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 Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.

 

 

 

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Perennial Pals: Roadside Beauties

Just For Fun

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

In the mountains, you don’t have to look very far to see the beauty of the land. Whether it’s fog rolling off the mountains or the sun shining off the water, the beauty is apparent. However, you really don’t have to lift your eyes to the horizon to see some brilliant colors. Oftentimes, the roadsides will have some great colors for you to see in wildflowers growing on the side of the road. My wife has yelped at me more than once for veering slightly off the road trying to get a better glimpse of something flowering. Let’s talk about some of those plants that often bloom along the roadside.

Spotted Joe-Pye Weed

Joe-Pye weed is a perennial plant that grows to about 3-7 feet tall. It has leaves that come out in a whorl at each node. Usually there will be about five leaves in each whorl. It likes to grow in partial shade, so you’ll see it beneath trees. It puts on flowers starting in late July through September. The flowers range from pink to purple in groups of 4-7. The flowers are found at the top of the plant.

Jewelweed is a self-seeding annual. It also likes semi-shady areas. It is actually in the impatiens genus, which means it’s related to the impatiens that people like to plant around their house. They’ll grow 3-5 feet tall. The flowers are sac like with an orange-yellow color. In the early morning, they are covered with dew, which gives them a jewel like appearance when the sun glints off them.

Ironweed is a perennial that grows to be 3-10 feet tall. You can often find it in overgrown pastures. It blooms from August to September. It can look similar to Joe-Pye weed but the flowers are a darker purple. The leaves are also a darker green.

Perennial

Goldenrod Weed

Goldenrod is a perennial that will grow to be 2-7 feet tall. We actually have several different species of goldenrod, but they all look very similar. The flowers are yellow and create a plume that lays over at the top of the plant. It blooms in August and September. This is another one that you’ll commonly see in old fields. Sometimes people confuse it with ragweed. Ragweed pollen can cause allergies, but goldenrod is not as much of an allergen.

Butterfly weed has brilliant orange flowers. This perennial is an important pollinator plant. It grows to be about 2 feet tall with clusters of flowers at the top. As part of the Asclepias genus, it is a native milkweed. Milkweeds play a pivotal role for monarch butterflies, because they will only lay their eggs on milkweeds. Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweeds. Butterfly weed needs full sun.

Sourwood trees have finished blooming for the year, but you can still see some of the leftover seed capsules, where blooms were. The flowers look like small white bells that hang in a line. Sourwoods are found from Pennsylvania to Florida, but southern Appalachia is where they are most common. Sourwoods leaves also turn to a deep red during the fall.

If you have questions about wildflowers contact your County Extension Office or email me at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.

 

 

 

 

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 lonnie@fetchyournews.com to become a part of our growing community of feature news.

Perennial Pals: Hay Testing

Just For Fun, Lifestyle
testing

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

Hay testing is an important part of any livestock management program. If you feed hay, it’s important to know the quality of the hay. Without performing a hay test, you don’t know the quality of the hay.

Feeding hay that is poor quality can lead to an impaction in the animal’s stomach. Essentially, what happens is that the hay fed to cattle has a lot of fiber in it. Lots of fiber in hay without nutrition means that the cattle can’t properly digest the forage. Cattle will eat enough forage to be full, but all that indigestible forage creates an impaction in their rumen. The effects of cattle eating low quality hay and getting an impaction can range from calving issues, to diarrhea, to weight loss, and even dying.

testingWhen cattle start to die because of poor quality hay, usually you will have at least a few cattle go down. Forage quality issues can be made worse if they are combined with supplements that stimulate forage intake, because then cattle are eating more of the low quality hay. The best treatment for low quality forage is to know ahead of time about the quality of your hay. The only way that you can do that is through hay testing.

Body Condition Scoring (BCS…not referring to college football) also shows how important hay quality is. BCS is an index that measures the health of the animal based on how fleshy or boney the animal is. The scale ranges from 1-9. A one is a severely emaciated cow. Bones in the shoulders, back, and ribs are clearly visible. A BCS of one is rarely seen in the field. A BCS of nine is a very obese animal and its mobility is impaired by excessive fat. This score is also rarely seen in the field. In cows, you ideally want a BCS of five to be maintained for calving. If BCS drops to a four then your calving interval will increase. Typically a BCS of five will give you conception rates of >85% and calving every 360-370 days. A BCS of four or lower means calving will be >380 days. Cows will require high quality forage for about 70 days to go from a BCS of 4 to 5.

