Thursday, April 30, 2009

Flavorful Landscapes -- A Growing Trend

(ARA) - Nothing beats the flavor of a fresh-from-the-garden tomato; warmed by the sun, plucked right from the plant and eaten in the garden.

More than 43 percent of U.S. households plan to experience this and the other benefits of homegrown fruits, vegetables and herbs this summer, according to a recent survey by the National Gardening Association.

Space Limited? Get Creative
The good news is you don’t need much space to have an edible garden. Many gardeners grow food in containers or mixed in with their flowers, shrubs and other ornamental plantings.

Look for creative ways to include vegetables in your landscape. “I like to mix them with flowers in my container gardeners” says Melinda Myers, horticulturist and author. “One of my favorite combinations is ornamental corn, eggplant, tri-color sage, purple ruffle basil and trailing verbena. For a quick burst of spring beauty and produce I use Swiss chard as a vertical accent, add a few pansies -- they are edible -- colorful leaf lettuce or ornamental mustard and a trailing ivy or two for aesthetics, not eating.”

Limited sunlight? No worries
Full sun will give you the best results, but you can still grow edibles where sunshine is limited. Save the sunniest spot for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and other vegetables where you eat the flowers or fruit. They produce their best and have fewest disease problems when grown in eight to 12 hours of sunlight. Root crops such as beets, radishes and carrots can get by with about a half a day of direct sun and leafy crops like lettuce and spinach can still produce in a shady location with only four hours of sunlight.

Get Your Garden Off to a Good Start
Use a quality potting mix when growing in containers. It should have good drainage and retain moisture. In the garden, it’s important to properly prepare the soil before planting. Add several inches of compost, peat moss or other organic matter to the top 6- to 12-inches of soil. This improves drainage in heavy soils and increases water holding capacity for sandy or rocky soils.

Add a slow release fertilizer like Milorganite to the soil. This goof-proof organic source of nitrogen meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s Exceptional Quality standards and will help encourage growth without interfering with flowering and fruiting.

Time it Right
Let the weather be your planting guide. Cool season crops like lettuce, peas and broccoli can tolerate chilly air and soil. Wait for the danger of frost to pass and soil to warm before planting tomatoes, peppers, squash and melons. Myers suggests anxious gardeners can, “Jump start the season with the help of floating row covers. These polypropylene fabrics let air, light and water through while trapping the heat near the plants. The best part, you won’t need a hammer, nail or other tools. Simply lay the fabric over your planting leaving enough slack for the plants to grow and anchor the edges to the ground with stones, boards or other items.”

Maximize Your Efforts
Check the seed packets and plant tags for details on when and how to plant each herb and vegetable seed or transplant. Increase productivity with succession plantings. Simply start with lettuce, radishes or another cool weather plant. Once harvested, replant the area with onions or beans. After these are done you can replant the area once again with a fall crop of lettuce, spinach or radishes.

Double your harvest with interplanting. Plant quick-to-mature crops like radishes and lettuce in between longer maturing plantings of cabbage, tomatoes or eggplant. The short season vegetables will be ready to harvest just about the time the bigger plants are crowding them out.

Consider planting vegetables closer together in wider rows. You’ll waste less space for pathways putting more room in plantings. Make sure each plant has enough space to grow and that you can reach all planted areas to weed and harvest.

Just a Bit More Care Needed
Water new plantings thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil moist but not too wet. Add a layer of shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic material to conserve moisture, suppress weeds and moderate soil temperatures. Midsummer, give your plants a boost with a slow release organic nitrogen fertilizer like Milorganite. And don’t worry if the weather turns hot and dry, Milorganite won’t burn. It will remain in the soil until the plants are ready to use it.

Pull weeds as they appear, watch for bugs and wait for the produce to come pouring in. You may find this is a great family activity that gets even the most reluctant vegetable eaters munching on a few fresh carrots and maybe even broccoli.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Public’s Help Needed to Locate Harmful Weed

The Georgia Forestry Commission is asking for the public’s help to stop a harmful weed from spreading statewide. Cogongrass is a non-native weed that has taken over millions of acres in the southeast. It flourishes in numerous soil types and chokes out natural vegetation, which significantly reduces tree and plant regeneration, wildlife habitat, forage and ecological diversity.

