Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pollinator Symposium, September 23

Most gardeners have a pretty good idea of how much their gardening success depends on insect-visitors to the garden that pollinate our garden crops. Without those pollinators, we would have less good food to eat!
Monarch Butterfly laying eggs on Swamp Milkweed. PHOTO/Amygwh

Learning more about the many kinds of pollinators, how to attract them, and how to protect them, can help us all keep that good food coming into the kitchen.

An upcoming Pollinator Symposium, set for September 23 at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA, will provide an opportunity for us to learn more. I am on the Monarchs Across Georgia committee that is organizing the symposium, so I will be there, of course.

Even though this will not be a veggie-focused event, I am looking forward to learning more and figuring out how to apply the information in my own yard.

Speakers include Sonia Altizer, from UGA, on Monarch Butterflies; Nancy Lee Adamson, from the Xerces Society and USDA, on native bees; Kim Bailey, from Milkweed Meadows Farm, on hummingbirds; and Keren Giovengo, UGA Marine Extension, on gardening for pollinators.

After the talks, there are additional activities for participants to engage in. Options include butterfly walks on the grounds of the Monastery, led by Phil Delestrez of Georgia Parks and by Father Francis Michael Stiteler of the Monastery; a nature walk led by Robby Astrove, Park Ranger at Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve; Monarch butterfly tagging with Monarch Watch; and learning to participate in a citizen science project with Project Monarch Health.

Registration is $75 (a lot, I know), and the registration deadline is September 16. The Monastery conference center is not huge, so space is limited. If you are interested in attending, registering soon, through the Monarchs Across Georgia Events page online, would be a good idea.

The registration fee includes a box lunch and one-year of membership to the Environmental Education Alliance.

The Monastery will have milkweed and other plants-for-pollinators for sale at its Abbey Garden Store.

I am looking forward to spending the day learning from experts and hanging out with gardeners and others (foodies, maybe?) who want to do more to support our pollination helpers!

See you there?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Starting Again in August

New little patch of Joanie Beans, for a late crop. PHOTO/Amygwh
My little patch of the heirloom Joanie Beans, planted a couple of weeks ago, has come up. If all goes well, the plants should start providing beans for our meals before the end of September.

It is very strange to have spent so long away from the garden and to not have summer crops coming in from the yard. We are visiting the local farmers market for many of our veggies instead, and that is a very good substitute, but I do like to grow some our our own food.

In the good-news category, my friend Cheryl has been helping a local farmer, Lynn, at her weekend market booth, for several years, and she gets to take home a box of leftover veggies after the market closes on Sunday.

This past Sunday, my friend shared some of those veggies with us, so my dehydrator is full of chopped peppers and sliced tomatoes. Thank you Friend Cheryl and Farmer Lynn!

Caterpillar of a Monarch Butterfly on swamp milkweed. PHOTO/Amygwh
To make sure that at least some of my veggies this fall come from the yard, I already have started a batch of seeds in a tray. I will be starting more this weekend, since seedlings are often eaten by pests, burned up in the hot sun, or pounded to smithereens in summer storms, which makes growing some extra a good idea, but I am happy to have made the start.

In the first tray, there are a few each of kale, winter radishes, mini bok choy, beets, and collards, and a short row of green bunching onions. The next tray will have more of the above, plus lettuces. I won't start the spinach until in September, because it is so finicky about hot weather.

More good news - my milkweed is doing exactly what I hoped it would do: host some monarch butterfly caterpillars. Of course, there are also a bunch of weird orange aphids and milkweed bugs, but the caterpillars were the goal, and they are there.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ready to Plant a Fall Garden?

It may be hard to believe but, within the next couple of weeks, seeds for your fall crops can start going into the garden.

If you are like me, you may actually want to start some seeds in a flat or in pots, to transplant into the garden later, but those need to be started soon. My earliest-to-plant seeds (between now and August 20) are beets and winter radishes. Before the end of August, though, I like to have seeds for other crops started, too: carrots, kale, collards, and Swiss chard are in that group. Lettuces and spinach, the least heat-tolerant of the cool-season veggies (in my garden, at least) get planted in September. Regular salad radish seeds can go in then, too, mixed in among the lettuces and spinach.

Of those crops listed above, the only ones that are hard to move out of a flat or pot and into the garden as seedlings are carrots. Those do best for me if I put the seeds straight into the garden. Transplanting them as seedlings, started in a flat, results in such oddly bent and twisted carrots that they are hard clean and cut up without too much waste. Of course, you may be more skillful at transplanting the carrot babies than me, but I expect that many people will have an experience like mine.

If you had planned to start your own broccoli and cabbages from seed, in flats or pots, getting them started now is almost too late. If you have chosen short time-to-maturity varieties, though, starting TODAY may be fine. Otherwise, for a small garden, buying little plants of those crops at a garden center might be a good plan. If you are looking for cauliflower transplants, but don't see them at the garden centers in August, just be patient. They are more finicky about heat than cabbages and broccoli and are not usually in stores until sometime in September.

Since I missed out on summer crops this year -- my own fault for going on a crazy adventure! - I also have just put in a little patch of bush beans. I didn't buy any seeds this year, which has seemed very strange, but I have plenty of heirloom Joanie-beans saved from previous years' plants for both this year and the next.

Yesterday while running errands with my younger son (visiting from Statesboro), I stopped by TruPrep, which carries Baker Creek seeds, and I saw that it still has a decent selection in stock.  Not all stores/garden centers still have seeds available. If you need seeds for cool-season crops, it might be a good idea to call ahead before driving across town to shop.

Hope that all is going well in your gardens!

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