Monday, September 22, 2014

Building your soil and grub removal

I have been talking and emailing with Denise about soil building and she had some excellent advice I want to share with you. It was one of those AH HA! moments. Actually there were several AH HA!! moments because it explained things I was subliminally aware of not knowing (grin).
It has never been really clear in my head at what depth I should add the various soil amendments nor how to calculate how much to add back to the bed after I took out my tomato dirt.

What is tomato dirt?
That is the soil that was UNDER your tomato plants during the spring/summer gardening season. In a small 4' x 8' bed it is very difficult to rotate your vegetables very effectively to lower your disease pressure. To increase the chance of successfully growing tomatoes in the same bed the next year, we highly recommend you remove the tomato dirt and then plant the tomatoes at the opposite end of the bed.  EVERY YEAR.

In the fall you are replacing the volume of the tomato dirt that was removed as well as replenishing soil nutrients. In the spring you are adding in amendments to replace the nutrients your plants used during the fall, winter and early spring. In other words, the amount you add in the spring is less than in the fall - usually.

What level your soil amendments should be incorporated:
Our beds are 12 inches deep. You need a base level of 8 inches of soil before you start incorporating any amendments.

If you are starting with one of the beds that has been half emptied out (see picture to the side), fill it with the bagged topsoil until there are only 4 inches remaining (after grub removal and sifting - see bottom of this post for link and why you want to do this). I would mix the bagged topsoil with the soil from the original bed so it is blended well before mixing in any amendments.

You are making a soil cake here and want all your ingredients well blended!

For the healthiest production from soil that provides nutrients on a constant and balanced level, it is important to consider a few different concepts when adding amendments and at what depth to add them.  

1)  Consider the root structures (the main and feeder roots) of what you will grow to make sure food will be readily available at all levels.  For example - if you were growing radishes with short roots. If all your soil amendments were at a depth of 8 inches and below, the plant would be totally dependent on your fertilization practices above ground to thrive or the theory that your soil is already healthy and productive.

2)  Consider your additions.  For example, if you are adding items like leaves, coffee grounds and egg shells, they would be considered unfinished compost items. They need to be placed lower in the soil, closer to the reach of the earthworms.  This will speed their decomposition into available nutrients deep within the soil so when the plant roots get there the food is readily available.

3)   If soil life is already healthy, meaning full of life and visible activity (worms are excellent indicators), turning amendments into the top layers enhances the activity and appetite of earthworms, fungi, and bacteria.  They will all work in harmony to take matter deep within the soil wherever it needs to go. Nutrients will then be readily available at all levels for healthy root development and balanced plant nutrition.
Gardeners Math, Part 1
How to calculate how much to add to build up your bed
Our gardening beds are 4' x 8' = 32 square feet.

To replace a third of the bed - you need 10.67 cubic feet of amendments
To replace a quarter of the bed - you need 8 cubic feet of amendments

Jungle Grow  - 2 cubic feet
Mushroom Compost - 1.2 cubic feet
Black Kow Cow Manure  - 1.2 cubic feet
Worm castings (entire bag from Pike's) -  1 cubic foot
Bag of Top Soil   - 1 cubic feet

If you are building a bed from scratch you would need 21 bags to create your 8 inch base layer.
Vermiculite really doesn't take up that much space as it is more of a fine powder that is incorporated through out the bed when you mix it in. It is wonderful at absorbing and then releasing moisture and nutrients back as needed.

Chopped up leaves fluff the area up but don't keep much bulk in the bed after a couple of weeks. It just provides lots of good organic matter while decomposing and feeding the worms.

Coffee grounds and egg shells also don't provide much bulk but are very good additives because the worms utilize them. Whatever makes the worms happy, makes the plants happy.

If your soil has been depleted by heavy feeders you need to ramp up your additives to support growing tomatoes in the spring. And also so your fall and winter vegetables will do well. If your bed doesn't have many worms definitely add in the things that will make them happy because the more worms you have, the better your plants will do.

Compost Tea and Coffee grounds will help activate microbes and get your worms going in your bed before the cold weather arrives. This helps to build healthy soil which leads to healthy plants.  Compost Tea and Coffee grounds are also known to repel some insects and grubs are listed as one of them in the book, Teaming with Microbes, by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis.

Approximate Cost of Amendments
Jungle Grow - $6.98
Black Kow Cow Manure - $4.98
Mushroom Compost - $3.96
Worm Castings (20 lb bag) - $20.99
Top Soil -$1.29

Coffee grounds - ask anywhere they brew and serve a lot of coffee if they will save it for you. You need 5 pounds of coffee (with filters) for your bed in the fall and again in the spring.  As for the filters, I just tear them into strips and then into smaller pieces before I dig them in my bed.

Grub Removal:
We highly recommend you work on removing the grubs before filling or refilling your bed with dirt. It makes a world of difference. There is a reservoir of grubs in the first 2 to 3 inches of the red clay that the beds are sitting on. They WILL work their way up into the bed.

Also, if your bed has never been sifted and you plan on growing carrots, now is the time to do it when you have LESS dirt in the bed! If you just got a bed and you don't know if your bed has been sifted, just ask us.  There is not a need for sifting amendments.  However, if you notice any rocks or large particles from their processing, you will want to pick those out.

