Monday, April 14, 2014

And The "Chilly Nilly" Prize Goes To.........

Hey Everyone,

And this year's "Chilly Nilly" prize goes to Ken of Bed 5 and Mark of Bed 45!

That's right you two!  Both of you tied for the coolest beds in the garden right now having a temperature of 65.3 degrees Fahrenheit.  It has been so nice to see the steady rise in temperatures this week and hopefully the few nights of approaching cold weather won't take us back too far from what we have gained. A special THANK YOU goes out to Reagan for helping me take all the temperatures Sunday evening. You were such a good helper!

Ken & Mark's Prize
Bu's Brew Bio-Dynamic
 Compost Tea Bags from Malibu Compost!
http://malibucompost.com/goods/layin - for awesome tips
 and a link to information on the brew.
The week started off with a garden average of 64.7 degrees.  As of Sunday evening, we are currently right at 70 degrees for an overall garden average.  Temperatures run from our chilliest at 65.3, to our warmest at 77.4 degrees.  As always, I take temperatures late day between 5:00 and 6:30 p.m. to maximize any heat we may gain throughout the afternoon hours.  The temperatures of each bed are recorded with a digital meat thermometer, added together, divided by the total number of beds, giving us an overall average for the garden.  This gives us a pretty good idea of where our temperatures stand for planting purposes.

Here are the results for this week of recording:

Our chilliest section of the garden remains the area near the pecan tree and picnic table.  All beds in this section remain under 70 degrees with Ken being one of our "Chilly Nilly" prize winners at 65.3. This section actually has an advantage over others in the garden when growing cool weather vegetables in the spring as they can hold onto the chillier ground temperatures a bit longer.  This gives them the opportunity for a greater length of time harvesting before the heat takes over and causes the plants to end their life cycles. The overall average for this section as of Sunday is 69.0 degrees Fahrenheit.

The section of the garden that houses our special needs area is still the most consistent with their temperatures running from 67.1 to 74.2 degrees.  The average for this section is now at 70.2 as of Sunday evening.  When ground temperatures in this area climb, they tend to fluctuate less with the ups and downs that are common of early spring weather.  The largest advantage in this section is that both soil life and plant growth experience less stress due to fluctuating ground temperatures, which does go a long way in keeping plants healthy and productive once they get started.

The largest surprise was the warmest area of the garden at the last recording is now the second to the coldest when dividing the garden up into four sections.  It also houses one of our "Chilly Nilly" prize winners (Mark) at bed 45.  The temperatures in this uppermost right-hand section closest to the orchard have an overall average of 69.1 degrees.  The lowest is Mark at 65.3 and the warmest is 72.3 degrees.  In looking back at last year's recordings this scenario was the same as another bed in that section was also a "Chilly Nilly" prize winner.  It looks as if when looking towards the future at garden trends, this area has a distinct advantage for winning our "Nilly" prizes, grin!

Our last section on the right hand side of the gate closest to Dallas Hwy is still the warmest area overall. In fact, our "Garden Hotties" remain the warmest bed in the garden at 77.4 degrees.  The temperatures in this section range from a low of 67.2 to a high of 77.4 degrees.  The average for this section is 71.7 overall.  Many beds in this section have the advantage with the temperatures needed to support "tomato territory" and once the nights stabilize and the beds are prepped they will be off and running.

I am hopeful that this next little spell will be the last of the cold weather.  It is always a nice reminder though to respect those last frost dates for our area as planting too early can cause quite a bit of damage to our plants.  I will continue to keep us all posted!

A great big CONGRATULATIONS to Mark and Ken, you are sooooooo cool!  I'll drop the prizes by the shed my next trip over.

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Grafting Fruit Trees Class

Are you interested in growing fruit trees but have limited space to raise different cultivars?

Come to the class that Master Gardener Eddie Rhoades will be presenting on Saturday April 12 from 10:30 to 11:30 at the orchard behind the Green Meadows Community Garden.

Eddie is a master at grafting different cultivars on one "parent" tree. Persimmon, pear, peach and apple are just a few of the  fruit trees he has grafted multiple cultivars onto.

Where:
Green Meadows Preserve Community Garden
3780 Dallas Highway
Powder Springs, GA 30127
  (The garden is at the intersection of Old Hamilton and Dallas Highway, near The Avenues of West Cobb. Look for the white house on the corner with a sign out front that says Green Meadows Preserve)

When:
Saturday, April 12, 2014
10:30 to 11:30 am

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Secrets To Growing A Healthy Garden!

Hey Everyone,

Growing that healthy vegetable garden really doesn't take the green thumb that so many feel they need. 
It only takes a little knowledge of a few basic concepts.  The equation is simple.  
                         Healthy Soil = Healthy Plants = Bountiful Harvest of Nutrient Rich Food.

