Friday, May 20, 2016

Passionate for Melons!

"When one has tasted watermelon he knows what the angels eat," stated by Mark Twain.  

Well, personally I think that Mark was on to something.  Only present day, it should be when one has tasted a homegrown melon.  We're almost born to prefer sweet and nothing beats the joyful experience of cutting into a melon that will have your taste buds doing a happy dance.  Mark's right, it's almost inspirational.  Much like the difference between store bought tomatoes and homegrown ones, melons are quite the same.  Tasting them at their peak, with full ripeness from the vine, is incomparable to anything available commercially.
Sugar Baby Watermelon Vine
10.2 Brix 

The biggest downside to growing melons was often thought to be space constraints. However, with new ideas of trellising the melons up, it now seems to be the decision of choosing which varieties to try.

Good melons to grow are often determined by their sugar content.  Brix ratings or values are an estimate of the sugar to liquid ratio or sweetness of the melon.  Hence, the higher the Brix number, the sweeter the melon.  According to one of my heirloom references, "melons FOR THE PASSIONATE GROWER," the author states that growing anything with a Brix value of 10 or greater, signals an excellent choice for sweetness.  I love this guide from Amy Goldman as it depicts one hundred heirloom melons of all different colors, flavors, textures, and types.  A new project will be to track down seed for growing, in order to experience the nuances of each variety.  How fun!  I've been doing something similar with tomatoes as a hobby and it has been very rewarding.  

Korean Ginkaku F1 Hybrid Melon, white
flesh inside tastes somewhat like a
pear and is remarkably sweet.
Brix rating is often 15 - 16!
Shirley Cole is growing Georgia Rattlesnake over in the accessible bed area, an heirloom dating back to the 1870's that made Georgia famous.  According to the book, it has a Brix of 10+.  This year, I'm excited to try Scaly Bark at the house.  It is also an heirloom from that same period out of Atlanta.  The rind looks like the molted bark of a tree and being so unique in appearance, it has definitely caught my eye.

I thought you might enjoy the link below for an easy on-line resource, as several of these varieties are currently available at the local retailers and we are well within the window for planting.  The index from the Vegetable Research and Extension Center, through Washington State University, shows the Brix rating for many of the choices.  They do show a different guideline than the melon book sited above, but it too looks to be very good advice.

There is also a link below to Ohio State University's Extension Center (Go Bucks!), for those who would enjoy reading about how they use Brix as an indicator of quality in produce.  I have a refractometer (fun toy) if we want to play in the garden when our crops start producing or learn how to tweak the soil for more flavorable produce.

                                                                        Links: - link to the Vegetable Research and Extension Center's Brix chart for watermelons through WSU. - link to the OSU fact-sheet on using Brix as an indicator of quality in vegetables.

Green Meadows Healthy Garden Tip:

Great tasting vegetables with higher Brix levels correlate directly to well-nourished soil.  Simple steps, such as raising the organic matter content and increasing the microbial life of your soil, through compost teas, will have a direct impact on the flavor and nutrient density of the food you pick.

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Getting The Most From Your Garden - Radishes!

Amethyst Radish Pods
in my home garden!
So many times we see plants start to bolt and are saddened by the end of their life cycles.  If only we could enjoy the tastiness of our garden veggies for just a little while longer.  Well when it comes to radishes, I anxiously look forward to any signs of the plant wanting to set seed.

For years, I grew the wonderful Rat Tail radish, which is grown for the big tasty edible pods rather than the tuberous roots.  It has the ability to adapt very well to the intense heat of summer providing good eats all season long.  While I liked the pods well enough, they packed a spicy heat and I tend to like my radishes more on the milder side of things.  After doing a little research, I soon realized that all radish pods were edible and their flavors were as diverse as the roots themselves.  Zlata radishes from Poland, Watermelon radishes from China, Amethyst, and Pink Beauty are among my favorites for their podding abilities and their wonderfully mild flavors.

