Community and School Gardening in Georgia

Helping Community and School Gardeners Succeed!

This gardening blog is put together by Becky Griffin, Extension Community and School Garden Coordinator. It is designed to help community and school gardeners succeed by connecting them to UGA Extension and other research-based resources.  Here you will also find links to school gardener teacher training events and information on the Pollinator Spaces Project and the 2017 Georgia Pollinator Census.

Visit often, you will learn something each time!


 

Garlic Planting Step-by-Step

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.

Garlic D

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Garlic A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Garlic C

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3:  Plant the bulbs about 2 inches deep with the pointed end up.  Space them about 6-8 inches apart.

Garlic Mulch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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….

Happy Gardening and Mangiate bene!

Community Gardening in Northern Michigan

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.

Parsnip leaves

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.

An electric fence attempts to keep deer away

It was great to see how others interpret a community garden and I am thankful for the time with these new gardening friends.

Happy Georgia Gardening!

October Gardening Chores For Your Georgia Garden

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.

Lettuce seedlings at the Trustees Garden in Savannah

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.

Harvest herbs and dry them in a cool, dry place.

Herbs belong in the community and school garden!

Happy Fall Gardening!

Weather and Georgia Agriculture

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!”

Happy Gardening!

Keeping Good Garden Notes

Keeping notes about your garden is worth your time and effort.   Knowing when pests or diseases have traditionally first appeared in your garden can help you plan your integrated pest management program. Learning what diseases seem to occur with frequency in your area can help you choose resistant varieties or assist you in your crop rotation plan. This time of year it is important to record which vegetable varieties worked well for you this summer and which ones are not worth planting again.

It is also very interesting to look over several years of your garden’s weather data.  Simply recording the first frost dates, temperature highs and lows, and rain amounts can be of use. This year I would add a note of which plants survived Irma. Those would definitely be worth replanting!

There are several  ways to record this data easily.  First, there are journals designed specifically for gardeners.

Several of them have prompts to inspire you and some of them are have beautiful artwork. You might be more willing to fill these out if you left them in your garden shed or in your tool box.  Storing your journal in a waterproof ziplock baggie can help keep the pages clean.

If the idea of all that writing sounds like too much trouble, using a standard wall calendar might be for you.  Just getting in the habitat of writing a word or two each time you work in the garden will still be useful.  Hang it in the shed or on your mudroom wall.  You can even use an on-line photo printing service to create a calendar with photos from your garden!  This time of year these services usually have wonderful sales.

For those of you who would rather use your computer, there are several free online garden record keepers that are useful.  Some of them even have garden plan templates.  Use a search engine like google to find one that fits your needs.

Whatever you record this fall will be of interest this coming spring, I promise!

Happy Gardening!

Using Cover Crops in Your Georgia Community Garden

Using Cover Crops in Your Georgia Community Garden

We usually think of cover crops as tools that farmers use to build soil between seasons of cash crops. According to Using Cover Crops in the Home Garden using cover crops can be beneficial to any gardener.  These plants can build the soil, control soil erosion, and limit the spread of certain diseases and insects.  

Cover Crop Benefits

For community gardeners, whether you grow in raised bed plots or in the ground, there are substantial benefits here.  First, many community gardeners decide not to plant cool-season vegetables.  Their plots become a mess of warm-season crop debris, which can harbor insect pests disease.  Or, the plots are left bare almost guaranteeing that weedy plants will take over.  Using cover crops during the cool-season months solves those issues.

Using Cover Crops in Your Georgia Community Garden
Cowpeas and millet are used as warm-season cover crops.

Cover crops can add a nice look to a community garden plot. Many of these plants also attract pollinators and other beneficial insects.

Cover crops can provide a cheap source of nutrition for your garden plants.  After maturity the crops are mowed down (use a weed whacker if you garden in a raised bed), left to dry out and are turned into the soil.  They decompose in the soil increasing the organic matter.  Much less expensive than purchasing bags of organic matter!

Using Cover Crops in Your Georgia Community Garden
Cover crops at UGA’s Ugarden

Incorporating Cover Crops in Your Garden

So now that you are sold on the benefits of using cover crops during the cool-season, what do you plant?  A combination of a cereal grain and a legume is a good choice.  An example is wheat, oat, or rye with clover or winter peas.  The cereal grain grows quickly while the slower germinating legume takes hold.