Determine what your vegetable plants need:  

Every type of vegetable plant family has specific needs or preferences in order for them to be healthy and productive.  Some vegetables can be a little more finicky than others can.  However, if you provide the basics below they tend to be less sensitive to their specific needs and perform well under most conditions.
  • The correct soil fertility and pH - Most vegetables prefer a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0.  Make sure to amend properly with the correct amount of organic matter and perform a soil test to correct any imbalances in soil pH.  As a rule of thumb, gardeners need to add at least a 3-inch layer of compost/organic matter unless you will be heavily dependent on fertilizers.  If you garden bio-intensively or use other methods to maximize your harvest, then you will need a little more to replenish the depleted nutrients in your soil. 
  • Healthy microbial soil life - Healthy soil isn't just dirt.  It is a complete active ecosystem full of life with a well-balanced system of bacteria, organisms, and fungi that all interact with the roots of your plants.  Getting it right often fends off many of the diseases and pests that plague vegetable gardens.  As your soil builds, worms will come to the surface as if they were dolphins grazing on organic matter taking it deeper into the soil where it will be readily turned into nutrition for your plants.  If you do not see signs of life in your soil, this can be a red flag that conditions are not conducive for healthy plant growth. 
  • Sunlight and moisture - Intense sunlight maximizes the photosynthesis in plants.  In tomatoes, this process allows the plants to make carbohydrates that later turn into the sugars and acids for that rich old-time flavor we so desire.  Both plant labels and seed packets have the light conditions required for optimal growth and production.  For healthy plants, it is also imperative to keep your water schedule consistent.   Disease is far more likely to occur in plants that are water stressed.  Raised beds do dry out much quicker than conventional in-ground gardens and need watered more often.  
  • Ideal temperatures - One of the top ten mistakes gardeners make is planting out at the wrong time.  When plants are placed in soils that haven't warmed properly they will most often sit idle waiting for the signal that it's time to grow.  During this idle phase they are more susceptible to insects and harmful soil pathogens that cause disease.

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Friday, March 28, 2014

Who's Our "Hottie"?

Hey Everyone,
And the "Garden Hottie" Prize goes to Susan & Steve Phillips of Bed 18!

Susan & Steve's "Garden Hottie" Prize!
Farmer D's Bio-Dynamic Blend Organic Compost
 providing a wealth of versatility in the garden!
Yes Susan & Steve, it's you!  You have the hottest bed in the garden right now!  Taking the garden temperatures this past week has been rather interesting.  While our desire is to see the ground temperatures consistently on the rise, we have experienced exactly the opposite.  Unfortunately, the few nights of extremely cold weather has taken our temperatures from the start of the week at 64.3 degrees Fahrenheit down to an average of 59.8 degrees as of Thursday.

I took all readings late day between 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to maximize any heat we may have acquired throughout the afternoon hours.  I use a digital meat thermometer when taking temperatures as these do provide very accurate results.  The temperatures of each bed are taken, divided by the total number of beds, and the result is the garden average.  If you have two beds, I utilize the warmest or coldest one depending on which serves you the best for the purpose of contest prizes. 

As one may expect the chilliest section of the garden remains the area that receives the most shade near the pecan tree and picnic table.  This section had only one bed breaking the 60-degree mark.  That was John and Maxine's with a soil temperature of 61.8 degrees.  The overall average in this section is 58.1 degrees Fahrenheit.  

The most consistent section where the temperatures show the least fluctuation is the area of the garden that also includes special needs.  I believe that when we do obtain our heat, it is lost at a lower rate based on some insulation from the surrounding woods.  This scenario was also the same last year during the period at which temperatures were monitored on a regular basis.  The overall average for this section is 58.6 with those who cover on a regular basis having temps in the low 60's.

Now let's look at the garden's hottest areas!  The overall warmest section in the garden is the uppermost right hand side closest to the orchard.  The average for that area is 61.4 degrees with only a couple beds under the 60-degree mark.  This area continues to warm the fastest when looking at trends in the garden. However, this section also experiences the greatest fluctuations due to the openness of their bed locations.

The section that houses our "Garden Hottie" prize winners has both the warmest and coldest beds in the garden.  Steve and Susan's bed was 68.2 degrees Fahrenheit, which has to do with the fact that they remain diligent in their covering during periods of cold weather.  This allows them not only the ability to retain most of the gains in any ground temperatures they acquire but also the option to get an early start on warm season vegetables when the time arrives.  The coldest bed was number 22 belonging to Carol. Her temperature was 53.6 degrees.  It is always interesting to see how two beds right next to each other can have such a difference in micro-climates.  The temperature of Carol's bed is due to the mulch layer she has surrounding the garlic.  This will serve her very well during the bulbing stage, as if the soil temperatures get too high the garlic tends to shut down affecting its final size during the end game.  The overall average for this section is 60.9 degrees with only a couple beds under the 60-degree mark as well.

I am hopeful that the last of the really cold weather is behind us and we will start to see the warming trend that we look forward to with anticipation of great summer produce.  I will continue to keep us all posted! Congratulations Susan & Steve, you are the hottest!  

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Free Onion Sets!

Hey Everyone,

I thought it might be nice to kick off the spring planting season with some free onion sets.  Onions do extremely well in the garden and are among the variety of crops that require very little care and maintenance.
Get them while they last!

