Increase Your School Garden Scope by Saving Seeds

School gardens routinely grow food crops, create pollinator habitat, and even replicate historic gardens. They are an integral part of school curriculum used to teach botany, math, nutrition, history, literature and even geography.  However, the one area lacking in the hundreds of school gardens that I have visited is seed saving. Seed saving can be an important horticultural part of the garden as well as an additional avenue for tying the garden to school curriculum. With a bit of botany background, proper seed saving is not difficult and will be a fun part of your garden!

Bean seed

Until modern times seed collecting was the only way a gardener had seed for the next year. Seed was shared with neighbors and passed down from generation to generation (heirloom seeds). Seeds were taken across oceans and over the American prairie and they are an important part of our agricultural history.  Your students may have heirloom seeds stories to share.  In my area of Southern Appalachia seed saving is part of many family heritages.

Seeds 101

Bean seed

Hybrid plants are not appropriate for seed saving. They are bred to amplify a certain trait such as disease resistance or larger fruit and are produced by cross-breeding two plants with different genetics.  Tomatoes are a great example.  Most of the tomatoes grown in backyards are hybrid tomatoes with names like Better Boy and Early Girl.  Although these varieties produce delicious tomatoes, they are not appropriate for seed saving.

Hybrid plants produce seeds that are genetically unreliable or not true-to-type. These seeds are undesirable for seed saving.

Open-pollinated plants are the type of plants we want for seed collecting.  They are pollinated naturally and will produce seeds that are true-to-type if they are isolated from other varieties. So, it is important for the school gardener to choose only one variety of the seed producing plant.  For example, do not plant Calypso beans in the same area as Hidatsa beans.  They could possibly cross-pollinate resulting in seeds not true-to-type.  A garden of only Calypso beans will produce true Calypso bean seed! Larger gardens follow the recommended isolation distance for seed saving for most beans that is 10-20 feet.

With the smaller space of a school garden, it is best to choose one variety of the seed producing plant type for seed saving.

SEED SAVING AND YOUR SCHOOL CURRICULUM

Lesson ideas are numerous:

  • Pollination – what exactly is pollination and fertilization
  • Pollinators – how is pollen spread
  • History – heirloom seeds
  • Geography – how did crops spread around the world
  • Math – how many seeds produced per plant/fruit/bean pod
  • Genetics – Hybrid plants and gene traits
  • Cultural Studies – choose plants with cultural significance such as Chinese long beans or tomatillos
  • Literature – research how seeds came from Europe and Africa to become part of our agricultural system

Seed Savers has a website full of seed collecting information. Your local land grant Cooperative Extension office can assist you in choosing varieties of plants that will work well for seed saving and will grow well in your area.  Over the next several weeks we will explore seed collecting in more detail so grab your seed catalogs and start planning your spring seed collecting garden.

Monarchs Migrate Through Georgia

It is the time of the year when Georgians look to the sky to watch for signs of Monarch migration. These butterflies are on their way to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico to overwinter on the oyamel fir trees of the area. The fir trees provide the perfect climate with a combination of optimal temperature and humidity to ensure the butterflies survive the winter. It is amazing to realize that this super-generation of migrating butterflies endure the hazards of the trip to go to a place that they have never been before.

Fall Monarch Migration Routes  Source:  USGS National Atlas

Reports around Georgia are that Monarch populations are high. A poll taken of insect enthusiasts showed that 83% have seen Monarchs heading south this year. Thirty percent of the respondents indicated that they are seeing a higher number of Monarchs than last year. This is terrific news as Monarch population numbers have been inconsistent over the last several seasons.

To increase the chances of seeing this phenomenon and to assist the butterflies create a fall migration garden. Monarchs will descend from their high migration path looking for food resources. Research shows that migrating butterflies respond to tall flowers that are easily accessible. Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum), goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) are all proven Monarch attractors in the fall. Several of our fall-blooming native aster plants (Aster spp.) are perfect for these butterflies as well. The butterflies do not need milkweed (Ascelpias spp.), their larval host plant, at this time of the year. But be sure to include milkweed in your summer butterfly garden.