Podding radishes were actually quite popular during the civil war era but gradually faded from American gardens in the early 1900's.  In the late 1980's and especially in the last few decades more and more are realizing what a workhorse in the garden these plants can be.  As a companion plant, they are invaluable.  Radishes have the ability to lure leaf miners away from spinach and lettuce, flea beetles away from eggplants, and some even say they assist at repelling the dreaded squash vine borer.  While in flower, they attract a wealth of beneficials to your garden, increasing productivity of everything from melons and cucumbers to tomatoes and peppers.

Radish pods past their prime
eating quality!
The roots are delectable in both the spring and fall but rapidly deteriorate in flavor as hot weather approaches.  The intense heat of early summer renders most of them inedible or quite harsh in flavor.  As the plant starts the end of its life cycle (a few weeks past the prime for picking the roots), it flowers, and then follows in a few weeks with numerous amounts of quality pods for eating (formal name is silique).  These pods then enlarge as the seeds swell inside providing tasty treats all summer long.  The key to keeping them producing, is to pick pods while they are young, maintain consistent moisture among the roots, and harvest routinely.  Many also seem to enjoy pickling the pods and this link has a couple recipes for those who are daring! - link to pickled radish pod recipes

Green Meadows Healthy Garden Tip:

Growing radishes for their tasty pods requires very little care. If the soil was amended appropriately before planting, just a little extra starter fertilizer or compost tea will keep them happily producing.  It is possible to use the same spacing of 3" apart in all directions (common recommendation for radishes) and then just thin young roots to a final spacing of six inches.  This gives you the benefit of having something to harvest now and something to harvest later.  The radish root itself can easily reach the size of a hardball and plants often become two feet tall.  All parts of the pod are edible.  Depending upon the variety of radishes chosen, they can require minimal support comparable to a small pepper cage.  Support should be placed while the plant is small. If you allow the pods to become too large, they do get tough, lacking good flavor and texture. Simply pick those off and discard.  New tender pods will shortly follow. 

If you would like to follow along and watch them develop, check out Area 96 in the garden within the coming weeks.  A big thank you goes out to all those helping prep that area and to those who are volunteering to assist in the future.  We truly are a wonderful community!  

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Working On My Night Moves!

Worms mating in Bed 25!
So it's Saturday night and I'm out in the garden working on my night moves (don't laugh, you can learn a wealth of information about your garden by checking it at night) and low and behold I stumbled upon the best photo opportunity ever.  I hope you are able to make this out despite a horrible attempt at making a great photo with less than adequate lighting.

Two worms were mating on top of the soil within the garlic patch. Usually, this is something commonly seen a little later in the spring, but this year our temperatures at night are running somewhat above average (soil temperature is 66 degrees F at close to midnight).  Seeing the soil once again alive after dark is such a reflection of the seasonal change making one quite hopeful for the harvest to come.  It's definitely planting season.

Earthworms play such a vital role in the fertility, health, and productivity of the soil.  They serve as excellent indicators of overall soil condition.  The earthworm, being a superstar underground, has the ability to affect the nutrient-supplying power of your soil.  They take organic matter, ingest and digest it, then excrete casts (worm poop) loaded with nutrients they don't utilize for their own nutrition.  These casts serve as a valuable source of organic fertilizer for vegetative plant growth.  The richness of the casts and the productivity of your soil are then determined by the varied type of diet you feed the worms and the worm populations that are present. Healthy living soil would then provide you with productive, well-fed, healthy, and happy plants.
Normally, one would hope not to find any creatures doing the wild thing in the garden so late at night, but these guys are definitely guaranteed a hall pass as well as a little privacy. Night, night, little worms, I'm in awe of all you do!

Green Meadows Healthy Garden Tip:

For those who would like to determine if they have worm populations effective enough to support healthy plant growth, we did an article a couple years back with some simple observations you can make and suggestions for increasing worm activity.  Here's the link below for your convenience.  Also, remember you can search the blog for topics of interests as your team has written a wealth of information for you to enjoy. - link to a previous post on worms.