For spring planting, it is important to get them in the ground as soon as possible.  The sets need time to produce some green top growth before nature gives them the signal to make a bulb.  Spring planted onions will be substantially smaller than those planted in the fall but the keeping quality and flavor is every bit the same.

The Old Farmer's Almanac has some basic onion care and planting information for those in need.  The link is below for your convenience.  In raised garden beds they can easily go 4 inches apart in all directions.  The spacing between rows mentioned in the article is for those directly planting into the conventional garden.

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

Happy Spring,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Monday, March 17, 2014

Conducting a Proper Electronic Soil Test!

Hey Everyone,

Mike has been so kind to provide an Electronic Soil Testing Meter to assist us in keeping an eye on our pH and fertility.  The photo below shows our first inclination to conduct the test.  Take the probe and stick it in the dirt!  Unfortunately, using the method shown in the photo will not always provide the most accurate results.  To obtain the best reading possible when conducting a soil test make sure all equipment is clean.  Directions are below for your convenience.


This method will often provide mixed results!
Materials Required:
  • Small container for mixing that is able to hold at least 4 -5 cups of soil
  • A qt. or slightly larger size container that is narrow and deep.  The container must be watertight. Something about the size of a small plastic coffee can works well. 
  • Shovel
  • Stirring utensil
  • Either rain or distilled water
  • Polishing cloth and electronic soil tester - the polishing cloth is the small green felt looking pad in the shed by the tester.


Procedure:
  • Gather 1/4 cup of soil from several different parts of your garden bed paying close attention to gathering from about 6" deep.  It is also wise to omit taking a sample from any areas that look off in color.  The final quantity needed is approximately 4 - 5 cups.  
  • Remove any large pieces of things such as pebbles or sticks.
  • Remove any earthworms to prevent drowning.
  • Mix all samples until well blended.
  • Placed mixed soil into a clean watertight container.  Add enough distilled or rainwater to fill to the same height as the soil.  Stir with a clean utensil and allow the soil to become thoroughly saturated for about 15 minutes.  
  • Once the soil is thoroughly saturated, pour off the excess water.
  • Make sure probes are clean and free of debris.  Polish if necessary.
  • Insert probes into the muddy water and slide the selector switch to the desired test.  Wait two - three minutes for the most accurate reading. 
  • Clean meter, remember to turn it off, and return to shed.
  • Make adjustments to bring your soil back into balance.   

Green Meadows Healthy Garden Tip:

Electronic soil testing meters are a wonderful option for keeping an eye on things and providing a ballpark of where your soil stands.  The downside to these meters is they are only able to test pH and give a general overview of nutrient availability.  

The Burpee meter has a scale function of 16 nutrients required for optimal plant growth.  However, it is not able to express how much of which element is deficient or in excess. 

Adding elements to the soil that are already in excess can do more harm than good not only to the soil, but to the plants as well.  While these meters are an excellent tool in our chest for keeping the garden healthy and productive, nothing replaces periodic soil testing by the Extension Service for more accurate lab based results as well as a total soil picture.  

The link below takes you to the Burpee site that has information on the Electronic Soil Tester as well as their recommendations for what to add based on your results.  There is also a wealth of many sustainable organic options for adjusting the pH level as well as nutrients in many of the garden references.

http://www.burpee.com/gygg/content.jsp?contentId=sunandsoil - link to Burpee's information and recommendations based on results.

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Eagle Watch 2014

Hey Everyone,

American Bald Eagles were removed from the
endangered species list in 2007!
Berry College in Floyd County is very fortunate to house the only live video stream of nesting bald eagles in the state of Georgia.  This is the second successful nesting season for the pair with an eaglet named B3 capturing the attention of many.

The 2014 nesting season is at its peak according to a recent article posted by National Geographic.  The article features Berry's eagle cam as one of five to watch across the nation.

B3 is growing rapidly and according to the Bald Eagle Facts below the nest cam, will gain approximately 1 pound every four or five days.  By six weeks of age, B3 should be close in size to his parents.

Not only is this an environmental success story but such an honor to witness these magnificent birds in action.  Even though removed from the endangered species list, life is still an uphill battle for them.    

I have placed a link to the nest cam below for those who want to enjoy.  We have so many children in the garden and this is quite educational to view.  Vicki originally sent the link to me and B3 has been part of my daily routine ever since.

I have also placed a link to the National Geographic write up with the links to other cams containing eaglets to watch as well.  The Florida nest has an eaglet very close to fledging.

http://www.berry.edu/eaglecam/ - link to the live video feed of the bald eagles nesting at Berry College.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140306-animals-bald-eagle-cams-environment-endangered-species/ - link to the National Geographic article on these iconic birds and the five cams to watch across the nation.

Hope you enjoy,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Additional Gardening Classes to Attend

Direct from the Cobb County Extension Blog,  here are several more classes you might be interested in taking this spring. (Two were in a previous post but this post contains more information).

If you are interested in taking a class be sure and call to preregister! Don't forget, you can also subscribe to the Extension Blog by email.

