Friday, November 21, 2014

Sandhill Crane Migration -one of my favorite times of year

One of the joys about writing for the blog is I can write about whatever I want to - well within reason! However, one of the drawbacks, is that I hate having to save a fascinating (to me) fact until the appropriate time.

Today, the time has come for me to share a saved tidbit - because, finally the Sandhill Cranes began flowing like a rapidly running river through West Cobb County.

I saw and heard the first huge mass of sandhill cranes around 1:15 while I was at the garden talking to BJ. - thanks BJ for sharing that joyous moment with me. The next big mass I saw in the sky was when I came out of Kroger on Dallas Hwy around 1:45. There were hundreds circling and calling in the sky with more headed towards them. Usually I avoid going out the entrance facing the Avenues of West Cobb because traffic is such a PITA.

But today I said to myself, nope, I'll just go out that entrance because I can watch the sandhill cranes when I get stopped at the traffic light at Due West and Dallas Highway. Lucky me..another huge kettle of sandhill cranes was forming up over the Bank of America building just as I arrived and I got to sit through the entire light. YES! the entire light!!

Once I got home I watched thousands of them sail over head for several more hours -  all headed south at a rapid clip. I'm thinking they finally the message after this last cold spell that it really was time to head to Florida for the winter. There is a huge gathering spot in Tennessee called the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Birchwood Tennessee that sees large flocks of sandhill cranes in the fall and winter, 30 to 40,000 sometimes.

Here is my saved up factoid about sandhill cranes which I read in the Atlanta Audubon Newsletter.    

      "Their coiled tracheas enhance their calls, sending the notes out long before the birds are seen, causing us to look up in expectation."

I had never really thought about how they produce the sound, I just love listening to it.  Interestingly enough, in March of this year one of the posts I wrote included a section on  Sandhill Cranes. There just so happens to be a link it in if you want to listen to a sandhill crane calling.  (This link is to the article itself - http://greenmeadowscommunitygarden.blogspot.com/2014/03/signs-of-spring.html)

Now that the cranes are really here, I think I'll be going on a wild goose (i.e. crane) chase up to Field's Landing in Cherokee County to see if I can see them up close and personal. Fields Landing is only 45 minutes from here. Last year several of my community garden friends (Rita and Elise) and I went up there to see if  we could see any. Nope...we were too late and they had all gone north so it really was a wild goose/crane trip.

Be sure and keep your ears open and your eyes flicking upwards towards the sky listening and watching for sandhill cranes since they are finally on the move again. And now I've gone full circle with this topic and connected Sandhill Cranes to the Garden as well as reported on them migrating south to GABO (Georgia Birders Online.)

Vicki
Bed 41



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cobb Extension Horticulture e-Newsletter

I've just heard about a new e-Newsletter that Cobb Extension will be putting out.

Go to the UGA Extension in Cobb County Blog to sign up if you are interested. Below is a description of the newsletter taken from the UGA blog and how to sign up for it.

"Looking for timely tips and a longer view of the schedule of classes for Cobb Extension? This information can be delivered to your email inbox through a new e-Newsletter.

Each issue of the e-newsletter, the "Cobb Extension Horticulture News," will list Cobb Extension's public events and classes for the upcoming two months, tips for the care of lawns, gardens, and landscapes, and one or two timely, short articles.

A signup form for the emailed "Cobb Extension Horticulture News" is in the right-hand sidebar of this blog. The inaugural (i.e.: "guinea pig") issue will be released in early December, and subsequent issues will be delivered to subscriber in-boxes every two months through the year, beginning with a January/February issue.

We are looking forward to sharing up-to-date, research-based information about care of lawns, gardens, and landscapes and our natural resources through the newsletter! "

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hollow Heart in Broccoli

Learning clues after the harvest is vital to building upon gardening knowledge and success.

This photo shows some recently harvested broccoli from one of my neighbor's veggie beds.  Since I have also seen a couple stalks of similar nature at the garden, it may be a timely post.