Finding small amounts of seeds for a garden plot may be a challenge.  Check local feed and seed stores that may sell cover crops by the scoop.  Check your seed catalogs.  You may want to go in with others in your community garden for seed purchases.

For more details on the use of cover crops see Using Cover Crops in the Home Garden.  Or, contact your local UGA Extension office.

Happy Gardening!

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia

Carrots have a reputation of being hard to grow in the clay soils of North Georgia.  But, with a little knowledge and a few tricks you can have success with carrots.  Since they are a cool-season crop now is the time to plant.

Since the interesting part of carrots grow underground you need to start with well drained, loose soil.

This is key.  No rocks or sticks.  You want that carrot to have no resistance as it grows.  If you are growing in raised beds you are probably ahead of the game here.   Carrots like a soil pH of  5.5 – 6.5.

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia
Carrot seeds are very small and can be a challenge to work with.

Carrot seeds are very tiny.  Once you have your soil rock-free, smooth it out for planting.  There are two schools of thought in how to plant carrot seeds.  One way is to plant in traditional rows.  Another thought is if you have a defined area, like in a community garden raised bed plot, to broadcast the seeds.  Either way just lay the seeds on the soil bed and then sprinkle about 1/4 inch of soil on top. Consider mixing in a few radish seeds at planting.  They come up quickly and can help mark your rows, if you are a row planter.  And, they will help prevent the soil from crusting.

To ensure good seed-to-soil contact with such small seeds it is a good idea to lightly tamp the soil down.  A tamper is useful here to put just enough pressure for that contact without compacting the soil.  Water in.  Be patient as carrots take several weeks to germinate.

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia
This homemade tamper is just a 12 inch 2 X 4 attached to a waist high 1 X 1. The weight of the tamper is enough to ensure good seed to soil contact. Just lightly tamp the ground; no need to push down.

Mulch is important here.  The temperatures are still warm and you want to try and keep the soil moisture even.

Once the carrots come up thinning is essential.

If the carrots become too crowded underground, they can become stunted.  Thinning is a pain, especially if you broadcast planted.  But, don’t skip this step.  Instead of pulling up the thinnings, just use a snipper to cut the seedlings off at the root.  This will minimize disturbance of the remaining plants.  The goal is about 2 inches between carrots.

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia
These carrots ended up a bit close to each other.

Pay attention to the days until harvest number on the seed packets.  As the soil cools the carrots actually get sweeter.  Some gardeners leave the carrots in the ground over the winter with good results.  When harvesting be very gentle so you don’t damage your crop.

When choosing a cultivar remember that all carrots don’t have to be orange.  Chantenay Red Core has a reddish color while Purple Haze is obviously purple.  Danvers 126, Scarlet Nantes, and Nantes are all recommended orange cultivars.  Look for them at feed and seed stores, old hardware stores, and even big box retailers.  If you want to try something new there are several seed

Yes, You Can Grow Carrots in North Georgia
Even in Skagway Alaska, people like to grow food in community gardens. This plot had a mix of carrots, lettuce, and violets.

companies like Burpee and Johnny’s Selected Seeds that have interesting choices in their catalogs.  If you have any questions about growing carrots contact your local UGA Extension Agent.  He/She will have great advice.

Happy Gardening!

Make Room For Legumes in Your Georgia Garden

In anticipation of October’s Farm to School month Georgia Organics has launched the Make Room for Legumes campaign. Schools can register and receive free seeds as well as resources for the classroom including lesson plans. This is a fantastic program for all schools.

If you are excited to make room for legumes, it is not too late to grow beans this season in your school or community garden. If you are planting in August, choose bush bean varieties. These will mature in 50-60 days. Consider Bronco, Roma, Blue Lake which are all harvested and used fresh.

A bean crop in the UGArden in Athens

Dried beans are also a possibility although they require a longer maturity time. Dragon Tongue and Tiger Eyes are used fresh or dried. The pretty black and white Calypso beans or the historic red Hidatsa beans are traditionally dried. Consider planting several varieties.

One concern planting this late are Mexican bean beetles. Keep a look out for these pests, checking regularly for eggs. Removing the eggs is the best way to handle these pests in a small garden. Scout regularly!

Happy Gardening!

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