There are many fantastic events planned for 2018 so mark your calendars and save these dates:
Plant Sales – now! 4-H groups and Master Gardener Extension Volunteers across the state are having plant sales. These sales feature high quality plants for reasonable prices. While picking out your plants, find out what classes and workshops are being offered this year. Contact your county Extension office for more details.
Hands-On School Garden Day (Part of Ag Week) – Monday, March 19th To kick-off Georgia Ag Week, Hands-On School Garden Day will recognize the importance of school gardens. Plan a special workday in your garden or use the day to remind your administrators and community members about the importance of your school garden. What makes your school garden special? We would love to see photos! Post them on the UGA Community and School Garden Facebook Page!
Healthy Soil Festival – May 5th at Truly Living Well Farm This year’s Healthy Soil Festival will have some special activities for teachers and those who work in school gardens. Stay tuned for more details!
American Community Garden Association Conference in Atlanta – September 14th-16th This year’s conference is in Atlanta! More details will be coming but definitely put those dates on your calendar.
Great Georgia Pollinator Count – August 2019 In August of 2019 gardeners across the state will be counting pollinators as part of a year long campaign to promote best management practices in getting and keeping pollinators in your garden! You will want to be a part of this! Again, stay tuned for more information as we get closer to 2019.
Dr. David Berle and Robert Westerfield of UGA have created a series of publications on community/school gardens. One of the most popular circulars is Raised Beds vs. In-Ground Gardens. It is an excellent resource when determining whether or not raised beds would work for your garden.
Raised beds are defined as elevated boxes that are manageable in size and are filled with enough soil to support plants without using the soil underneath the box. The height of the boxes can vary. Tall boxes can be very beneficial to senior gardeners who are more comfortable working while standing instead of knelling down. When dealing with native soil of questionable quality, raised beds with imported soil are an easy solution.
Some other advantages of raised beds are:
Prevention of soil compaction- raised boxes can limit foot traffic on the soil
Less weeding and maintenance
Reduced conflict – raised beds are very defined and easy to assign to participating gardeners
Extended garden area – raised beds can be placed on slopes, compacted soil, and even parking lots
There are advantages to in-ground gardens. Raised bed materials can be costly for a garden group just starting and in-ground gardening can allow a tractor or tiller to easily help prepare the area. Other advantages include:
Use of existing soil
Less permanent – if the landowner deems the garden temporary or for good crop rotation
Less start-up work
Clay soils do have benefits that are not found in man-made soils
As you start, or change, your garden carefully consider which arrangement will work for your group. Consider your current and future needs and decide how much time and resources you all are willing to commit. Your local UGA Extension office is a great resource for help.
Recently I attended a presentation given by a scientist who is known for her expertise in plant genetics. Her lab was one of the first to do work in what we now call genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Between the explanations of plant biochemistry and the future of our food system she snuck in a statement that was so profound it is worth sharing. She said, “plants are magic.” Yes, plants are magic.
One of my first memories involves plants. At about six years old, I received a science kit as a gift where seeds germinated in a substrate so that the grower could see the root radical and shoot as the seed sprouted. I was hooked. Plants were magic.
I have never lost that feeling of awe when dealing with gardens. Most of you are shaking your heads in agreement as you read this. The way flowers survive our droughts and our own mismanagement. The way a tiny seed pushes through our hard clay soil. How small seeds yield large amounts of food. You know it; plants are magic.
As we go into the new year and we are planning our 2018 gardens may we never lose that magic. I look forward to gardening with you in the next year.
It seems many gardeners plan on preparing collard greens for their holiday tables and have asked that I re-run this post from 2014. Enjoy…
Community gardens all over Georgia are filled with beautiful, dark green collard greens. See the August 20th post on growing collard greens. Once we get a few good frosts they will be ready to harvest. Being such a Southern vegetable it is wonderful that the very Southern Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta has shared their famous collard green recipe. Richard Golden is the Assistant General Manager and he says that the collards are his favorite of all the vegetables the restaurant serves. Just in time for Thanksgiving this recipe is a real treat worthy of a special occasion.
2 1/2 pounds of collard greens, stalks removed and cut into 2 inch strips
2 gallons of water
6 ounces of fatback
1 smoked ham hock
1/3 cup bacon drippings
1/8th cup salt
You should be able to find fatback and ham hocks at your local supermarket. Just ask the butcher if you have trouble finding them.
Wash the cut greens in cold water and 1/8th cup salt. In a large stock pot, on high heat, boil the water, smoked ham hock, and fat back. Let boil for an hour. Add collards and bacon drippings to the pot. Let come to a roaring boil and then reduce heat to medium. Let cook for 40-45 minutes. You may need to add additional water if the water starts to absorb past 1/3 of your original liquid. Remove from heat and take out the fatback and ham hock. Serve warm. Goes well with corn bread.
If you are not used to cooking with fatback or ham hocks, they are easily found at most grocery stores. Just ask your butcher if you have trouble finding them. Also, plan ahead so you can save your bacon drippings. Your Grandmother would be proud, your fitness trainer not so much!