Here is link to a previous post on how to sift, what to look for and what equipment to use

When I dug down through my bed and into the red clay area in Fall 2012, I found 110 grubs. I did it again Spring 2013 and only found 30 grubs. Each time I find fewer grubs moving up through my soil because I've cleared out my reservoir of resident grubs. Unfortunately, you will always have some grubs because you miss a couple and because new ones are "deposited".  Denise's soil continues to remain grub free, with never more than a couple, through what we expect is due the use of compost tea on a regular basis.

Good luck building your soil for the fall/winter growing season!

Vicki & Denise 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Walkingstick Insect

Walkingstick Insect
Stick insects are some of the best camouflaged bugs in nature.  Lyndsay of bed number 11 found one hanging out on the shed door last Friday when she went to unlock it.  What a rare treat!

We can determine that this particular walkingstick is a male due to the pinchers located on the rear end.  The male uses these pinchers to clasp and hold the abdomen of a female while they breed.  Mating can last anywhere from several hours to over a day.  Yikes!

The female of the species is one of the few insects that are able to produce unfertilized eggs (if no male is encountered) that will hatch and grow into other females.  The eggs resemble tiny seeds and most often, she will either hide them in places that are very hard to get to or drop them one by one on the ground over a scattered area. Scattering them is her natural born instinct to keep predators from finding the eggs all in one place.

Much like a mantis, the walkingstick wears its skeleton on the outside of its body.  Their bones are unable to grow like ours and when the insect grows, the exoskeleton is shed and replaced by a new and roomier version.  They also have the ability to regenerate a lost limb and some in the species can even shoot a liquid to blind their predators when encountered.  It will take a walkingstick several molts to reach the size we see here on the shed door.

If you look closely at the head of the insect, you will see that he has extended his two front legs out parallel to his antennae.  This is a defense mechanism of the walkingstick to appear larger than it is and assist in its ability to mimic a twig through camouflage.  Many times you will also see them swaying as if they were moving with the breeze offering them one of the best natural camouflages and defenses we find in nature.

This little fella is completely natural to our area and will not cause any harm in the garden.  It has been a while since we have heard that one!  While they are night feeding herbivores eating a diet of plant leaves, their appetite prefers the leaves of brambles, deciduous trees and shrubs, with a preference to oaks and hazelnuts.  If found in the garden they can be left alone, although they may nibble a little, gently moved to the edge of the woods, or placed on a tree to send them on their way.

There are over 3,000 species of the stick insect and while not on the endangered list, walkingsticks do suffer from habitat destruction, pesticide use, and their collection for the pet trade.

A big thank you goes out to Lyndsay for pointing out this most interesting bug!

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Free Seeds - Radishes/Carrots

Chinese Watermelon Radishes
Located in the shed are seeds for Chinese Watermelon Radishes.  These heirloom seeds came from very healthy plants grown at Green Meadows last winter and spring.  They are incredibly unique and will be the spotlight of an upcoming post.

This particular type of radish grows to the size of golf balls without any loss of flavor or quality. They should be spaced on three to four inch centers in all directions to allow for their size and growth habit.

The pods need to be shelled to obtain the seeds inside and each pod does contain several seeds.

Also in the shed are individual packets of White Satin carrot seeds from our last "Spotlight On Something Unique" post.  These are a wonderful variety that do so well at Green Meadows.  For carrots, the spacing of three inches in all directions works very well for airflow and ease of hilling and harvesting.

As if this weren't enough, I noticed the picnic table also has some freebies.  Vann has been so kind to share some seeds for her Chinese Red Noodle beans and there are some extra collards there as well.  It's like Christmas in September!

Hope you enjoy,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Spotlight on Something Unique - White Satin Carrots!

White Satin carrots from
Denise's garden this past April.
It doesn't take much to look at these tender morsels to the right and sum the photo up with one word, YUMMY!  One of my favorite carrots to grow for their outstanding flavor and unique appearance is White Satin.  Very similar in growth to any of the "Nantes" type carrots, this variety performs to perfection in our garden.

History shows carrots as originating in Afghanistan and initially being purple, white, or yellow.  Nature took its course, wild varieties crossbred, and many mutations of colors were born.  During the 15th century Europeans mainly grew the white carrots for cattle feed.  Today we find them hybridized into gourmet varieties and happily at home in many gardens throughout the world.

Without the presence of any pigmentation in their roots, white carrots tend to have a very smooth and rich flavor.  They still contain the desired health promoting substances called phytochemicals, which are the naturally occurring compounds that protect the body against disease.  However, if one were comparing white carrots to their orange counterparts, those with color would have a higher presence of these disease fighting compounds within them.  There is a link below to the World's Healthiest Foods website that has a very nice write up on carrots.  It will have us all saying, "What's Up Doc?"
White Satin carrot tops
It can be hard to recognize White Satin for the showstopper it really is, as it appears to look like any other carrot variety when growing.  Strong tops and blunt tips make harvesting from the ground a breeze.  Once pulled, the distinctive white color would have many trying to determine if they planted a carrot or a parsnip due to their similarity in appearance. Nevertheless, after smelling the rich aroma that quickly fills the air and taking a bite, you readily see you have been witness to a little piece of carrot heaven.  

