Taking Quality Photos of Your Georgia 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.

I have always liked this quote from Chase Jarvis. It is simple, to the point, and 100% true. Any camera that you have with you, is better than your Nikon sitting on a shelf at home. And what camera so you always have with you? The one that is on your cell phone.
Some will wrongly assume that that cell phone cameras can’t take very good photos. They may feel that their phone is mainly used to take selfies, and photos of their half-eaten dinner. The cell phone camera is a powerful tool, made more potent by the fact that is always ready to capture the moments in time that you want to save.
Taking Quality Photos of Your Georgia Garden
I have always put photos into 2 categories: 1. Photos that show what you saw. 2. Photos that show what you felt. If you are only interested in showing what you saw, just point the camera and and take the photo. This will be good enough in most cases. But if you want to take better photos, photos that are worth a second look, you can do many things to make them more interesting to view.
Taking Quality Photos of Your Georgia Garden
If, for instance, you are trying to photograph a small garden, just changing the height that you are holding the camera can make a huge difference on how your photos look. Most photos are taken from a height of 5-6′. Climb a ladder to take a photo, or place the camera as close to the ground as possible. Either of these changes will give your a photo a look that many other photos lack. Be sure to look for the most interesting plants, and keep your shadow out of the photos.
Taking Quality Photos of Your Georgia Garden
Keep in mind that digital photos are free to take, so always experiment! You might be surprised at how good they come out.
If you have any specific photography questions for Jeff, please leave them in the comments section.  You can follow Jeff on Instagram at jeffmartin2510.
Jeff is not a community or school gardener but his dream community garden plot would include cantaloupe, lima beans, and potatoes.  Sounds good to me!
Happy Gardening!

The Urban Vegetable Garden at Gwinnett Tech

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.

Urban Vegetable Garden at Gwinnett TechLocated 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

Urban Vegetable Garden at Gwinnett Tech
Tony Gobert uncovers a very large radish.

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?

Urban Vegetable Garden at Gwinnett Tech
Onions being grown to taught seed saving methods.

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.

Urban Vegetable Garden at Gwinnett Tech
Blackberries grown under a Winesap apple tree. Notice onions ready for harvest.

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.

Urban Vegetable Garden at Gwinnett Tech
Peanuts growing in the middle of a corn row.

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.

Happy Gardening!

Dealing with Mexican Bean Beetles in Your Georgia Garden

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.

Mexican bean beetle
Mexican bean beetle damage

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.

Mexican bean beetle
Mexican bean beetle eggs Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, www.bugwood.org

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.

Mexican bean beetle
Larva on what is left of a bush bean plant in a Georgia community garden plot.

From egg to adult takes about a month.  Here is a professional photograph of a Mexican bean beetle adult and larva:

Mexican bean beetle
Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series,www.bugwood.org

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!

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!