Home Yard and Garden Equipment: Use and Care
Saturday, March 22, 1:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Presented by Agriculture Agent Neil Tarver at UGA Extension/Cobb County, in the second floor classroom at 678 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, GA, 30060. Please preregister by calling 770-528-4070.

Evergreen Groundcovers for Sun and Shade
Tuesday, March 25, 7:00-8:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Presented by Master Gardener Shirley Priest, 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.

Bluebird Trail Tour
Saturday, March 29, 10:00 a.m. Free and open to the public. Cobb Master Gardener and Bluebird expert Jim Bearden will conduct a guided walk of the Bluebird Trail at Green Meadow Preserve Park, at 3780 Dallas Hwy., Powder Springs, GA, 30127. Follow the Bluebird Trail blog at bluebirdtrail.blogspot.com.

UGA Extension in Cobb County Open House
Tuesday, April 1, 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 with displays and snacks at UGA Extension/Cobb County, second floor, 678 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, GA, 30060. For information, call 770-528-4070.

Garden to Table
Thursday, April 3, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Agriculture Agent Neil Tarver and Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Cindee Sweda present a class growing and then using food crops. UGA Extension/Cobb County, second floor, 678 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, GA, 30060. Preregistration is required; $10 fee for class and materials. Call 770-528-4070 for information and to register.

Moving Toward Organics in the Vegetable Garden
Tuesday, April 8, 7:00 – 8:00 p.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 Amy Whitney, of UGA Extension/Cobb County, 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.

The Beauty of Bulbs! From Amaryllis to Zephranthes
Friday, April 11, noon to 1:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Presented by Master Gardener Debra Stockton 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.). Debra will give us the ABCs of bulbs with a focus on Georgia favorites: daffodils, gladioli, and tulips.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Should I Test My Soil?

Hey Everyone,

We have often heard that the secret to growing great vegetables starts with the soil.  Having the proper nutrients readily available and a pH in balance so plants can attain them is imperative for a healthy and productive garden.  The pH range for most vegetables to thrive is between 6.0 and 7.0, although they will tolerate a range from 5.0 to 7.5.  This pH range is also favorable for earthworms, microbes, and soil organisms to flourish.
Soil Test Bags
Soil Sample Bags are available
 in the shed
for your convenience!

Soil tests can save you time and money, as they are an excellent tool for identifying deficits as well as extremes in your soil.  They also provide a snapshot of the overall balance of nutrient levels enabling you to add only what your soil really needs.  For healthy plants to thrive there are 16 essential elements required.  Over a dozen of these are in the form of macro and micronutrients coming primarily from the soil.  If shortages or excesses are present or a pH is out of balance preventing plants from getting the nutrients they need, problems can and will occur.  Plants are much more likely to develop disease and nutritional deficiencies since they lack what is necessary for proper growth and development.  Yield and vigor will also undoubtedly be less.   

Many often ask how often and when should soil be tested. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as many extension offices across the U.S., these are some general guidelines as a rule of thumb for vegetable gardeners.
  • Test before gardening in any new area.  The results of a soil test are invaluable for providing an accurate baseline to identify any potential problems that need addressed. 
  • Conventional home gardeners - usually every couple of years is sufficient for keeping soils in prime condition unless you are experiencing difficulties.  If you have done a soil test requiring a correction in soil fertility, special elements, and/or pH, it is also wise to retest the following year to make sure the problem is rectified.  As a special note - UGA as well as a few others do recommend testing vegetable gardens on an annual basis for optimum production and soil health.
  • Test any time you suspect a nutrient or pH problem.
  • Test any time you plan to make a major change in what you are growing in that particular area.  An example would be if you are growing vegetables and want to make a change to blueberries, raspberries, etc.  These have different pH and fertilization requirements.
  • Test at the same time of the year to maintain a comparative analysis of where your soil stands.  
For those who are interested in having a lab based soil test, the link below is for your convenience.  I have also placed a link with the fee schedules for the different types of tests that the extension service currently offers.  If you scroll down to page 12 and beyond the prices for the individual tests are listed. Basic routine tests are as low as $6.00 and more often than not pay for themselves since you are only adding what your soil really needs.

http://aesl.ces.uga.edu/ - link to the Agricultural & Environmental Services Laboratories home page with soil testing information and links.

http://aesl.ces.uga.edu/FeeSchedule.pdf - link to the fee schedule for soil testing at UGA's Extension Service.  Scroll down to page 12 and beyond.

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Sunday, March 9, 2014

End of May

Just to give us some hope that winter will go away, here are a couple of pictures from May 30th, 2013 at the garden. Now true, it was a WARM winter last year so everything started growing faster. But soon, we'll see similar sights at the garden.

We might even be wishing it for it to be cooler too!


Friday, March 7, 2014

Check your engines, errr Onions

Notice how the thumb is mushing INTO
 the onion bulb. It should be firm
and hard, not mushy.
Unfortunately for us, all the rain that we continued to get at the end of 2013 has contributed to another problem in the garden. It isn't obvious because it looks like the onions are doing good. Healthy green bits are above the ground.