White Satin is easily appreciated for its ability to grow well at Green Meadows without the presence of pest and disease issues in either the spring or fall.  Last winter, with the unexpected weather conditions, it performed the best out of any of the carrots I grew.  Overwintering was easy and as soon as the days lengthened to where the plants could photosynthesize again, they happily finished their growth cycle.  I planted carrot seeds the second and third week of September and they finished their growth the last week of April and the first week of May.    

Green Meadows Healthy Garden Tip:

Carrots are one of the crops at Green Meadows that do extremely well with either spring or fall plantings. Rarely do we find any issues with insects or disease although aphids can become a problem if neglected when they strike.  The key to success with their growth is well prepared soil, proper spacing, even moisture, and nutrients rich in potassium and phosphorous.  Keeping nitrogen to a minimum will reduce forking and overly hairy roots.  Both planting alongside something from the allium family or very light dustings with wood ashes are excellent measures for preventing carrot rust flies.  These flies lay their eggs in the top of the soil around your plants.  Upon hatching, the larva, or maggots, tunnel into the soil and then feed on the carrot roots rendering them inedible.  Avoiding any excess moisture at harvest time prevents the roots from cracking.

Most carrots planted this time of year will need to overwinter and finish their growth cycle next spring as the ground temperatures warm, the days lengthen, and the plants have the ability to photosynthesize again.  This makes it important to have a garden plan in place that allows their longevity in the soil with good plant companions.  For those that hope to have some carrots for the fall and winter holidays, choosing an early maturing variety that requires less growth time or baby carrots is your best option.


The first link below is for those who would like to read about the additional health benefits of carrots.  It will take you to the website of the World's Healthiest Foods, which has a nice article posted. - link to the World's Healthiest Foods carrot page

The seeds for this wonderful variety are easy to find and the two sites below usually have them readily available.  I will also have some extra seeds in the shed either this weekend or the first of next week for those who may want to enjoy and try their hand at overwintering. - link to Territorial Seed Company - link to Johnny's Seed Company

The last link is to Cornell University.  Cornell has one of the most comprehensive charts on the disease resistance of different carrot varieties.  Although White Satin does not have a spot on the list, I have grown them at Green Meadows several times and they continue to surprise me with their amazing production and ease of growth in a difficult environment. - link to disease resistance of different carrot varieties from Cornell University

If anyone needs assistance with how to grow carrots, setting up an environment conducive for them to do well, or the proper way to space and hill, just let us know.

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Disease on Transplants

Many of our new gardeners have asked if we could show them what diseased transplants look like to prevent them from purchasing what may turn into a problem.  With so many getting their beds ready for the fall I thought it would make an excellent post for us all.

Early stage of disease on broccoli transplants!
I did a little recon mission this past weekend (sunglasses and all) and the photo to the right shows "Arcadia" broccoli plants available at a local retailer.  I did not put a name to the retailer, as right next to the diseased broccoli was some of the most beautiful red cabbages that would make a wonderful addition to anyone's fall garden.

Several of the broccoli plants pictured show the early stage of disease present.  If you blow the photo up it is easy to see the spots located on the lower leaves.  A pale colored leaf or one that is solid yellow can be somewhat benign, although not always.  Often, it can be signs of something as simple as inappropriate watering practices or a nutrient deficiency.  The fix would then be rather easy to take care of by either correcting the watering habits of the plant or fertilizing appropriately.  However, when plants have leaves that are off in color and accompanied by spots, it is most often a symptom or sign of disease. 

Unfortunately, these plants would require the use of fungicides on an on-going basis much as you have experienced with your tomatoes.  The disease is not curable.  All parts of a broccoli plant are edible.  The stalk, leaves, final head, and any side shoots they produce.  Having a plant that is infected with disease early on will reduce the amount you are able to get back out of your garden for the money, time, and effort you have put in.  Diseased leaves do not have the eating quality you desire and the disease will spread throughout the garden infecting other plants within that same vegetable family.

Arcadia Broccoli and Dino Kale!
Now let us look at this other photo.  In the upper left-hand corner, you will see the same cultivar of broccoli growing from a healthy transplant.  This photo is from late September of last year.  Notice the absence of any yellowing or spots on the leaves. Starting with a healthy transplant reduces the need for fungicides and the eating quality, therefore, is greatly increased.  This allows you to get more back out of your garden for the expense and effort put in.  In addition, plants that remain healthy are less likely to be attacked by insects or the damage from these pests will most often be insignificant or easily controlled.

These plants were treated with a compost tea solution at planting and then twice per month thereafter. They did not receive or require any additional fertilization.  A fungicide was required only three times throughout their growing cycle due to excessive rains causing an outbreak of downy mildew in the garden. After harvesting the central heads, the plants continued to produce side shoots well into April when they were pulled to make way for the next season of growing.

By being able to recognize transplants that have disease already present, we should be able to avoid some of the diseases that come into the garden via this avenue.

