Sunday, January 18, 2015

Eggshells Are'nt Just For The Compost Heap!


Yummy, nothing will
go to waste!
It's no secret that I come from a family that enjoys eggs.  Breakfast or dinner, you make them and I'm there!  Sometimes I wonder if my "love affair" of them is from the flavor of the eggs themselves or the fact that the shells are so useful in the garden.

For many years, they were a mainstay simply for deterring slugs and snails around the lettuce and spinach plants.  Nevertheless, as we grow and learn, they are now a favorite "go to item" for a wealth of other uses as well.

Let's start with some basics.  Calcium is one of the top secondary nutrients that plants need in order to develop strong cellular structures. When plants are deficient, it can show up as anything from blossom end rot on fruiting plants to tip-burn on the lettuces and brassica's.  Some plants can even develop twisted leaves while others will remain stunted as the plants fail to thrive.  Disease pathogens and insects are also much more likely to attack vegetable plants with weakened cell systems according to several extension services.  Simply put, all plants need calcium to remain healthy and some like tomatoes need a little more than others do.  Eggshells are just one of the resources readily available to get plants a nutrient they need in order for them to do well.

Finely crushed eggshells!
It's quite easy to throw eggshells in the compost heap and let the calcium they release nourish the pile as they break down over time. However, if you're anything like me and want a little instant gratification in the garden, at little to no cost, there are many other ways to utilize them.  These are some of my favorites outside of using them in the compost pile:
  1. 1. Calcium and Magnesium Fertilizer/Tea - Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and such (the nightshades) all thrive with fertilizers rich in calcium and magnesium.  For an organic boost, boil enough water to fill a 1-gallon jug, add 2 tablespoons of crushed eggshells and 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts.  Let the mixture steep a couple days and strain the eggshells back out. This makes a wonderful foliar feeding early in the morning when the plants stomata (pores) are open.  It is also great as a soil drench, any time of day, which doesn't require you to strain the shells.  If you have hard-boiled some eggs, save the water. Mix 1 cup left over egg water to one gallon hot water (no need to boil) and add the Epsom salts. Shake well and this will be ready to use as soon as the salts dissolve and the mixture cools.
  2. Seedlings - Most often, I tend to utilize the compost and worm teas for seedlings with my eggshell bits placed in the pots.  However, the recipe above works very well for supplemental feeding at 1/4 strength.  Some gardeners will actually start their seedlings in used eggshells for the calcium boost.  I have never found this method to be of much use.  For me, it seems as if the containers are too fragile and the plants will readily outgrow their environment.  Instead, whenever potting up, I usually just throw a teaspoonful of shells in the container with a little worm castings and pinch of Epsom salts for good measure. 
  3. Planting Hole - One of the best ways to supplement your soil with calcium and trace minerals is to place a handful of eggshells in the planting hole.  Mix these in with other amendments such as compost, worm castings, etc. for a steady supply of food to get plants off to a great start.  While calcium is considered as a secondary nutrient, it does go a long way with the nightshades to keep them healthy during periods of plant stress.  
  4. Soil Amendment - If you save your eggshells year round or have a source for supply, they make a wonderful soil amendment.  Because of their high surface area to volume ratio, they decompose rapidly in the soil offering calcium and trace minerals within a very short period.  The smaller you crush the shells before using, the more rapidly they will break down.  It can be hard to find the recommended rate for adding eggshells as a pure soil amendment.  I did find a chart on Grow it Organically.com with some recommendations.  http://www.grow-it-organically.com/organic-calcium-sources.html - link to chart on organic calcium supplements for soil additions and recommended rates.  Eggshells are on the list.   
  5. Pest Deterrent - Using crushed eggshells in and around plants is a wonderful way to cut down on slugs, snails, and any other mollusk type pests.  The sharp jagged edges of the shells are usually enough to deter them to other areas outside the garden where the pickings are easier for them to feed.  Between eggshells and beer, you can usually keep these pests at bay without the need for any chemical intervention.    
  6. Rinsed and  heat drying
    on the grill!
  7. Feeding the Birds - Before and after laying eggs, mother birds need extra calcium in their diets.  To reduce the risk of transferring any salmonella to the birds, either boil your shells or bake them at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for ten to fifteen minutes.  Allow the shells to cool and then add them to your existing feeders.  Many times, I'll mix the shells with whatever I have out for the birds, but other times I like to place a small tray out by itself to watch the robins go wild when they're nesting.  They can't seem to get enough of them.  I've also read before that just mixing the gritty shell bits with birdseed will help all birds digest their food more easily. 
Green Meadows Healthy Garden Tip:

There is much information out there, as to whether or not raw eggshells pose a risk of contaminating the soil with salmonella.  According to Food Research International, salmonella, many other fungi, and bacterium's can live in the soil for extended periods and are most likely already present.  This we all pretty much know and by assuming good gardening and proper food hygiene practices, rarely will these bacterium's and fungi ever pose any type of threat.  However, the MSU Extension Service does site that any type of hot composting (temperatures of 140 - 160 degrees F) will kill the salmonella bacteria. 

As far as other uses for shells in the garden, recommendations vary and run from a general rinsing and drying to sanitizing for safety.  I'm always a little OCD and would rather error on the side of caution whenever using the shells.  If throwing them in the compost they are merely rinsed since I trust the process.  For all other uses in the garden, they are treated as if they were going to the birds.  I figure that if they are on top the soil as a pest deterrent and birds get into them, well I would hate for the potential to do any harm. I also go the extra length as a precaution since much of the foliar spraying happens when vegetables are producing on the plants.  This gives me the greatest comfort level of using them safely. 

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

6 Great Tips To Consider Before Buying Seed!

While the weather outside screams anything but spring and summer, now is the proper time to obtain seed for those who want to start their gardens with healthier plants.

With so many wonderful varieties from which to choose, here are a few tips to bring you success!
  • Be realistic - if you are new to gardening, growing an entire garden from seed can present a challenge and be somewhat overwhelming.  Instead, choose a few crops that you really want to grow and focus your attention on learning everything you can about them.  By learning about the strengths and weaknesses of each variety grown, you can set yourself up for success by providing the proper conditions they need to do well.  Each year build upon that knowledge and add a few more things to the list.  Fill out the rest of the garden with high quality transplants from reputable suppliers.  If you don't have lights for raising seedlings, no problem, many vegetables lend themselves very well to direct sowing once the ground temperatures warm.  Beans, cucumbers, melons, peas, and squash are just a few examples.  
  • Do your research - many have heard me say this before, but research is such an integral part of gardening.  Choosing the right varieties that will perform well within our growing environment sets us all up for success.  Look for those varieties that will resist the common diseases we encounter in a shared growing environment.  By knowing the individual needs of your plants and the likely issues they may face, you may be able to take preventative measures to ward off trouble before it arises.  Keep in mind when purchasing seed that resistance to disease and tolerant of disease mean two very different things.
  • Are they suitable to our growing area - many plants will still perform very well outside their ideal growing conditions if you compensate for any challenges they face, know what you're getting into, and make those choices wisely.  If an organic grower, you never want to be very dependent on heavy chemical use to bring your plants to harvest.  An example of this is one of my favorite tomatoes that I grow each year, Black Prince.  With its origins to Siberia, this little gem is listed in catalogs as a variety that performs well in areas with cool summers. However, it still produces quite well in my garden with nothing more than an extra layer of mulch and a tad of shade during the hottest part of the day.  These two measures compensate enough for the higher ground temperatures.  If this same variety required the heavy use of blossom sprays in order to produce fruit, outside the plants normal temperature range for setting, I would then reconsider my choice of variety.  While many of these sprays are natural, I still want to lessen my dependency on them as much as possible.
  • Choose the perfect partners - when looking at seeds it is important to choose things that will complement each other if your space is limited.  Are you going to create a nightmare for yourself by choosing varieties that all produce at the same time? Do you have varying degrees of height in those you do choose? Are they good plant companions? What are the soil requirements? Do they have the same moisture needs?  Are you considering everything at the point of full maturity?  It all goes back to doing your research and reaching out to others to learn what brings them success in the garden.  Many of the seed companies now have free garden planners on their sites that allow you to plug in different vegetables and get a feel for how your garden will look.  Sometimes this visual allows you to see mistakes in planning early on and enables the necessary corrections before you have a problem.  
  • How much to grow - a little seed does go a long way and it is easy to be caught up with descriptions that make you want to drool and try everything under the sun!  Unfortunately, space is most always the limiting factor.  Here is a cheat sheet from The National Gardening Association with some guidelines for feeding a family of four.  Keep in mind these are only estimates and this sheet does not look like it allows for those who enjoy preserving part of their harvest.
        http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/growing-vegetables-for-a-family-of-four.html
  • Buy from reputable suppliers - last but not least is to buy from reputable sources.  Not all seed is created equal and germination rates vary widely among suppliers.  Some companies only meet the USDA guidelines, while others far excel.  If shopping local, avoid the retailers that store their seed outdoors in the common garden areas.  These conditions will expose the seeds to high levels of heat and humidity.  This in turn will have a dramatic effect on their longevity and viability for future use.  Check for seed companies online that go the extra mile and test their lots for disease to ensure your success.  For example, Johnny's Selected Seeds tests several varieties of their basil lots to ensure that they are free from the downy mildew pathogen before they are ever packaged and shipped.  Since we know downy mildew is a problem in our area, it is just one more precaution we can take to start tilting the odds for a healthy harvest in our favor.     
Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Upcoming classes and Events with Cobb County Extension