Hollow Heart in Broccoli!
What can we learn about the plant and preventing future problems by viewing what remains after harvesting the central head?

Let's take a closer look at the photo to the right and see...

If you look at the center of the harvested central stem, you will notice a hole in the middle or a condition known as "Hollow Heart" in broccoli.

While the condition will not affect any of the flavors, depending on the circumstances, it will substantially reduce the overall health of the plant when desiring that delicious side shoot production.  In addition, depending on how far up into the head the hollow heart goes, storage ability of the broccoli will decline.

If you were growing for market, this is a serious problem as it is considered a defect that reduces the marketability of your crop.  For the home gardener, it does not present too much of a problem if you take corrective measures to protect future plantings.  However, this year, you may not be able to obtain the side shoot production you were hoping for as hollow heart does decrease the health and yield of your plants.

Many gardeners point to hollow heart as just a boron deficiency.  In reality, it is most often caused by a few factors.  It can be any one of the following or a combination of several.

1)  The level of boron in your soil is running low and needs rectified.

2)  The plants are receiving too much of a good thing when it comes to feeding them nitrogen or supplying them water.

3)  The plant rate of growth is too fast.   In other words, the plant is growing faster than it can readily uptake the nutrients provided.

So, now I know there is a problem, what do I do...?

First - Correctly identify the source of your misfortune.  The process of adding unnecessary elements to the soil, such as boron, can create an environment of toxicity to both plants and soil microbial life.  The potential side effects of over supplying boron would vary from crop to crop.

To try to determine the root cause we did a distilled water soil test and found this gardener's nutrients on the high side.  In the absence of any other signs and symptoms common to a boron deficiency, our diagnosis is then two, three, or a combination of both above. Turns out this gardener added an entire box of EB Stone Starter Fertilizer to their raised bed at planting time and a little blood and bone in the planting hole for good measure.  This knowledge confirms that we are right track with our line of thinking.  The correct rate of EB Stone Starter for 32 square feet is only 2 1/2 cups.  The entire box would have been close to triple the amount recommended, if not more.  In addition, blood meal is a very high nitrogen source and while organic, excessive amounts will cause some trouble as seen.

Final Diagnosis:  "Hollow Heart" due to excessive use of over-fertilization.

Recommendation:  Remove the plants since the overall health is compromised for side shoot production. The hollow area in the stem will fill with water and rot the plant over time.  In addition, aside from the plant maybe containing unsafe levels of nutrients based on our findings, it will attract many undesirable insects to the garden as the stem deteriorates.   The soil will need retesting in the spring so we can take the necessary steps to rectify and the gardener's fertilization habits need corrected for all future plantings.

Side-note:  This gardener recut the stems at the proper angle for side shoot production and placed duct tape over the hole to prevent water from entering.  During the heavy rain this week, he placed a sandwich bag and rubber band for added protection.  I am cracking up as it is amazing what we will try in the garden but the experiment is to see if the hollow heart passes on to the side shoots as well.  A very worthy experiment.  If so, the plant will be pulled.  If not, he told me to look over the fence at night, as he may just be glowing, grin!

Green Meadows Healthy Garden Tip:

Boron is a micronutrient essential to the structure of plant growth and development above ground, especially on those plants with robust stems.  It is actually one of the more common nutrient deficiencies to show up.  However, in excess, it can present a host of other problems.  Most often boron levels are kept in balance when you rejuvenate the soil with good quality compost.  It depletes from the soil quite slowly over time.

Hollow Heart at Green Meadows last fall!
Many gardeners tend to reach right for the 20 Mule Team Borax when they see the hollow stem as it is inexpensive, readily found as an organic solution on-line, and an easy fix for the condition.  However, this isn't always the best move unless you truly have a deficiency in your soil.  Examine your plants and garden further to prevent excess fertilization and the common problems that an abundance of nutrients can also cause.