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fall 2015 Lunch and Learn Class Scedule

Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County Educational Programs

Bring your lunch and enjoy an hour-long presentation on a plant/garden-related subject.

Noon to 1:00 PM  

Cobb County Water Lab Training Room
Located at the corner of 660 S. Cobb Drive and Atlanta Street.

Schedule and directions at:

August 14, 2015  -   Plant Propagation with Shirley Priest, MG

Do you want more of your favorite plants? Join us as we learn all about plant propagation-creating new plants from existing ones!

September 11, 2015  -  Making your Garden a Bird Habitat with Les Cane from the Atlanta Audubon Society.

You can make your garden irresistible with a bird habitat and enjoy natural pest control!

October 9, 2015  - Adaptive Gardening with Master Gardener Joe Washington
 He has talked with experts in horticulture therapy and landscaping. Joe has developed a "one stop shop" with tools, tips, and techniques to keep gardening on your lifetime "can-do" list.

November 13, 2015  -  Beekeeping with Metro Atlanta Beekeepers.

Whether you have a formal garden, wildflowers, or vegetables and fruits, you won't believe the difference that honeybee pollination can make.

For questions, contact:

UGA Extension – Cobb County
678 South Cobb Drive, Suite 200, Marietta, GA 30060
Phone: 770-528-4070

Monday, July 27, 2015

Gardener's Night Out Schedule -Fall 2015

August 11, 2015  -  East Cobb Library   7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
The Contained Garden: The Evergreen, The Elegant, and The Whimsical

Using principles of garden design, learn how you may create a beautiful contained garden to enhance a patio, a back porch or use as a focal point in your garden in this demonstration. Handouts will be provided with emphasis on selecting appropriate containers, planting basics and maintenance, and suggestions for unusual plant material for both sun and shade with Shirley Priest, Cobb Master Gardener.

September 8, 2015  -  West Cobb Library   7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Gardens! Gardens! Gardens!
Take an armchair voyage across five continents and visit gardens from the grand and breathtaking to the quirky and strange with Susan Fisher, Cobb Master Gardener.

October 13, 2015  -  Mountain View Library 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
The Art of Pruning: Tools, Timing and Technique
 Learn the basics of good pruning for aesthetic value as well as promoting the health of ornamental trees and shrubs in the landscape with Pam Bohlander, Cobb Master Gardener.
November 10, 2015  -   South Cobb Library 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Pollinators: Unsung Garden Heroes

Pollinating insects play an important role in providing beauty in the garden and food for our table. Learn which plants you can grow in your garden or in containers that will provide food for pollinators to ensure their health and wellbeing with Marge Igyarto, Cobb Master Gardener.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Classes and Activities (July 27 - Aug 1) during Cobb Extension Hort Week

For the week of  July 27 - August 1, UGA Extension office has planned several activities to highlight horticulture in Cobb County. The scheduled presentations are free and open to the public.
Supporting Our Pollinators
Monday, July 27, noon—1:00 p.m.
At the Cobb Water Training Lab, 662 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, 30060.   
Wednesday, July 29, noon—1:00 p.m.
At the Cobb Water Training Lab, 662 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, 30060.   
Planning the Fall Vegetable Garden
Friday, July 31, noon—1:00 p.m.
At the Cobb Water Training Lab, 662 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, 30060.   
Family Fun Day at Green Meadows Preserve Park
Saturday, August 1, 8:00 a.m.—2:00 p.m.
Bring a picnic and enjoy all the park has to offer. Bluebird Trail walk begins at 8:00 a.m. Then,  activities, classes, and games for kids and adults begin at 10:00 a.m. , at 3780 Dallas Hwy., Powder Springs, 30127.
Anytime: Stop by the office, M-F, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 678 South Cobb Drive in Marietta, to pick up research-based information from UGA about lawn, garden, and landscape care and about conserving our natural resources. 
To reach by phone: 770-528-4070.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

The past few weeks have been extremely hot and unfortunately, we still have quite a few more months to go before temperatures are reliably cooler. BJ sent me this great graphic illustration which lists the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Be sure to study the graphic.  To help prevent heat exhaustion (which can frequently lead to heat stroke) remember to drink LOTS of water and take rest breaks in the shade.  Wear a hat or use an umbrella to create a large circle of shade for your body if you have to go to the garden in the middle of the day. (If you have to be outside for a long time - use a beach umbrella stuck in the ground.)