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Great Tips For A Great Fall Garden!

We are so fortunate to live in an area with such a favorable climate for growing many of the fall and winter vegetables.  You would never know it by the temperature on the gauge but the end of July and month of August starts us off with the fall planting season.  Here are some excellent tips to bring you success in the garden!
  • Research - Research is such an integral part of gardening.  Choosing plants that perform well within our growing environment and that resist the common diseases we encounter sets us all up for success.  So many say they cannot grow a thing.  Everyone can have a green thumb by choosing the right plants for the right conditions and then giving them what they need to do well.  If you continue to plant varieties that don't really perform well in the garden it makes you feel like you are not very good at this.  We all want to feel successful.  Change it up a bit!  You may be a wonderful gardener just choosing the wrong varieties for our growing conditions.
  • Grow From Seed - Sowing from seed and raising transplants is a wonderful way to have more success in the garden and save a lot of money while you are at it.  So many of the vegetables lend themselves well to direct sowing and it enables you to choose your varieties carefully for a healthier garden.  We all think of putting in the beets, carrots, peas, and radishes and such from seed, but then fall short when it comes to direct sowing many of the greens and other plants.  If you are a seed saver, remember to see what varieties require a hot water treatment to prevent any seed-borne diseases from re-infecting your garden.       
  • Start With High Quality Transplants - If you do start the fall garden with purchased plants, keep in mind that many diseases come into the garden via these purchases from the local nurseries and big box retailers.  We have all been there.  You see a wonderful little plant with maybe a yellow leaf or two and one may think if I just take that off it looks good.  The truth is, your plant is probably harboring disease and it will be an ongoing effort to keep it somewhat healthy and productive.  Find out when the trucks come in and buy your plants fresh on delivery.  This prevents the stress they encounter while awaiting their sale that most often initiates the disease cycle.  Inoculate all plants before bringing them into the garden by awakening their defense mechanisms early and make sure they have the nutrients they need to thrive and do well once planted. 
  • Rejuvenate And Repair The Soil - Much like your own immune system can fight off the common cold or the flu, preparing the soil well will set up an immune system for your plants.  When your plants are strong and healthy and getting the proper nutrients, they require on a regular basis, they are less susceptible to both disease and insects.  Rejuvenate with organic matter at the start of each growing season. Organic matter added in the spring will not carry the vegetables through the fall.  Many of the vegetables we grow are heavy feeders and it is imperative to replenish the soil for a healthy and productive garden.  Keep in mind that most organic matter is the by-product of one industry or another.  Adding organic matter from a variety of sources will offer a broader spectrum of micro-organisms and nutrient availability.  This practice lays the foundation for a more diverse soil life and enables your plants to have a buffet of nutrients readily available.  No one wants to go to a restaurant with only one thing on the menu!  Declare war on any disease issues you experience and have a plan of attack to work these concerns back out of your soil. My favorite method for repairing and restoring the soil is available at this link on our blog. - link to rejuvenating the soil for fall.
  • Planting Plan - Whether you enjoy a linear or more artistic approach to gardening, have a planting plan that allows for good airflow.  Airflow is crucial to the overall health of your garden. Look for the perfect partners to your plants that keep insects at bay. Many tend to use marigolds and tomatoes together as an excellent combination in the summer.  For fall, rosemary and sage planted among the brassica's are wonderful for deterring cabbage moths and carrot rust flies. Chives are excellent to use as a trap crop for black aphids.  Having a plant of chives in your garden will most often keep black aphids from invading the rest of your plants in the surrounding area. Know which plants can stunt the growth of your vegetables.  For example, keep onions, garlic, shallots, etc. away from your peas and beans.  The allelopathic properties of these plants make for bad companions in the soil and neither will produce all that well when planted in close proximity. 
  • Mulch For A Protective Barrier - The cornerstone to most healthy vegetable gardens, aside from well-constructed soil composition, is the effective use of mulches or ground to earth barriers.  A study published by Texas A & M University states that those who use mulch as a protective barrier in the garden would see increases in their production of vegetables by as much as 50%.  Mulches play a vital role in preventing foliage and fruit diseases by inhibiting the soil from splashing on the leaves.  Healthy plants then have the ability to place more of their energy into production rather than spending it on fighting disease.  Mulches also conserve moisture, enrich organic matter back into the soil, and act as a great regulator for soil temperatures.   Many gardeners utilize them to their advantage by creating environments either warmer or cooler depending on their needs for enhanced plant growth.  Something as simple as chopped leaves or a layer of soil conditioner is wonderful at slowing the end of the season for your cool weather crops come next spring.      
  • Have Fun - Gardening is such great exercise and a nice way to connect with the soil and the plants.  It is important to have fun with what you grow.  It can be really stressful if you do not do well with your vegetables or have a constant battle with disease and insects.  Grow the things you like to enjoy and the ones that bring you the most success.  If you see a few things doing really well in your garden, tuck in a couple extra plants within that same plant family.  This way gardening will be something you look forward to and enjoy doing rather than becoming another chore or task that requires attention.  Let harvesting be the by-product of having a great time!       
  • Ask For Help - Seasoned gardeners are a wealth of knowledge and can prevent you from making costly mistakes.  We all want to see you succeed and do well with your vegetables.  If you run into trouble or need some help, just let us know.  We are always more than willing to assist with whatever you need. 
Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fresh Red Shallots from Louisiana

Hey Everyone,

Amy Gallagher of bed number 12 has been so kind to share some of her dad's red shallots from Louisiana with us.  They are located in the shed for our gardeners to enjoy!