If your plants present with a hollow stem, look closely at the core to determine a basis for diagnosis. What symptoms and signs does the plant have?  Is the hollow area the same color as the rest of the inner stem, similar to the first photo above, or is it brown, calloused, and off in texture and color?  What does the broccoli head look like?  Is there some browning on the curds?  Do you notice anything off with any of the other plants in your garden?  How did you prep your bed and what are you using as your fertilization practice?

If a boron deficiency is truly present, you will notice more than just a hollow stem depicted in the photographs. This gardener was about to add borax inappropriately.  The disorder in either of these photos is more likely caused from improper fertilization based on our research and findings.

If you do run into trouble and need to add these types of elements to the soil, an inexpensive soil test from the extension office can verify your findings and provide the proper recommendations to manage the issue.  Boron levels are either replenished through proper soil management and compost or with the addition of 20 Mule Team Borax.

For those who may need the proper recommendations, a link is below for your convenience.  The article has some very nice information on the uses of Borax in the organic home garden.  Please keep in mind that even though something is organic it does not mean that it isn't detrimental to the soil and plants if used in abundance.

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/role-20-mule-team-borax-organic-gardening-74730.html - link to an article written by a former UGA Extension Office Master Gardener Coordinator.

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Upcoming Events & Classes with Cobb County Extension Service

Holiday Inspirations
Saturday, November 8, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Cobb Extension staff will demonstrate easy holiday crafts and decorating ideas. Presented at UGA Extension/Cobb County, second floor classroom, 678 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, GA, 30060. Free and open to the public, but preregistration is requested. Call 770-528-4070.

Adaptive Gardening – How to Keep Gardening on Your Lifetime Can-Do List
Tuesday, November 11, 7:00-8:00 p.m. Presented by Master Gardener Joe Washington as part of the ongoing Gardeners Night Out presentation series of the Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County, at Mountain View Regional Library, 3320 Sandy Plains Road, Marietta, GA, 30066. Free and open to the public.

Bonsai
Friday, November 14, noon-1:00 p.m. Michael Stoddard, Board of Directors, Atlanta Bonsai Society, will bring his bonsai to show us how to plant, prune, and care for our own, as part of the ongoing Lunch& Learn series of the Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County, at the Training Room of the Cobb County Water lab, 662 South Cobb Drive (at the intersection with Atlanta Rd.).

Thyme to Read Book Club
Friday, November 14, 10:15 -11:30 a.m. Book club sponsored by Cobb County Master Gardeners will meet at the Training Room of the Cobb County Water lab, 662 South Cobb Drive (at the intersection with Atlanta Rd.). This month’s book is The Founding Gardeners, by Andrea Wulf. Schedule and information can be found at www.cobbmastergardeners.com. Free and open to the public.

Bluebird Trail Tour
Saturday, November 22, 10:00 a.m. to noon, and again on Saturday December 6, 10:00 a.m. to noon. Free and open to the public. Cobb Master Gardener and Bluebird expert Jim Bearden will conduct a guided walk of the 2.3-mile Bluebird Trail at Green Meadow Preserve Park, at 3780 Dallas Hwy., Powder Springs, GA, 30127. Follow the Bluebird Trail blog at bluebirdtrail.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pumpkin Cake

Nothing says fall like the taste of pumpkin.  This recipe is not only delicious but also quite easy to make. A dear friend gave it to me many years ago and it continues to remain a family fall favorite.  If memory serves me correctly, it initially came her way attached to a Hallmark pumpkin potholder.

Ingredients for Cake:

4 eggs
1 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup cooking oil
1 16 oz. can pumpkin
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Ingredients for Frosting:

1 3 oz. package Philadelphia cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup butter or margarine (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

In large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin until light and fluffy.  In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda.  Add to the pumpkin mixture and mix thoroughly.  Spread batter in a 13" x 9" greased and floured baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.  Cool completely.