To follow the Monarch migration and to report your butterfly populations visit Journey North (https://journeynorth.org/monarchs). This organization has tabulated the reports of citizen scientists for many years and is a great resource for school groups. Monarch Watch (https://www.monarchwatch.org) provides online information for learning about these insects and their habitat needs. Contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension agent for more information about butterfly gardening and habitat building. If you miss seeing the fall migration spend time getting your garden ready for the Monarch return in the spring!

Happy Butterfly Watching!

Landscape Alerts & Updates | June 2019

Photo by Clint Waltz, UGA.

Nostoc Algae in Turfgrass

Guest post by Clint Waltz, Ph.D., University of Georgia Turfgrass Specialist.
(Turfgrass Blog #4: 2019 Edition, June 10, 2019)

With the recent dry weather encouraging the use, and possible overuse, of irrigation systems then the recent tropical conditions – rainfall and humidity – I have had several pictures and questions about a jelly-like substance growing in the turf.  The jelly-like “stuff” is a Nostoc algae,a genus of cyanobacterium formerly classified as blue-green algae.  It has multiple common names like star jelly, witch’s butter, and others.

Under warm temperatures Nostoc may appear suddenly in lawns, and other turf areas, following a period of rain and can be an indication of overwatering.  In turf, it is generally on a site where the grass is growing poorly due to severe compaction, overwatering, or both.  It does not cause turf decline or death; it colonizes areas where it has favorable growing conditions and the grass was already thin.  Poor drainage and compacted soils create a favorable environment for Nostoc. It will dry-out if the water or rainfall diminishes but it has only gone into dormancy.  With enough moisture, it will come back to “life”.

In its hydrated, gelatinous, green state it can be a safety hazard.  It is slippery.  Be careful walking on it.  However, when it dries-out it can become restrictive to turfgrass growth.  Nostoc dries into a black crust that can prevent stolons from rooting, or “tacking”, into the soil, delaying turfgrass growth and spread.

Nostoc can be difficult to control.  To discourage its growth, encourage the growth of the grass.  Algae is less of an issue with an actively growing turfgrass canopy.  The first step is to check the irrigation system to make sure it is watering properly (i.e. not too regular or too much).  The turfgrass species we grow in Georgia perform better when grown on the slightly dry side, so scaling back the irrigation and adjusting the irrigation schedule will benefit the grass and can discourage the algae.

Improve internal soil and surface drainage.  Core aeration opens the soil, allows oxygen into the root system, and reduces compaction.  While allowing the soil surface to dry-out then breaking up the Nostic “crust” by scarifying the upper ¼- to ½-inch can break the algae into pieces and encourage its spread, it also permits the turfgrass stolons to root into thin areas and outcompete the Nostoc.  With proper irrigation and core aerification the grass can cover and eventually predominate the area where the Nostoc was present.

For more information on Nostoc Algae, contact your local UGA Extension Agent at 1-800-ASK-UGA1, or click below to find your local office information.

 

Controlling Moss and Algae in Turf, UGA Extension Circular #823.
https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C823&title=Controlling%20Moss%20and%20Algae%20in%20Turf

Landscape Alerts and Updates | April 2019

Spring Equipment Theft

Each spring, as the demand for landscape services swings into high gear, equipment theft escalates.  Several members of the Georgia Green Industry Association and the Georgia Urban Ag Council report having their businesses hit with equipment theft.  Criminals are stealing equipment in storage and on the job.

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 routine equipment inventory. Keep documentation and photo records of serial numbers and models.
  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. Reposition vehicles on large properties: Avoid leaving trucks far away from workers on large properties and keep trucks close.
  5. Deterrents: Lock vehicles, trailers, trailer tongues, and secure equipment when unattended. Don’t leave keys in trucks or commercial mowers.
  6. Security Cameras: If site has security cameras park where equipment can be seen by cameras. Install security cameras and sensor beams on storage areas.
  7. Tracking Devices:  Install tracking devices on large equipment.
  8. Be Alert: Pay attention to suspicious activity.
  9. Insurance: Review your policy and ask your insurance provider about theft prevention.
  10. Communicate with local law enforcement about landscape equipment theft or suspicious activity in your area.

