|Amy & Kacey|
So we went to visit our local garden store and talk to the gardeners. Garden*Hood was the stop and we learned a lot. It is an interesting and beautiful place, complete with knowledgeable and passionate staff (we met Kacey & Amy), chickens and of course a dog: Kali. Garden*Hood is “a unique environment that fosters community, inspires creativity, and nurtures the gardener in all of us.”
We wanted to ask a few questions and get some tips about what we should be doing in or gardens. We spoke to Amy Foster (the edible expert) and this is what we ended up with:
--By the beginning of the year you should be planning your garden, preparing your soil, planting cool weather plants such as kale, the cruciferous family (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.), collards, peas, herbs such as parsley and cilantro, and even root vegetables. Then you should be starting your seedlings for warm weather plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, peppers, and herbs like basil!
--To prep your Soil:
Good soil is the key to any garden. Little or no tilling is recommended as tilling destroys the already in place micro eco systems that exist in the soil. As we live in Georgia, and our red clay is quite compact, you will probably have to till at least initially but try not to any more than absolutely necessary. Once you have aerated the soil with tilling add a thin layer of compost. This will add needed nutrients to the soil (see soil sample below). Mulching is next. Mulch helps retain moisture in the soil, helps to insulate the soil, keeps roots cooler when necessary, and also prevents weeds.
Find out what your soil is lacking by sending a soil sample to your local Extension Office. For a minimal amount of money they will evaluate your soil and let you know what it needs. For Atlantans, UGA provides this service.
--By now (Mid-April) you should be ready to plant. Atlanta is in Zone 7b, which means that its growing season is roughly mid-April through mid-October. The zone system is related to climate and how long the growing season is in each region. The growing season length is basically determined by the time between frosts.
--What are Heirloom Varieties and why is it important to preserve them?
Identification: An heirloom is a variety of vegetable or cultivated plant that is not used in larger scale agriculture. They must be of a certain age (I think over 50 years) to qualify as an heirloom.
Features: Heirloom varieties have not been genetically modified or crossed to have certain characteristics. Keep this in mind when you are choosing your varieties knowing that these varieties are specific to their areas of growth and the conditions therein.
Benefits: The benefits of using heirloom varieties are first and foremost, flavor and the fact that you are promoting genetic diversity. Think of it this way: the act if saving heirlooms is one of cultural conservation.
Good Soil is critical as a lot of times people use potting soils that do not contain and have the benefits of the micro ecosystems in existing soil.
Consistent watering is important in container gardening. For instance, your tomatoes will crack if not consistently watered.
Plant selection is very important, cherry tomatoes are good because they have a high yield, may tolerate less sunlight, and don’t have to produce big fruit. Sprawlers like, beans, squash, melons, (you get the picture) for instance are not good for small spaces for obvious reasons.
Lettuces are great for small spaces, they can deal with some shade and have a high yield if you use them, (cut them about an inch up from the dirt) and they’ll just keep coming back!
--Critters: Watch your garden, healthy soil means healthy plants and absence of pests and weeds. The micro ecosystem present in a garden is, by nature, designed to take care of itself. Pests and weeds are a cry for help from the soil. Healthy plants will resist pests and healthy soil will resist weeds.
Mulching helps with weeds, as does companion planting for pests.
Plant perennials in your beds to attract beneficial pests.
For aphids brush off or spray with water. Ladybug larvae are beneficial however it is not recommended you buy them as they will most likely fly away and never lay their larvae in your garden. (duh)
For the furry guys, especially squirrels fill some panty hose with human hair (ask for hair at your salon or barber shop…they have plenty) and place around your beds. Squirrels don’t like the smell of humans!!!
--Why grow your own? Besides a sense of pride and delicious food there are many other reasons to grow your own. One of them in particular that is important to me is: SAFETY. Knowing where your food comes from as well as what has been done to your food from seed to fruit, truly, is a wonderful feeling. As an individual you have the ability to grow for flavor not just for shelf-life as most commercial companies have to. One of the other reasons that came up in our discussion was because it brings people together. Whether it be a fantastic dinner or a donation to a neighbor of an over abundance of cucumbers, it is a song that everyone hears and can appreciate. We all have to eat and what better way than with things we grew ourselves and with the people that we care about!!!
Garden*Hood is located in Grant Park at:
353 Boulevard SE