soil health and composting.  The collaborative partners are UGA Extension, Terra Nova Compost, Truly Living Well, Global Growers, The Atlanta Community Food Bank and Food Well Alliance.

The workshops start June 2nd and go through October 29, 2015.  To see if a workshop is near you or to register for one check here.

Happy Gardening!

Strawberries in the Georgia Community or School Garden? You bet!

Strawberries can be a welcome addition to the Georgia community or school garden.  And, spring is the time to plant!

StrawberriesTraditionally in north Georgia strawberries are grown in a matted row system where initial plants are set two feet apart at spring planting.  That summer the runners are allowed to fill in the rest of the bed.  This set up is perfect for raised beds or bed plots.

Treat your strawberry bed as a perennial bed.  You will need an area that is in full sun and contains well drained soil.  Avoid planting where you have been growing peppers, tomatoes, or potatoes.  These plants are susceptible to verticillium wilt and so are strawberries. The UGA publication Home Garden Strawberries is a great resource.

Varieties of Strawberries

Varieties recommended for early fruiting for north and middle Georgia are Earliglow, Sweet Charlie, and Delmarva. For south Georgia look for Chandler, Camarosa, and Sweet Charlie.  Early season varieties are best for school gardens as you should get fruit before school lets out for the summer.  

For mid-season fruiting look for Allstar.  Purchase plants that appear to be disease-free from a reputable supplier.  This can be a local store or a mail order supplier.   You will probably have more varieties to choose from if you use a mail order supplier.

The placement of the plant crown is very important. Picture from Home Grown Strawberries by UGA.

Care of Strawberries

The most important part of planting strawberries is the placement of the crown.  The top of the crown needs to be above the soil line.  Otherwise, you will probably have rot.  Set the plants two feet from the bed edge and from each other.  Remember, runners will fill in.  Remove flowers the first year to encourage more blossoms, and fruit, next year.

Weeds are the number one problem with strawberry plants.  Mulch between plants and use hand pulling or hoeing to remove stubborn weeds.  Strawberries need 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water a week.

Birds and rodents love strawberries as much as we do.  Raised beds deter rodents.  Some gardeners use netting.  A problem with netting is birds and small animals getting caught in the net.   Some gardeners report success with loosely hanging aluminum pie pans around the beds to deter birds.  The best practice is to pick the fruit as soon as it is ripe, before other hungry eaters find it.

During the second spring, after you have picked all of your berries, get ready for next year.  By this point runners have filled in and if you don’t thin the bed you will have too many plants for that area.  You need to get rid of about two-thirds of the plants in order to have healthy plants for next year.  Pot up the extras and have a fund raising plant sale!

As always your local UGA Extension agent is a great resource for you.

Happy Gardening!