Each single bulb will grow into a wonderful clump and the flavor of this strain is simply outstanding..........

Red Shallots
I have attached a link from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange that has a very nice planting guide for the allium family of crops.  Shallots can go in much earlier to be enjoyed as red onions for the holidays. - link to planting guide from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Thanks so much for sharing Amy!

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Whew That Was A Job!

You guys grow way too much food!
I can barely keep up with it all!

to just stop
the squirrels!

Happy Gardening,
Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mystery Eggs on a Tomato Leaf

Here is a photo essay on the development of some mystery eggs that were found on the TOP of a tomato leaf. Luckily before they hatched I put them in a plastic bag because otherwise, I would have had 4 of these critters running around in my house!

These eggs were a pearly translucent color and very oddly
shaped. They weren't spheres, more like half a football
or a Viking burial mound. 7/11/14

They have turned an amber color and red marks
 are appearing on the eggs.  7/14/14

It is fascinating to see how the insects cut out little doors and left the eggs.

Leaf-footed bugs. They hatched out on 7/22/14 (in the bag)  and when I showed them to Denise
on the 23rd they were still alive. But I allowed them to die for a better photo opportunity.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Is it time to say UNCLE?

Does it seem like you just can't get ahead of a particular bug or disease problem? Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, Say UNCLE!  and start over.

Boo hoo...the tomatoes are goners.
It is hard to call it quits on plants you've spent so much time and effort taking care of - all that watering, fertilizing, spraying etc. It doesn't seem right to just give up and rip them out.

But to prevent residual disease and insect problems as well as interrupt the disease/bug cycle, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, say UNCLE and rip out some of your plants.

In the home garden it is much easier to put off crying uncle because what you do only affects yourself. In a Community Garden what you do (or don't do) affects everyone else and their success.

There are many reasons why your plants are looking sad and pitiful - weather (too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry), lack of disease resistance in your plants, heavy insect attack, lack of fertilization, not spraying to knock back disease and bugs.

To help you decide, realistically, whether your plants have a chance if you step up and give them a bunch of TLC, ask yourself these questions:

1) How infested/diseased/damaged are my plants.
         If they are over halfway gone with disease and the season is almost over, rip them out.

         How many insect pests are on your plants - look for adults, larva and eggs. Tons? Do you really want to get into the game of coming out every single day and pulling them all off and looking on the backs of every single leaf every single day?

2) What is the weather going to be like for the next 2 weeks? Are you going to be able to spray and have it stick? Or will you be constantly re-spraying.

3) How long before you would most likely be ripping out that plant and working on the soil for the next season's crops?

4) Realistically, how much time do I have and how much effort do I want to expend to fight off whatever my plants problem is.

Think about the Kenny Rogers song  "The Gambler"
                             Know when to fold 'em
                             Know when to walk away

And in Gardener words, when to rip them out and plant again....                          

 You want to be Proactive instead of reactive!
Depending on what your problem was, there are some easy changes that should make your next planting more successful.

Spacing - putting fewer plants in so you have better airflow and access to all parts of the plants. This way when you spray for disease, the spray gets to all parts of the plant, not just the outside and top of your mass of plants.

 June 19, 2012. The tomatoes eventually took over
 half the bed. Way too thick!
Proper spacing means you can also reach all parts of the plant to check for insect pests and can reach and kill those pests. 

Defending against disease and insects - treating for bugs or disease is not a one shot thing. You have to constantly watch, check and retreat with the proper spray when necessary. You need to be able to come out and check on your plants every 2 to 3 days. It is amazing how fast a problem will zoom out of control in just 3 days.

In a community garden you will have more disease and bug problems to contend with versus in a home garden.  More plants, more opportunities. Therefore you have to continually "defend/protect" your plants.

Reduced airflow creates a perfect climate for disease to flourish. It also prevents fungal sprays from getting to all parts and surfaces of a the plant.

If you grow a solid block of tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, etc you can get the outer edges easily but not the middle. When you have a solid mass of plants there is no way you can see inside to check and remove bugs/eggs  so again you get behind.

Increase Airflow -
Remove leaves repeatedly to increase airflow and ability to take care of plants.  You don't have to denude the plant, just thin some of the leaves out from time to time.

There were 5 tomatoes planted in this bed on April29, 2012.
They became a HUGE mass of diseased vegetation by the
end of July 2012. No airflow
Make a garden plan - you don't have to stick to it but if you make a plan it does increase your chances of success. Spending 5, 10 or 15 minutes at the beginning of EACH planting season, planning out where your plants are going will actually save you hours of work in the long run.