Professional organizations play an important role in helping to find solutions to the issues of equipment theft at worksites, offices, and storage facilities. Supporting these entities through membership and communication strengthens industry efforts to combat crime. The Georgia Urban Ag Council maintains a Twitter account titled “GA Landscape Thefts” to compile 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.

Trying Something New in the Georgia Community Garden – Peanuts

Today we start our series on growing something new in the community garden. Have you tried growing peanuts? When I worked on a 4-acre farm garden we grew peanuts every year. The students visiting our garden LOVED peanut harvest. It is like a treasure hunt when peanuts are dug. Will there actually be nuts? How many will we get? Once the peanuts actually come out of the ground I would hear gasps. Really.

I think peanuts are a natural fit for a community garden. Commercially grown peanuts are grown in South Georgia where the soil is loose and sandy. Within the bounds of a community garden bed you can create that loose soil.

Peanuts are fascinating plants. The plant produces yellow flowers. After flowering the plant “pegs” by sending shoots back into the ground. The peanuts are formed then. The National Peanut Board has information on how peanuts grow.

To add to the peanut growing appeal, I have been involved in “peanut butter and jelly” gardens where we grew muscadines near the peanut beds. The Georgia Peanut Commission has an informative webpage including recipes.

I realize that if you work in a children’s garden you have to be mindful of peanut allergies, but if that is not a concern for you consider peanuts for your 2019 garden plot!

Happy Gardening!

Making Use of Seed Catalogs All Year Long

The seed catalogs keep arriving. In my household that is cause for excitement. I save them until I have time to properly enjoy looking through them. What do you do with your seed catalogs after you have looked through them and placed your orders? If you throw them into the recycling bin you are missing out as these gems are full of useful information.

If you are a school gardener, or a community gardener that works with youth, the seed catalogs can be used throughout the year! To start with you can laminate the beautiful photos to use as plant markers.

You can use the information provided in the catalog for lessons:

The seed spacing guide can be used for students to create a garden bed design.

The days to harvest information can be used for students to determine the planting dates of their garden design so that all the produce is ready at the same time.

The cost of the seed packages can be used to calculate the cost of the garden design.

All of this information can be used to calculate how much produce can be grown per square foot (inch, meter).

Students can look through the catalog and pick a vegetable they have never tried before.

Students could look through the catalog, find a favorite vegetable, and re-write the plant description.

Happy browsing!

Fall Festivals and Your Community Garden

October means fall festivals and seasonal events across the state of Georgia. From Blue Ridge to Savannah, from Augusta to Columbus everyone is celebrating fall. What is your community garden doing to celebrate? This time of year is perfect for emphasizing the “community” in your garden. Some suggestions:

Host scarecrows in the garden! This is done with flair at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the Research and Education Garden in Griffin. Why not your garden? Ask local businesses, civic groups or schools to create a scarecrow to exhibit. This could be a contest where visitors vote and a local celebrity awards the prize. For a twist have the exhibitors create/decorate crow birds which can perch with a spooky flair in the garden. Craft stores sell crow bird props at low prices, easy to decorate.

Season storytelling in the garden for all ages. Enlist some garden members or community leaders to lead a spooky storytelling event in the garden. Reading an Edgar Allen Poe story or poem dressed in period costume would create excitement for sure. If your garden is large enough you could station readers around the plots.

Have a pumpkin decorating contest. Even if your garden does not grow pumpkins you could purchase some from a church pumpkin sale. Or, you could use other vegetables. Have visitors decorate a pumpkin/vegetable and take the opportunity to educate community members about growing vegetables.

Celebrate with an open house. If your community already has a scarecrow exhibit or other events simply add an open house to be part of the larger town effort. An open house does not to be much work on your gardeners and would be an excellent opportunity to let your town know about your beautiful space.