Personally, I try to stay out of the full sun as much as possible because I know it wipes me out.  I've luckily never had heat stroke but I have suffered heat exhaustion before. The worst part is that I couldn't tolerate any heat for the rest of that year.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Refrigerator Pickles - Sweet Dill Pickles!

This is one of our favorite family recipes for making sweet dill refrigerator pickles.  I love preserving the harvest in the simplest of ways to enjoy long after its peak season is over.  These tend to last about a year with a simple boiled brine.  There's no need to sterilize the jars, just a wash and rinse cycle in the dishwasher or a hand wash with hot soapy water is fine.

Sweet pickles prepped for the fridge, yum!
Sweet Dill Pickles


3 quarts heavy of thick sliced, unpeeled cukes
2 cups sugar
2 cups vinegar
2 cups water
1/4 cup regular salt
1 teaspoon alum
2 large onions sliced
3/4 to 1 cup fresh chopped dill and minced garlic


Wash and rinse all jars.  Either use a one-gallon container or individual quart jars.

To make the brine - in a large saucepan combine sugar, vinegar, water, salt, and alum.  All measurements must be exact for proper fermentation.  Bring to a boil for one minute.  Make sure the sugar, salt, and alum are completely dissolved.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Slice onion and separate into rings.  Cut all rings in half.

Prepare dill and minced garlic.

Clean cucumbers and remove a half inch piece from the blossom end and discard.  Using this piece would have the potential to turn the jar bitter.  Slice cucumbers, do not peel.

Combine cucumbers, onion, dill, and garlic.  If using individual quart jars distribute evenly or place mixture in gallon container.  Make sure brine is completely cool and pour over cucumber mixture.

Seal containers, refrigerate for at least three days before serving.

I recently purchased a book containing tips and tricks for making refrigerator pickles.  It states that using either soft or distilled water keeps pickles at their peak for the longest time as the minerals present in treated water tends to break down the ingredients over time.  That's probably common knowledge to many, but as somebody relatively new to pickling, I found it interesting and helpful.

Hope you enjoy,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Garden Record Keeping

Greetings fellow gardeners!

Now that pretty spring weather has arrived, I am getting excited about my 2nd  summer of growing vegetables at Green Meadows.  I recently purchased a book at Costco called “Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast.”  The book has proven to be quite helpful and an interesting read.

Garden Journal by Christine Claret, Home Depot Associate
for crafty instructions to make!
One section of the book discusses the importance of keeping records about your garden.  Garden journals can be used to help those of us with feeble memories, recollect methods and strategies that have proven successful in the past.  Likewise they afford us the opportunity to avoid repeating past mistakes that resulted in disappointing harvests.  Information collected in your journal can be as thorough as you desire.  According to Wallace, Thomas Jefferson kept extensive garden journals recording everything.  Some information to record can include:  sowing dates, planting dates, garden maps, plant varieties, soil amendments and quantities, fertilizing methods, pest impacts, watering habits, and garden chores.  The list could go on and on. 

You can easily create your own garden journal using a good old fashioned spiral ring notebook or you can purchase one from amazon or gardening supply stores.  I conducted a brief internet search and found a free printable garden notebook online.  The link is below.  If you don’t use the notebook at this link, you can at least get an idea of how you may want to organize your own journal.

Happy Gardening Everyone!