 Plant only half your bed in plants with heavy foliage so you can get to all sides. Just by reconfiguring your plantings you will increase your success greatly.
Remembering to think about each plants full, mature size makes a world of difference!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Is there a bird in the shed?

Wrens are famous for going where
you do NOT want them.
Did you suddenly find that a bird has gotten in the shed? Or your porch? Garage? The netting over your blueberries?

The first thing to do is Don't Panic!! The poor bird just wants OUT but has become confused and can't find its way out.

I've dealt with birds in all these situations and the solution is the same every time. It isn't always a quick process but it always works.

Provide an opening for the bird to fly out and herd it there. Birds (as well as all wild animals) have a fear circle. You want to get on the other side of the bird's fear circle and to make it fly away from you. No need to actually swat with a broom. If you do need to use a broom to get the bird to fly down, just put it behind the bird and make a gentle motion.

If the bird is in the shed or a garage:
1) Turn the lights out
2) Open the door as wide as possible
3) Get on the other side of the bird and

  ZOOM! it will fly out the opening with light

If the bird is on a screened porch or inside the netting over your blueberries:
1) Open the door on the porch wide. Or create an opening in the netting over the blueberries.
2) Get on the other side of the bird.                              
3) Encourage the bird to go out.

                                                        ZOOM! it will fly out the opening

Now I will admit it is much trickier getting a bird out of the blueberry enclosure than it is getting it out of the porch, shed or garage but it can be done with no harm caused to the bird besides panic because it was trapped.

Good luck if you find yourself in this situation!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Don't Give Up on Your Fig!

Recovered Celeste fig - 7/22/14
See that greenery at the base of the dead fig stick?  This picture taken today, July 22nd, proves that patience aka procrastination pays off.  I'm sure the neighbors have wondered all summer why I'm growing a stick in my front yard.  Today, I was going to replace it with a gifted butterfly bush and, lo and behold, I found that it's recovered from the cold spells of our 2014 winter.  Do you recall the single digit night?

The more protected fig in my back yard sent up new shoots from the base last spring and is now taller than 5 feet.  No fruit, regretfully, but there's always next year. 

The figs in the Green Meadows Preserve Orchard have all recovered except for one.  But a bed check tomorrow might find it alive and kicking, too.  Hope so!

Spotlight on Something Unique - Chinese Red Noodle Beans

Many may remember some of the interesting vegetables we grew last summer and how we toured the garden via the blog spotlighting on those that were unique with our posts.  It was such a nice way to learn about some extraordinary performers and I thought it might be nice to add to our list.

Chinese Red Noodle Beans
grown by
Vann Gaskin of Bed 33
Our first addition is rich in history and comes to us from southern China!  Vann, of Bed 33, not only has the healthiest looking bean plants in the garden but some of the most beautiful to stroll by and take a gander.  Chinese Red Noodle beans are an heirloom variety that is very common to the southern regions of China.  It first came to the America's via Chinese immigrants who were here working on the transcontinental railroads during the 1800's.

Heat tolerant and vigorous are just two of many attributes that come to mind when describing this wonderful pole bean variety.  On observation, it seems as if to take its time setting pods but the wait appears to be well worth the time spent. Once it gets started, the plants are continuously producing pods of the highest quality, which would earn it the rank of an outstanding performer in any gardener's journal.  As an added bonus, this cultivar is highly resistant to the Mexican bean beetle that tends to plague our community garden each year. To date, the plants have not required the need for a fungicide or pesticide treatment to remain healthy.

The distinctive purple-red color brings such plate appeal for something unique in the kitchen as the beans will lose their color when cooked but retain it when sauteed or stir-fried.  They can also be used in any dish that calls for string beans and according to what I have read they lend a wonderful almost nutty flavor to most soups.  For the peak of flavor, it is best to pick the pods before they reach twenty-two inches in length.  Longer lengths will still be edible, however, the flavor tends to fall off and the beans will not be as tender.

In sampling, I stir-fried with freshly pulled garlic and peanut oil and served with some toasted sesame seeds.  The flavor was mild and pleasant with the slightest hint of a mushroom taste.  Although others who have tried say the beans are delicious, they do not taste the hint of mushroom within the flavor. So I guess that boils down to having sensitive taste buds, maybe the garlic variety chosen for the dish (grown with the addition of mushroom compost), or being completely off my rocker, you be the judge, grin!

Several years ago, the Chinese Red Noodle beans as well as several other distinctive varieties were part of a trial performed by the Master Gardener's in Santa Clara County.  Chinese Red Noodle performed very well in the trial and was a favorite for those desiring a rich bean flavor.  The link is below for your convenience as several of the varieties trialed would be worthy of growing within our garden. - link to the long bean trial performed by Master Gardeners

Green Meadows Healthy Garden Tip:

Choosing varieties that offer resistance to the common diseases and pests issues we face goes a long way in lessening your dependence on the use of fungicides and pesticides.  Chinese Red Noodle beans are a perfect example of an heirloom variety having a natural resistance to the Mexican bean beetle. Many of the yard-long beans offer the same tolerance or resistance to these terrible pests. It's just a matter of choosing your varieties carefully and making their environment conducive for the plants to do well.  Vann has showed us a perfect example of tilting the odds in her favor for a healthy and productive garden by using carefully chosen cultivars.  Kudo's Vann!  If there were a bean award, we would need to give you "Best in Show!"

