What is Planting by the Moon

Outdoors

By: Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

Lately there’s been a lot of conversation about using the moon signs to garden. While I’ve not personally
researched this practice, I decided to look into it because I’ve had phone calls and heard people talking
about it. I learned that the Farmers’ Almanac is one of the original publications that discussed moon sign
gardening so the information here is from that publication plus an article by Catherine Boeckmann.
The foundation for using moon signs is observation. It is NOT astrology or astrological “best days.” The
basic idea behind Planting by the Moon is that cycles of the moon affect plant growth. Moon phase
gardening takes into account two periods of the lunar cycle: the time between the new moon and the full
moon (the waxing of the moon), and the time between the full moon and the new moon (the waning of
the moon.)

Just as the moon’s gravitational pull causes tides to rise and fall, it also affects moisture in the soil. The
theory is that seeds will absorb more water during the full moon and the new moon, when more moisture
is pulled to the soil surface, causing the seeds to swell and resulting in greater germination and better-
established plants. The moon also affects plant growth through geotropism which is how plants grow in
response to gravity. Roots grow downward in the direction of the gravitational pull and stems grow in the
opposite direction (i.e., upwards.) Now that we have that information, let’s look at how to plant by the
moon’s phases.

Plant annual flowers and fruit and vegetables that bear crops above ground (such as corn, tomatoes,
watermelon, and zucchini) during the waxing of the moon (from the day the moon is new to the day it is
full.) As the moonlight increases night by night, plants are encouraged to grow leaves and stems.
Plant flowering bulbs, biennial and perennial flowers, and vegetables that bear crops below ground (such
as onions, carrots, and potatoes) during the waning of the Moon (from the day after it is full to the day
before it is new again.) As the moonlight decreases night by night, plants are encouraged to grow roots,
tubers, and bulbs.

Where dates for planting by the moon are concerned, see the almanac Planting Calendar for dates based
on average last frost dates and moon phase. Be sure and get the right edition of the almanac because it is
customized to your local U.S. zip code or Canadian postal code.

The almanac also provides favorable dates for sowing seeds or transplanting in the ground for all popular
vegetables and edibles. You could also calculate planting dates yourself by looking at the Moon Phase
Calendar and the following the guidelines above.

If you have any questions about Planting by the Moon, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA
Extension office.

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Make Valentine’s Day Flowers and Plants Last Longer

Community, Outdoors

Make Valentine’s Day Flowers and Plants Last Longer

By: Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

Valentine’s Day is almost here and if you are like me, you are frantically trying to decide what to give a loved one. But before you decide, please put some thought into your choice.

But first, did you know that the occasion actually started back during the Roman Empire? The poet Chaucer changed the perception with flowery poetry and turned it into one of the most popular days to give flowers. There is a lot of symbolism around the type, color, and number of flowers that are given, but rather than going into all that, I want to provide you with some ideas about the types of flowers to give and how flowers should be cared for.

Roses are the most popular flower given for Valentine’s Day, but did you realize that tulips are the second most popular? Don’t rule out giving a live plant (or even a potted flowering plant) that can be kept indoors and/or moved outside once the weather warms up. I like live plants because they can be enjoyed all year, not just on this special day, but an avid gardener might simply enjoy a gardening gift. Below are a few guidelines which will make live flowers last longer.

Water is vital. Keep the vase or floral foam soaked with water at all times. Add fresh water daily and use warm water as this speeds uptake. If the water turns cloudy, replace it immediately with fresh water. If possible, re-cut rose stems every day by removing one to two inches. Use a sharp knife and if at all possible, this cut should be made under water and at an angle as this allows the stem to draw in water instead of air.

Keep Valentine’s flowers cool. Warm temperatures shorten the life of the blooms. Avoid direct sunlight and heating vents. Did you know that warm air from ceiling fans will cause the flowers to fade, so avoid a down draft? Appliances like TV’s and computers also give off heat causing the flowers to dry out.

Use a floral trick for wilted or droopy flowers. If the flowers start to wilt, remove the stem from the arrangement and re-cut the stem. Next, submerge the entire flower in warm water. Leave it in the water for one to two hours. This treatment should perk the flowers up and extend its life for a couple of more days. This trick works well for cut roses.

Take special care of flowers wrapped in paper or a box. If you give loose stems of flowers, keep them cool as long as possible before delivering them to your loved one. If you receive loose stem flowers, fill a clean vase with water and add flower food from a florist. Follow packet instructions for mixing. Before placing the stems in the vase, remove all foliage that will be below the waterline because leaves in water promote bacterial growth which decreases the life of the flowers. Re-cutting the stems under water with a sharp knife is recommended before placing in the vase.

Potted plants and bulbs are also a popular gift. Like arrangements, keep potted flowering plants in a cool location and avoid heat drafts or dry air to make the color last longer. Most indoor plants will require even a little moisture so check the soil daily and add water if the soil is dry to the touch, but do not let the plants stand in water as this will harm the root system.

