Gardening Gifts for Holiday 2017

For past holiday seasons I have gotten gift ideas from you all and shared them with the group. You all have given us fantastic book and tool ideas. For this year’s Christmas or Hanukkah why not give an experience?

Our state is full of wonderful public gardens and we all know one way to get inspired or to find new plant ideas is to visit different gardens. Giving a garden membership or a day trip is a wonderful experience for the gardener or for someone who just appreciates beautiful plants.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens is full of trails for a long walk or run. Behind the main building is a garden display about the history of Georgia in plants. One of the best parts of the garden is the native American garden. Signage explains the native plants and how they were used.

Row crops are planted at the State Botanical Garden

In south Georgia the Coastal Georgia Botanical Garden in Savannah is a gardener’s destination. It is a beautiful garden with wonderfully cultivated specimen plants. You must visit the historic Georgia trustees garden replica. It is amazing to see what the earliest Georgians tried to grow. I am also fond of the garden for all abilities. It is a raised bed area to demonstrate how planting areas can be modified for gardeners of all types.

Norman Winter takes fantastic photos of the Coastal garden.

A hidden garden wonder is the rooftop garden on top of Atlanta City Hall. Located off of the cafeteria it is a great place to eat lunch. This garden takes into account the microclimate of being on a roof in the sunny south. It is a whole different ecosystem.

A rooftop garden in the heart of Atlanta

Other favorite gardens include the Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Kennesaw, famous for their rose collection, and the Reed Creek Nature Park in Columbia County with their beautiful wetlands trail.

Reed Creed Nature Park

Of course, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is a popular gem in the city. The plants are carefully labeled for your reference and workers around the garden are always cheerful about answering questions. The food garden is a great way to see what food types will grow well in the city. They also have a tea plant area and in the past they have grown rice. Food cooking demonstrations are offered using crops grown in the garden.

We could probably create a year’s worth of posts about the beautiful public gardens in our state. If you have favorite please share in the comments section!

Happy Holidays!

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!

Garlic Planting Step-by-Step

October is prime garlic planting time for the Atlanta area.  The bulbs overwinter in the garden and are harvested in the spring.  If you don’t traditionally plant winter crops, garlic is a great one to start with.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a member of the onion family.  Its use dates back to 4000 BC in central Asia.  According to Seed Savers Exchange garlic was found in King Tut’s tomb, eaten by Olympic athletes, and used as medicine by Hippocrates.  There are over 600 types of garlic grown all over the world.   Why not give it a try?

There are two basic categories of garlic:  hard-necked and soft-necked.  Georgians have better luck growing soft-necked garlic as the hard-necked ones require the long, cold winters and long, cool springs of more northern climates.  There are three types of soft-necked garlic that grow well in Georgia:  silverskin, artichoke, and elephant garlic (actually a type of leek).  Recommended cultivars include Inchelium Red, California Early, and Chet’s Italian – all artichoke types.  If you want to try the silverskin type consider Mild French.

Garlic Production for the Gardener is a useful publication on the types of garlic, planting, and harvesting.  Planting involves just a few simple steps.  Your local UGA Extension Agent will also have information to help you get started.

Garlic D

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 1:  Start with prepared soil.  Garlic needs rich, loose soil with a pH of about 6.5.  Make sure you add some compost after removing the summer plants; don’t just pull up spent plants and put the garlic in the ground.   If soil test results indicate adding fertilizer, do so.  Garlic is a medium-heavy feeder.  Nitrogen can be incorporated in the soil before planting, either with traditional fertilizers or bone meal.  Side dress in the spring when shoots are 4 to 6 inches tall.  Hold off on nitrogen after April 1st because you want to encourage bulb formation not leaf growth.

Garlic A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2:  Pull the garlic head apart just before you plant.  Use the larger bulbs for best results.  Also, leave the skin on the bulb.

Garlic C

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3:  Plant the bulbs about 2 inches deep with the pointed end up.  Space them about 6-8 inches apart.

Garlic Mulch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 4:  Be generous with mulch.  A generous amount of  mulch helps keep the soil moisture and soil temperatures even.

Tops may show through the mulch by the end of  October and the bulbs should be well rooted by November.   Since October is one of our driest months of the year, irrigation is important at planting.  Watering may be needed in early spring, but be careful not to over water.  Stop irrigation once the tops begin to dry and fall over.

Garlic should be ready for harvest between mid-May to mid-July.  Look for the tops drying and following over.  When 1/2 of the tops are in this condition it is time to harvest.  Don’t leave the bulbs in the ground too long or they may rot.  Be very careful when harvesting not to damage your crop.

