Landscape Alerts & Updates | September 2019


Insufficient production and storage of photosynthates during the fall transition into dormancy can translate to issues during spring green-up.  Drought stressed turfgrass in August 2016 (Left) was able to recover prior to dormancy following appreciable rainfall (Right). However, we are seeing drought-stressed turfgrass in September of 2019 and the dormancy transition is quickly approaching.  Photo by Clint Waltz, UGA.

Tips for managing drought stressed turfgrass as dormancy approaches

by Clint Waltz

During periods of hot and dry weather, certain modifications to your lawn maintenance practices will help to carry your turfgrass through periods of inadequate rainfall and reduce losses. The height of the warm-season turfgrass growing season spans from May to October. Given average conditions (regular rainfall and moderate temperatures), bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, St. Augustinegrass, centipedegrass, and other warm-season species respond quickly to cultural and maintenance practices such as mowing, fertilizing, aerating, topdressing, and weed management.  However, the summer of 2019 has delivered hot and dry weather with sporadic rainfall.  With fall approaching, now is the time to adjust your turfgrass management program to promote a smooth transition into dormancy and green-up next spring.

From mid- through late-summer rainfall across Georgia has been variable with some areas receiving timely rain and other areas being droughty.  Moisture stress in turfgrasses can be recognized in the early stages by a dull bluish-gray cast.  Additionally, take note of footprints and tire tracks in the turf that do not seem to rebound.  If you are in an area that has lacked rain, consider applying some irrigation to get the grass growing.

Dr. Clint Waltz, UGA Extension Turfgrass Specialist, suggests these tips for managing turfgrass as it transitions into dormancy:

  1. Raise the cutting height within the recommended mowing range
  2. Do not apply nitrogen containing fertilizers
  3. Modify herbicide programs during high temperatures and moisture stress
  4. Water deeply & infrequently
  5. Grasscycle
  6. Use water conserving and drought tolerant turfgrasses

Raise the Cutting Height

Turfgrass stress can be reduced by using a sharp mower blade and raising the cutting height by 1/2″ or to the tallest allowable height of the recommended mowing range during drought.  A clean cut also reduces moisture loss through wounds and minimizes entry points for disease.  Taller shoots promote deeper roots and a dense canopy can help to reduce ground surface temperatures and conserve moisture.  Grasscycling (mulching clippings versus bagging) can also help to conserve moisture.

Avoid Nitrogen Applications

As grasses move into dormancy they need to “harden-off”.  Nitrogen fertilization encourages new shoot growth which directs plant sugars, and other metabolites, away from storage organs (e.g. rhizomes, stolons, and crown).  These storage organs and sugars provide the energy for the grass to green-up next spring. By allowing the plant to harden-off and accumulate sugars in the storage structures, the grass is better able to survive winter stresses and recover next year.

Modify Herbicide Programs During High Temperatures and Drought

Many herbicides act upon plant growth processes and can be less effective during periods of drought when weeds are not actively growing. In addition, certain herbicides may cause damage to drought-stressed turf or non-target landscape plants due to volatilization and drift during high temperatures. Review your pesticide labels for specific information regarding temperature requirements, watering requirements, and proper application.

Water Deeply and Infrequently

The optimum watering schedule can be roughly determined by observing the number of days that pass between signs of moisture stress. Apply sufficient water to saturate the root zone to a depth of 6-8 inches.  Clay soils and sloped areas may require staggered watering intervals to allow time for water infiltration between cycles and prevent runoff.  Irrigating in early morning conserves water by reducing evaporation and drift.  A good practice is to align watering schedules with drought management rules so that in the event of a declared drought, the appropriate watering program is already in place.  The 2010 Water Stewardship Act permits lawn watering between the hours of 4:00pm and 10:00am.

Use Water Conserving and Drought Tolerant Turfgrass Cultivars

The University of Georgia Turfgrass breeding programs continue to make excellent strides in developing improved cultivars with low water use and high drought tolerance. For new installations or where turfgrass replacement is needed, look for improved cultivars such as TifTuf bermudagrass.  Visit www.GeorgiaTurf.com for more information on selecting turfgrasses.

Squash Problem Cheat Sheet

October is Farm to School Month and this year in Georgia we are celebrating with Oh My Squash!. Several of you have grown squash with success and several of you have grown it with less success. For future reference we have created this squash problem cheat sheet. As you plan for your next crop of squash, keep these techniques in mind:

SquashPestManagementFactsheet_Print

Wishing you a bright squash gardening future!

Serve Squash Year-Round – A Guest Post from Bob Westerfield

October is Farm to School Month and this year Georgia is celebrating with Oh My Squash! You can visit the project webpage for more information on how to participate. Many of you may be growing a late crop of squash for this campaign so I thought it was worth reposting Bob Westerfield’s article on growing squash. He is a UGA horticulturalist and our go-to guy for vegetable production.   Bob writes:

To most Southern gardeners, fried yellow squash or grilled zucchini are staples on the table during the summer. Serving up home grown winter squash in the fall is worthy of bragging rights.