For those who may be interested in trying their hand at growing these wonderful beans the links are below for your convenience to a couple excellent seed companies that carry them.  In addition, I have also placed the link to the other "Spotlight on Something Unique" articles that show standout performers within the garden. - link to Baker Creek Seed Company - key in spotlight on something unique in the search bar located in the upper right-hand corner

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Gardeners' Night Out - Fall 2014

An evening series of monthly programs on gardening sponsored by the Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County

August 12th (Tuesday)  7:00 - 8:00 pm
“The Annual Sequence of Blooms Beloved by Worker Honeybees”
with Rita Buehner, Master Gardener
       East Cobb Regional Library
       (Old Parkaire Mall Site)
       4880 Lower Roswell Road
       Marietta, GA 30068

September 9th (Tuesday) 7:00 - 8:00 pm
“All about Bluebirds and More”
with Jim Bearden, Master Gardener
      West Cobb Regional Library
      1750 Dennis Kemp Lane NW
      Kennesaw, GA 30152

October 14th (Tuesday)  7:00 - 8:00 pm
“Trees of Our Lives: Small Native Trees for the Landscape”
with Dawn Hines, Master Gardener
      South Cobb Regional Library
      805 Clay Road
      Mableton, GA 30126

November 11th (Tuesday) 7:00 - 8:00 pm
“Adaptive Gardening -- How to Keep Gardening on your Lifetime Can Do list “
with Joe Washington, Master Gardener
      Mountain View Regional Library
      3320 Sandy Plains Road
      Marietta, GA 30066

The mission of the Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County is to advance the horticultural education and practices of its members and to promote the knowledge of and interest in gardening to the members and to the public.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Winter Gardening Means Mid-Summer Planning & Planting

The garden is in full swing, beans, cucumbers, and squash out the ears, plants loaded with tomatoes, and peppers well on their way to all developing nicely.  Many are asking what they can plant now for the small areas of real estate still available in their garden.  A second round of many of the summer vegetables is always a possibility; however, I tend to turn my attention to the fall garden..........................

Broccoli improves with flavor when kissed by frost!
I have been pushing parsnips lately as if they were a new drug in town to cure the wintertime blues, due only to the length of time they take to produce a healthy crop.  Several varieties of this carrot family relative can take 16 weeks or more to mature.

Parsnips have never graced my garden in the past and in speaking with some "ole-timers", they insist the flavor is sweeter than carrots in winter soups and stews. We shall see about that one!  According to Wikipedia, they are rich in history and during Roman times, they were actually considered an aphrodisiac. We shall see about that one as well, grin!

All of your broccoli's, brussels, cabbages, cauliflowers, etc. benefit from being transplanted into the garden between 4 and 6 weeks of age.  The proper time for sowing these seeds indoors is now for those who want to grow their fall garden for pennies on the dollar.  Beets, carrots, parsnips, and such do better directly sown and may go in as early as the end of July for those who want to be harvesting by Christmas dinner.

Burpee has a nice link where you key in the zip code for our growing area and the chart comes up for what to start and when.  In addition, I really like the links to the sowing guides from Botanical Interests, as these are quality seeds available locally at Pike's. - link to the growing calendar at Burpee Seed Company - link to the late summer and fall sowing guide for vegetables, herbs, and flowers from Botanical Interests

Green Meadows Healthy Garden Tip:

To get the most out of the fall vegetable crops, look for varieties that are resistant to the common diseases and insects we experience in the garden.  For example, Southern Exposure Seed Company carries the Green Glaze Collards that have excellent resistance to the cabbage looper and the cabbage worm.  They also carry the Dwarf Blue Vates Kale that resists yellowing of the leaves due to cold temperatures when winters are more severe than expected.  Anything that can offer resistance to downy mildew is a plus since we find that disease rather common.  Tilting the odds in your favor dramatically increases the success of a healthy vegetable garden with less dependence on the use of fungicides and pesticides.  This is especially important with the fall greens, as they tend to absorb what you spray.

One of the most comprehensive links for finding varieties that are resistant to many of the common vegetable diseases is at Cornell University.  I have placed that link here as well for your convenience. - link to chart at Cornell for resistant varieties 

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Friday, July 11, 2014

Lunch & Learn Series - Fall 2014

Lunch & Learn 2014
A MGVOCC Educational Program
Bring your lunch & enjoy an hour-long presentation
on a plant/garden-related subject.
Noon to 1:00 PM
County Water Lab 660 S. Cobb Drive & Atlanta Road.

Schedule and directions at:

August 8,2014: "Weed ID for Weed Control"   Presented by Cornelius Tarver, Urban Agriculture and National Resources Agent

Tired of fighting weeds?  The challenge we face is all of them cannot be controlled the same way.  Neil will help us identify weeds in order to select the most effective method to control them.