All listed classes are free and open to the public, unless otherwise specified in the list.

Vermicomposting, Jan. 9

Cobb County Water Training Lab
662 South Cobb Drive, Marietta
Noon - 1:00 p.m.

Historic Gardens: From the Roman Empire to Colonial America, Jan. 13
East Cobb Regional Library
4880 Lower Roswell Rd., Marietta
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

The Art of Pruning: Tools, Timing, and Technique, Feb. 10
West Cobb Regional Library
1750 Dennis Kemp Lane, Kennesaw
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Dahlias, Feb. 13
Cobb County Water Training Lab
662 South Cobb Drive, Marietta
Noon - 1:00 p.m.

Seed Starting for the Vegetable Garden, Feb. 24
Cobb Extension upstairs classroom
678 South Cobb Drive, Marietta
6:30-7:30 p.m
Please call to preregister:
770-528-4070

Fall/Winter

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Jan 1, 2015 at the Garden

It doesn't look like we have much growing until you look at
all the individual beds.
 
While I was up at the garden on New Year's Day to remove my frost cover, I thought I'd take a few pictures. Considering it is the middle of winter (for the Georgia) we still have a lot of vegetables growing. 

Unfortunately, we still have plenty of time for it to get too cold. Amazingly enough, we even still have lettuce growing!

One bed still has green pea plants on January 1st of all things. However it has been so cold  they are just surviving, not producing.  It will be interesting to see if they make it until spring and then start producing peas.



Pea Plants!
 








 
Vicki - Bed 41

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Forget The Resolutions - Revolution!

Like most I start the year off with good intentions...you know, making some resolutions that probably won't survive past March.  Exercise more, eat better, and loose a few pounds, blah, blah, and blah!

I feel as though my brain is hard-wired to resist any type of change.  Some electrical current up there short-circuits and tells me that keeping resolutions really isn't all that important.  Maybe it's an age thing and at this point in life, nobody is going to tell me what to do, not even myself. 

I certainly don't feel lazy by nature (well except when it comes to doing my hair every morning); however, this whole resolution thing can often make you feel like somewhat of a failure. 

