Perennial Pals: Gardening and Crops in a Fall Garden

Just For Fun, Lifestyle, Tastebuds

(Article and photo by Jacob Williams in conjunction with Towns-Union Master Gardener Association and the UGA Extension Office)

Do you usually have a fall garden? Now is the time to start thinking about one. There are some benefits to having a fall garden that we’ll get in to. Let’s talk about what vegetable crops and cover crops are an option for a fall garden and how to start your fall garden.

Garden

Clovers in a pot

Cover crops are planted in the fall and grow throughout the winter into early spring. Cover crops are beneficial to soil health and are often used in organic production. I like to think of the soil as a muscle in the body. If you work a muscle too hard or with only one exercise then you may injure the muscle by straining it or even tearing it. However, by diversifying your exercises and making sure that you’re eating properly for muscle growth you can grow stronger. Soil also requires development over time, and cover crops can help with that. Common crops are clovers and cereal crops like cereal rye, black oats, and wheat. Come springtime they can be tilled into the soil or laid down so that you can plant into them. Planting cover crops can help to develop organic matter in the soil, reduce erosion, suppress weeds, and conserve soil moisture. Around Labor Day is the ideal time to plant cover crops in our area.

Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, turnips, radishes, spinach, lettuce, beets, and onions are some good options for a fall garden. For fall gardens it is important to use mulch to protect the plants from the frost. You may need to get another soil test done on your garden to see if you need to add any fertilizer for the coming crop. Ideally, you want the plants to have 50 – 60 days to mature before the first frost. Our average first frost date is mid-October. That makes mid-August a good time to plant.

garden

Violas

There are a couple of benefits to planting in the fall that you don’t see in the summer. One of these is there are fewer insect pests around. That means you won’t need to spray as many insecticides. If you are trying to grow your garden organically that is a very good thing! There will also be fewer diseases that you have to contend with in the fall. Diseases like hot, humid conditions. As the temperature drops in the coming months diseases will become less and less of a problem. Winter weeds can still be a problem but they are not as much of a pest as summertime weeds. Use mulch to suppress weeds.

Pansies and violas are an option for flowering plants that will last through the winter and keep their flowers. Plant pansies mid-September once the temperatures have cooled down.

Gardening in the spring means working through diseases and insects. In the fall the biggest challenge will be from the temperature. As the temperature drops rapidly selecting varieties of crops that can stand the cold will be important. It can be extremely rewarding to see green growing around your house after everything else has turned brown.

If you have any questions about growing your fall garden contact your County Extension Office or email me at [email protected]

 

 

 

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Discover Dahlonega: When you’re stuck at home – Gardening tips from the experts

Arts & Entertainment, Lifestyle
Garden

(Article by Courtney Randolph in conjunction with the Dahlonega-Lumpkin Chamber and Visitors Bureau)

Feeling a bit restless, and looking for something to do? We sure do love a good DIY, especially when it involves some vitamin D! Learn how to build your own DIY garden from JoAnn Goldenburg, owner of the Dahlonega Butterfly Farm. If vegetable gardens and medicinal plants are more your thing, learn some tips from one of our favorite doctors, Dr. Whitfield.

Follow these steps to build a thriving butterfly destination and watch the colorful visitors arrive!

What Are Host Plants? Do I Need Them?
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Photo: The Dahlonega Butterfly Farm

“HOST PLANTS are the plants where the female butterflies lay their eggs and where the caterpillars forage.  Host plants aren’t always the prettiest plants in the garden but they’ll definitely bring butterflies into your yard.  A few common host plants include Milkweed for the Monarchs, Parsley & Fennel for the Black Swallowtails, and Passion Vine for the Gulf Fritillary (to name a few).  Keep this in mind; caterpillars eat a lot!  So if you want to enjoy raising your own caterpillars – make sure to plant several host plants.”

 

What are “nectar plants” and how do I choose which one to plant?

Garden

Photo: The Dahlonega Butterfly Farm

NECTAR PLANTS support adult butterflies (and other beneficial insects) with their sweet nectar and add beautiful seasonal color to your garden.   It’s a good idea to have a variety of nectar plants which bloom throughout the summer to give your butterflies a regular source of food.  There are hundreds of nectar plants to choose from but you’ll want to pick the right plants based on your zone and location.  North Georgia is in Zone 7a, which is great for growing Perennial Lantana, Verbena, Coreopsis, Zinnias, Black-Eyed Susan, and Buddlei.  For a seasonal pop of color you can also add annuals, Begonias, Pansies, Impatiens and Geraniums.  And don’t forget the shrubs and trees; Butterflies need a safe place to rest and sleep.

