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!

 

 

 

The Five Step Felling Plan – Step 3 – Plan Your Escape Route

The Five Step Felling Plan - Step 3 - Plan Your Escape Route

You need a safe, clear escape route when felling a tree.

90-15-5 Rule

90% of the accidents during felling occur within 15 seconds after the tree moves and within 5 ft of the trunk. This is called the 90-15-5 rule.

Within the radius of the tree there are two high danger zones and two safer retreat routes. The first and largest high danger zone occupies a half circle from the center of the tree going outward in the direction of the fall. The second high danger zone is a quarter-circle area in the direction opposite the felling direction. You can be hurt in this area if the trunk jumps the stump, sets back, or the tree barber chairs.

Escape Route

Your escape route is in the 45-degree angles between these danger zones. Your retreat distance should be a minimum of 20 feet from the falling tree. Clear away all obstacles – such as debris or brush – that might slow you down or trip you up. You should be able to make your escape without turning your back on the falling tree.

Once you’ve identified your escape path, communicate your plan of work and retreat route to others on the work site. Discuss potential hazards; co-workers may have observed something you missed.

If the escape route is so important, why wait till the third step of the felling plan? The escape route is determined by the direction of tree fall. You will need to determine the height of the tree, identify hazards, measure lean, and assess your available equipment before you can fully determine the felling direction. If you change the felling direction for any reason, you need a new escape route.

This guy knows how to clean up his escape route.

Fayette County is Famous for this Garden

There is a garden in Fayette County that is considered the model for gardens donating vegetables to local food banks, Plant A Row Garden for the Hungry sponsored by Fayette County Master Gardener Association and Fayette County Master Gardener Extension Volunteers.  In 2016, their garden yield was 22,194 pounds of produce.  That is alot of food! Potatoes, okra, peppers, corn, peas, watermelon, are all grown on the one acre garden plot.

How do they consistently get such a high yield?

I sat down with three of the gardeners, Lester Bray, Vauna Bellury, and Ginger Vawter  to ask that question.  This garden is run by volunteers with many people working several hours a week.  It is a labor of love as they know that what they grow will be on the plates of people who really need the food.  Meeting this need is a driving force for all of the gardeners.

Fayette County is Famous for this Garden
Lester Bray

Their horticultural secret is plasticulture.

The garden uses plasticulture to keep down weed, insect, and disease pressure.  Recently they acquired the machine that punches holes in the plastic.  Until then, all of those planting holes were punched by hand.  They have had so much success with this method that Mr. Bray has written a book on the subject.  He says he wants to get the word out that this is the way to grow food in Georgia.

The information is posted on plasticulturefarming.com.  Mr. Bray allows anyone to download the information free of charge.

The gardeners use the garden to grow food all year long.  Many gardeners enjoy a break in the cool-season but many cool-season crops (broccoli, spinach, onions, peas, lettuce) grow well in Georgia.

Fayette County is Famous for this Garden
Peas!

This garden is known throughout the region.  Others who want to start a Plant a Row visits with Mr. Bray and his crew to get tips.   A peach grower reached out to the group to help him distribute extra peaches.  It has snowballed into an incredible operation.

Fayette County Extension Agent Kim Toal says, “Our volunteers dedicated to this project and to the individuals it serves embodies the true spirit of a volunteer and giving back to our community.   Not only do our volunteers do an outstanding job every year to provide nutritious food to those in need, they willingly share their knowledge at garden workdays and to other organizations interested in starting a similar garden.”

To those of us who garden in the Georgia soil their garden is an inspiration.  For those in Fayette County that have fresh vegetables and fruit on their plates the garden is a true blessing.

Be inspired!

The Five Step Felling Plan – Step 2 – Gather Your Equipment

The Five Step Felling Plan - Step 2 - Gather Your Equipment

Safety isn’t just a slogan, it’s a way of life.

First and foremost, make sure you have your PPE on. Starting at the top, a helmet, safety glasses, ear protection, gloves, chainsaw pants or chaps, and finally, boots, preferably with steel toes.

