Composting in the Community Garden-Guest Post by Amanda Tedrow

 

Compost Bin at Woodstock Community Garden
Compost Bin at Woodstock Community Garden

Every year, more and more people decide to start a compost pile in their backyard or community garden. By recycling organic materials from the house and yard, composters reduce the amount of material going into the landfill and create a free soil amendment for their yard. Anyone can compost, but the process can be tricky for first-time composters.

Here are a few tips that can improve your composting process and product.

Keep your ratio of carbon to nitrogen as two-thirds carbon and one-third nitrogen. Carbon sources include dead leaves, sticks, branches, shredded paper, dead flowers and sawdust. Nitrogen sources include fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags and grass clippings.

Keep your compost pile moist throughout the pile. The microorganisms (bacteria, fungi and microbes) and macroorganisms (earthworms and insects) need this moisture to survive. Your pile should be as wet as a wrung-out sponge. A pile that is too wet will smell, and a pile that is too dry will decompose slowly.

Chop your ingredients before adding them to the pile. The smaller the inputs, the faster they will break down. Small ingredients are much easier for the micro and macroorganisms to consume!

Turn the pile regularly. The center of the pile is where the magic happens. In the center, the compost reaches the high temperature required for decomposition and killing weed seeds in the pile. Turning the pile ensures that all parts reach the center. Use a pitchfork to turn the pile every one to two weeks.

Compost bins at the North Fulton Annex Community Garden
Compost Bins at the North Fulton Annex Community Garden

The minimum size for a compost pile should be 4’x4’x4’. The pile needs to be this large to maintain temperatures for decomposition.

Do not put oily items, dairy or meat in your compost pile. These items will attract pests and rodents, and they can create foul odors in the compost pile.

Don’t limit yourself to just the backyard compost pile. Some gardeners use sheet composting, trench composting, com-posthole-ing, tumblers or vermicomposting. Research what method works best for your lifestyle and embrace it!

If you would like to learn more about composting, consider participating in the Georgia Master Composter Program. Participants of this nine-week program learn the chemistry and microbiology of composting, types of and reasons for composting, backyard composting techniques and tools for sharing this knowledge with their community. They also visit a variety of composting facilities.

The next Georgia Master Composter Program will be held in Athens from January through March, 2015. Registration will begin in November.  As always, your local UGA Extension Agent can help you develop a composting plan for your community garden.

Amanda Tedrow is a UGA Extension Agent for Athens-Clarke County and is affectionately known as the “compost queen!”

Happy Gardening!

 

Happy Pollinator Week

In honor of National Pollinator Week we ask the question “how important are pollinators in our community garden?”  VERY!! Technically pollination is the process where pollen is transferred from the male flower parts (stamen-anther and filament) to the female flower parts (pistil-stigma, style, and ovary).   Sometimes the male and female parts are on the same flower and sometimes they are on different flowers on the same plant, like squash and cucumbers.  Pollinators visit flowers to collect pollen and nectar.  The pollination process is a consequence.

 

Honey Bees - Jeff Martin photographer
Honey Bees – Jeff Martin Photographer

Pollinators are an integral part of any garden.  They play a major role in the production of 150 food crops in the United States.  Apples, almonds, melons, strawberries, blueberries, onions, squash, cucumbers, and broccoli are just a few food crops that are dependent on pollinators.  One third of every bite of food we eat is due to pollinators.  So, they are vital to your community garden.  How do you attract and keep pollinators?

Some community gardens have common areas set aside for flowers.  This is a great spot to add plants that attract pollinators.  Plants like black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.), bee balm (Monarda didyma), anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), zinnia (Zinnia elegans), butterfly weed (Asclepias spp.), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), sunflower (Helianthus annuus), dill (Anethum graveolens), and aster (Aster spp.) are all great choices.  These not only attract pollinators but other beneficial insects like lacewings, praying mantids, and parasitic wasps.  Plan your area for a long bloom time.  Bee balm and black-eyed Susan start blooming early in the summer while many asters bloom late into the fall.  Some gardeners may want to include a few of these in their individual garden plot.