Susan Bed 16

Free Printable Garden Notebook from Frugal Living –

Wallace, Ira.  (2013).  Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast. Portland, Oregon:  Timber Press.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Additional Educational Opportunities not offered by Cobb Extension

 CARTERSVILLE: Plant Propagation Methods Seminar with James Hembree, Tuesday,  March 10, 2015, 6:30 pm.  Session will cover seeds, cuttings, budding and grafting, terminology, techniques  and  practices. James is superintendent of facilities and grounds of University of West GA, has a B.S. in Agriculture, is a Certified, Arborist, Nurseryman, and Organic Producer. This is the kickoff of a free gardening seminar series presented by the Bartow County Master Gardeners with Q & A time following. Olin Tatum Agricultural Building, Stiles Auditorium, 320  W. Cherokee  Ave, Cartersville GA 30120.   Free & open to all but  pre-registration is requested to secure a seat.  Call UGA Extension - Bartow County  770-387-5142 or e-mail: 
CUMMING: Extended Gardening Season with Low Hoop-houses  Thursday, March 12, 2015 10:00 am - noon. Learn how to extend your growing season with low hoop houses, plus get hands-on experience constructing one. UGA Extension - Forsyth County Learning for Life Garden 875 Lanier 400 Parkway, Cumming, GA 30040,  $5. Registration required. Class limited to 20 participants. Call UGA Extension Forsyth County 770-887-2418 or email  to register.
FAYETTEVILLE:  Propagation Workshop– Seeds Make Cents!  Saturday, March 14, 2015 10am - noon.  Do you know how to start a plant from a tiny seed?  How deep to plant? How much to water?  Don't miss this class, each participant goes home with a seed plant.  $10 registration and workshop fee, payable in advance. UGA Extension Fayette County, County Administrative Complex, 140 Stonewall Avenue W, Fayetteville, GA 30214   To register call 770-305.5412 or e-mail  For more information
GRIFFIN: Annual Kite Flying at the Garden   Sunday, March 15, 2015 1 - 4 pm. UGA Griffin Research and Education Garden located on Ellis Road just  off 19-41 across from UGA Griffin Campus.  Directions to the  R&E Garden
GRIFFIN: Small Engine Maintenance Class Tuesday, March 17, 2015 8:30am- Noon. Participants will learn how to properly select and maintain common garden and landscape equipment, sharpen hand tools, knives and chainsaws, tune motors and properly prepare engines for long-term storage. The course will also cover the most important tools to have on hand to help maintain and repair landscape equipment. Student Learning Center Building, UGA Griffin Campus, 1109 Experiment St, Griffin, Ga 30223.  $39  includes handouts and refreshments. Pre-registration is required.  Beth Horne  770-228-7214 or email
FAYETTEVILLE:  Advanced Vegetable Gardening  Thursday, March 19, 2015  11am - 1pm. Local vegetable gardener Mr. Lester Bray and the Fayette Plant a Row for the Hungry Garden leaders will discuss plasticulture (laying of plastic for better production of vegetables) and the benefits of drip irrigation.   Plant a Row (PAR) Garden at New Hope Baptist Church North Campus, 551 New Hope Rd, Fayetteville, GA 30214. Weather permitting – outside class/dress accordingly - bring your own chair.   To register call 770-305-5412 or e-mail  Information
DOUGLASVILLE: Dealing with Vegetable Garden Pests - Lunch and Learn Series March Session Friday, March 20, 2015, 12-1pm. UGA Extension Douglas County , 6279 Fairburn Road, Douglasville, Ga 30134.  $6; contact UGA Extension Douglas County 770-920-7224.