Frosting:

After the cake cools, cream together the butter and cream cheese.  Stir in vanilla.  Add the powdered sugar a little at a time, beating well until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Spread evenly and enjoy!

Yummy,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Friday, October 31, 2014

Recyling Opportunity

Keep Cobb Beautiful Celebrates America Recycles Day

KCB-logo smallKeep Cobb Beautiful will be celebrating America Recycles Day 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 15. There will be two locations in Cobb to do your recycling: Jim Miller Park and Sewell Park. Here is a list of the items that will be accepted:
Electronic Recycling - Electronics accepted at no charge include: personal computers, monitors, servers, routers, switches, network boxes, printers, circuit boards, floppy drives, UPSs, keyboards, testing equipment, modems, cell phones, telephones, typewriters, fax machines, copiers, LCD monitors, VCRs, DVD players, stereos, cassette players, cameras, camcorders, alarm clocks, game systems, and projectors. Please remove all cords and cables from devices and place in a separate bag. There is a $10.00 recycling fee for televisions (cash only).
Textile Collection - Shoes, clothing and other textiles accepted.
Document Shredding - Free, secure, on-site shredding of household documents. Paper products only. Not accepted: CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, cardboard, and any large binders with metal rings/clips.
Latex Paint Recycling - There is a $2.00 per gallon offset disposal fee (cash only). No oil or alkyd paints allowed. Paints must be in original, clearly-labeled, non-leaking containers and cannot be mixed with anything, including other paint.
Battery Recycling - Car, UPS backup, laptop, power tool, cell phone and household batteries accepted. Please tape over the battery connectors.
Appliances - Stoves, refrigerators, microwaves, washers, dryers, water heaters, mixers, ovens, blenders, freezers and toasters.
Metals - Steel, aluminum, cast iron, car parts and wheels.
Lawn Equipment - Lawn mowers, weed eaters, chain saws, lawn edgers. Fuels must be removed and a hole created in the tanks.

For more information, call 770-528-1135 or see the KCB website.
 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Frost Protection 101

We are so fortunate to live in an area where we can grow vegetables year round with minimal effort. Protecting your vegetables from frost allows you to extend the harvest well into winter, and for those who are diligent in their efforts, carry it right on through to next spring.

Green Meadows
Early November 2013!
We typically see two types of frost in the garden:
  1. Advective frost - is the condition where a sudden cold front sweeps into the area with gusty winds and immense cloud cover.  The layer of cold air is so thick and dense; it can actually reach as much as a mile high. Rarely will we see a first frost event under these conditions, but it can happen. 
  2. Radiation frost - is the type of frost event most common to our area and the one we mainly think of.  The nights have little to no wind, skies are clear, and the stars are simply beautiful for gazing.  
Both types of frosts can be very damaging to plant cells and tissues.