Cogongrass is extremely flammable and difficult to eradicate, due to its dense root system.

Within Georgia, there are 23 state, federal and private groups that have formally partnered to locate and destroy infected sites and educate landowners about the threat. The Georgia Forestry Commission offers free eradication treatments to landowners who have Cogongrass. The GFC also partners with other member states of the Southern Group of State Foresters (Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina) to combat the invasive weed regionally.

Cogongrass was first introduced into the United States near Grand Bay, Alabama in 1911 via seed in grass packing materials used in shipping containers from Southeast Asia. It has spread throughout Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida and has now been found in 28 Georgia counties.

The grass is most easily recognized in the spring flowering and seeding period (March through May in Georgia) when the white fluffy seeds are produced and dispersed. Cogongrass has sharp pointed, scaly rhizomes with a very dense root system, and grows in a circular-shaped pattern. It also has an off-centered midrib on leaf blades that measure between one and five feet.

“Our purpose as a group is to address the short and long term negative effects of Cogongrass in Georgia,” said Robert Farris, Director of the Georgia Forestry Commission. “We want the public to report sightings of this dangerous weed so that our teams of Professionals can take the necessary measures to bring this threat under control.”

The Cogongrass threat is considerable because of the weed’s aggressive and destructive nature. A single plant can produce up to 3,000 seeds, which spread easily in the wind. Individual, underground rhizomes or pieces of rhizomes can sprout new plants as well. Rhizome pieces are easily transported to new areas in contaminated soil, hay, sod, or on equipment, launching still more infestations. The roots and rhizomes of Cogongrass are fire-tolerant, but leaves and flowers of the plant are extremely flammable, creating a fire hazard for firefighters and citizens living in rural areas.

Residents who suspect they have found Cogongrass should contact their local GFC office and avoid mowing or disking through or near the area to avoid further spread. Photographs and more information about Cogongrass can be found on the GFC website at
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Plant doctors identify diseases

Mother Nature has blessed Georgia with an abundance of rain over the past month, leaving most areas drought-free. But all that moisture mixed with warm spring temperatures creates a perfect environment for landscape diseases.

Watch for the signs

If you’re worried that the moist conditions may cause your plants to fall ill, scout your landscape and search for signs and symptoms of infections such as wilting, yellowing, leaf spots and dieback from the tips inward.

Finding these symptoms doesn’t always mean a plant disease is the cause, said University of Georgia homeowner integrated pest management specialist Holly Thornton. They can also be signs of other problems, like drought, chemical damage, improper planting or too much fertilizer.

Take a sample to your agent

So what if you aren’t sure whether your plant is sick due to a disease or its living conditions? Take a sample to your local UGA Cooperative Extension office. Agents there are trained to identify the problem and offer solutions.

If your agent is unsure, the sample will be sent to the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Homeowner Plant Disease Clinic in Athens. There, samples are identified and diagnosed by specialists like Thornton. A treatment recommendation is then made.

The CAES clinic offers identification of diseases and nematodes on turfgrass, fruit, forage, ornamental, crop and vegetable samples. The staff also analyzes plant material and soil for bacterial, fungal, viral and other pathogens.

In addition to homeowners, the clinic’s clients include commercial growers, retailers, arborists and golf course superintendents. The Athens clinic processes more than 600 home turf, ornamental and fruit-tree samples each year.

How to collect a sample

To properly collect samples, Thornton offers the follow tips:
1) Take a close-up photograph of the suspect area of the plant. Then, take a picture of the entire plant and one of it in the landscape.
2) Place a physical sample in a sealable plastic bag with a dry paper towel.
3) Take the sample to your local UGA Extension office early in the week. This will allow time for your agent to mail the sample to the university before the weekend if need be.

If you think the problem is root-related, UGA plant pathologists recommend removing and submitting the entire plant. Losing one plant is a small sacrifice to find out what's going on in your landscape.