Now determine what equipment is needed to assist the tree in its intended path of fall.

You will need a well-maintained and properly running chainsaw that has an engine which can safely operate a bar length slightly longer than the diameter of the tree. The chain should be sharp and in good repair.

If the tree has back or side lean, a throw line and rope or mechanical advantage set may be needed to help pull the tree over.

Wedges are required equipment on-site any time a tree is being felled. You may need multiple wedges and an axe to drive them. Wedges are a great way to provide mechanical advantage to a tree.

It is a good practice to place a wedge in the back cut of any tree being felled, regardless of the direction of lean.

Move all the equipment you have determined you will need to the base of the trunk. If you don’t have all the equipment you need, then walk away and save the job for another day when you do have the equipment.

Help Fight Crime

If you are a landscape professional, know a landscape professional or employee a landscape company who has been a victim of theft, please share this with them.

These crimes are escalating – a local company was shot at and robbed at gunpoint. The Georgia Urban Ag Council is tracking these crimes to give data to local law enforcement. Email mkw@georgiauac.com or call 1-800-687-6949. Please help spread the word.

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!

 

The Five Step Felling Plan – Step 1 – Heights, Hazards, and Lean

The Five Step Felling Plan - Step 1 - Heights, Hazards, and Lean

Safety isn’t a word, it’s an action plan.

Before you drop a tree, you need a plan. The Five Step Felling Plan can save your life.

The first step of the Felling Plan is called heights, hazards, and lean. You cannot drop a tree safely with out determining the height, assessing the tree and area for hazards, and measuring lean.

How tall is the tree?

There are many ways to determine the height of a tree. There are cell phone apps that can help you, and tools such as a clinometer or transit. The technique demonstrated here relies on free equipment almost always available at your work site: a stick!

The stick trick for measuring tree height is easy and fairly accurate. You need to find a stick as long as the distance between your hand, when your arm is outstretched, and your eye. (Measure with your safety glasses on! Don’t poke out your eye!) Break off the stick or just hold it in your hand at that length.

  • Line your hand up with the spot on the tree where you will cut the notch.
  • Rotate the stick 90 degrees without moving your head or dropping your arm.
  • Then walk backwards, away from the tree, until the tip of the stick is even with the top of the tree.
  • It is important to hold your hand and arm still and to move your eyes, and not your head when you are lining up the tree.

When the tip of the stick lines up with the tip of the tree, you should be standing where the tip of the tree will fall.

The height estimate must be adjusted for front and back lean and topography. If the tree leans forward the height will be over estimated and if it has back lean, this method will underestimate the height. Similarly if the tree is on a slope falling up hill the height estimate will be low and if it is falling downhill the height will be overestimated.

What are the hazards?

Some sites are loaded with hazards!Next, it is time to look for hazards. Take a walk around the tree and look at it very carefully. There are many potential hazards. Anything the tree may hit on the way down is also a hazard. Buildings, fountains, electrical wires, people, wildlife, and cars are just a few of the hazards that must be avoided.

Another tree which can change the direction of the fall or hangup the tree you want to fell is a potential hazard.

 

Some sites are loaded with hazards!

We talked about hazards found on the tree itself in the previous newsletter, but I have to remind you to take a good look at the tree as well.

Does the tree lean?

Does the tree lean?There is an easy way to tell if a tree has lean. Make a circle by placing your index fingers and thumbs together. Peer through the circle and step back until you have most of the tree’s canopy in the circle. Drop an imaginary line from your index fingers and thumbs to the ground. How far is that line from the base of the tree? In this case it is 4 feet.

 

Lean needs to be measured at two separate locations. First measure lean in the line along which you intend to drop the tree. Then, move 90 degrees perpendicular to that and measure lean.

Generally if the tree has 3 feet or less of side lean, the notch may be adjusted to compensate. If it has more than 3 feet of side lean the tree will not fall in its intended path and you must come up with a new plan.