Whatever you decide to do, enjoy the fall season! You’ve earned it!

Pest Alert: February Monitoring for Granulate Ambrosia Beetle

Post authored by Paul J. Pugliesea and Shimat V. Josephb

aUGA County Extension Agent/Coordinator (Bartow County), Cartersville, GA
bAssistant professor, Department of Entomology, University of Georgia – Griffin Campus.

Fig. 1 Adult beetle (left) and “tooth pick” symptom (right)

Granulate ambrosia beetleXylosandrus crassiusculus (Mot.) [Previously known as the Asian ambrosia beetle]

Introduction: Granulate ambrosia beetle (Fig. 1) is a serious pest of woody trees and shrubs in Georgia. These tiny beetles were first detected in South Carolina in the 1970’s and have spread across the southeastern US.

Host plants: Woody ornamental nursery plants and fruit trees are commonly affected. In spring or even in late winter (around mid-February), a large number of beetles can emerge and attack tree species, especially when they are young. Some highly susceptible tree species include Styrax, dogwood, redbud, maple, ornamental cherry, Japanese maple, crepe myrtle, pecan, peach, plum, persimmon, golden rain tree, sweet gum, Shumard oak, Chinese elm, magnolia, fig, and azalea.

Biology: The female beetles land on the bark of woody trees. Then, they bore through the soft wood and vascular tissues (xylem vessels and phloem) of the tree. They settle in the heartwood and begin making galleries. Eggs are laid in these galleries. Adults introduce a symbiotic fungi into the galleries as a food source for the developing larvae.

Symptoms: The initial sign of infestation is presence of boring dust pushing out of the bark as “tooth picks” (Fig. 1). Severely infested trees with granulate ambrosia beetle may show symptoms of stunting, delayed leaf emergence in spring, and extensive defoliation.

Fig. 2 Timing is a key factor in effectively managing Granulate ambrosia beetle. Monitoring traps placed in early February are useful for the early detection of beetle emergence and infestation.

Monitoring and management: Once adults of granulate ambrosia beetle bore through the bark, there are limited control options to mitigate the problem. Those settled beetles in the heartwood of the tree are less likely to be exposed to insecticides. Also, the beetles do not consume the wood, which further minimizes their pesticide exposure. Pyrethroid insecticides such as bifenthrin or permethrin can be used as preventative sprays to repel invading females. Thus, the insecticide-application timing becomes critically important for management. The insecticide applications can be timed with trap captures or adult activity. The simplest method to determine adult activity in the area is using alcohol and a bolt of wood (Fig. 2). A wood bolt (about 2 to 4-inches in diameter and 2-feet long) can be utilized. Any hardwood species such as maple will work for building traps. A half-inch diameter hole drilled at the center of the bolt, about a foot deep, is filled with alcohol and the opening can be closed using a stopper cork.  Ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol with 95-percent alcohol content (190-proof) can be found at most liquor stores. Hang several bolt traps along the woodland border of a nursery at waist height to determine beetle emergence and activity. Sawdust tooth picks (Fig. 2) begin to appear on the bolt when they are infested with adult beetles. Once tooth picks are detected on a bolt trap, daily scouting should occur on nearby trees.

An immediate spray using a pyrethroid insecticide on nursery trees is warranted upon detection of tooth picks on the bolt trap.  Be prepared and ready to act quickly as soon as beetle activity is confirmed.  If practical, the entire nursery should initially be treated with an area-wide application to repel beetle activity.  If individual trees are found to be infested, immediately destroy infested trees and follow up with targeted spray applications in blocks with beetle activity. Generally, pyrethroids are not effective for more than a week as their residues quickly breakdown. Re-application of the insecticide is generally required at weekly intervals until spring green-up is complete in areas where the beetle pressure is moderate to severe.