Allow the heads to dry in a warm, dry place.  Keep them out of direct sunlight.  After the garlic has dried store it in a cool, dry, dark place to keep it fresh as long as possible.  Garlic braiding is a unique way of storage.

A community garden plot can yield a year’s worth of garlic so you’ll be able to enjoy those delicious Italian meals all year long.  Garlic bread, calazones, tomato sauce, garlic chicken….

Happy Gardening and Mangiate bene!

Community Gardening in Northern Michigan

While at a conference in Traverse City, Michigan, I had the opportunity to meet with some community gardeners from the Traverse City Community Garden. Gary Harper gave me a tour of this organic garden of 150 members.

The first thing I noticed is the lack of disease in the garden. It is early October and it has been unseasonably warm in Michigan. They still had tomatoes and peppers growing and the tomato leaves were spot free.

Gardeners here start their gardens in May and are usually finished by mid-October. They expect a first frost by early October. Their cool-season vegetables were beautiful. I saw knee-high kale so large that it was hard for me to recognize it and there were parsnips that were spectacular.

Parsnip leaves

The gardeners at Traverse City Community Garden do have some of the same concerns that we do in Georgia. Oftentimes, their members lose interest by the end of the season. They are required to give 12 hours per growing season to the upkeep of the common garden and the garden board has a difficult time enforcing that rule. They also have deer! A nine foot electric fence does not always dissuade them. Their #1 pest problem is stink bugs. These bugs are so bad on squash in Northern Michigan, that the gardeners are not allowed to grow squash in their plots.

An electric fence attempts to keep deer away

It was great to see how others interpret a community garden and I am thankful for the time with these new gardening friends.

Happy Georgia Gardening!

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!

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia

Carrots have a reputation of being hard to grow in the clay soils of North Georgia.  But, with a little knowledge and a few tricks you can have success with carrots.  Since they are a cool-season crop now is the time to plant.

Since the interesting part of carrots grow underground you need to start with well drained, loose soil.

This is key.  No rocks or sticks.  You want that carrot to have no resistance as it grows.  If you are growing in raised beds you are probably ahead of the game here.   Carrots like a soil pH of  5.5 – 6.5.

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia
Carrot seeds are very small and can be a challenge to work with.

Carrot seeds are very tiny.  Once you have your soil rock-free, smooth it out for planting.  There are two schools of thought in how to plant carrot seeds.  One way is to plant in traditional rows.  Another thought is if you have a defined area, like in a community garden raised bed plot, to broadcast the seeds.  Either way just lay the seeds on the soil bed and then sprinkle about 1/4 inch of soil on top. Consider mixing in a few radish seeds at planting.  They come up quickly and can help mark your rows, if you are a row planter.  And, they will help prevent the soil from crusting.

To ensure good seed-to-soil contact with such small seeds it is a good idea to lightly tamp the soil down.  A tamper is useful here to put just enough pressure for that contact without compacting the soil.  Water in.  Be patient as carrots take several weeks to germinate.

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia
This homemade tamper is just a 12 inch 2 X 4 attached to a waist high 1 X 1. The weight of the tamper is enough to ensure good seed to soil contact. Just lightly tamp the ground; no need to push down.

Mulch is important here.  The temperatures are still warm and you want to try and keep the soil moisture even.

Once the carrots come up thinning is essential.

If the carrots become too crowded underground, they can become stunted.  Thinning is a pain, especially if you broadcast planted.  But, don’t skip this step.  Instead of pulling up the thinnings, just use a snipper to cut the seedlings off at the root.  This will minimize disturbance of the remaining plants.  The goal is about 2 inches between carrots.

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia
These carrots ended up a bit close to each other.

Pay attention to the days until harvest number on the seed packets.  As the soil cools the carrots actually get sweeter.  Some gardeners leave the carrots in the ground over the winter with good results.  When harvesting be very gentle so you don’t damage your crop.

When choosing a cultivar remember that all carrots don’t have to be orange.  Chantenay Red Core has a reddish color while Purple Haze is obviously purple.  Danvers 126, Scarlet Nantes, and Nantes are all recommended orange cultivars.  Look for them at feed and seed stores, old hardware stores, and even big box retailers.  If you want to try something new there are several seed

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia
Even in Skagway Alaska, people like to grow food in community gardens. This plot had a mix of carrots, lettuce, and violets.

companies like Burpee and Johnny’s Selected Seeds that have interesting choices in their catalogs.  If you have any questions about growing carrots contact your local UGA Extension Agent.  He/She will have great advice.

Happy Gardening!