There's no charge for digital image samples. A $10 fee is charged for physical sample disease identification.

More information on the UGA Homeowner Plant Disease Clinic at be found at the Web site To locate your local UGA Extension office, call 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Preparing for the Storms of the Spring Season

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sometimes weather patterns cause the months of April and May to bring more than just the proverbial spring shower. From treacherous lightning to destructive tornadoes, unpredictable, damaging storms are actually the more common characteristic of the spring season. With this in mind, SERVPRO is offering tips for people on how to best prepare for the uncertainty of Mother Nature. The company's message couldn't be clearer – expect the unexpected.

"It simply isn't possible to be too prepared for a spring storm," said Rick Isaacson, executive vice president of Servpro Industries, Inc. "By taking a few precautionary steps, people can minimize the impact of damage that may be inflicted on their homes, businesses and surrounding property."

According to the National Climatic Data Center, tornadoes, which tend to be the most widespread type of spring storm, were quite prevalent throughout the nation in 2008. In May, for example, 461 tornadoes occurred resulting in 43 preliminary fatalities. Research indicates there is a direct correlation between how prepared an area is for the tornado and how many casualties were caused by the actual storm.

Isaacson encourages individuals to implement the following safety measures:

* Know your alert system – Be aware of your community's severe weather warning system. Know in advance where you will take shelter if at home, in the office, etc.
* Keep an emergency kit handy – Emergency kits should include first-aid supplies, enough drinking water for three days and food that doesn't need to be refrigerated or cooked. Also be sure to have several flashlights, a battery-powered radio, blankets and extra batteries within reach.
* Take inventory of your personal property – Make a detailed list of your possessions and back it up with photos or video footage. Keep one copy in your home and another in a separate location.
* Protect your home – Branches can cause substantial damage if they become airborne, so make sure to keep all trees properly trimmed. Also, keep a supply of lumber and other materials on hand to use to brace windows and other openings.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Simple Tips For Starting Your Own Kitchen Garden

(NAPSI)-Edible gardening is growing in popularity; the National Gardening Association expects a 19 percent jump in the number of Americans growing their own grub this year. The Obama family has even joined the trend by planting the first White House kitchen garden since World War II.

There are a number of reasons growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs is so attractive. Organically grown fruits and vegetables are more healthful, with significantly more nutrients including vitamin C, magnesium and iron. Gardening is a fun activity for the whole family, giving kids an outdoor project. It can even save you money on groceries.

Many people know these benefits but are hesitant to start an edible garden because they're worried about taking the wrong approach. The fact is, by following just a few simple steps, just about everyone can set themselves up for a successful harvest.

• Take the high ground. Gardens do best in the elevated parts of your yard. Lower, indented areas can trap cold air and stifle growth.

• Break out the compass. Edible gardens in the Northern Hemisphere should place the tallest plants on the northernmost plot. Sunlight shines from a southern angle, so smaller plants won't be left in the shade.

• Box it up. Use planting boxes or raised beds whenever possible, because they create soil control for drainage and maximize nutrients. Boxes also protect your roots from critters.

• Keep a close watch. Try not to plant your garden out of sight. If you can see the garden from your windows, it will be easier to identify when the plants are at their ripest or might need extra care.

• Don't be a Luddite. There's great technology out there to help beginning gardeners. For example, after 24 hours in your garden, the EasyBloom Plant Sensor reveals all the plants and vegetables that will thrive there and tells you how to care for existing plants. This handy tool takes detailed readings of sunlight, temperature, humidity and soil drainage to make expert recommendations.

Edible gardening doesn't have to be an intimidating project. With the right planning and support, millions of families will be adding fresh ingredients to their meals this year and you can, too.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Forest Land Conservation Gets a Boost in Perdue-Signed Bill

Georgia forest land owners have been given extra time to assess the benefits of and to enroll in a significant forest conservation program, the Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA). With the signature of Governor Sonny Perdue, Senate Bill 55 (Senator Chip Pearson, R-Dawsonville) extends the filing deadline for landowners in the FLPA by two months, from April 1, 2009 to June 1, 2009. The bill also requires tax assessors establishing a property's fair market value to consider any decreased value of the land as a result of its being in a conservation easement.

