It is almost that time of year! March 22nd – March 26th is Georgia Ag Awareness Week. This is the week to celebrate all things Georgia Agriculture.
Happily, Monday of that week is Hands-on Garden Day! Traditionally, that has meant celebrating our school gardens. This year is a bit different and the Georgia Department of Agriculture is asking us to celebrating any work in any garden. So the question is how will you celebrate?
How about spending some time as a family in the garden? Maybe plan what types of food crops you want to grow this year in your home garden. It could be a good time to get some cool-season crops in the ground. Think of what menus you want on the summer dinner table. Take that cue and plan your plantings.
Are you challenged with no garden space? How about a container garden. There are food crops specially bred for small gardens. Also, most herbs grow well in pots.
If your local school has a garden, do they need volunteers? Could you safely arrange to help out in those gardens? I am sure they could use the help and the labor would be much appreciated.
Your local UGA Extension office has information on crops grown in your area. Whatever you decide, take some time to appreciate all the wonderful ag products that Georgia offers. I am dreaming of watermelon, green peppers, tomatoes, sweet corn, blueberries….
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:
Seed spacing guides can be used for students to create a garden bed design.
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.
Seed package cost can be used to calculate the total cost of the garden design.
All of this information can be used to determine how much produce can be grown per square foot (inch, meter).
Marketing plans can be created to sell resulting produce at a Farmers Market. How much money can be made given the input costs?
Aspiring artists can design artistic seed packets using the information given.
English classes can pick vegetables and re-write the plant descriptions.
Of couse, students can look through the catalog and pick a vegetable they have never tried before and make a plan to grow it.
Many school gardens have suffering this year. Maybe your school does not allow volunteers on school property right now. Maybe your teachers are overwhelmed with teaching in 2020 and do not have time for the garden. Maybe your garden is just a mess. Spring is coming and with some forethought maybe you can have a successful garden program this school year after all.
The key for a successful spring garden program during COVID is going to be efficiency. This is not the time to try crops you are unfamiliar with. Stick to basics like lettuce, spinach, bush beans, etc. Better yet, think about putting some garlic or short-day onions in this fall for harvesting in the spring.
If you have a large school garden, consider planting cover crops on some of the garden and concentrate your efforts on a smaller area that is easily managed. Can your students help with garden maintenance?
Make sure that the crops you plant are ones that are easily tied to as much of the school curriculum as possible. Can the crop be used in history classes as well as science classes? With some creative thought, crops like beans and peas can be used in these disciplines:
Geography – Map the movement of these crops as people moved across the globe
History – How was this crop used in the past, dishes made, cultural significance
Writing – I am a big fan of haiku! Maybe “Ode to the Bean!”
Math – How many beans/peas in a pod? How many pods per plant?
Language Arts – Did grandparents grow these crops? Think about an oral history project.
October is Farm to School Month and schools and early care centers across Georgia are celebrating all things turnip! Turnip the Volume (Can you Dig it?)is a state-wide celebration to get kids eating, growing, and participating in turnip-themed activities. To participate in Turnip the Volumeat your school, early care center, or in your community, visit https://farmtoschool.georgiaorganics.org/turnip-the-volumeand sign up. 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! UGA Extension has been a partner in Farm to School Month celebrations and your local UGA Extension office can answer questions about growing turnips or using them in recipes.
The first 300 people to sign-up for the program will be mailed a free packet of turnip seeds, washable turnip tattoos, and a Georgia Planting and Harvest Calendar for school gardens. This information is great for educators making plans for going back to school.
Share your Turnip the Volumepictures and activities on social media with #turnipthevolume. Each week during October, anyone who uses this hashtag will be entered to win a gift card and at the end of the month and we will have a grand prize winner at the end of the month! Questions? Visithttps://farmtoschool.georgiaorganics.org/october-f2s-monthor email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Extension has designed a creative approach to school garden education this summer. On June 16th a no-cost, symposium consisting of four webinars will be conducted through a Zoom classroom.
10 AM Adding Fruit Plant to Your School Garden with Ashley Hoppers, Gilmer and Fannin County ANR agent
11 AM Seed Saving in the School Garden with Rosann Kent with University of North Georgia
Noon – 1 PM Lunch Break
1 PM Vermiculture (worm composting) with Josh Fuder, Cherokee County ANR Agents
2 PM Using the Great Georgia Pollinator Census in Your School Garden with Becky Griffin, the census coordinator
The lunch break, from noon until 1 PM, will be a chance to ask any questions about your school garden and to network with other gardens while we have our lunch.
Additional at-home activities will be available for those who want to put their new skills to immediate use. For those who complete all four webinars and all four at-home activities a Certificate of Completion will be issued. This can be presented to your school administration for proof of course completion.
You will be ready to get results from your school garden before school starts back in the fall. This is open to anyone who works with school gardens – Master Gardeners, volunteers, and educators of all types.
Leading up to the Great Pollinator Census we will be looking at the benefits of adding pollinator habitat to your school or community garden. Today we will look at milkweed.
Attracting Monarch butterflies to your garden involves including their larval host plant, milkweed or Asclepias, in your garden. Common milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a popular milkweed with orange blossoms that frequently appears along roadsides. The beautiful plant also provides nectar to bees and other pollinators. Many gardeners feel that growing milkweed from seed is challenging and it can be. However, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you find success.
Common milkweed seeds need to be stratified before they will germinate. This means that they need a period of moist cold. In nature, it is easy to see how this is accomplished. Our winters provide the chill and the rain provides the moisture. You can mimic this process at home with a few easy steps.
First, purchase some clean sand from your local hardware or craft store. Craft or playground sand will work. Moisten the sand with water until you have a paste. You want damp sand, not wet sand.
Add your milkweed seeds and mix them in the moistened sand.
Put all of this in a plastic baggie or jar and label it with the date.
Place this in your refrigerator for thirty days. Mark on your calendar the date the seeds will be ready so that you don’t forget them. Once they have stratified they are ready for planting.
Lay the seeds across planting soil, not covering them. They need light to germinate. Use your greenhouse or home light set-up.
For more information on milkweed join us on the Georgia Pollinator Census Facebook group or on @gapollinators Instagram. This week we will be exploring milkweed types, ways to grow it, and how it benefits our pollinators. Leading up to the Great Georgia Pollinator Census we will be exploring all types of pollinators and pollinator habitats in our social media groups. This year’s Great Georgia Pollinator Census will be on August 21st and 22nd. You can find out more at the project website: GGaPC.org.
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.
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:
Train employees on company procedures to deter equipment theft. In addition, discuss what to do in the event of a theft or robbery.
Take inventory: Establish routine equipment inventory. Keep documentation and photo records of serial numbers and models.
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.
Reposition vehicles on large properties: Avoid leaving trucks far away from workers on large properties and keep trucks close.
Deterrents: Lock vehicles, trailers, trailer tongues, and secure equipment when unattended. Don’t leave keys in trucks or commercial mowers.
Security Cameras: If site has security cameras park where equipment can be seen by cameras. Install security cameras and sensor beams on storage areas.
Tracking Devices: Install tracking devices on large equipment.
Be Alert: Pay attention to suspicious activity.
Insurance: Review your policy and ask your insurance provider about theft prevention.
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.
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!