But...below the ground, the bulb is in a sorry state. In fact, the onions are demonstrating what happens if you over water them.

I know John and Denise both checked and found they had mushy onions. The best thing to do is to dig an onion up (or down to the onion bulb) and test to see if it is mushy.

The onion on the left  is still full, plump and firm.
The onion on the right is the one that is mushy.
If it is mushy you have two choices. Dig it up and then remove the mushy bits and use it as you would a green onion. Or, leave it to grow and see what happens.

If you let it continue growing, it may bulb but it won't have good keeping qualities. You would need to eat them right away when you harvest them. (Just remove and toss any mushy bits. The remaining part is fine to use..)

At this point, why not just remove them and have space for more plants this spring.  Or you can replant onions and get another change of growing a nice sized onion. Maybe this is the last of the nasty side effects of too much rain in 2013!

The onion sets in the shed have been removed as they too were past their prime for planting.  Denise is going to put some fresh ones in the shed early next week if you are thinking about planting onions this spring.  Spring planted onions will do very well however the bulbs will be somewhat smaller compared to those planted in the fall. Small size but still great tasting!! Mmmmmm....

                     Vicki

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Daffodils or Jonquils?


Do you call them Daffodils or Jonquils? Actually they are Narcissus but who really cares as they are so cheery, hardy and make everyone happy when they bloom.

There are two words of warning about them, don't eat the bulbs as they are toxic and some varieties may cause a rash from the sap after the flower has been cut. However, it is very easy to keep the sap from dripping on you when you cut the flowers. And once you plant the bulbs no one is likely to eat them.

The potential problems are more than made up for by how long daffodils last as a cut flower and in the yard. The flowers will actually dry in the vase if you ignore them and then you'll have daffodil flowers for months. (Ask me how I know....)  Some varieties even have a lovely smell. But best of all they have that wonderful, cheery yellow color that is so welcome when it is still cold and dreary and you don't think spring will ever, ever get here.

 If bad weather comes along and bends or breaks any stems, you can cut the flowers (as well as any buds.) Bring them in the house, put them in a vase and the buds will open. One year we had quite a bit of bad weather and I ended up with many bent/broken stems. I figured I had nothing to lose so I cut the stems with buds just above the bend, stuck them in a vase and 99% of them opened. Those that didn't they weren't even close to opening when I cut them. But I figured why not try. I had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. 

Daffodils come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, sizes, bloom times, doubled and single flowers. I have one clump that tends to bloom several weeks before any others have buds starting to swell. If you want to learn all about the different bloom times ,Gibbs Gardens  up in Ball Ground has a magnificent planting of daffodils. Actually, more than magnificent as they have 50 acres planted with 20 million daffodil bulbs and they used 60 different cultivars in their plantings. Right now is prime time to go visit and marvel.

The daffodils in these pictures are from my yard as I went on a daffodil binge 15 or 20 years ago and planted them everywhere. I really enjoy looking out at this time of year and there is a spot of color out every window.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Soil Temperatures for Peas!

Hey Everyone,

I have had some very good questions in relation to the best time to plant peas.  The key to growing a good set of peas in the spring is to get them up and out of the ground quickly to prevent the seeds from rotting in soils that are both cool and wet.  It is also imperative to get them in the ground early as once daytime temperatures reach into the 80's their production completely shuts down.

Peas take 4 - 5 weeks to germinate at soil temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, about 13 days at 50 degrees, and just 7 - 10 days when the soil warms to 60 degrees.   They will actually germinate with ground temperatures anywhere from 40 F to 85 F with their optimum falling around 75 F.  We are definitely in the ground temperature range to get them planted, STAT!

Sugar Sprint Snap Pea
For spring planting look for varieties that have a little heat tolerance built in.  Lincoln and Wando are two wonderful old time shelling varieties that do very well in the spring. Plants stand about 30" tall and they bear prolifically being able to take some of the early warm temperatures without shutting down their production.  However, these two varieties do require pro-active preventative maintenance for keeping powdery mildew at bay.  For those who like the snap peas, Sugar Sprint and Super Sugar Snap are wonderful varieties with incredible flavor that have excellent disease resistance to powdery mildew built right in.  My favorite snow pea is Oregon Sugar Pod II.  I cannot say enough good things about this snow pea variety.  The production is incredible as it produces two pods per each node on healthy disease free plants.  I have grown these for years with much success and they do extremely well in our community garden setting.

Green Meadows Healthy Garden Tip:

As with most vegetables avoid working with your pea plants when they are wet and try to keep foliage as dry as possible by watering at the base of the plant.  If picking peas in the morning, it is wise to make sure all dew is off the plant first.  These simple steps go a long way in preventing disease.  Decide if you will be pro-active or re-active with your pest protection and keep an eye out for aphids.  These are usually the first pests to arrive in the spring garden and pea plants provide good cover for them.  Compost teas, Actinovate, and AzaMax are wonderful organic approaches for promoting health, preventing disease, and keeping insects at bay.

