Soil Sampling

Outdoors

Soil Sampling

By: Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

Taking a soil sample can be one of the most beneficial activities you can do for your ability to maximize production of the plants you are growing. Soil sample results will tell you a wealth of information, including the pH of your soil, if you need lime and if so how much you need. The report will also tell you various nutrient levels. This information will be used to determine how much fertilizer you need for proper growth of your plants.

By maintaining the proper pH and nutrient levels of your lawn, garden, field, vineyard, or orchard, many plant disorders can be averted and you will be able to maximize production. The fall is the perfect time to sample because if lime is needed, it takes a few months for it to get into the ground and correct pH problems, but a sample can be taken at any time.

The key to reliable results is proper soil sampling technique. The idea behind soil sampling is to take soil from an area of the landscape, garden, orchard, or pasture that is representative of the area you are interested planting. In other words, take a sample of an area where the plants require similar nutrient levels and pH. Go through your area and decide how many different areas you have. For example, vegetable garden, azalea bed, annual flower bed, fruit trees, and/or lawn, then take a representative sample of each of these different areas. One sample can be used for several different plants, so you don’t have to collect a sample for each crop as long as it is grown in the same area. If there are different areas, hillside, valley, etc. a sample will be recommended from each area.

The idea of a representative sample may be different to different people, but to me it means getting a small amount of soil from a minimum of ten random locations and mixing the soil together in a “soil sample bag” or clean plastic container. If there are any areas that plant growth is abnormal, then that area should be sampled separately. The more random samples you obtain from an area, the more accurate the soil test results will be. Using this technique will make you have more soil than you need, but that will be fine. Once you get a representative sample, mix the soil up thoroughly and fill up the soil sample bag to the fill line. The soil sample bag holds about 2 cups of soil. Soil sample bags can be obtained from the UGA Extension office on Progress Road in Ellijay, or you can bring the sample in your container and we’ll transfer it to the soil sample bag at the office.

We collect soil samples all week and send them to the lab in Athens every Friday morning. The results will return in about a week. Right now the cost of a soil sample is $9 per bag, but with postage going up the price may change. Sampling your lawns or gardens has the potential to save you money by taking the guesswork out of how much fertilizer or lime you need to buy.

Once you get your soil in shape, then you know when to stop adding more nutrients that you don’t need. By adding the amount of nutrients needed (and not more) not only saves you money, but prevents nutrients from moving into our lakes and rivers. If you have your soil tested every couple of years, then you will be less likely to be a cause of this inadvertent pollution. If there are any questions about soil sampling, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Organization

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.

An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Organization

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!

An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Organization

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/.

Controlling Springtails

Outdoors

Over the past few weeks, many people have either called or come by the office with a
question about tiny, purplish-brown, hopping insects around or in their homes. These tiny
creatures are springtails.
Springtails are one of those insects that you may wonder why are they here on Earth. But
in reality, they serve a useful purpose by eating decaying plant material. They mostly live in the
soil, leaf mold, organic mulches or decaying logs. They are soft bodied so they are attracted to
moist areas to keep from drying out.
Usually springtails stay outside among the mulched areas of the yard. But on occasion
you will find them in the home around sources of moisture like sinks, bathtubs and toilets.
Keeping these areas as dry as possible is the first step in controlling springtails in the home. In a
dry environment, springtails will eventually dry out and die.
Chemical control is not necessary, but insecticides can be used. If you choose to use an
insecticide application make applications around windows and doors. Also spraying around
bathroom plumbing where the pipes come up from the basement or crawlspace will be effective.
When spraying outside of the house you have to apply insecticides with plenty of water in order
to get the chemical through the mulch and soil layers. Because it delivers a high volume of
water a hose-end spray is a good tool to do the job right. A pump-up sprayer will simply not
apply enough water with the chemical to penetrate through the mulch to the soil.
When applying an insecticide inside use an insecticide that is labeled for inside the home use.
Many of these come in a 1-gallon jug that is ready to use. For spraying outside, use an insectide,
which is labeled for scorpions, boxelder bugs or of course springtails. If you choose to use an
insecticide, remember to read and follow the labeled directions.
One other suggestion is to move any mulch away from the foundation of your home. Not
only will this help reduce the infestation of termites or scorpions by not allowing them a direct
pathway to get to the foundation, but also it will allow you to effectively spray in the soil layers.
Springtails are not going to cause major harm to your home, but they sure are annoying
and unsettling for most people. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me by
phone at the office or send me an e-mail.

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