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Bumble Bee on Orange Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Perennial shrubs are also great for common areas since they create a more permanent landscape.  Consider fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii)  which starts blooming early in the spring.  Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) blooms in midsummer and is usually covered in pollinators.  Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) provides flowers in the cooler months when the hairy bumble bees may be active. UGA Commercial Horticulturist, Jeffrey Webb, has a great publication, Beyond Butterflies:  Gardening for Native Pollinators, which has a comprehensive list of plant choices.

Use pesticides ONLY when necessary.  If you have to use them, spot spray rather than cover spray.  Apply pesticides that are the least toxic to pollinators.  And, spray when the pollinators are less active.  Your local UGA Extension agent can help you decide which pesticide is most effective with the least damage to the beneficial insects.

With a few additional steps your garden can even become a Certified Pollinator Garden.  The pollinators win since they have a great place to collect nectar and pollen.  Your food crops win because their flowers get pollinated.  You win because your vegetables are more abundant and extra delicious!

Happy Gardening!

Unusual growths on the leaves of an oak tree

These are cynipid leaf galls on an oak tree leaf

To read more about these and other insect pests on trees, read the publication Forest Health Guide for Georgia.

Galls are abnormal vegetative growths on trees that result from the feeding and egg laying activities of various insects and mites. Chemical secretions from the adults while laying eggs as well as the saliva from the feeding larvae cause the plant to react abnormally.

The more common gall producers on trees are aphids, beetles, jumping plant lice, midges, mites and wasps. Each species causes a swelling of plant tissue that is characteristic on specific plant parts such as the stem, twig, leaf or petiole. Most often the gall is more readily identified than the gall producer. It is convenient to identify galls and their producers simply by noting where the gall is located and also the shape of the gall. Table 2 on page 43 of the Forest Health Guide for Georgia lists some of the more common trees that are frequently attacked by gall producers along with a description and location of the gall.

Generally galls are not life threatening to trees. Oftentimes the most drastic effects are premature leaf fall and dieback of several smaller branches.

On small trees, galls should be pruned and destroyed. Leaf and twig litter that is on the ground around the base of the tree should be raked and disposed of. A few of the common species are shown in the images included here.

For information on galls, see page 42 of the publication Forest Health Guide for Georgia. This publication is produced by the Georgia Forestry Commission.

Other galls include:

Galls on black cherry
Galls on black cherry, Andy Boone, South Carolina Forestry Commission, Bugwood.org

Growing Southern Peas

June is the perfect time to get Southern peas, also known as field peas, in the ground.  The soil and air temperatures are very warm and hot summer days stretch out in front of us.   Southern peas include cream, crowder, and black-eyed types.  They thrive during hot weather in full sun.  Your local UGA Extension agent knows what types typically are grown in your area.

North Georgia gardeners are harvesting the end of the cool season lettuces and Southern peas would be a perfect replacement.  Add a bit of compost to the soil and sow seeds about 1 inch deep, 3-6 inches apart.  For those of you who grow in rows space them 20-42 inches apart.  Make sure your soil is well draining.

Southern peas act more like beans than peas.  Some cultivars are vining and will need some support and some are more bush type.  Experience shows that even bush types are easier to manage with a small trellis.  If you keep them picked they will keep producing all through our hot, humid summer!

Knuckle Purple Hulls using sunflowers as support.
Knuckle Purple Hulls using sunflowers as support.

Cream peas are the mildest in flavor.  Cream Crowder, White Acre, and Texas Cream #12 are non-vining cultivars to consider trying.

Black-eyed peas have a bit more flavor.  California #5, Magnolia, and Pink Eye Purple Hull are cultivars that are non-vining and grow well in our area.  Black-eyed peas are the ones seeped in Southern folklore.  If you eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day legend has it that your year will be prosperous.  Worth a try!