Healthy trees can withstand a low level of beetle infestation. Timely irrigation and adequate fertilization of trees throughout the growing season will increase a tree’s tolerance to beetle infestation.  Closely monitor traps throughout the spring for a second emergence of ambrosia beetles. Ambrosia beetles can have multiple generations throughout the year and are strongly attracted to trees that are drought stressed, injured, or excessively pruned.  Pay close attention to irrigation needs during extended summer and fall drought periods to minimize tree stresses.  Avoid mechanical wounding of trees with maintenance equipment that could invite ambrosia beetles to attack.    

When to deploy monitoring traps: The monitoring traps should be deployed starting the first week of February in Georgia because warmer periods during a mild winter may trigger early beetle emergence and infestation.

References: 

  1. Frank, and S. Bambara. 2009. The granulate (Asian) ambrosia beetle. Ornamental and turf. Insect note. North Carolina State University.
  2. Wells. 2015. Managing ambrosia beetles. UGA pecan extension

Landscape Alert – September 2017

Fall Turfgrass Disease Prevention and Control  

by Alfredo Martinez

Large Patch

Rhizoctonia large patch is the most common and severe disease of warm season grasses (bermudagrass, centipedegrass, seashore paspalum, St. Augustinegrass, and zoysiagrass) across the state of Georgia. Due to spring and fall disease-promoting environmental conditions across Georgia coinciding with grasses leaving and/or entering dormancy, large patch can appear in warm season grasses in various grass-growing settings, including home lawns, landscapes, sports fields, golf courses, and sod farms. Symptoms of this lawn disease include irregularly-shaped weak or dead patches that are from 2 feet to up to 10 feet in diameter. Inside the patch, you can easily see brown sunken areas. On the edge of the patch, a bright yellow to orange halo is frequently associated with recently affected leaves and crowns. The fungus attacks the leaf sheaths near the thatch layer of the turfgrass.

photo of turfgrass disease large patch

Large patch disease is favored by:

  • Thick thatch.
  • Excess soil moisture and poor drainage.
  • Too much shade, which stresses turfgrass and increases moisture on turfgrass leaves and soil.
  • Early spring and late fall Nitrogen fertilization.

If large patch was diagnosed earlier, fall is the time to control it. There is a myriad of fungicides that can help to control the disease. Fungicides in the following classes are labeled for large patch control: carboxamides, benzimidazoles, carbamates, dicarboximides, DMI fungicides, di-nitro anilines, control. For a complete and updated list of fungicides available for commercial control of large patch, visit http://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.cfm?number=SB28  or http://www.commodities.caes.uga.edu/turfgrass/georgiaturf/Publicat/1640_ Recommendations.html.  Preventative or curatives (depending on the particular situation) rates of fungicides in late September or early October and repeating the application 28 days later are effective for control of large patch during fall. Fall applications may make treating in the spring unnecessary. Always follow label instructions, recommendations, restrictions and proper handling.

Cultural practices are very important in control. Without improving cultural practices, you may not achieve long term control.

  • Use low to moderate amounts of nitrogen, moderate amounts of phosphorous and moderate to high amounts of potash. Avoid applying nitrogen when the disease is active.
  • Avoid applying N fertilizer before May in Georgia. Early nitrogen applications (March-April) can encourage large patch.
  • Water timely and deeply (after midnight and before 10 AM). Avoid frequent light irrigation. Allow time during the day for the turf to dry before watering again.
  • Prune, thin or remove shrub and tree barriers that contribute to shade and poor air circulation. These can contribute to disease.
  • Reduce thatch if it is more than 1 inch thick.
  • Increase the height of cut. Reduced mowing heights result in a more dense turf stand, which may create a more favorable environment for large patch development
  • Improve the soil drainage of the turf.
  • Control traffic patterns to prevent severe compaction, and core aerate to improve soil drainage and increase air circulation around the shoots and root

For more information on large patch visit https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/C%201088_2.PDF

  