UGA Extension labs can do hay testing, and we have three main tests for hay. The basic one costs $15 and will tell the moisture, fiber, crude protein, lignin, total digestible nutrients, and give you a relative forage quality (RFQ). The RFQ is an index that will give you a number to give you a reference on the quality of your hay. Dry cows do not need as high of an RFQ compared to gestating cows, or cows with a calf that they are feeding. Above the basic test is a $20 test that is the basic test + nitrates. Above that is a $40 test that is basic + nitrates + minerals.

A single hay test can cover an entire hay lot. A hay lot would be all the hay from a particular field at the same cutting. I have a hay probe in my office and I would be happy to come out and collect the hay sample for you. Once we’ve processed a hay sample, I can help you come up with a balanced ration to get you through the hay feeding months. If you think you have some good quality hay let me know, and we can submit a sample to the Southeastern Hay Contest.

If you have questions about hay testing contact your County Extension Office or email me at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.

 

 

 

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 lonnie@fetchyournews.com to become a part of our growing community of feature news.

Perennial Pals: Is it Ripe?

Just For Fun, Tastebuds
Ripe

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

One question that people will call me with is how to tell if a fruit or vegetable is ripe or not. Different plants ripen differently. Some will continue to ripen after they’ve been picked, others need to ripen attached to the plant. Let’s talk about what causes plants to ripen and how to tell if some common fruits and vegetables are ripe or not.

Fruits and vegetables are divided into climacteric and non-climacteric. The difference between these groups is their response to the hormone ethylene. Ethylene is a hormone that plants produce to induce ripening. Climacteric fruits and veggies will continue to ripen after they have been picked. Non-climacteric fruits and veggies won’t continue to ripen. Instead, they will soften and rot as they age. Some crops are sensitive to ethylene and so shouldn’t be stored with climacteric crops that produce ethylene.

Apples, pears, peaches, plums, potatoes, and tomatoes are some examples of climacteric plants. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, cucumbers, eggplant, grapes, strawberries, peppers, squash, and watermelon are all examples of non-climacteric crops. Some examples of plants that are sensitive to ethylene and so shouldn’t be stored with climacteric crops are asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers, green beans, kale, onions, peas, peppers, squash, and watermelon.

Now that we know a little more about the ripening process let’s talk about how to tell when the best time to pick some of the most commonly grown crops around here are.

RipeTomatoes are an easy one to tell when they are ripe because they start to turn red. You can pick tomatoes before they are fully ripe on the vine. Because they are climacteric, they will continue to ripen. I’ve put tomatoes up in the kitchen windowsill so that they’ll ripen. Sometimes it is advantageous to pick something before it’s fully ripe so that you make sure critters don’t get it before you.

Apples and pears can be a little more challenging to tell when they are ripe. Different varieties will ripen at different times. In addition, the entire tree may not ripen at the same time. If the apple or pear stem breaks away easily from the tree then it’s ripe. Turn the fruit sideways to see if it pops off. Depending on the variety, you can use color to tell if the fruit is ripe. If you cut an apple open and the seeds are dark brown, it’s ripe.

Blueberries will be plump with a deep blue color. They also have a white powder on the skin that keeps them fresh longer.

Squash and zucchini should be harvested when they’re 4-8 inches long. They’ll both grow longer if left on the vine, and you can still eat them if they’re big, but they get tougher as they age. You should be able to push your fingernail into the skin.
Sweet corn is ripe when you can puncture a kernel with your fingernail and milky fluid comes out. As soon as corn is picked, it starts to lose flavor. Refrigerate it to retain flavor.

Pick peas when the pods have plumped out. If they start to wrinkle, they’re getting overripe. You can always open a pod to see if the seeds are swollen, but still tender. Beans are ready when you can see the seeds bulging through the sides of the pod.

Pick peppers when they are shiny green. If you let them sit on the bush longer and they start to change to orange or red and they’re getting hotter. If that’s what you’re looking for, let them sit.

If you have questions about when plants are ripe contact your County Extension Office or email me at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.

 

 

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 lonnie@fetchyournews.com to become a part of our growing community of feature news.

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