CANTON: 2 Gardening  Seminars - Saturday, March 21, 2015   Beginning Vegetable Gardening at 10 am presented by Diane Smith. New to vegetable gardening?  Learn where and how to get started. And at noon, Organic Gardening, a  system approach emphasizing organic practices with Marc Teffeau. Cherokee County Senior Services, 1001 Univeter Road, Canton, GA.  Presented by UGA Master Gardener Extension Volunteers of  Cherokee County.  Pre-Registration is required by March 18; call  UGA Extension - Cherokee County 770-721-7803.
HOLLY SPRINGS: Beeschool 2015 presented by Cherokee Beekeepers Club. Saturday, March  21, 2015 8:15 am – 4 pm. 7:45 am registration.   A beginning beekeeping workshop with strong emphasis on practical beekeeping. (Note: this was postponed from Feb. Early registration discount has been extended to March 12- form is available on the website) $45 registration at the door includes one-year membership, lunch, and handouts. A limited number of 3# package bees available for beginners to order at Beeschool. First Baptist Church Holly Springs 2632 Holly Springs Parkway, Holly Springs, GA 30142. For more information:   email or call 770-735-3263.
DALLAS: Spring Forward Paulding 2015: Live, Learn, Local   March 21, 2015 10am – 2 pm, Learn about vegetable and landscape gardening, water conservation, energy conservation, beekeeping, local farmers markets, and local businesses from experts! Demonstrations from 10 am - 2 pm.   Exhibits, experts, petting zoo, door prizes, music-FREE Admission.  Paulding County High School Gymnasium, 1297 Villa Rica Highway, Dallas, GA 30157-More info at 770-443-7616 or Https://
FAYETTEVILLE:  Totally Tomatoes  Saturday, March 21, 2015  10am - noon.   Is your mouth watering for a good, homegrown tomato?  Or do you prefer the ones in the big grocery stores that taste like the  cardboard box they were shipped in?  Learn about some of the favorites grown in Fayette County.  Public Meeting Room, Fayette County Administrative Complex, 140 Stonewall Avenue W, Fayetteville, GA 30214. $5 registration fee, payable in advance.  To register call 770- 305-5412 or e-mail  For more information visit
DOUGLASVILLE: Vegetable Gardening, Planning and Preparing for the Spring or Fall  Saturday, March 21, 2015 9:30-11:30am UGA Extension Douglas County , 6279 Fairburn Road, Douglasville, Ga 30134.  $6; contact UGA Extension Douglas County 770-920-7224.
FAYETTEVILLE:  Encouraging Beneficial Insects in the Vegetable Garden  Tuesday, March 24, 2015  11:00AM – 12:30PM.  Do you know which insects are beneficial?  How to attract pollinators?  Join us to learn why and how beneficial insects and pollinators are essential for beautiful flowers and nutritious foods.  Feel free to bring a lunch. UGA Extension Fayette County, County Administrative Complex, 140 Stonewall Avenue W, Fayetteville, GA 30214  To register call 770-305-5412 or e-mail  For more information visit  
NEWNAN: 7 Tips for Beginning Vegetable Gardeners Tuesday, March 24, 2015, 2:30-3:30pm Keep fit, eat healthier, save money, AND get your children to eat their veggies? Start a vegetable garden! With the recent push for clean eating, more people are beginning to grow their own vegetables. Topics cover growing vegetables at home (even in modest spaces), site selection, garden style, soil enrichment, plant selection, insect control, and many tips for success. Newnan Carnegie Library, 1 LaGrange St., Newnan, GA (on the Square). Free to the public; register by calling the Newnan Carnegie library at  770-683-1347.

