Lettuce is a great cool-season crop to grow in Georgia, especially leaf lettuce. Growing leaf lettuce means you don’t have to wait for the lettuce to make a head. You can begin harvesting as soon as the leaves are large enough to eat. With names like Firecracker, Tango, and Drunken Woman the expectations for flavor are high!
This week we have Wilkes County UGA Extension Agent Frank Watson as a guest blogger. Extension agents have gotten many calls about rabbit damage in the garden; gardeners are frustrated! Frank has some information that could be useful. Frank says….
While rabbits may seem cute and fuzzy, the common rabbit or eastern cottontail can do considerable damage to flowers, vegetables, trees and shrubs any time of the year in places ranging from suburban yards to rural fields and tree plantations.
Controlling rabbits is often necessary to reduce damage, but complete extermination is not necessary, desirable or even possible.
No toxicants or fumigants are registered for use against rabbits. There are, however, chemical repellents available at local garden centers that may discourage rabbit browsing.
Repellents should be applied before rabbit-inflicted damage occurs and after a rain, heavy dew or the occurrence of new plant growth. If rabbits have already started feeding, their attraction to what they have been eating will most likely overcome their fear of the repellent.
Habitat modification and exclusion techniques provide long-term, non-lethal control. Remove dense, heavy vegetative cover, brush piles, weed patches and stone piles in or adjacent to the landscape.
Fencing made from chicken wire, with less than 1-inch mesh, can be placed around herbaceous plants. The fence must be at least 2-feet high and the bottom must be buried at least 3-inches deep. Quarter-inch wire hardware cloth made into 18- to 24-inch cylinders and buried at least 3 inches will protect trunks of young orchard trees or woody landscape plants.
In the winter months, live animal traps can be baited with corncobs, oats, dried apples or rabbit droppings. Traps can be bought at garden centers, hardware stores or from gardening catalogs. Place the traps where rabbits have been feeding or resting and close to suitable cover.
If the trap fails to catch any rabbits within a week, move the trap to a different location.
For more information about managing wildlife in the garden, search for wildlife on extension.uga.edu/publications. As always, your local UGA Extension office is a great source of information.
Frank hails from cattle country and while farmers use electric fence to keep their cattle in Frank uses electric fence to keep deer out of his garden!
We all need to be able to take quality photos of our gardens. Whether you are promoting your garden to the school administration, bragging on your garden plots to the town council, or applying for grant monies a well taken photo tells the story of your garden.
Today we are excited to have Jeff Martin as a guest blogger. Jeff has been taking photographs for over 30 years and has considerable experience photographing nature and gardens. Today he is going to give us some advice for taking quality pictures of our gardens. Jeff says….
The Best Camera Is the One That’s With You.
Tony Gobert is so passionate and enthusiastic about Gwinnett Tech’s vegetable garden and the school’s Certificate in Sustainable Urban Agriculture that his face lights up talking about it. On a recent tour I saw a garden FULL of plants. It is urban, intensive agriculture at its best. This garden has a lot to teach community and school gardeners. Tony was happy to tell me all about it.
Located along Sugarloaf Parkway in Gwinnett County, Georgia, the garden is laid out to work with nature. The plant rows are laid out to follow the contour of the land. Before the vegetable garden, the land had a history of large runoff problems after rain storms. Tony and his team turned this negative into a positive by controlling the flow of the water so that it provided irrigation to the vegetable plants. “Work with what you have,” Tony says.
Being part of an educational garden, there are experiments everywhere. Which creates a better plant in the long run, potatoes started in the greenhouse or potatoes started by slips in the ground? What is the
best way to use worm castings? The students can answer these questions because they have tested their hypotheses by planting and growing – not just reading a textbook. The students are also trying their hands at growing fruit trees in different ways and growing different types of alliums. There are even banana plants. Why not?
This is a food production garden. The produce goes to Gwinnett Tech’s popular culinary program. The agriculture students learn about what it takes to supply a client as well as other lessons in ag economics. They are taught seed saving techniques and also how to make money during the slower season of the garden.
In many areas there are multi-crop plantings. For example, a Winesap apple tree is grown using a unique tree trellis. Underneath are blackberry bushes. During the cool-season months when there are no leaves on the tree, onions are planted just outside the blackberry bushes.