"This is a step in the right direction for sustaining our forested acres in the state of Georgia," said Buford Sanders, Georgia Forestry Commission Staff Stewardship Forester. "Instead of focusing on 'highest and best use' land values, tax assessors must now consider diminished monetary values of forested land placed in conservation easements. Naturally, that helps owners keep their lands in forests, which benefit every Georgian in terms of clean air, clean water, and abundant forest products for the future." In addition, said Sanders, the filing extension allows landowners ample time to review tax implications as they apply to an owner's specific forest land.

Georgia voters approved the FLPA in November of 2008. It stipulates that landowners with more than 200 acres of contiguous forested property may receive significant property tax relief in exchange for agreeing to not develop the land for 15 years.

Georgia recently reached a milestone for conservation by protecting its 100,000th acre under the Georgia Land Conservation Program begun in 2005. For more information about conservation easements and other conservation-related issues such as tax implications, visit the GLCP webpage at Additional information about working forest conservation easements and services of the Georgia Forestry Commission can be found at
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Five Ways to Make Your Home and Wallet Greener

(ARA) - With tightened budgets, you may be surprised to learn that going green at home is not only good for the planet but also good for your pocket book.

“People are re-evaluating everything they do, from driving cars to how they eat,” says Lisa Tiedt, green expert. “With a few simple home improvements, it’s easy to do a favor for Mother Earth, your wallet and your family - celebrate Earth Day (April 22).”

Tiedt offers five home improvements ideas that pay for themselves quickly and save you money in the long-run:

An Easy Audit

A home energy assessment is perhaps one of the easiest ways to determine if your home is earth-friendly or leaking money from its seams. Most local utility companies offer energy inventories for free. And for $250 to $300, many companies will put together a detailed assessment using thermal imaging. This gives you a punch list of easy places to improve sealing and maintain appliances. By making these improvements you will see huge energy savings in the long-run.

Grow Something Green

It sounds so simple, but planting a tree can help reduce energy costs up to 40 percent in warm climates, according to Your new-found foliage will block sunlight and reduce the need for air conditioning. In North America, the east and west sides of homes are exposed to the greatest amount of heat in summer months. In some hotter areas like Sacramento, Calif., the local government gives out free trees to reduce the strain on the grid during sizzling summer months.

“Planting a tree is a staple activity every Earth Day, but you don’t have to wait until April 22 to add something to your landscape,” says Tiedt. “If you have younger kids, getting down and dirty and planting a tree together is the perfect weekend activity.”

H20 Heaters

You guessed it -- your home’s largest energy-guzzler is your water heater. Some experts suggest wrapping the heater in fireproof insulation, which can be found at any home improvement store for less than $30, to save tremendous amounts of energy. To save big, install a tankless water heater. This heater is a system of coils and the unit heats water on demand. These types of heaters are not only more efficient, but they take up considerably less space.

Crack Down on Tracks

Ten tubes of caulk will do more to reduce a home’s energy waste than replacing every window. Apply paintable silicone caulk around windows and doors. To check for other energy leaks, look where any pipe, vent or electrical cable comes through the siding -- dryer vent outlets and hose bibs frequently present trouble spots.

Keep A/C Filters and Coils Clean

A dirty air filter reduces airflow, and a dirty condenser coil retains heat and is less efficient. The two can increase the system’s power consumption by 10 percent or more. Clean the condenser coil every two years and change filters monthly during peak cooling and heating seasons.

For more tips on how to have a greener home visit

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How Hydrangeas Can Heighten Your Enjoyment Of Your Yard

NAPSI)-Hydrangeas are growing on home gardeners. The big, bold flowers add excitement to many gardens and are terrific for both fresh and dried arrangements. Desirable as hydrangeas are, they have a reputation for being tricky to grow. Fortunately, with many new, easy-to-grow varieties available, even the most inexperienced gardener can enjoy lots of flowers with very little effort.