Spring Dead Spot of Bermudagrass

Fall cultural practices and fungicide applications are key for Spring Dead Spot management. The disease is caused by fungi in the genus Ophiosphaerella (O. korrae, O. herpotricha and O. narmari). These fungi infect roots in the fall predisposing the turf to winter kill.  As indicated by its name, initial symptoms of spring dead spot are noticeable in the spring, when turf resumes growth from its normal winter dormancy.  As the turf ‘greens-up,’ circular patches of turf appear to remain dormant, roots, rhizomes and stolons are sparse and dark-colored (necrotic).  No growth is observed within the patches.  Recovery from the disease is very slow. The turf in affected patches is often dead; therefore, recovery occurs by spread of stolons inward into the patch.  The causal agents of SDS are most active during cool and moist conditions in autumn and spring. Appearance of symptoms is correlated to freezing temperatures and periods of pathogen activity. Additionally, grass mortality can occur quickly after entering dormancy or may increase gradually during the course of the winter. Spring dead spot is typically more damaging on intensively managed turfgrass swards (such as bermudagrass greens) compared to low maintenance areas.

photo of turfgrass disease spring dead spot

  • Practices that increase the cold hardiness of bermudagrass generally reduce the incidence of spring dead spot. Severity of the disease is increased by late-season applications of nitrogen during the previous fall.
  • Management strategies that increase bermudagrass cold tolerance such as applications of potassium in the fall prior to dormancy are thought to aid in the management of the disease. However, researchers have found that fall applications of potassium at high rates actually increased spring dead spot incidence. Therefore, application of excessive amounts of potassium or other nutrients, beyond what is required for optimal bermudagrass growth, is not recommended.
  • Excessive thatch favors the development of the disease. Therefore, thatch management is important for disease control,
  •  Implement regular dethatching and aerification activities.
  • There are several fungicide labeled for spring dead spot control.
  • Timing, selection and application of fungicides are important for preventative management of SDS. Fungicide application in the fall when soil temperatures are between 60° and 80° F provides the best control of SDS
  • A complete list of fungicides, formulations and product updates for SDS can be found in the annual Georgia Pest Management Handbook and the Turfgrass Pest Control Recommendations for Professionals (http://www.georgiaturf.com). Some fungicide options are exclusively for golf course settings. Always check fungicide labels for specific instructions, restrictions, special rates, recommendations, follow-up applications and proper handling.

For more information on SDS visit https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/C%201012_3.PDF

 

Early detection of bermudagrass leaf spot 

Severe leaf and crown rot, caused by Bipolaris ssp. can occur in bermudagrass lawns, sport fields, or golf fairways. Initial symptoms of this disease include brown to tan lesions on leaves.  The lesions usually develop in late September or early October.  Older leaves are most seriously affected.  Under wet, overcast conditions, the fungus will begin to attack leaf sheaths, stolons and roots resulting in a dramatic loss of turf.  Shade, poor drainage, reduced air circulation; high nitrogen fertility and low potassium levels favor the disease. To achieve acceptable control of leaf and crown rot, early detection (during the leaf spot stage) is a crucial.

Photo of turfgrass disease Bermudagrass Leaf SpotPhoto 2 of turfgrass disease Bermudagrass Leaf Spot

Dollar spot is still active in the fall/early winter

Dollar spot is most prevalent during spring and fall with infections developing rapidly at temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit combined with long periods of leaf wetness from dew, rain, or irrigation.

  • Excessive moisture on turfgrass foliage will promote dollar spot epidemics. Irrigating in the late afternoon or evening should be avoided, as this prolongs periods of leaf wetness.
  • If feasible, prune or remove trees and shrubs to promote air movement and accelerate drying of the turfgrass canopy
  • A variety of fungicides are available to professional turfgrass managers for dollar spot control including fungicides containing benzimidazoles, demethylation inhibitors
    (DMI), carboximides, dicarboximides, dithiocarbamates, nitriles and dinitro-aniline. Several biological fungicides are now labeled for dollar spot control.
  • For a complete and updated list of fungicides available for dollar spot, visit http://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.cfm?number=SB28 or http://www.commodities.caes.uga.edu/turfgrass/georgiaturf/Publicat/1640_Recommendations.htm.

photo: turfgrass disease dollar spot photo: turfgrass disease dollar spot2

Additional information on dollar spot visit https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/C%201091_2.PDF