This is true intensive gardening which can translate well in a community garden setting. Peanuts are planted between rows of corn. The peanut plants help fix nitrogen for the nitrogen-loving corn. Blueberry bushes are planted in the middle of the strawberry patch. Their roots use different soil zones. Also, crop rotation and successive planting are thoughtfully carried out.
Tim Daly, a Gwinnett County Extension Agent, is a fan of the garden. Tim was curious about a squash variety that was advertised to grow very large squash plants. “Daly’s squash” is part of the garden this year. Tony is feeling hopeful they will get a prize winning squash from that plot!
This garden is just getting started. The initial planting was done in April 2014. A pollinator plant strip was added in November 2014. There are plans for 30 raised beds. The program that supports this garden is also just getting started. The certificate program in Sustainable Urban Agriculture was started in 2013. Students are required to take classes in food production, soils, and pest management. Three other courses are required to finish the six course program. Tony is a teacher at heart and he is excited to hear what his first graduates of the program are doing now as well as the plans his current students have. This is a fantastic addition to the urban gardening movement in Georgia!
I hope you can incorporate some of Tony’s intensive multi-planting systems in your own community or school garden plot.
July and August are prime Mexican bean beetle times. They can leave your bean plants looking like lace. Sadly, this is a common occurrence across Georgia during the summer months.
As with any pest, it is best to learn a bit about the biology of the Mexican bean beetle so you can better control the damage.
Adult beetles, which look a bit like lady beetles, overwinter in garden debris. Cleaning out your community or school garden plots could help. Keeping nearby ditches clean could also help.
The beetles emerge in the warm temperatures of spring and look for young beans, soybeans, and lima beans. The adult female will feed on the underside of leaves and will lay 40 or more yellow eggs also on the underside of leaves. Pest scouting needs to include looking at the underside of leaves. If you can catch the pest in the egg stage simply remove the leave and dispose of it away from the garden.
Once eggs hatch the larvae begin eating from the underside of the leaves. They will feed for 2 to 4 weeks and do alot of damage before they pupate on the plant. There are usually 3 to 4 generations per year. If you see just a few larvae, crush them by hand.
From egg to adult takes about a month. Here is a professional photograph of a Mexican bean beetle adult and larva:
For preventative control, try planting your bean crop as early as possible. The Mexican bean beetle likes the very warm temperatures of summer and if you can get a quick maturing bean variety planted early, you may outsmart the pest.
The wasp Pediobius foveolatus is a Mexican bean beetle predator. However, it does not overwinter well here and you would need to purchase these insects – not really worth the investment for a small crop of beans. Adding plants that attract beneficial insects is always a great idea.
Some serious bean gardeners plant a trap crop of beans. Theses are planted to the side of the main garden. When the trap crop beans are under attack, the gardeners destroy those bean plants and the insects. Then the gardeners can put in their main bean crop hoping they have eliminated the Mexican bean beetles in their area.
Other bean enthusiasts use floating row covers so the flying beetle can’t get to the crop. For this to work make sure you don’t have garden debris left under the row cover so you aren’t just trapping the Mexican bean beetles in with your beans!
Once the plants have been seriously infected you can think about chemical control. Contact your local UGA Extension agent if things get that bad in your bean patch. For more information North Carolina State has an informative flyer about the Mexican bean beetle.
Wishing you a Mexican bean beetle free year! Happy Gardening!
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
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.
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
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).
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?
- Educate property owners around your garden about pesticides
- Add plants in your garden to attract pollinators, especially plants that bloom in late summer
- Educate yourself about the different types of bees, honey bees and native bees, and their habitat needs
- Investigate becoming a Certified Pollinator Garden or a Monarch Waystation
- Plan a story time for children using books about pollinators
- Host a local beekeeper at your garden to learn about honey bees in your area
- Contact your local UGA Extension office to see if they have any special events planned around Pollinator Week
- Become familiar with the Georgia State Pollinator Protection Plan
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.
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.
The 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
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.
Strawberries can be a welcome addition to the Georgia community or school garden. And, spring is the time to plant!
Traditionally 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.
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.