Crowder peas are the strongest in flavor.  You will remember them as the peas that are “crowded” in the hull.  Mississippi Silver and Mississippi Purple are non-vining while Knuckle Purple Hull and Colossus are cultivars that will need some type of firm support like fencing or staking.

You can harvest all of these either as green shelling peas or for drying.  A useful publication, although written for commercial production, is Southern Peas by UGA horticulturists Boyhan, Grandberry, and Kelley. This publication has additional information on cultivars and diseases.

Happy Gardening!

 

 

North Fulton Annex Community Garden

Christine Williams and Rolando Orellana of the North Fulton Annex Community Garden.
Christine Williams and Rolando Orellana of the North Fulton Annex Community Garden.

On occasion we will highlight different area community gardens in this blog. This is a great opportunity to see what others are doing and perhaps get some ideas for your own garden. Recently we visited the North Fulton Annex Community Garden on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs.

The space is a project of Fulton County Extension Agent, Rolando Orellana, and the Fulton County Master Gardener volunteers. Rolando gives full credit for the success of the garden to Christine Williams, the garden coordinator. She keeps things well organized and she makes sure the garden has a welcoming feel.

The area is made up of fifty-six 4’ X 8’ raised bed plots. Six of the plots are designated for a school program. The produce from four additional plots is donated to the local food bank or the Fulton Fresh Mobile Farmer’s Market program. There are also side gardens with herbs and flowers.

The garden charges a fee of $25 per year. The fee includes water (either sun-warmed or from the faucet) use of tools, access to compost, and the support of the Master Gardeners. What a deal!

The group works together to make valuable compost which anyone can use.
The group works together to make valuable compost which anyone can use.

One unique feature of the garden is a play area for children complete with a sandbox. Christine says they want the garden to be welcoming for all ages and the sandbox helps keep little hands active. There are also child friendly gardening tools.

Gardeners can come and go from dawn until dusk but scheduled workdays are a social time at the garden. Members bring refreshments and the Master Gardeners provide mini-classes. This is especially useful for beginners.

When asked what they were most proud of with this garden, Rolando and Christine gave the same answer. The gardeners are a diverse group. Generationally, there are grandparents with grandchildren in tow, couples in their twenties, and young parents who are raising the next generation of gardeners. And, the group is diverse in cultural background. This makes for a

These 4' X 8' beds can grow alot of vegetables!
These 4′ X 8′ beds can grow a lot of vegetables!

great sharing experience, learning about other cultures through gardening and food. As Christine said, the diversity of the gardeners is the true nature of urban community gardening.

For more information about the North Fulton Annex Community Garden contact the North Fulton Extension office at 404-613-7670.

Happy Gardening!

Landscape Pop Quiz

Azalea lacebug Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide SeriesThis is caused by Azalea Lace Bugs!

This information came from the publication Control of Common Pests of Landscape Plants 

Lace bugs get their name from the appearance of the area behind their head and wing covers. The area forms a lace like covering over the body of the insect. They are 1/8 to 1/4 inch in length and are partially transparent. Lace bug damage appears on the upper leaf surface as white to yellow chlorotic spots. The lower leaf surfaces will be cluttered with black spots and the old cast skins of immature lace bugs. Initiating control in the spring between March and May will reduce problems later in the season.

To find more id and control information on this or other landscape insects read the UGA publication Control of Common Pests of Landscape Plants 

To find pesticide recommendations and use information visit the Georgia Pest Management Handbook.

Don’t Forget to Mulch

Is it important to mulch around vegetables in a community garden?    After all,  plots aren’t very large, the plantings aren’t permanent,  and it can be a lot of trouble to bring in mulch.  The answer is YES!  It is important to go to the extra trouble and add mulch.  Mulching is simply adding a layer of material over the bare soil around your plants.  For an extensive review of garden mulches see Robert Westerfield’s circular Mulching Vegetables.