Cobb Extension Educational Opportunities

 March Gardener's Night Out
 Getting Ready for the Spring Vegetable Garden with Amy Whitney. Tuesday, March 10, 2015, 7-8pm. What you need to know to get your garden off to a good start. Free, open to the public and sponsored by Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County. Mountain View Regional Library, 3320 Sandy Plains Road,  Marietta, GA 30066 For more information contact Renae Lemon at
Learn how to Clean Green at Free Workshop
Bring a lunch and learn how to clean green this spring. What you clean with can be harmful, so UGA Extension Services staff wants to share information on how to protect your family.
The class will be held noon-1 p.m., Thursday, March 12, at the Extension Office, 678 South Cobb Drive, Suite 200, Marietta. Recipes to clean your home the green and natural way, while reducing your cleaning costs, will be covered.
The workshop is free, but please pre-register by calling 770-528-4070 or emailing
 Lunch & Learn - Easy to Grow Fruits with Steve Brady  Friday, March 13, 2015, Noon- 1pm. Bring your lunch & enjoy an hour-long presentation. You don’t have to own a large estate to grow a wide variety of fruits. Former Cobb County Extension Agent, Steve Brady, will share the easiest and most adaptive fruits to grow at home! Free, open to the public and sponsored by Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County. Cobb Water Lab,  660 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, GA. 30060 For more information contact Renae Lemon at
MARIETTA: Thyme to Read Book Club March Meeting  "The Wild Trees" by Richard Presto.  Friday, March 13, 2015, 10:15 – 11:30am. Meets second Friday of each month. This garden-related book club is free, open to the public and sponsored by Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County. Cobb Water Lab,  660 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, GA. 30060 For more information contact Renae Lemon at  
Bluebird Trail Walk and Talk   Saturday, March 21, 2015 10am – Noon (upcoming dates April 2, May 30, June 13) Educational walk and talk along a 2.3 mile trail with 25 Bluebird nest boxes and 10 feeding stations within 112 acres of open pasture, meadows and trees.  Bring your own drinking water, insect spray/repellent and wear comfortable shoes for walking the trail. Green Meadows Preserve Bluebird Trail at  Green Meadows Preserve Park, 3780 Dallas Highway, Powder Springs, GA. 30127  Follow the Bluebird Trail Blog at   
Three Orchid Classes!
       Orchids 101, March 19
       Repotting Orchids, March 26; and
       Orchid Pests and Diseases, April 2
All three classes run from 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. and will be taught by Master Gardener Sondra Nierenberg at UGA Extension/Cobb County, second floor, 678 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, GA, 30060. Class is free but space is limited; preregistration is required, by email, to

UGA Extension in Cobb County Open House
Tuesday, April 7, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Drop in to discover what Extension in Cobb County has to offer! From Horticulture and Natural Resources, to 4-H for youth, to Family and Consumer Sciences, we provide up-to-date, researched information from UGA to the citizens of this county. Open House at UGA Extension/Cobb County, second floor, 678 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, GA, 30060. For information, call 770-528-4070.
Vegetable Garden Basics
Tuesday, April 7, 7:30-8:30 p.m. Learn the basics of gardening, from site selection, to soil preparation, to choosing, planting, and maintaining your favorite garden crops. Presented by Cobb Extension’s Amy Whitney at UGA Extension/Cobb County, second floor, 678 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, GA, 30060. Free and open to the public. For additional information and to preregister, call 770-528-4070.

From Your Garden to Your Table
Thursday, April 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m. County Agents Neil Tarver and Cindy Sweda will present information that will help you provide food for your family, from starting the garden to canning a bountiful harvest, at UGA Extension/Cobb County, second floor, 678 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, GA, 30060. Preregistration is required – call 770-528-4070, or email Cost: $5 at the door (exact cash or a check).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

It's Sowing Time!

This time of year almost seems like a countdown to spring for me.  Gradually the days are starting to lengthen a bit and with a few warm ones here and there, I'm enjoying the garden chores more and more. It feels so good to be outside on the warm days getting the test bed prepared and working on my garden. I'm chomping at the bit to start planting some carrots, lettuces, and peas but want to let this current cold snap pass.  Most often, I'll sow Lincoln peas on good ole Abe's birthday, but this year it rained and the arctic blast is making it way too cold out there.  Forgive me Abe; we're celebrating a little late this year...

February is such a great month for getting supplies, starting seeds, and really planning what varieties to grow to ensure success in the coming months.  I finished putting the Giant Marconi's in last weekend and can already see some little sprouts breaking ground.  Although it seems early, these peppers take a good eight to ten weeks to become healthy transplants for the garden.  The wait is entirely worth it as these are some of the sweetest Italian peppers to grace my garden each year.