 

How To Create a Butterfly Garden

Garden

Photo: The Dahlonega Butterfly Farm

A SUNNY SPOT and a small water puddle are also important to complete your butterfly habitat.  Butterflies love to soak up the “sun” because they’re cold blooded and need the heat to fly. Butterflies need a water source to stay hydrated.. You can try adding a shallow dish to your garden with water or fruit juice.   As a matter of fact, some butterflies prefer fruits and will be happy to feed on rotting bananas, oranges, mangoes or even dung. Last but not least; try to eliminate or reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides.  Chemicals aren’t safe for butterflies, pets, or humans.  Butterflies need a healthy environment and so do we!”

 Top Photo provided by instagram account user, @i_shoot_people77

Gardening Tips from Dr. Whitfield

“Most of us find “sheltering in place” something to be endured until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Plants, on the other hand, are of course happy to stay put and flourish in dirt, no less. And like most of us, they do even better when they are surrounded by nurturing companions, hence the gardening practice of companion planting.

Now that most of us are expected to spend most of our time at home, an escape to the garden for exercise and sun is a logical stress reliever to being home bound. So, what better time than this spring planting season to add to our gardening “know how”?

To that end, I would like to share some of my favorite gardening tips, especially for our first-time gardeners. So, let’s talk about frost dates, using planting calendars, and companion planting techniques which may help you grow a beautiful and productive garden.”

Frost Dates
“Frost dates can be confusing. Gardeners talk about the last “hard” or “killing” frosts and “light” frosts. A frost date is the average date of the first or last light freeze that occurs in spring or fall. Dave’s Garden website tells us that, on average, our risk of frost in Dahlonega is from October 27 through April 10. And, almost certainly, we will receive frost from November 14 through March 21. We are almost guaranteed not to get frost from May 1 through October 9. Our frost-free growing season is about 200 days. I try to be relatively conservative with frost dates and use March 30 as the last killing frost date and May 15 as the last average light frost date in Dahlonega. There will be a lot of variation in these reported dates due to local weather, microclimates or topography, but the conservative dates seem to work well for me.”
Garden Planners
“These are wonderful slide rule type planners that you can use to enter the last frost date and learn when you should start seeds indoors and/or outdoors. They provide information such as recommended plants, dates to start indoor seeds and the types of seeds to start, first outdoor planting dates, and expected harvest dates. You can also find programs on line to help you develop and save your own gardening data.

My first garden planner was called “Clyde’s Garden Planner – Clyde’s Vegetable Planting Slide Chart” which I found on line. I also have a “Garden Vegetable Guide” that United Community Bank gave away a few years ago, and it provides data such as: how easy or challenging different seeds are to grow, when to start or plant them, planting depth, row width/ spacing between seeds, days to maturity, hardiness and type of soil. The University of Georgia has a fantastic web site you can easily access. Just google: Vegetable Garden Calendar, UGA Cooperative Extension.”

What Should I Plant? What is Companion Planting?
“Said to be part experience, part folklore, and part wishful thinking, most companion planting teachings are passed down by gardeners who experimented with different pairings of plants and had some success. The companion planting technique is the result of placing various crops close to each other so they symbiotically compliment each other leading to greater vigor, growth and often better flavor. Some companion plants are used to repel and deter insect pests and diseases. Companion planting also involves separating plants that are antagonistic to each other.

Tomatoes are one of my favorite vegetables. Here is some information you may find helpful if you plan to grow your own tomatoes.
Companions for tomatoes include: amaranth, asparagus, basil, bean, borage, calendula, celery, chive, cleome, cosmos, cucumber, garlic, lemon balm, lettuce, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, parsley, peas, sage, stinging nettle, sow thistle, and squash. Amaranth may repel insects. Basil improves growth and flavor and repels mosquitoes and flies. Borage improves growth and flavor and repels tomato worms. Bee balm, chives, and parsley are reported to improve tomato health and flavor. Garlic repels red spider mites and garlic sprays help control late blight. Stinging nettle nearby improves taste, while sow thistle aids growth. Tomato antagonists include: cabbage and members of the Brassica family (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, turin), corn, fennel, and mature dill plants.
Tomatoes are in the nightshade family and it is best to avoid planting together vegetables in the same family, like eggplants, peppers, and potatoes, which are susceptible to early and late blight. Also, avoid planting your tomatoes near walnut and butternut trees as they produce juglone. Juglone is an allelopathic substance produced by walnut and butternut trees which stunts the growth of other plants.”Companion Planting Resources
“Some of my favorite resources on Companion Planting include: Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte and Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham. (My disclaimer: Contrary to popular belief, tomatoes and carrots may not have a symbiotic relationship. In fact there is some suggestion that tomato plants can stunt the growth of carrots.)
The glory of gardening, according to Alfred Austin, English Poet Laureate, means “hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden,” Austin says, “is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” What could be a better remedy for our couch stiffened bodies and soul stagnating confinement than putting our hands in the dirt and heads in the sun, nurturing our souls with garden creativity, in partnership with the Creator, enjoying our ever-improving garden paradises during this COVID-19 spring.”
Thank you Dr. Whitfield and JoAnn for the lovely gardening tips! Try incorporating some of these tips this spring while you stay-inplace for a gorgeous life-giving garden! You’ll thank yourself later, we promise!