If you have any questions about caring for flowers and plants, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Native Plants of North Georgia

Outdoors

Spring is here and the University of Georgia (UGA) Extension has an electronic “app” to help families and outdoor enthusiasts make the most of springtime hikes.  Native Plants of North Georgia, created by Mickey Cummings, is available for the iPad, iPhone and Android devices.  It’s a consumer-oriented field guide of the flowers, trees, ferns and shrubs that populate north Georgia’s lawns and forests.  Mickey, a former Union County UGA Extension ANR Agent, who is now retired, worked in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest and spent his career identifying plants for day-trippers, hikers and homeowners in north Georgia.  “I started wanting to create a collection of photographs that backpackers could use to identify plants on the trail,” Cummings said.  “All the reference material I was working with was too large to pack, and we wanted something that would be easy for people to use.” He first developed a hard copy of his guide, a pocket-sized laminated flipbook, in May 2008 to help the public identify local plants on the fly and now UGA Extension has sold more than 1,000 copies of that original book and the free on-line edition has been viewed more than 6,000 times.

Representatives from Southern Regional Extension Forestry, UGA Extension and the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Office of Information Technology decided to use the popular guide as a pilot project in their development of mobile applications for UGA Extension. The app allows users to browse photos of plants organized by their blooming periods and includes leaf and bloom descriptions as well as scientific and common names.  Native Plants of North Georgia is the first app to be produced by the UGA Extension publications and extension digital productions team. All versions of this app are free and ready for download via the Apple App Store and Google Play.  A PDF version of the guide is also available for free download and the original pocket-sized flipbook is available for purchase ($12.00) by visiting http://www.caes.uga.edu/publications/. That web site also houses the hundreds of free-to-download, research-based publications, which provide information on everything from home vegetable gardening to pest control to native plant identification.

Also of interest this spring, the Master Gardener Extension Volunteers, an outreach of UGA Extension, are offering several upcoming opportunities. The North Georgia Master Gardeners in Blue Ridge will have a Nature Walk Thursday, April 26, and a Native Plant Sale Saturday, May 12.  The Gilmer County Master Gardeners in Ellijay have a demonstration garden at the Gilmer County Library plus monthly lectures that cover gardening topics. They also organize and sponsor the Ellijay Farmers Market, which will open Saturday, April 28, and be open Saturdays through October 6, just off the roundabout, adjacent to the courthouse. The hours this year are from 8 a.m. to noon.  Be sure to check it out on Facebook at Gilmer County Master Gardener Volunteers or online at https://gcmgvolunteers.wordpress.com/.

Road Median Flowers

Outdoors

Before the cold turned them brown, I was getting questions about the flowers planted in the road median between Blue Ridge and Ellijay.  As it turns out the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) is teaching all of us about an old floral favorite that needs to be brought back to the garden: cosmos. This year they were planted in medians and roadsides all across the state.

 

If you have ever wondered, “Do those specialty license plates pay off?” The answer is yes, and of course, on display. What is even more exciting is that the future is bright for these types of floral plantings. GDOT is revved up on planting pollinators along the highway system, and this should have everyone doing the happy dance.

 

But let’s go back to the cosmos. This is not the orange cosmos, instead it is the Cosmos bipinnatus. This cosmos is native to Mexico and is related to coreopsis and rudbeckias. It is the quintessential cottage garden flower and brings in the pollinators.  It is so good that the University of Georgia has put them in their promotional seed packs labeled the “Pollinator Blend.” The pack states that pollinators will make a beeline to your garden when you plant this beautiful flower mix.

 

These cosmos have daisy-like flowers 2 to 4 inches wide in shades of burgundy, pink, lilac and white with orange centers, and they are borne on stems of airy, fern-like foliage for weeks on end during the growing season. As GDOT and UGA would testify, these are easy to grow from seed. In fact, they are so easy to grow from seed, you can sow successive plantings to have blooms the entire growing season, especially if you want to have a bounty of flowers for the vase too.  You might get lucky and find nursery plants, but seeds seem to be readily available.

 

Plant your seeds or nursery-grown transplants into loose, well-drained soil once the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees.  Fertility need not be high for this Mexico native. Seeds germinate in five to seven days with blooms, bees and butterflies in eight to 10 weeks. Thin the seedlings or space transplants 12 to 36 inches apart depending on your variety.

 

Yes, there are varieties like the 1936 All-America Selections Award Winner ‘Sensation’ that tops out in the 4- to 5-foot range.  But if you are into the more diminutive cosmos, then you might want to try the 2-foot-tall ‘Sonata,’ which was a Fleuroselect Award Winner. There are plenty of others to try as well.

 

Although considered an annual, the cosmos gives a perennial-like performance by reseeding, which is perfect for the highway system and your pollinator garden too. These are tough plants, so water sparingly but when you do, water deeply, training those roots to go deep. Your volunteer seedlings may look a little different than what you originally planted when it comes to height, but they will nonetheless be dazzling.

 

If GDOT can have success with cosmos, you can too. I hope you’ll give them a try next spring.

 

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