As a special note - plants in the allium family such as onions, garlic, leeks, and shallots have a tendency to stunt the growth and production of pea plants.  For this reason, it is wise to plant them at the opposite end of the bed.

For those who would like additional information on planting and growing peas a link to Burpee is below for your convenience.  Its information is very straightforward and it contains the proper method for freezing any excess that some may find useful as well.  I have also placed a link to a very nice article on the differences in productivity between different varieties of snow peas.  This is excellent information for those who like getting the most bang for their buck out of their gardens.

http://www.burpee.com/vegetables/peas/all-about-peas-article10250.html - link to a straightforward article from Burpee on growing peas as well as instructions for freezing them after harvest.

http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/snowpeas?page=0,0 - link to a very nice article on snow peas and the differences in productivity between varieties.

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29

Signs of Spring


This winter has been quite a ride weather wise. Not like a merry-go-round, but like a roller coaster. It is a wonder we don't have whip-lash as we've gone from freezing Polar Vortex lows to sunny late spring like temperatures in a matter of days. This year, we had the 2nd Polar Vortex come to visit us at the same time there was a pollen alert out. How mixed up is that!
 
I have a love/hate relationship with red maple flowers. Love to see them because it means winter is getting closer to the end. But I hate them because I get hay fever. Because this year was so cold, I actually was watching and hoping for the flower buds to swell and pop open. (If you look at the trees right now, maples have a red haze to them which is what their flowers look like from the distance.) 


But I ONLY have a love, love, love relationship to the sights and sounds of sandhill cranes as they migrate through. Even though some years they start heading north in January, they still are a sign (to me) that spring is coming.

How do I know these are sandhill cranes, not geese? In Georgia, Canada Geese are non-migratory. The geese that you do see flying are generally low to the ground and in very small V's.  Sandhill cranes (unless they are coming down for a landing or taking off) fly very high above the tree line.

Hal Massie got a great picture of a large V plus a mass of swirling birds. The mass of cranes are "swirling" up in the sky to catch a better thermal to fly in.  (Thermal's are good because it gives migrating birds a boost, like a tail wind behind a plane.)  It is fascinating to watch them swirl up, up, up in the sky and then suddenly shoot out into a new thermal and form up into V's.
 
Another way to tell whether you are watching  cranes versus geese is to listen to their calls. They sound completely different! Here is a link to listen to the Sandhill crane call . The first sound is what you frequently here in the sky above you. If you are a sandhill aficionado, the mere hint of their call will cause you to drop what you are doing, race through the house, tripping on everything, to stand outside and scan the skies trying to see them in the air.
 
Not that I love weeds but after such a hard winter, I'm even glad to see the winter weeds popping up in the mulch layer even though I know they need to be pulled sooner than later.

There are smells to the signs of spring too - daphne and winter blooming honeysuckle are delicious if you get a hint of them.

And we mustn't forget watching, watching, watching, impatiently watching and waiting for that darned daffodil to FINALLY open. By the time this post is done it will hopefully have opened!

Vicki

Monday, March 3, 2014

Work Day - Saturday March 8th

We would like to welcome all our new gardeners and look forward to rekindling our old friendships from the past couple years. Saturday March 8th  from 10 am to 12 noon is the first workday for 2014. Hopefully we will have beautiful weather and a huge mulch pile to spread.

If you have a few extra minutes this week, it would be greatly appreciated if everyone would work on removing weeds and those pesky wild onions in the common areas (under the pecan trees and the two big paths). That way we'll be more efficient when we spread the mulch on Saturday. Even without spreading mulch, we still have a lot of other tasks to accomplish!

What  are the goals for Saturday?
  • Clean out the shed
  • Mulch Common Areas....
  • Dig holes for the blueberries and plant them
  • Dig  the iris out and pot them up
  • Weed in the orchard besides in the common areas, pollinator & sunflower beds
  • Weed around the beds in the Special Needs area
  • Work on the compost bins and turn them
  • Mulch Common Areas....
  • Rake out all the loose leaves in the border with the apple trees
  • Cut back the herbs in the sunflower beds
  • Deadhead and cut off dead foliage on the pansies
  • Mulch Common Areas....
  • Cleaning up the bed under the sign
Be sure to bring your own hand tools and a weeding bucket. If you have a stiff tined rake (like the person in the picture) that would be useful too as we only have a couple and it is easier to spread the mulch with them.

Don't forget to bring water and sunscreen also.

      Mike and Vicki

Friday, February 28, 2014

Gardening Classes Offered this Spring


Cobb County Extension and the Cobb Master Gardeners are offering a wide selection of classes to the public this spring in a variety of locations. (See partial list below.) The best way to keep up with what is offered year round is to check the Cobb County Extension Blog

Green Meadows Community Garden will continue their Bed Time Stories education series in the spring and fall as well. (A short gardening related talk followed by a brief walk through the garden.)

