Friday, November 30, 2012

Winter Vegetable Gardens Need Water

The fall and winter vegetable garden is relatively a lot less work than the summer garden, but the plants still need to be watered and fertilized in order to be most productive.

According to the University of Georgia publication "Home Garden Broccoli,"

"Broccoli requires proper irrigation to achieve optimum growth. Water plants daily for the first week to get the crop established. Continue to irrigate broccoli every four to five days, as needed, to keep the plants healthy.
Broccoli is a fairly heavy feeder and will require additional nutrients. After initial fertilization at planting, apply 2 pounds of 5-10-15 fertilizer or equivalent per 100 square feet of bed each month during the growing season. Mulch broccoli with pine straw or leaves to keep weeds away and to preserve moisture in the soil."
Broccoli in many local gardens is nearing the end of its fall production; the big heads of florets have already been brought in and eaten - but it is not alone in needing this additional care. The task of keeping the garden soil moist and fertile will be well-rewarded when the rest of the harvest - lettuces, spinach, cabbages, kale, and more - comes to the table.
Keeping an eye on the garden's moisture level through the winter has an additional benefit of reducing the risk of cold-damage to the plants. Moist soil holds heat better than dry soils, providing an additional level of protection from freezing weather. University of Delaware's Cooperative Extension has this to say about the protective effect of moist garden soil:
"A moist soil can hold 4 times more heat than a dry soil. It will also conduct heat to the soil surface faster than a dry soil, aiding in frost prevention. In a study performed years ago, the air temperature above a wet soil was 5°F higher than that above a dry soil and the difference was maintained until 6 am the next morning."

While most of us gardeners are not going to want to be out in freezing weather tending our garden plots, there are still plenty of warm days in which being outside for the tasks will be a joy, and the resulting good food will, too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

About Cobb County's Burn Ban

Along with the beautiful fall color we've been enjoying for the past few weeks comes the work of clearing away a lot of fallen leaves and sometimes twigs and small branches. Some people prefer to rid their yards of the debris by raking it all into a pile and burning it to ashes.

The good news for all those folks is that burning such debris is allowed from the beginning of October through the end of April. The website for Cobb County's Fire and Emergency Services explains the laws regarding outdoor burning:
  • "Burning is allowed between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and one hour before sunset (no smoldering or hot coals remaining).
  • No burning is allowed on windy days (10 mph or higher) or on days when the atmospheric conditions (cloudy, overcast, or raining) would cause the smoke to remain low to the ground.
  • Burning must be attended by an adult who must be watching the fire at all times. Never leave a fire unattended.
  • A water hose must be on hand that can reach the fire, and can be ready to use if needed.
  • Fires must be at least 50 feet from all structures, including fences of combustible material, etc.
  • Fires may not be started with petroleum-based products."
The site also lists materials that may not be burned in the yard, including "garbage of any kind, construction material, plastic products, fiberglass, tree trunks, stumps, kudzu vines, or corn stalks. Any material that is moved from one location to a different property cannot be burned. Burning for recycling wires (to access metal) or tires (to access wheels) is not allowed. For information regarding alternative methods to dispose of yard waste, contact the Georgia Environmental Protection Division at 404-362-2537."

Following the rules does not guarantee that a homeowner won't be visited by the local fire department with a request to put the fire out. If a fire disrupts a neighbor's "enjoyment of life, use of property, or if someone with a health problem is affected," the fire may need to be extinguished.

Also, there are areas within the county in which burning is completely restricted. For more complete information, including links to maps that show those restricted areas, check the Fire Department's webpage about the burn ban.

November 2016 UPDATE:
The burn ban has been temporarily extended for 2016. See new information at "Cobb Fire Dept Extends Burn Ban Due to Drought."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Louise's November Garden Tips

Extension staff member Louise Weyer publishes timely tips each month on the Cobb County Cooperative Extension website. Many gardeners will be wanting to spruce up their yards for the upcoming holidays, and checking her list can be a big help.