Mulching does several wonderful things for our warm-season vegetables.  It helps hold in soil moisture.  Think of those hot, dry, sunny, Georgia summer afternoons.  Bare soil gets baked; mulched soil does not. Mulch also helps even out the soil temperature.  This is helpful for root development.  Mulch can be a barrier to weed growth, reducing need for weeding. Also, mulch is a layer between the plant and the bare soil which can help prevent some rots that occur when vegetables or fruits lay on the ground.

A suggested mulching depth is 3 to 4 inches.  Too little mulch will provide limited weed control while too much will prevent air from reaching plant roots.  Keep in mind some mulches, like pine straw, tend to settle.  Compost mulches can be tilled back in the soil after the growing season.

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Pine straw is a common mulch.

 

The best way to accomplish mulching in a community garden setting is to determine what materials are available and inexpensive.  Wood bark, compost, leaves, pine straw, and hay straw are all possible choices.

A bail of pine or hay straw will usually fit in a car trunk.  Wood bark and some composts come packaged in large bags which aren’t hard to transport.  Maybe the group of gardeners wants to have a larger amount of mulch delivered and split the cost. Oftentimes, municipalities will take old Christmas trees and recycle them as mulch as a service to the community.  These are usually free of charge.  Your county UGA Extension Agent will be able to answers any questions you have about mulch.

However you decide to get your mulch, you will be very glad you did come harvest time.

Happy Gardening!

 

 

 

 

 

Green Bean Basics

Green beans are an integral part of any vegetable garden.  Also called snap beans or string beans, they are not hard to grow and require little fertilization.  Whether harvested and prepared the old Southern way, cooked with a piece of bacon, or steamed with a bit of onion, they are a summer dinner staple.  This post contains great information taken from Robert Westerfield’s circular Home Garden Green Beans.

For community gardeners the first step in successfully growing green beans is to know the growing types.  Bush beans are compact and don’t need extra support to grow.  Pole beans run and do require support such as a cage or trellis (think  of growing up a pole).  Be thoughtful of using trellises in a community garden setting.  Anything tall may created unwanted shade.   Half-runner beans are somewhere in between bush and pole beans.  If they are not supported they will spread more than bush beans.  Bush beans are a great option for the limited space of a community garden.

All three types of beans grow best in air temperatures of 65-85 degrees F.  Soil temperatures should be above 55 degrees F for good germination.  One helpful tip is to soak the bean seed in warm water overnight.  This may help speed germination.

Seed should be planted about 1 inch deep.  You can do this without a ruler.  Gently push the beans seed into the soil with your index finger.  When your first knuckle is even with the soil top, that is about 1 inch.   To help prevent disease problems, be careful not to crowd the beans.  You want air movement between the plants so leave about 6 inches between seeds.

After planting, gently pat the dirt ensuring good seed to soil contact.   Keep the seeds moist until the beans emerge.  Mulching will help with that.  After the plants become established water as needed, about twice a week.

Bush Bean Patch
Bush Bean Patch

For best flavor, harvest beans before they become fully developed.  Pick often so the plant will continue to produce.  Your harvest can be stored in a cool, dry place for several days.  Or, you may want to try your hand at canning if you have alot of beans.

Some tried and true cultivars of bush beans are Blue Lake 274, Gina, Roma II, and Bronco.  If you want to be adventurous and try something different consider Mayflower, which is said to have come to America with the Pilgrims.  Or, Pencil Pod Black Snap Bean which produces black beans.   Other cultivars to consider are Stringless Commodore, October Bean, Top Crop, and Contender.   Master Gardener Extension volunteers have had success with these types.

Kentucky Wonder, Rattlesnake, Blue Lake, and McCaslan are good pole bean choices for the Southern garden.  If you are thinking of trying half-runners look at Mountaineer, Volunteer, or Peanut Bean Pink.

Seed catalogs along with feed and seed stores are full of great choices.  Try to choose seed that has been grown successfully in our area.  If you have had success with a certain cultivar, please share that information in the comments section.  For more information on cultivars for your area, contact your local UGA Extension Agent.