Frost protection works as an insulator to protect plants from the harmful effects of the event.  The protection is valuable to the veggie gardener in two different ways.
  1. It protects plants from the effects of frost on their leaf surfaces that frequently leads to damage within the cell and tissue structures.  This is most often damage that is beyond repair, resulting in permanent injury at growth points, wilting, and potential death to the vegetable.
  2. The protection also works as an insulator to hold on to your ground temperatures by creating a micro-climate within your bed.  Keeping the ground temperatures up allows your plants to continue their growth and production cycles for an extended period.  All plants will eventually reach a point of hibernation and overwinter.  However, the more growth that the plant has, the greater harvest a gardener can achieve through this period of rest.
Green Meadows Healthy Garden Tips for Success During Frost Events:
  1. Harvest early - warm season vegetables are the most sensitive to frost events and the time has come to go ahead and harvest what you have left.  The texture and flavor in these crops will dramatically fall off with an extended cold period even if you cover.
  2. Know the cold tolerance of your plants - all cool weather vegetables have different tolerances to frost and cold weather.  As an example, many of the brassica's are at their peak flavor when you allow frost to reach them, however, if you have any peas producing; it is wise to harvest. While the pea plants are very tolerant to cold and mild frost events, the pods are not.  Cell structures can burst within the pod itself and ruin the texture and flavor.  Vicki and I have learned this lesson the hard way several times. 
  3. Irrigate before the frost event - irrigating before the frost event arrives builds much needed moisture into the soil.  Moist soil will hold the heat as much as four times greater than dry soil according to several published university studies.  One study even shows that the increased air temperature, right above the soil level, was still five degrees warmer than dry soil at 6:00 am the next morning when watered the evening prior.  This can be the difference between having plants with damage and having plants without.  For those that are covering, it is important to water late the day of the event, but still allow the leaves to dry before erecting your frost protection.
  4. Cover your plants - using frost blankets can provide several degrees of additional warmth to plants.  While the covers can be laid directly on the plants, this method provides the least amount of protection and the greatest risk of still receiving injury from the cold.  Any material can really be used to cover your plants, although you will find your best protection comes from woven fabrics. Plastics should be avoided if at all possible as they tend to do more harm than good unless using those specifically geared for vegetable growing.  Remember to vent your structures in order to keep plants from overheating when the temperatures start to rise above 45 - 50 degrees. 
  5. Irrigate during the event - this is actually a trick that Mike would use now and then if he were unable to get over and cover in the evening.  Rinsing the frost off early in the morning before it has a chance to penetrate the plant's cell structures is a method that some tend to use.  This can work for very light frosts in the 32-degree range if done right before sunrise.  Rinsing the plants with water during the event keeps their internal temperatures from freezing and prevents the cold damage to cell structure and tissues.  However, with that being said, frosts occurring at lower temperatures would need several applications throughout the night or a system of overhead irrigation that you would see among professional growers.        
Mr. Wesley checking his cover!
Regardless of what method you choose for covering your plants, not all frost protection is created equal and much depends on how you have conditioned your plants to accept the cold when it arrives.  A nice way to gauge what you are purchasing is to look at the temperature rating of the product.  While those with only a two to four degree rating have a place in the early fall and late spring, they are not heavy enough to carry plants through the entire winter unless using many multiple layers.  Vicki and I both use a combination of very light covers purchased from Pike's and the garden quilts available through Gardener's Supply.  Between the two products, we can pretty much handle anything the weather seems to throw at us.

If you need any help preparing for the cold spell, please don't hesitate to ask.  I am attaching this link as a very basic article from Botanical Interests that shows the frost tolerance of many vegetables.  It gives you a brief overview of what can tolerate what temperature alongside some other very important factors.

https://botanicalinterests.com/articles/view/26/Frost-Tolerance-of-Vegetables - link to the frost tolerance of vegetables from Botanical Interests.

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pansy vs Viola - Who won....

Violas - notice how covered up in flowers they were!
I just love all the colors and "faces" on pansies and I'm always seduced by them because they are so gorgeous. Violas (relatives of pansies) are small, cute and perky however, they don't have nearly as many different color/face combinations.  Because I can never choose just pansies, I end up getting both.

Unbeknownst to me, I conducted the perfect experiment with pansies and violas this past winter.  I planted them in the sections of the border where the sunflowers had been. The soil was amended the same way and they were fertilized the same. Instead of combining pansies and violas in the same bed, I put pansies in one bed and violas in another bed.

Pansies - notice how they didn't fill the bed out.
What I learned is that pansies are not as Polar Vortex hardy as the violas. Three days after the 1st Polar Vortex froze everything solid, the violas started blooming again. The pansies - nope.  It took weeks before they began blooming again and new leaves started appearing.  In fact just about the time they started to recover, the 1st snow storm hit and knocked them back again. The 2nd snow storm didn't do them any good either.

As for the violas, even though they were completely covered by snow each time, it didn't phase them. As soon as the snow melted off they started blooming again. Even after being covered in snow for a couple of days!