Also, the Cobb County Library offers a free online vegetable gardening class that I found quite good when I took it last year.  Link and Course description

Culture of Fruits & Berries
Tuesday, March 5, 6:30 to 8:00 pm. Free and open to the public.  Presented in the Training Room of the Cobb County Water lab, 662 South Cobb Drive (at the intersection with Atlanta Rd.). Please preregister by calling 770-528-4070.

Spring Vegetable Gardening and Early Disease Management
Saturday, March 8, 11:00 a.m. – noon.  Free and open to the public. Presented by Amy Whitney, of UGA Extension/Cobb County, at Crossroads Community Garden, Chestnut Ridge Christian Church, 2663 Johnson Ferry Road, Marietta, 30062. Please preregister by calling 770-528-4070.

If Plants Could Talk – a Cherokee Relationship
Friday, March 14, noon to 1:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Presented by Master Gardener Tony Harris 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.). Learn how the Cherokee used plants for food, medicine, tools, weapons, shelter, and ceremonial purposes. Please preregister by calling 770-528-4070.

Tomatoes 101
Tuesday, March 18, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. Free and open to the public. Presented by Renae Lemon, of UGA Extension/Cobb County, at the Powder Springs Library, 4181 Atlanta Street, Powder Springs, GA 30127. Please preregister by calling 770-528-4070.

Seed Saving for the Vegetable Garden
Thursday, March 20, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. The class will be presented by Amy Whitney, of UGA Extension/Cobb County, in the second floor classroom at 678 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, GA, 30060. Please preregister by calling 770-528-4070. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. 
 
Tomatoes 101
Tuesday, March 25, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. Free and open to the public. Presented by Renae Lemon, of UGA Extension/Cobb County, at the Sweetwater Valley Library in the Threadmill Mall Complex.  5000 Austell-Powder Springs Rd., Suite 123, Austell, GA 30106.  Please preregister by calling 770-528-4070.
 
Vegetable Garden Basics
Thursday, March 27, 6:30 - 8:00 pm. Free and open to the public. Presented by Amy Whitney, of UGA Extension/Cobb County in the second floor classroom at 678 South Cobb Drive, Marietta, GA, 30060. Please preregister by calling 770-528-4070. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. 
 
Moving to Organics in the Vegetable Garden
Tuesday, April 8, 7:00 to 8:00 pm. Free and open to the public. Presented by Amy Whitney, of UGA Extension/Cobb County at Mt. View Regional Library at 3320 Sandy Plains Road, Marietta, GA 30066. Please preregister by calling 770-528-4070.
 
Beauty of Bulbs
Friday, April 11  noon to 1:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Presented by Master Gardener Debra Stockton as part of the ongoing Lunch & Learn series of the Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County, in the Training Room of the Cobb County Water lab, 662 South Cobb Drive (at the intersection with Atlanta Rd.).  Please preregister by calling 770-528-4070.
 
For more information, please contact Cobb County Extension at (770) 528-4070, visit www.cobbextension.com, or email uge1067@uga.edu.
 


 
 
 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Harvesting the carrots

Vann and Aiden collecting the reward for all their hard work.
Wow! Look at how big the carrots are!  And the carrot tops weren't that big.
 


Carrots for dinner tonight. YUM!


Cobb County Library Book Sale

It is that time of year again! The Cobb County Library Sale will be held at Jim R Miller Park  (the Fairgrounds) in Exhibit Halls A & B.  The street address is 2245 Callaway Road, Marietta, GA 30008, right off of Powder Springs Road.

Hours for the sale are:
Friday March 7 - 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Saturday March 8 -  9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Sunday March 9 -  1:00 to 5:00 pm.

Materials for sale include books for all ages in both hardcover and paperback, DVDs, Music CDs, Books on CD and Audiocassette, and magazines. Prices range from 10 cents to $5.00.

There is plenty of free parking. Acceptable forms of payment are cash and checks only. (No ATM in the building.)  On Friday electronic devices are not permitted until after 1:00 pm. While we hope you will buy lots of materials, we are only able to sell up to 2 boxes of items at a time. Please plan to pay and take items to your vehicle before coming in to shop some more. On Sunday we will be working to sell out the exhibit halls so please come to buy, buy, buy.

All profits from this sale go directly to buying more items for the 16 libraries in the Cobb County Public Library System.

If you have questions or would like to volunteer please call Patty Latch at 770-528-2345 or email latchp@cobbcat.org.             

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Things Are Heating Up At Green Meadows!

Hey Everyone,

Well one week of nice weather and we probably all want to get out the bikinis and speedos.  It's not quite that warm yet, so keep those clothes on for a while longer.

As if I needed an excuse to run over to the garden, I thought it would be a nice time to take a temperature reading after the warm weather this week and the rain last night.  This would provide an accurate account of just where things stand.

Things are definitely heating up...............................

Soil Temperatures - Spring 2014 - Friday 2/21

All temperatures were taken between 4:15 and 4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon. The sampling included 20 beds, five from each section.