Happy Gardening!

Race to save Georgia’s massive hemlocks receives boost from Legacy Tree Project

Merritt Melancon, news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Hulking above their neighbors in the Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia’s century-old hemlocks are giants. But the relatively scarce trees are quickly being felled by the tiniest of insects — the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid.

Tiny pests, big problems

Hemlock Wooly Adelgid Conn. Ag Experiment Station Archive
Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, Connecticut Ag Experiment Station Archive

The adelgid is a tiny, fluffy aphid relative that feeds by piercing the bark of hemlock trees and draining the contents of plant cells, which contain nutrients created by the tree during photosynthesis. Millions can live on one tree, and by the time they finish feeding, the tree no longer has the strength to transport water and nutrients from its roots to its branches. The pest first arrived in Georgia 10 years ago after moving south through the forests that surround the Appalachian Mountains.

To date, the adelgid has killed millions of hemlocks on the mountainsides and stream valleys of the Appalachians, from New England south to the Smokies and the north Georgia mountains. Once infested, a centuries-old tree can die within 3 or 4 years said Will Hudson, a forest entomologist with UGA Extension.

University of Georgia researchers are racing against time looking for long-term biocontrols for the nutrient-gobbling pest.They hope by preserving specimen stands of hemlocks with insecticides now, there will be enough trees left to aid in regenerating Georgia’s hemlocks once the bio-control agents are ready.

“We can’t just let a bug loose in the forest and hope it works. The requirements for testing and screening of a new biocontrol agent are — and rightfully so — really, really stringent, and it takes time. The hemlocks don’t have that time,” said Hudson.

Enter the Legacy Tree Project — a public-private partnership between UGA researchers, Valent USA, private tree care companies and several municipalities. The project’s goal is to preserve stands of hemlocks so they can regenerate once the woolly adelgid is under control.

While hemlocks make up a small percentage of the forest canopy in Georgia, they are vitally important to the forest ecosystem — especially around streams. The giant trees shade streams and stream banks and provide the cool waters that Georgia’s trout populations need to survive while sustaining the tourist economy that surrounds the trout.

In addition to the aesthetic impact of the loss of the largest trees in mountain forests, dead trees pose a threat of falling, making camping, hiking and even driving, risky.

Two solutions, one goal

The woolly adelgids can be controlled two ways. One way is through the development or discovery of biocontrol agents — predatory insects that eat adelgids, but leave the rest of the ecosystem intact. This is a painstaking process of trial and error, but will offer low-cost, long-term control.

The other method is to treat every hemlock in the forest to prevent or cure adelgid infestation. This would be prohibitively expensive, time-consuming, logistically implausible and possibly ecologically damaging.

Entomologists at UGA and the U.S. Forest Service, including recently retired UGA forest entomologist Mark Dalusky, have identified and released two predatory beetles. They hope these insects will be effectively control the adelgid without harming the forest, but neither beetle has reached the numbers needed to control the pest.

Saving trees now, so that they can be preserved later

UGA entomologists, north Georgia arborist and hemlock enthusiast Jann George and Legacy Tree Project founder Joe Chamberlin have teamed up for the effort.

Chamberlin’s company, Valent, helped launch the Legacy Tree Project in 2010 in a handful of Midwestern towns with the goal of saving ash trees from emerald ash borers. Thousands of trees were saved, and a framework for battling other invasive tree pests was developed.

Valent donates insecticide where landmark hemlocks are dying – like the Chattahoochee National Forest.

The insecticide, a dry powder mixed with water, is injected into the ground around the hemlock’s root ball and the tree slowly absorbs the material, which kills the adelgids and prevents new infestations.

“Nearly 100 percent of the chemical is absorbed by the tree, which means there is very little chance any will move into nearby streams or groundwater,” George said. “There is hope for biological controls coming down the line. But the only way to get your hemlock tree back to health, at this point, is to use chemicals.”