It was amazing how the differences between the pansies and violas became even more pronounced as the months went by. The viola plants were lush and full of beautiful flowers. On the other hand, well....the pansy plants eventually began blooming again but they weren't happy and lush. There were beautiful flowers but it wasn't an OH WOW, beautiful look. Another interesting observation is that violas tend to drop their old flowers faster than the pansies do.

My vow to myself was "Next year I'm not going to be seduced by the colors found in pansies that aren't found in violas." So far, I've managed to keep my vow - though there have been some really pretty pansies......

Vicki
Bed 41

Friday, October 10, 2014

Squirrels and Frost go hand in hand

Our favorite pest, i.e. those dratted squirrels, are becoming more active. They hadn't done much digging in the garden up in September. But now that it is October, I have noticed quite a few holes in the middle of beautiful patches of brand new seedlings.

Squirrel Deterrent......sort of
I've been watching the squirrels sauntering through the garden, looking for the perfect place to carefully dig a hole and place the treasured nut they were holding in their mouth.  Even though it is a nuisance to move the netting every time I work in my bed, I'm glad I went ahead did it preventatively.  At least this way I don't come to the garden and get instantly aggravated at what was destroyed nor do I have to keep replanting!

The chilly temperatures Sunday morning jump started my thought processes - when is the 1st frost. Or the question really should be, when is the 1st frost usually (but not always).

The answer - October 31st. Though it can be sooner than the 31st and as late as Nov 15th. A light frost doesn't cause as much damage as a hard freeze. This year I'm probably going to just let nature take its course but I will fight the good fight for awhile with the lettuce since I just got it going.

If you plan to use a frost cover now is the time to think about it, acquire your supplies and construct your frame.  And while you are at it, do a trial run to see if you have everything you need to anchor the cover! There is nothing worse than putting it together and then getting a call or email that your frost cover has come untethered and is flapping in the wind or the whole thing has collapsed.

If you are interested in protecting your bed from the dratted squirrels or your plants from frost and freezes, here are links to posts I've done in the past.




Good luck in the squirrel wars!

Vicki
Bed 41 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

More Classes from Cobb County Extension

Moving Toward Organics in the Vegetable Garden
Saturday, October 18, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. Free and open to the public. Learn what organic gardening and farming really means and steps you can take to have a more environmentally friendly garden.  Presented by Cooperative Extension horticulture staff member Amy Whitney at the community garden at Chestnut Ridge Christian Church, 2663 Johnson Ferry Rd, Marietta, GA, 30062.

Gifts from the Kitchen
Tuesday, October 28, 6:00-8:30 p.m. Learn to use a water bath canner to make holiday gifts from your kitchen. Taught by Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Cindee Sweda at UGA Extension/Cobb County, second floor, 678 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, GA, 30060. $10 fee; preregistration required before Oct. 17; space is limited. For additional information and to preregister, call 770-528-4070.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Worm Food!

Yummy, delicious smelling worm food!
This is the time of year where there is great competition to acquire enough coffee grounds and filters to work into the soil to feed the worms. Just like people have a favorite fishing hole, I'm not saying where my favorite shop is!

The last time I walked in, I was carrying an orange 5 gallon Home Depot bucket to use to collect the used coffee. I have to admit, I did attract a few odd looks while standing in line with that orange bucket.

My turn came and I was about to explain to the young lady what I wanted and why, when her co-worker just grinned and held out her hands. She knew why I was there!

My worms are going to be in hog heaven now. Luckily I love the smell of coffee because when I was planting my carrot seeds Saturday night, the smell was wafting everywhere.  All thanks to my favorite coffee shop and the very nice employees that work there.

Vicki - Bed 41

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Bye Bye Rosemary

This fall when I renovated my bed, I finally took out the rosemary.  I knew it was big and taking up way more space than it should. However, I had NO idea how big it was until we put it in the wheelbarrow! (Thanks Jack for helping me get it out and giving it a good home.)