If you decide to adjust the line in which the tree will be felled, re-assess the lean again in the new line of fall and again, 90 degrees perpendicular to it.

When you finish this first step, you should have identified an intended path of fall.

We usually end with a video, but there are so many on YouTube in which cutters failed to assess Height, Hazards, and Lean that it is pointless to select one here.

Equipment Theft Escalates

The Georgia Urban Ag Council, a professional organization representing the Georgia landscape industry, is working to find solutions to the issue of equipment theft at worksites, offices, and storage facilities. This week, an incident in Lilburn ended with gun shots fired at landscape employees who discovered perpetrators stealing equipment from the company box truck.  The Georgia Urban Ag Council has established a Twitter account titled “GA Landscape Thefts” and is compiling information, articles, and reports from owners and residents experiencing equipment theft. Armed with this data, the UAC hopes to assist law enforcement agencies, equipment manufacturers, and suppliers in determining a course of action to reduce losses.

Here are some general equipment theft prevention strategies to consider:

  1. Train employees on company procedures to deter equipment theft.  In addition, discuss what to do in the event of a theft or robbery.
  2. Take Inventory: Establish a routine of equipment inventory. Keep documentation and photo records of serial numbers, makes, and models of equipment.
  3. Parking strategy: Be strategic about where you park your vehicle on each jobsite or lunch destination. Park in well lighted locations visible to the work crew and avoid leaving equipment unattended in back lots or hidden areas that are conducive to theft. Position trailers so they aren’t easily accessed or swapped to another vehicle.
  4. Deterrents: Lock vehicles, trailers, trailer tongues, and secure equipment when unattended. Don’t leave keys in trucks or commercial mowers.
  5. Tracking Devices:  Install tracking devices on large equipment.
  6. Be Alert: Pay attention to suspicious activity.
  7. Insurance: Review your policy and ask your insurance provider about theft prevention.

Related Articles & News:
http://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/248268869-story

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!

 

 

Site Assessment: The Tree

Take a Good Look at the Tree

Take a Good Look at the Tree

Safety isn’t just a slogan, it’s a way of life.


Before you cut or climb a tree, take time to assess the tree for hazards. Put your hard hat on and take a good look at the tree. Some tree dangers are readily visible, but others can be hiding inside the tree. Danger signs may be subtle, so make a thoughtful inspection of the tree from the ground on up to the top of the crown or canopy.

Inspect the Tree

Make sure you can see the tree clearly.

Pull all the leaf litter and/or mulch away from the base and the root flares. Then remove all vines from the area and the trunk so you can do a clear, visual examination.

Inspect the tree for weaknesses at the base. These are signs and symptoms of root collar decay:

  • Loose and dead bark
  • Conks or mushrooms
  • Crack in the lower trunk
  • Sap flow from lower trunk
  • Abnormal root flares, diminished, or loss of root flares.
  • Soil mounding or grade changes
  • Cracks in the soil from ground heaving

Look for cracks, cankers and cavities in the trunk. Strike the base of the tree with a rubber mallet. If this produces a dull sound, the tree is rotten.

Look up into the canopy and among the limbs. Look for fungi on branches and identify dead, broken and/or lodged branches. These are potential falling hazards known as “widow-makers.”

Beware of the Resident Wildlife

Cavities may host more than rot: They may also be nesting sites for wildlife, including slumbering bats, defensive birds, and stinging insects. Noise, droppings, stains on the bark, and insect or animal activity are indications that some critter calls the tree cavity home. Squirrels, birds, and bats may roost in limbs, as well.

Consider the Tree’s Environment

Environmental conditions and surrounding trees should be considered. In wet conditions, saturated soil can lead to root destabilization and trees prone to uprooting. Root pruning caused by construction can increase the chances a tree will fall. Removal of surrounding trees that exposes trees to strong winds can also weaken trees. Check out the video below.

 

Eerie Footage of Earth Breathing in Nova Scotia 2015

Have you seen this earth breathing video? It is all over the internet and there are many silly explanations offered. This one has it right.