Sept.12,2014: "The Joy of Bluebirds" All about Bluebirds and More   Presented by James Bearden

Jim's presentation includes the life of the Eastern Bluebird, including a Bluebird Trail and Nest Box Management; other birds that nest in cavities of bluebird boxes, and more!

October 10, 2014:  "Landscaping and Septic Tanks: What Homeowners Need to Know"  Presented by Cornelius Tarver

A Discussion of septic tank maintenance and  it's relation to your landscape.

November 14, 2014:  "Bonsai"  Presented by Michael Stoddard,  Board of Directors, Atlanta Bonsai Society

Bonsai, an ancient art which originated in China and developed in Japan, means "to plant in a shallow dish".  Mike, a long-time student of this art, will bring his  bonsai to show us how to plant, prune and care for our own.

Cobb County Cooperative Extension
678 South Cobb Drive, Suite 20,   Marietta, GA 30060-3105    Phone:  770-528-4070  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Horticulture Day at the Garden

Heading out to walk the Blue Bird Trail
It was a wonderful day at the garden in spite of the humidity. We had lots of visitors and showed the children who visited all kinds of interesting things - like fritillary caterpillars.

There was something for everyone either in the garden or outside the garden.  Approximately 26 people  went on the Blue Bird Trail walk with Jim.

Off to visit the bee yard!
Rita and Mike had a fabulous bee display in the garden. There was a honey extractor to look at and honey to taste which was made by the bees at Green Meadows Preserve. Mmmm.

Thank you to Vann & Dalita for coming out Tuesday morning and talking to our visitors. Especially for spending so much time out in the sun where the plants were!

Many thanks to Heidi for the Herb and Vertical Gardening handouts made available on our table. And to Carol and Vicki for helping during the event.

Just one of the tables full of information visitors could take away.
Fritillary caterpillar. They look vicious
 but this particular caterpillar is
 harmless. The spines are actually soft.
The bee exhibit was fantastic. It
was fascinating learning how
 the honey extractor works.
Special thanks to everyone helping the children with the scavenger hunt. It was a lot of fun for everyone to look for everything.

Rocks were easy to find but where to find the radish pods and tomatillos really stumped the searchers. As did the caterpillar on the list! Luckily for us, they are always on the passion vine (may pop) so are easy to find.

Vicki and Rita 
Definitely thank you to all the gardeners at Green Meadows who worked so hard at getting the garden ready for this event.  The garden looked and still looks fantastic. Special thanks to all the community gardeners who came out and did extra mulching throughout the garden and on the fence line.

Mike, the Bee Man
I heard lots of great comments about the Period Garden that Jack and the Master Gardeners have created around the house and the Native American Garden Tony, Jack and the Master Gardeners have created between the house and the woods.

Jack and Louise
Louise, Amy, Renae, Hope and Neil from Cobb County Extension put together a fun and enjoyable event. Thanks for asking us to participate!

Photos by Renae, Mike and Vicki

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How to Water - over head or at the base of the plant

Which way should you water your plants? When it comes to vegetables there are certain plants it is best to take precautions with and NOT do overhead watering. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers and watermelons in particular are all plants that get fungal diseases (blights and powdery mildew.)

These tomatillos have lots of space at the
bottom so they can be watered easily at
the base without getting the leaves wet.
Wet leaves set up the perfect conditions for disease to get established. For these plants it is much better to water at the base (ground level) and not get the leaves and stems wet.

You can't control the amount of water that comes from the sky but you can control where you place the water when you are hand watering.

There are 4 or 5 tomatoes in here. Only one
is easy to water without getting the foliage wet.
The only choice IS to water through the leaves.
But....there is always a BUT....if we haven't had any rain for several weeks it is a good idea to give the plants a shower to wash the dirt and grime off the leaves.


Any time you wash a plants leaves off, do it early enough in the day (at least an hour before dark) to give the foliage time to dry before dark.

Carrots, lettuce, and greens on the other hand, like to get their foliage washed when they get watered. So you can do overhead watering frequently on them. As you can see above, it is hard to water just at the base of a carrot in a bed of carrots so you do have to get the foliage wet every time you water.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Vanilla Bean Mascarpone Ice Cream

Carol's son-in-law Chad made this Ice Cream for the Ice Cream Social. It was soooo good. Surprisingly so since I was mentally going Mascarpone? In the ice cream?
 Vanilla Bean Mascarpone Ice Cream with Biscoff Cookie
    4 large egg yolks 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar 
    2 cups whole milk
    1 cup mascarpone (7 ounces)
    1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
    Pinch of salt
    One Vanilla Bean
  1. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 3 minutes. In a saucepan, combine the milk with the remaining 2 tablespoons of the sugar, split length wise the vanilla bean and scrape insides of pod , add both scraped pod and vanilla beans into mixture and bring to a simmer.
  2. Strain milk and vanilla mixture.
  3. Slowly beat the warm milk into the egg yolks at low speed. Scrape the custard into the saucepan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 5 minutes; don't let the custard boil.
  4. Pour the custard into a bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water and whisk in the mascarpone, lemon juice and salt. Let stand until chilled, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
  5. Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the mascarpone ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

 Make Ahead  - The ice cream can be frozen for up to 2 days.