Botanical Interests sowing guides
are posted!
I placed the sowing guides from Botanical Interests on the bulletin board at the garden showing the proper times for both indoor and outdoor seed starting.  The online links are also below for your convenience.

While it is important to realize that any of the planning charts are simply guidelines, those who are new to gardening or new to starting their gardens from seed will find them a useful tool for keeping the process on track.

Seeds for Botanical Interests are available locally at Pikes and they offer a nice selection of both heirlooms and hybrids. They are a SAFE SEED PLEDGE company, meaning they do not knowingly buy, sell or trade genetically engineered seeds or plants. Everything through them is untreated and non-GMO with excellent germination rates above the industry's standard.

Links: - link to indoor spring sowing guide for vegetables and herbs. - link to outdoor spring sowing guide for vegetables and herbs.

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Is My Container Safe?

I was having a conversation with a visitor in the garden this past weekend on the safety of growing vegetables in non-toxic conditions.  We chatted on and on about the materials appropriate for raised beds and eventually got on the subject of what types of containers are safe as well.

If you're anything like me, I'm always rummaging through the house or garage looking for the perfect pot to grow some veggies in.  There just never seems to be enough room to grow everything the family likes. Utilizing containers provides an excellent means to get some extra space until we're able to build more beds on the property (or I should say, until I'm able to convince Rick to build some more beds).

Most all vegetables will grow rather well in containers if you choose the right size pot for the veggie at hand.  Each year, in addition to our raised beds, Rick and I grow about 50 tomatoes and the majority of them are in pots.  About the only drawbacks are the additional watering since they tend to dry out faster and the potential for some containers to leach harmful chemicals into the soil.  This makes it imperative to do a little homework before planting. 
My driveway garden in the EarthBox containers!

My favorite container is the EarthBox, pictured to the right, which came my way as a gift many years ago.  These are about the best HDPE option that I have found which produce on par with plants out in the raised beds.  In addition, they are UV stabilized, food grade safe, made in the USA, and of very high quality.  

Each year, I try to add a couple more to the driveway garden and many of the containers still look great a decade later.  Another great aspect of the EarthBox is a company that continues to offer support, for any replaceable parts needed, so you're never out the investment placed in the box.  While these are available locally at Pikes, I always seem to find much better deals straight from the website.  Often, you'll even find a good sale around different holidays as well as coupons for free shipping.  

When it comes to the backyard garden, I tend to use any pot that is recommended as safe from leaching, or whichever ones give me the greatest level of comfort from leaching.  Natural materials, i.e. concrete, cedar, redwood, and such, are always best, but there are many options for plastics as well. Big box retailers carry food safe five-gallon buckets and many pots have symbols known to be acceptable.  For utmost safety, it is wise to avoid containers with the symbols 3, 6, and 7.  These particular plastics are known to have the highest level of risk for leaching chemicals into the soil, especially when they're exposed to elevated temperatures from full sun exposure over prolonged periods.

I wasn't able to find any studies showing the rate that plants absorb harmful toxins when grown in plastic containers as well as to how toxic these levels are to us as we consume the food from them.  I have found a few scientists blogging back and forth determining that there is a need to have this type of research performed.  In fact, they say there is an outcry from organic gardeners for it.  Some science suggests that the amount of organic matter in the soil plays a part in how much toxic material the plants in containers can absorb.  However, until there is some definitive research, it is always better to error on the side of caution and use containers that fit into your comfort level for safety. has some guidelines as to which plastics tend to be the safest for growing edibles and a link is below for your convenience.

The University of Florida Extension Service also has some excellent information for the appropriate size containers to choose when growing different vegetables.  If you scroll down to page 41, there are also some safe container guidelines. - link to the University of Florida IFAS Extension Service. 

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29 

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 with some recommendations. - 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.
  • 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:


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 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,

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