While normally easy to grow, the endless choice of varieties and numerous garden pests have made growing squash a little more challenging. Squash come in an endless assortment of shapes, sizes and colors. Choosing the right variety can seem daunting. The squash vine borer, a persistent pest, has caused some gardeners to give up on growing squash.

Read moreServe Squash Year-Round – A Guest Post from Bob Westerfield

Oh My Squash! Farm to School Month 2019

October is Farm to School Month and schools and early care centers across Georgia are celebrating all things squash!  Oh My Squash! is a state-wide celebration to get kids eating, growing and participating in squash-themed activities. UGA Cooperative Extension is a partner in the project and we are excited about the month! To participate in Oh My Squash at your school, early care center, or in your community, visit the webpage.

Squash plant
Squash plants in the garden

Participants will receive free electronic resources to help you plan and implement your activities.  Resources include standards-based lesson plans, quick activities, recipes, videos, school garden planting and harvesting information, and more!

The first 300 people to sign-up will be mailed a free packet of squash seeds, washable squash tattoos, and a Georgia Planting and Harvest Calendar for school gardens. Share your Oh My Squash pictures and activities on social media with #ohmysquash.

Each week during October, anyone who uses this hashtag will be entered to win a gift card and at the end of the month, we will have a grand prize winner of a two day education pass to the Georgia Organics Conference on Feb. 7-8, 2020 in Athens (a $425 value)!

As you plan your Oh My Squash! activities use your local UGA Cooperative Extension office. They can assist with ideas on preparing squash taste tests for the classroom and advice on growing and harvesting the squash in your school garden.

Happy Gardening and Eating!

The School Garden and Your Classroom Curriculum

Little Red school house

School is back in session over most of the state and with that school gardens are being used in curriculum. Hopefully teachers came back to a neat and weed-free space. In the perfect world, teachers would come back to crops planted and paths cleared. If neither of those is your school, you definitely have some work to do this year in building your school garden committee!

Over the coming weeks we will be exploring how to tie your school garden into your classroom curriculum. I look forward to hearing from you all on ideas that you have as well.

This week I want to make sure that all educators are aware of the Great Georgia Pollinator Census. This is happening Friday, August 23rd and Saturday, August 24th. This program is perfect for school gardeners. I have been working with teachers across the state to help them craft events for their students. All that is needed is pollinator garden or an area with several pollinator plants blooming during the census.

For fifteen minutes, participants count insects that land on a favorite pollinator plant and place the insects into categories:

Carpenter Bees
Bumble Bees
Honey Bees
Small Bees
Wasps
Flies
Butterflies/Moths
Other Insects

The Insect Counting & Identification Guide is found on the website and is the key to success with the project. The observation sheet can be printed and carried to the garden and actual counts will be uploaded to the website. You do not need a strong entomology background to be successful with this project.

Two years of pilot projects helped us refine the project and make it ideal for upper elementary through high school students. It fits in perfectly with STEAM curriculums. The website also has a special page for educators with ideas on how to use the census with your students. We also have a Facebook group, Georgia Pollinator Census, where educators have been sharing ideas.

Happy Gardening!

Planning Your Georgia Fall Vegetable Garden

Although the thermometer is rising above ninety on a daily basis and our Georgia humidity is, well, the typical Georgia humidity, it is time to do some serious thinking about your fall garden.

Did you make notes on your summer garden? Making notes about which varieties performed well for you, what pests plagued you, and your overall satisfaction from your warm-season garden will be useful as you plan for 2020. Also, make note of plant arrangement so you can practice crop rotation next year.

Think Green. Fall is the time for lettuce, spinach, collards, mustard greens and kale. Your seed catalogs will show you that there are so many varieties of lettuce that you couldn’t possibly grow them all. Do try a few new ones. They could make a real difference in the taste of your salads. I really enjoy the lettuce variety Drunken Woman!

Bush beans can be a part of your early fall garden. A planting of bush beans towards the end of summer may produce a nice crop for you if we don’t get an early frost. Take note of the days until harvest count and look for something in the lower numbers. Look for varieties that are resistant to rusts and keep a close eye on them for pests like Mexican bean beetles.

Don’t forget root crops. Short day onions and garlic are a MUST for any cool-season garden. Plant these root crops as sets and let them go until the spring. It is easy to grow all the garlic you will need for the year by careful planning. Make sure to mulch the crop.

Finally, if you don’t plan to grow a cool-season crop consider growing a cover crop. Cover crops can hold down weeds while enriching your soil. At the very least please be courteous to your fellow community gardeners and clean out your plot, removing plant debris that could harbor pests and weeds that could produce seeds that you will deal with later.