These are her November tips for annual and perennial plants:
Plant Lenten rose, peonies, pansies, violas, snapdragons, dianthus and spring bulbs.
Read “Winter Protection of Ornamental Plants” at Click on ANR, Extension Publications, scroll to article under Miscellaneous.
Read “Success with Pansies” See “Cold Protection for Ornamentals”  
Control weeds. Apply weed pre-emergent.
Dig caladium bulbs, dahlia tubers, elephant ear corms, and ornamental sweet potato tubers for winter storage.
Clean up rose beds, perennial beds.
Cut faded chrysanthemums, asters, snapdragons and dianthus to 3 inches above ground. Remove faded blooms, dry stems and foliage of perennials that die back after first frost.
Mulch to retain moisture, control soil temperature and diseases.
Top dress perennial beds with 1 to 2 inches of compost. Keep away from crowns of plants.
Fertilize previously planted spring flowering bulbs and pansies.
Gently remove fallen leaves from beds. Shred and use as mulch or compost.

To read Louise's recommendations for caring for fruits, trees and shrubs, lawns, and vegetables (hint: November is a good month for planting asparagus and onions), along with information on the Water Act, the burn ban, care of the environment, and other topics for which action can be taken this month, see her full list posted on the Cobb County Cooperative Extension website.

From the homepage, select "More information on horticulture/agriculture & natural resources," then click on the link for Cobb County Cooperative Extension Publications and Articles near the top of the page. Louise's tips are called "November Tips of the Month."

She publishes a new set every month, and the list is worth looking for. There is plenty of good information to help you keep your yard and home in good shape!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Best Time to Plant Shade Trees is Now

According to UGA Cooperative Extension's Frank Watson, fall is the perfect time to plant trees to provide summer shade in the coming years. In a recent article, he wrote, "Fall planting allows tree root systems to become established and supply the moisture needed for next spring's growth. This way your trees will get off to a great start."

Watson recommends that homeowners consider several factors in selecting the perfect tree for the proposed planting site. Among these factors are the amount of space available for the tree, whether there are any overhead wires, where the shade needs to be cast in order to provide the most help for the homeowner, the importance of flowering and/or fall color, the strength of the wood, and the pest and disease resistance desired.

The UGA publication "Shade Trees for Georgia" includes a very helpful table that addresses many of the above characterstics. The publication also explains how to plant the tree, starting with the size of the hole that needs to be dug:

"A large planting hole, two to three times the size of the root ball and with well-tilled backfill soil, will produce satisfactory results. Organic soil amendments placed in the planting hole will NOT produce a superior tree (although their use in annual and perennial beds is recommended). Research indicates that the best use of organic materials when planting trees is as mulch. Over time, mulch will decompose into the soil, adding much needed organic matter.

For best results, add organic matter or compost to the entire landscape prior to planting...

Plant at the proper depth, avoid excessive packing of the fill-soil, water the tree in after planting and mulch with 2 inches of an organic material such as pine bark or 4 inches of pine straw. Trees should receive 2 tablespoons of a 12 percent to 16 percent nitrogen fertilizer (12-4-8 or 16-4-8) per 10 square feet of root area. Do not apply large amounts of fertilizer until the trees are established, usually after the first year. After broadcasting the fertilizer evenly over the planting area under the crown of the tree, water it in.

The single best cultural requirement you can provide to a young tree is water during establishment. Establishment in the landscape is helped tremendously with as little at 40 gallons added over the first season after planting."
Taking the time to choose the right tree for the spot and to prepare the planting hole correctly will go a long way toward promoting the good health and growth of your new tree!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Upcoming Events

Gardening in Atlanta in the Winter
Friday, Nov. 9, noon to 1:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Bring your lunch and enjoy the presentation! Presented by Cobb County Master Gardener Sue Burgess, at the County Water Lab at 660 S. Cobb Drive (the smaller brick building at the back of the property), as part of the ongoing Lunch & Learn presentation series of Cobb County Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County. Sue will discuss plants that can contribute to a beautiful landscape in winter.

On the Farm or At the Market, Food Safety Training
Tuesday, Nov. 13, 5:15 to 8:45 p.m. Free, but pre-registration is required. A food safety training for farmers on small to medium-sized farms selling produce to farmers markets, CSAs, restaurants, etc. Come learn about best practices to help you keep the produce you grow safe from farm to market. At Berry College, Westcott Room 112. For more information and to register please call the Floyd County Cooperative Extension office at 706-295-6210.

Houseplants and Holiday Plants
Tuesday, Nov. 27,  6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public. Presented by Cobb County Master Gardener Linda Hlozansky, at South Cobb Regional Library, as part of the ongoing Gardeners Night Out presentation series of Cobb County Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County.