Well no more... no more wasting time on making lists that I will need to hire a life coach to slap me into submission to follow. It is going to be a new year, a new day, and a new approach!  A forget the resolutions - revolution if you will. 

Instead of worrying about making resolutions, my approach will be more reachable goals. Something you can look in the mirror and be proud of once the New Year comes to a close. 

That's the ticket, out with the old and in with the new.  This will be a new way to look at resolutions, something more manageable for the new year... revolutionize the way you look at life and set achievable goals to bring success.  Oh, that's a good one; we'll make it number one! 

Forget The Resolutions - Revolution List Of Goals

  1. Revolutionize the way you look at life and set achievable goals to bring success! (Okay, so I guess you saw that one coming...)
  2. Be kind to others 300 days per year.  That leaves 65 days for when you just need time off or are an ... and don't want to make excuses for it.
Thank goodness there is still a few hours left to think of some more, but when 2015 comes to an end and I was truly kind to others...maybe it won't be so bad if I gained a couple pounds or neglected the gym here and there along the way!

Happiest of New Years,

Denise
Beds 25 & 29

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Holiday Message!

Wow, how did it get to be close to the end of December already...  It almost seems that the older we get, the faster time flies!  On the other hand, maybe it's just that we are having so much fun!

Vicki and I had such a great conversation before Thanksgiving about living lives with gratitude and how being grateful for the small things in life can bring such joy to one's own self.  We chatted on and on and shared ideas on journaling for gratefulness, living selflessly, how far the garden and blog have come, and how much we really appreciate each other and the opportunity to serve our community through Green Meadows.

Vicki designed and created the blog in November of 2012.  It was just a twinkle in her eye at the time, but whenever she spoke of it, you needed to take a step back as her enthusiasm was completely contagious. Well sooner or later like a cold or flu virus, I must have gotten a little too close, forgot to wash my hands, and well, here we are two years later!

The blog has been such great fun for us and is an excellent tool for getting information.  When Vicki has writer's block, is unavailable, or isn't in the mood, I can usually muster up the energy and vice versa. We are always bouncing ideas back and forth and many of our topics come from the wonderful questions you ask or from things we view and find interesting at the garden.  It has really taught us both to be more observant in nature, reach out to others, and ask lots of questions.

As the year rapidly comes to an end, we wanted to take the opportunity to express how grateful we are for each of you.  We have such a wonderful garden family!  Many thanks go out to Rita, Mike, and Carol who have written articles from time to time and for those who have expressed an interest in writing in the future.  We are so appreciative of all our readers and those who subscribe via email. Helping others learn to become better gardeners is truly satisfying and brings us much joy.

May you find the holidays peaceful, enjoying time with family and friends... eat a bit more, talk a little longer, socialize past bedtime, and give thanks to those who bring such joy to your life.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Our Home to Yours,

Denise & Vicki

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Black Widow Spider

Just as a note of caution... Nancy and Tom of bed number 40 noticed a black widow spider recently in their garden.
Black Widow Spider
found at Green Meadows!

The photo to the right depicts one found under the rocks by my own bed at Green Meadows last October.  I brought this one home in a baggie to make sure we identified it correctly, yikes!

While we don't have black widows crawling all over the garden, they have been spotted on occasion and most often during the autumn when they are highly active.  Black widows are one of the more common dangerous spiders found in our area and their bites do require medical attention.

Please take extra caution when moving items around and next to your garden beds.  Folded up frost blankets, rocks, and bags of dirt all make excellent hiding spots for these little guys.

For those who would like additional information on the spiders, the University of Michigan has some pertinent facts.

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Latrodectus_mactans/ - link to the University of Michigan's article on black widow spiders.

This link contains excellent photos and was sent to us by Amy at the extension office.

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/URBAN/SPIDERS/black_widow_spider.htm -link to the black widow article from the University of Florida.

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

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.