Cooler weather is on the way! Happy Gardening!

Farm to School National Act of 2019

On Thursday, June 27th, a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders introduced the Farm to School Act of 2019 (H.R. 3562, S. 2026). The bill, which is co-sponsored by Georgia’s own David Perdue, will expand funding and opportunities for farmers and educational institutions through the USDA Farm to School Grant Program.

The Farm to School Act would:

Increase annual funding to $15 million and increasing the grant award maximum to $250,000.

Advance equity by prioritizing grants that engage diverse farmers and serve high-need schools.

Fully include early care and education sites, summer food service sites & after school programs.

Increase access among tribal schools to traditional foods, especially from tribal producers.

The Farm to School Grant program has turned away approximately 80% of qualified applicants due to lack of funds so this new bill comes at a good time. The farm to school movement is truly a grassroots effort. Georgia’s Farm to School Network is made up of several collaborative partners working on school nutrition, farmer opportunity, and school gardens.

This bill goes hand-in-hand with the Georgia Agricultural Education Act (Georgia State Senate Bill 330) which was signed by Governor Nathan Deal in 2018.

It is exciting to see these forward steps in agricultural education.

Happy Gardening!

A Look at Victory Gardens for July the 4th

Around the July 4th holiday it is fun to think about our collective American history.  Gardens have always been a part of that. The Victory Garden movement during World War II is fascinating.

A Look at Victory Gardens

A shortage of farm labor developed during World War II that made it difficult to get crops harvested.  Add to that the gasoline and rubber shortages which made it difficult to get the crops to the market.  In response the US government started promoting Victory Gardens, encouraging people in more urban environments to grow food crops.

It is estimated that 20 million Americans did their gardening duty and produced 9-10 million tons of food.  This equated to roughly half the vegetables grown in the US at that time.  This initiative also freed up canned goods for the troops.

Schools even got involved creating school Victory Gardens.

A Look at Victory Gardens
A school Victory Garden in New York. Photo from the Library of Congress.

Businesses jumped on board this promotion.  One popular Coca-Cola advertisement stated, “There is a Victory Garden in almost every back yard this summer, growing food and vitamins for the family.  The owners are so proud of their vegetables as of their specimen roses or dahlias.  Friends in work clothes come over to admire and compare crops.  They eat tomatoes right off the vine and crunch carrots fresh from the earth.”  The advertisement goes on to say that serving Coca-Cola is the correct hospitality in a Victory Garden.

The US government encouraged Victory Gardens during World War I as well but the movement wasn’t as massive.  This Department of Agriculture and Commerce promotion from that time is almost comical.  Who is this woman suppose to be?  Notice the expression on her face and her very toned arms. Who gardens in sandals?   She is going to have alot of thinning to do if all those seeds germinate.

 

A Look at Victory Gardens

I would like to have a copy of the books advertised at the bottom of the poster:  Write to the National War Garden Commission ~Washington, D.C. for free books on gardening, canning, and drying.

After World War II the interest in home vegetable gardening waned.  It seems people were interested in peacetime activities and conveniences, including purchasing vegetables at the market.

Vegetable gardening is a large part of our American heritage.  From colonial kitchens to victory/war gardens to community gardens to a garden at the White House.  It is great to be a part of it.

Happy  4th of July!

Horticultural Therapy in the Garden

On Monday I was privileged to be part of a Community/School/Charity Garden Symposium in Hendersonville, North Carolina sponsored by Steve Pettis of North Carolina Cooperative Extension. One of the presenters was John Murphy, the director of Bullington Gardens. His lecture was so impressive that I wanted to share a bit of it with you.

Bullington Gardens is located in Hendersonville and is a partner with North Carolina Cooperative Extension and Henderson County Public Schools. Mr. Murphy has a Master of Science degree in horticulture and is a registered horticultural therapist and a certified teacher. He puts these skills to good use when he works with his passion of helping challenged students in the garden.

Over 10% of Henderson County students are challenged learners. For those students with physical challenges John works with them on pushing their boundaries using the garden as the setting. For one student holding a trowel was a challenge but being in the garden and possibly working in the soil was motivation and over time that student held that trowel. This is just one of many successes at Bullington Gardens.

John also works with students who have communication challenges and those in high school who are being groomed to head to the work place. He hosts a group of intern workers each year who are asked to design a garden at the end of their experience. At the beginning of the internship several students feel that task is impossible. By the end, with the help of John and his volunteers, the garden projects are completed and the students are awed at what they can do. John says his goal is to bring joy to those students who work in the garden and he certainly seems to do just that.

As community gardeners we know that the garden is powerful. The group at Bullington Gardens just gave us another reason why.

Happy Gardening!