 

 

Read more of Discover Dahlonega on FYN’s SUNDAY EDITION! If you’re enjoying the Sunday Edition, then consider becoming a contributor with your own articles. If you have an article that needs highlighting send it to [email protected] to become a part of our growing community of feature news.

Perrenial Pals: Managing Fire Ants in the Garden

Fetching Featured, Just For Fun
Fire Ants

(Article and photo by Jacob Williams in conjunction with Towns-Union Master Gardener Association and the UGA Extension Office)

Fire ants are very common throughout Georgia. Thankfully, we don’t have as many in the mountains as they do south of us. However, once you experience a fire ant bite, you won’t ever forget it. Another problem with fire ants is that you rarely get just one bite. Fire ants were first reported in Georgia in the 1950s. They’ve been found all the way from North Carolina to Texas, and down to Florida. Let’s talk about fire ants and things that you can do to control them so that they don’t take over your lawn or pasture.

If you can manage to get an up-close look without being bitten and stung, you’ll see that fire ants have two nodes between their abdomen at the end of their body and the thorax in the middle of their body. Fire ants generally like to stay in open grassy areas.

Fire ants are most active when temperatures are between 70 and 85. In the fall fire ants are active because they are foraging for food. This makes fall the best time to treat them. Treatment during the spring and summer is also possible, but effective population control will be less likely. When it’s really hot during the summer time fire ants will burrow deeper into the ground, making them more difficult to treat. Treatments in the summer are best done in the morning or evening when it’s cooler.

Using a bait will be the most effective way of controlling fire ants. Amdro is the main ant bait that is used for fire ants. Broadcast the bait either over the mounds, or in a four-foot circle around each mound. It’s important to know that Amdro is not labelled for use in vegetable gardens. It has to be used in scenarios where the plants growing there are not going to be eaten. If a few mounds remain after seven to ten days, a follow up application of Orthene will be effective against those problematic mounds. Take a long stick and quickly put a hole in the center of the mound. Then fill the hole with insecticide to eliminate those mounds. When applying pesticides always make sure to read and follow the label.

Pouring about 3 gallons of boiling water onto a mound will sometimes eliminate the mound, if it is done in the morning when more ants are close to the soil surface. It is also possible to coerce fire ants to move from sensitive areas by continually knocking down their colonies.

I have also seen people using orange oil mixed with soap and other ingredients. This treatment is effective because it eats away the ant’s skin. However, it will also kill any other insects, grubs, or worms that are in its path. It could also strip away the outer layer of any roots that it meets.

There are not many biological controls for fire ants in the United States because they are an invasive species. Fire ants are native to South America and have many natural enemies there. Researchers have to be very careful about introducing a natural predator, because the effects of that introduced species are unknown on our ecosystem.

If you have any questions about fire ants and fire ant control, contact your County Extension Office or send me an email at [email protected]

 

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While you’re home, help your Hemlocks

Just For Fun

While many of you are sheltering at home, I hope you’re going outside every now and then to refresh yourself with
the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Maybe you’re checking on the plants and wildlife around your home to see
how they’re faring this spring. And since we’ve just celebrated Earth Day, you may also be thinking about ways you
can help protect and improve our environment. So let me ask you to consider one very important component –
trees, and hemlock trees in particular.

Hemlocks, the native evergreen icon of the Appalachian region, play a vital role in preserving the natural beauty and
ecological health of our forests and waterways as well as the economic vitality of our communities. But millions of
hemlocks are dying because of an invasive insect, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, that sucks the starches and other
nutrients from the needles, causing the trees to defoliate. Recognizable by the presence of tiny white egg sacs on the
underside of the branches, the infestation is in all of north Georgia and the Atlanta area.

The good news is that the hemlocks, even if already infested, can be treated and saved, and spring is the best time to
do it. The process is safe, highly effective, economical (especially compared to the cost of losing these valuable
evergreens), and easy enough for most property owners to do. There are also several properly qualified
professionals who can help.

Save Georgia’s Hemlocks is a 100% volunteer, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization of concerned citizens dedicated to
preserving, conserving, and restoring endangered hemlocks through education and charitable service. They can
provide easy-to-follow instructions or a list of qualified professionals for property owners, training for volunteers
who want to help on our public lands, and a wide range of opportunities for individuals and groups to put the spirit
of Earth Day into action.

To learn more, visit www.savegeorgiashemlocks.org or call the Hemlock Help Line SM 706-429-8010.

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