This is the first time that the Legacy Tree Project has worked on public land. George has worked with Young Harris, Clarkesville, Dillard and Sky Valley and saved between 10 and 15,000 hemlocks on private land.

“The problem of global trade and invasive species are here to stay,” Chamberlain said. “We only have so many well adapted native species of trees that we can rely on, and we need to maintain them. What we’re trying to do is build awareness about invasives and stimulate action to help protect native tree populations.”

For more information about the hemlock infestation in north Georgia and UGA’s research into stopping the pest, visit www.forestpests.org/.

America’s Help Needed to Squash the Spread of USDA’s Targeted ‘Hungry Pests’

USDA’s Campaign Anti-Hero, ‘Vin Vasive,’ Lends a Creepy Hand in New, Compelling Videos

See original article here

Invasive pests 1The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) is calling on the public to help stop the spread of 15 invasive species dubbed “Hungry Pests.” These non-native insects, other animals, plants and diseases could devastate America’s crops, trees and plants, and are often unknowingly spread through human actions. To help get the word out, USDA-APHIS is deploying its Hungry Pests’ anti-hero, Vin Vasive, in a series of eerie videos that debut in April during Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month.

“Hungry Pests have a tremendous impact on our economy, environment and public health,” said Osama El-Lissy, deputy administrator of USDA-APHIS’ Plant Protection and Quarantine program. “They have already cost the U.S. billions of dollars and threaten many aspects of our everyday lives – from the food on our tables, to the forests we camp in, to the flowers in our gardens. When people are out hiking, gardening and traveling this spring and summer, we are asking them to be extra vigilant.”

El-Lissy added, “We think Vin Vasive and the videos will help drive home the messages about how people can help to ‘Leave Hungry Pests Behind.’”

With the public as a crucial line of defense against Hungry Pests, USDA-APHIS is asking everyone to take a few simple actions that can greatly reduce the spread of invasive species. These actions are:

  • Don’t move untreated firewood.
  • Buy plants, including ones online, from reputable sources.
  • Don’t bring or mail fresh fruits, vegetables or plants into your state or another state unless agricultural inspectors have cleared them beforehand.
  • Declare all agricultural items to customs officials when returning from abroad.
  • Comply with agricultural quarantines.
  • Wash outdoor gear and tires free from dirt before leaving fishing, hunting or camping trips.
  • Clean lawn furniture and other outdoor items before moving.
  • Report signs of an invasive pest or disease at www.HungryPests.com.

Vin Vasive, a man-like figure made entirely of invasive species, will make dramatic appearances in a series of five, 30-second videos created to remind people what actions they can take to prevent the spread of Hungry Pests. The edgy, attention-grabbing videos – starting with the first video, which reminds people about the importance of not moving firewood – will be shared on Facebook and YouTube throughout spring and summer, a particularly vulnerable time for America’s agriculture and forests as a surge in outdoor activity increases the spread of invasive species.

USDA’s targeted 15 Hungry Pests are putting our agriculture, forests and food supply at risk.  They include four moths (European grapevine moth, false codling moth, gypsy moth and light brown apple moth), three flies (Mediterranean fruit fly, Mexican fruit fly and Oriental fruit fly), three beetles (Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer and Khapra beetle), two diseases (citrus greening, sudden oak death), the insect that spreads citrus greening (Asian citrus psyllid), one ant (imported fire ant), and one snail (giant African snail).

To learn more, go to HungryPests.com, or join the conversation on Facebook, www.facebook.com/hungrypests. The website includes photos and descriptions of the 15 Hungry Pests, an online tracker where federal quarantines are located and phone numbers to report signs of an invasive pest.

About USDA-APHIS

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is a multifaceted federal agency with a broad mission area that includes protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, regulating genetically engineered organisms, administering the Animal Welfare Act and carrying out wildlife damage management activities. These efforts support the overall mission of USDA, which is to protect and promote food, agriculture, natural resources and related issues. To learn more about APHIS, visit www.aphis.usda.gov.