Of the beds checked, our coolest was number 22 with a temperature of 54.3 degrees Fahrenheit.  As anticipated, this bed would be somewhat cooler in temperature compared to others in that section due to the nice mulch layer of pine bark nuggets.  The bed next-door (number 23) was a full 5 degrees warmer without any evidence of mulch on top of the soil. 

Our warmest bed is number 43 in the process of preparing to improve soil structure.  The temperature in this bed was 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit.  It is too early to tell if one area of the garden is warmer than another as at this point readings are well mixed in each section.  

After some basic math, the garden average at this time is 59.6 degrees Fahrenheit.  In looking at the extended 10-day forecast, they are predicting four nights below freezing with one in the teens next week.  This will take our ground temperatures back a bit.  It will be interesting to see if we are able to hold on to any of the rapid gain from this week. 

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29   

Friday, February 21, 2014

Am I Ready For Spring Planting!

Hey Everyone,

All this wonderful weather is bringing us out to work on our beds and many are wondering when the right time to plant may be.  For the greatest success, it is important to look at several indicators other than just the weather or a date on the calendar before planting out.

Welcome to our garden Reagan!
Love your boots! 
While the sun is shining and the air temperatures have us chomping at the bit, the soil temperatures and workability are what is the most important.  Also, keep in mind how you will care for your seedlings and transplants once the cold weather returns.  Am I prepared for a frost and/or potentially a hard freeze?

Soil Temperatures - Spring 2014:

I took our initial baseline temperatures for spring planting last Sunday afternoon.  The soil temperatures in the garden are running between 39 - 48 degrees for all uncovered beds.  Those who have been diligent with their frost protection have temperatures currently in the mid 50's.  As one would expect the temperatures vary depending on how much sun and windbreak each bed receives.  We do have one exceptionally warm bed showing early signs of germination with a soil temperature of 58.9 degrees.  This bed will be the subject of another post.  Way to go Amy!

So what is the proper soil temperature for planting?  If you are direct sowing seed, each vegetable packet will list the optimum range for germination and the start of sustained growth. This is not the air temperature, but the temperature required of the ground.  You will also see a number for how many days it takes the seeds to germinate.  Take Redventure celery for example, the soil temperature needed to break dormancy of the seed is 55 -70 degrees Fahrenheit.  Germination will likely occur within 10 - 20 days.  This means if you plant the celery seed now, it will do nothing, wait until the soil temps rise to 55 degrees and it will probably take right around 20 days.  Let the soil warm a bit more and germination will occur more rapidly.  When the soil temperatures rise over 70 degrees, the higher end of the celery's spectrum, the rates for success at germinating the celery seed will then start to decline rapidly.  Also, keep in mind that many vegetables like celery will perform better as a transplant vs. direct sowing.

Mike, Sue, & Amy
Enjoying some time in the garden!
Most often, sowing seeds outside their normal temperature range leads to spotty germination, rotting, molding, and/or losing all viability within the ground.  If you are lucky enough for germination to occur, tremendous care will be needed to raise healthy plants as the environment is not yet conducive for sustaining the demand of their early growth.

What if I start with transplants?  If you start your garden with transplants that you have purchased or raised indoors, it is easy to follow the same guidelines.  If you utilize that same variety of celery as a transplant, it still requires the proper growing environment to do well.  This includes adequately warmed soil temperatures within the plants range to sustain that early growth.  There is nothing wrong with buying the plants now as you find them, however, it is beneficial to pot them up, prepare the garden bed with an environment conducive to your plant's needs, inoculate them to resist early pests and disease, and when soil temperatures are optimum, you are ready to go.

Green Meadows Healthy Garden Tip:

Planting in soils that have not properly warmed often sets the stage for the fungal attacks of many undesirable plant diseases.  It also weakens otherwise healthy transplants to the point they become vulnerable to assaults from a variety of pests.  This in turn fosters the use of additional pesticides and fungicides not only just for you but also for the community garden as a whole since disease and insects know no boundaries and will rapidly spread elsewhere.  Taking small steps to keep the garden healthy ensures we all get the most back from the time and effort we put in.

Definition of Soil Workability Explained:

Wonderful, workable soil with
a texture perfect for growing carrots!
So what does sow in early spring when the ground is workable really mean?  While we would like to think if the ground isn't frozen, it is workable.  Unfortunately, this isn't necessarily the case. Workable soil means the frost is completely worked out at all levels and no pockets remain.  The texture of the soil, although cool, is every bit as nice and easily amendable similar to what we would expect months from now.  Microbial life is coming out of hibernation and we see signs of its largest life form (the earthworm) being a little less sluggish.  The moisture content and soil temperatures are carefully balanced to prevent seeds from mold and rot and the environment is ready and conducive for young seedlings and transplants to thrive.  This is also a wonderful time to peek in on your pH and see if any attention is required.

It will be interesting to take another temperature reading this weekend to see how the warmer weather has affected things this week.  Over the next several weeks, we will be watching as things heat up for the planting season and once again be running our Chilly Nilly, Garden Hottie, and Average Joe/Jane contests for prizes.  I hope you will enjoy and follow along with us!

Happy Gardening,

Denise, Beds 25 & 29