Mary Mac’s is such an Atlanta institution it was honored by the Georgia State House of Representatives with Resolution 477 declaring Mary Mac’s to be Atlanta’s Dining Room. The menu includes fried okra, tomato pie, hoppin’ john, butter peas, and turnip greens. All of these contain ingredients grown in Georgia!
Mary Mac’s opened in 1945 when Mary McKenzie wanted to use her cooking skills to make money in the aftermath of World War II. In those days a woman couldn’t just open a restaurant but a “tea room” was acceptable. The current owner, John Ferrell purchased the restaurant in 1994 and carries on the traditions. Recently they catered Governor Nathan Deal’s birthday party. If you decide to visit Midtown for a meal at Mary Mac’s, don’t forget the cobbler. Trust me!
It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes And roofs of villages, on woodland crests And their aerial neighborhoods of nests Deserted, on the curtained window-panes Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests! Gone are the birds that were our summer guests, With the last sheaves return the laboring wains! All things are symbols: the external shows Of Nature have their image in the mind, As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves; The song-birds leave us at the summer’s close, Only the empty nests are left behind, And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.
For those of you who have been growing legumes and want a great way to use them let me introduce Terry Carter. Terry is a Family and Consumer Science program assistant for Cobb County Extension who does an amazing job sharing the wonders of Southern food.
Terry learned her love of food from her grandmother, Annie Carter, and she has been sharing her love ever since. When asked to share her favorite recipe for beans she gave us a delicious one.
Terry’s Hearty Bean Soup
1 Pound of dried Beans/Peas 8 cups water (use chicken, beef, or vegetable broth for added flavor) 1 medium onion, diced (or one large whole onion for flavor that is removed after cooking) 2 bay leaves ( remove them after cooking) 2 large cloves garlic, minced 2 tablespoon chili powder 2 tablespoon cumin 1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz.) or 2 cups fresh peeled tomatoes (optional) 1 lb. smoked sausage, ham hocks, diced ham or beef stew meat (optional) Our favorite is to use a leftover hambone with some meat on it or turkey parts. If you are vegan omit the animal and add more seasonings at the end of cooking. This is totally optional. If you use the whole onion and like the flavor you can add one more onion if you like. It will just add more flavor. Salt and pepper to taste ( this is important, do add some salt or it will still have a bland taste)
No Soak Method In a colander or sieve, rinse beans thoroughly. Sort and inspect for any unwanted debris and discard. Drain and pour beans in a slow cooker with 8 cups of stock/water, onions, bay leaves, garlic, chili powder, cumin, tomatoes and smoked sausage, hocks, ham or beef stew meat. Set slow cooker on high and cook for 5 hours (or low for 7-8), or until beans are tender, but not falling apart. Please keep in mind that every time the lid is opened, your cooking time will be longer. Add salt and pepper to taste at the end of cooking. This time may vary depending on the variety of beans you have.
Serve with a freshly baked slice of corn bread! You can also serve over rice. For even more flavor, substitute beef, chicken or vegetable stock instead of water. You can also add in chicken leg quarters, smoked sausage or beef roast for a one pot meal.
Remember that this is a NO SOAK recipe, but if you have already soaked the beans, that’s not a problem, just use 1 less cup of water/stock.
If you prefer a more “brothy” soup, add an extra cup of liquid when preparing or near the end. Remember this is a soup so you may need that extra liquid to make it soupy. If you prefer a creamier soup, simply mash some of the soft bean or you can use an immersion blender stick to make them creamy. You can turn them all creamy if you like. Basically, this recipe is very versatile and you really can’t mess it up unless you don’t get your beans cooked enough. Taste the beans and make sure that they are soft with no resistance with a creamy texture.
This recipe is easily adapted to fit a variety of beans that we can grow here in The South. You can select just one variety or mix several varieties together to create a version of the popular 15 bean soup. See the 15 bean variety generally used in the 15 bean soup. Use what you harvest or have left over to create a unique soup. Any mix of these beans that make up 16 ounces or 2 cups is sufficient.
15 bean varieties to consider for soup dried black beans dried red beans dried kidney beans dried navy beans dried great northern beans dried baby lima beans dried field peas dried pinto beans dried green split peas dried yellow split peas dried black eyed peas dried red lentils dried green lentils dried brown lentils dried cranberry beans
October is prime garlic planting time for the Atlanta area. The bulbs overwinter in the garden and are harvested in the spring. If you don’t traditionally plant winter crops, garlic is a great one to start with.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is a member of the onion family. Its use dates back to 4000 BC in central Asia. According to Seed Savers Exchange garlic was found in King Tut’s tomb, eaten by Olympic athletes, and used as medicine by Hippocrates. There are over 600 types of garlic grown all over the world. Why not give it a try?
There are two basic categories of garlic: hard-necked and soft-necked. Georgians have better luck growing soft-necked garlic as the hard-necked ones require the long, cold winters and long, cool springs of more northern climates. There are three types of soft-necked garlic that grow well in Georgia: silverskin, artichoke, and elephant garlic (actually a type of leek). Recommended cultivars include Inchelium Red, California Early, and Chet’s Italian – all artichoke types. If you want to try the silverskin type consider Mild French.