This plant had never really been babied, protected, or anything. It just got water and had never had a hair cut. Not even when it looked like it was going to die after the Polar Vortex hit it in February.

It is amazing how much "empty" space is in my bed now! Between removing it and the lavender, I got a 4 foot by 2 foot swath back - which is 1/4 of my bed. Ooopss.....

The moral to this story is - be ruthless! Remove any plant when it gets too big for the tiny space it is in, no matter how fond of it you are.

Vicki - Bed 41

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Upcoming Cobb County Extension Events

The following events are available through Cobb County Extension.
Bluebird Trail Tour
Saturday, October 4, 10:00 a.m. –Noon. Free and open to the public. Cobb Master Gardener and Bluebird expert Jim Bearden will conduct a guided walk of the 2.3-mile Bluebird Trail at Green Meadow Preserve Park, at 3780 Dallas Hwy., Powder Springs, GA, 30127. Follow the Bluebird Trail blog at bluebirdtrail.blogspot.com.

 
Thyme to Read Book Club
Friday, October 10, 10:30 -11:30 a.m. Book club sponsored by Cobb County Master Gardeners will meet at the Training Room of the Cobb County Water lab, 662 South Cobb Drive (at the intersection with Atlanta Rd.). This month’s book is The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton. November’s book will be The Founding Gardeners, by Andrea Wulf.  Schedule and information can be found at www.cobbmastergardeners.com. Free and open to the public.

Landscaping and Septic Tanks
Friday, October 10, noon-1:00 p.m. Presented by Cobb County Extension Horticulture Agent Neil Tarver, as part of the ongoing Lunch & Learn series of the Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County, at the Training Room of the Cobb County Water lab, 662 South Cobb Drive (at the intersection with Atlanta Rd.).

Trees of Our Lives: Small Native Trees for the Landscape
Tuesday, October 14, 7:00-8:00 p.m.  Presented by Master Gardener Dawn Hines, as part of the ongoing Gardeners Night Out presentation series of the Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County, at South Cobb Regional Library, 805 Clay Road, Mableton, 30126.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Free Onion Sets - Back by Popular Demand!

I thought it might be nice to kick off the official start of the fall season with some free onion sets.  That's right; they're back by popular demand!  Onions do so well at Green Meadows and are among the variety of crops requiring very little care and maintenance.
Get them while they last!
Fresh off the truck!

This wonderful member of the allium family is suitable for planting in either the spring or the fall.  However, planting the sets in the fall will yield substantially larger bulbs vs. those that are planted in the spring.

Onions do well with all of the leafy greens and root crops.  They are especially good neighbors for members of the brassica family, as they are known to repel many of the pests that affect these plants.

About the only bad companions are members of the legume family which includes your peas and beans and some references do make mention of sage.  If legumes are in your plans for the spring and early summer, it is important to locate the onions in an area away from where you plan to put these.

Squirrels can become problematic at Green Meadows for digging them up so any defensive measures to prevent their actions will serve you well.

All three varieties in the shed are good for scallions and dry storage onions.  They are also well suited to indoor growing.  The link below is to the Old Farmer's Almanac with some nice planting tips and if we can do anything to help, just let us know.  In raised garden beds, they can easily go 4 inches apart in all directions.  It is important to note that the spacing between rows mentioned in the article is for those directly planting into the conventional garden.

http://www.almanac.com/plant/onions - link to The Old Farmer's Almanac.

Happy Fall,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

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
http://greenmeadowscommunitygarden.blogspot.com/2014/02/what-is-sifting-soil.html

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.

Links:

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.

http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=21 - 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.

http://www.territorialseed.com/product/White_Satin_Carrot_Seed/carrot_seed - link to Territorial Seed Company

http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-7094-white-satin-f1.aspx - 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.

http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/Tables/CarrotTable.html - 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. http://greenmeadowscommunitygarden.blogspot.com/2013/10/rejuvenating-soil-for-fall-garden-soil.html - 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