Garlic Production for the Gardener is a useful publication on the types of garlic, planting, and harvesting. Planting involves just a few simple steps. Your local UGA Extension Agent will also have information to help you get started.
Step 1: Start with prepared soil. Garlic needs rich, loose soil with a pH of about 6.5. Make sure you add some compost after removing the summer plants; don’t just pull up spent plants and put the garlic in the ground. If soil test results indicate adding fertilizer, do so. Garlic is a medium-heavy feeder. Nitrogen can be incorporated in the soil before planting, either with traditional fertilizers or bone meal. Side dress in the spring when shoots are 4 to 6 inches tall. Hold off on nitrogen after April 1st because you want to encourage bulb formation not leaf growth.
Step 2: Pull the garlic head apart just before you plant. Use the larger bulbs for best results. Also, leave the skin on the bulb.
Step 3: Plant the bulbs about 2 inches deep with the pointed end up. Space them about 6-8 inches apart.
Step 4: Be generous with mulch. A generous amount of mulch helps keep the soil moisture and soil temperatures even.
Tops may show through the mulch by the end of October and the bulbs should be well rooted by November. Since October is one of our driest months of the year, irrigation is important at planting. Watering may be needed in early spring, but be careful not to over water. Stop irrigation once the tops begin to dry and fall over.
Garlic should be ready for harvest between mid-May to mid-July. Look for the tops drying and following over. When 1/2 of the tops are in this condition it is time to harvest. Don’t leave the bulbs in the ground too long or they may rot. Be very careful when harvesting not to damage your crop.
Allow the heads to dry in a warm, dry place. Keep them out of direct sunlight. After the garlic has dried store it in a cool, dry, dark place to keep it fresh as long as possible. Garlic braiding is a unique way of storage.
A community garden plot can yield a year’s worth of garlic so you’ll be able to enjoy those delicious Italian meals all year long. Garlic bread, calazones, tomato sauce, garlic chicken….
While at a conference in Traverse City, Michigan, I had the opportunity to meet with some community gardeners from the Traverse City Community Garden. Gary Harper gave me a tour of this organic garden of 150 members.
The first thing I noticed is the lack of disease in the garden. It is early October and it has been unseasonably warm in Michigan. They still had tomatoes and peppers growing and the tomato leaves were spot free.
Gardeners here start their gardens in May and are usually finished by mid-October. They expect a first frost by early October. Their cool-season vegetables were beautiful. I saw knee-high kale so large that it was hard for me to recognize it and there were parsnips that were spectacular.
The gardeners at Traverse City Community Garden do have some of the same concerns that we do in Georgia. Oftentimes, their members lose interest by the end of the season. They are required to give 12 hours per growing season to the upkeep of the common garden and the garden board has a difficult time enforcing that rule. They also have deer! A nine foot electric fence does not always dissuade them. Their #1 pest problem is stink bugs. These bugs are so bad on squash in Northern Michigan, that the gardeners are not allowed to grow squash in their plots.
It was great to see how others interpret a community garden and I am thankful for the time with these new gardening friends.
The weather is perfect to be out in the garden and there are chores to be done! UGA’s Vegetable Garden Calendar give us a to-do list:
Choose the mild weather during this period to plant or transplant the following: beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collards, lettuce, mustard, onions, radishes, spinach and turnips. Plant your second planting of fall crops such as collards, turnips, cabbage, mustard and kale.
Refurbish mulch to control weeds, and start adding leaves and other materials for the compost pile. Store your manure under cover to prevent leaching of nutrients.
Water deeply and thoroughly to prevent drought stress. Pay special attention to new transplants.
Harvest mature green peppers and tomatoes before frost gets them — it may not come until November, but be ready.
Already this year extreme weather has been a crucial part of agriculture in our state. One tool Georgia farmers have for dealing with weather is Pam Knox. Pam is an agricultural climatologist who works on getting important weather and climate information to growers. She writes regular short informational pieces that would be of interest to anyone interested in weather and agriculture. CASE:Climate and Agriculture in the Southeast is available to everyone. An example:
Southeast quarterly climate impacts and outlook report now available Sep 25, 2017 | Written by Pam Knox
The Southeast Regional Climate Center has released their latest 3-month seasonal climate summary and outlook for June through August 2017. It includes a look back at the major impacts of this summer’s weather and a look ahead to fall in just two pages. You can read it at https://www.drought.gov/drought/documents/quarterly-climate-impacts-and-outlook-southeast-region-september-2017.
Another one from Dr. Knox:
Interactive drought risk map for the US Sep 26, 2017 | Written by Pam Knox
The American Geosciences Institute has an interesting map of drought risk available at https://www.americangeosciences.org/critical-issues/maps/drought-atlas. It shows a variety of parameters which are related to drought, including rainfall, stream flow and the Drought Monitor map. It also allows you to compare current droughts to previous ones. Check it out!
Remember, information about weather specific to your area is available at georgiaweather.net . This information is collected by weather stations across the state. As an old Irish blessing says, “May the sun shine warm upon your face; may the rain fall soft upon your fields!”