New Varieties

Reblooming hydrangeas, such as the Let's Dance series from Proven Winners, are an excellent example of how new varieties make gardening easier. Unlike older varieties of Hydrangea macrophylla, these plants bloom on both this season's and last season's growth. Gardeners who have been frustrated by healthy-looking plants that never bloom will have more success with these plants. Moonlight has big, vividly colored mophead flowers and rich burgundy fall foliage. Starlight is the first reblooming lacecap hydrangea and has elegant, brightly colored whorls of florets.

Pink, White and Blue

H. macrophylla flower color is affected by soil pH. It is difficult for hydrangeas to absorb aluminum from alkaline soils (those with pH higher than 7), so the plants produce pink or red flowers. Aluminum is more available in acidic (pH lower than 7) soils and the plants there produce blue flowers. Soils can be amended to adjust the bloom color; use aluminum sulfate to encourage blue flowers and horticultural lime to produce pink flowers.

Hardy hydrangeas, H. paniculata, have been mainstays of northern gardens for years. They produce cone-shaped bundles of white florets in midsummer and bloom on the current season's growth. Hardy hydrangeas are reliable bloomers even after harsh winters.

Limelight may be one of the best varieties. Its soft green summer flowers transform to pink and burgundy in fall and dry beautifully. Proven Winners now has Pinky Winky hardy hydrangea as well. Pinky Winky has exceptionally large (12" plus) panicles that start out white and turn to pink as they age. New white florets keep growing at the tips of the panicles as older florets at the base turn pink, so the plant displays unique bicolor blooms in late summer.

Annabelle is another favorite of cold-climate gardeners and of many southerners as well. A smooth hydrangea (H. arborescens), Annabelle is adaptable and easy to grow, though its white snowball flowers tend to flop over into an untidy tangle.

Two new varieties are expected to set the standard for smooth hydrangeas. Incrediball has flowers up to 12" across and exceptionally sturdy stems that hold the blooms upright even after heavy rain. Coming in 2010, Invincibelle Spirit is the first pink Annabelle-type hydrangea.

How Hydrangeas Help Combat Cancer

Gardeners who have been limited to white flowers can now enjoy hot-pink blooms and help fund breast cancer research with a purchase of Invincibelle Spirit. Proven Winners will donate 5 cents from each purchase to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). That organization is dedicated to preventing breast cancer and finding a cure in our lifetime by funding clinical and translational research worldwide.

Learn More

For more about BCRF, visit For facts about hydrangeas, visit

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Fine Weather for Staying Fit

Spring is a glorious time in Fayette County, Georgia. All along the cart paths in Peachtree City are families and friends out taking their daily strolls and staying in shape.

We caught this happy couple enjoying their morning walk around Lake Peachtree- not once, but three days in a row.

We can only guess that all the recent rain has made these friends decide to expand their horizons.

Fayette Front Page Staff

Photo ©2009 A S Eldredge

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Create Your Own Salad Garden

(NAPSI)-The current economy is fueling a grassroots hobby and a healthy money maker: vegetable gardening. One major seed company says a $10 investment can produce up to $1,500 worth of vegetables. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says vegetables are important sources of nutrients that help maintain healthy blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels.

"Vegetable gardeners may become the most popular people in your neighborhood," says Bayer Advanced garden expert Lance Walheim, co-author of "Vegetable Gardening." "Growing your own veggies lets you create your own salad or side dishes that taste great."

Here are some tips to help you get started:

Choose your vegetables: What kind of veggies or salads do you like to eat? Options include head and leaf lettuces, spinach, parsley, asparagus, peas, carrots, corn, broccoli, eggplant, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, okra, peppers, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes and celery.

Let the sun and soil be your guide: Most vegetables need six to eight hours of direct sun daily and well-drained soil.

Prepare the soil: Contact your local cooperative extension about soil testing, then till in ample organic matter and other recommended amendments, including fertilizer.

Lay out planting beds: Use string to mark off the individual rows of vegetables you'll plant. Rows that face east to west will get the best sun exposure.

Plant with the seasons: Contact your local cooperative extension office for a local planting calendar and for tips on locally adapted and pest-resistant varieties.

Use organic mulch: It helps keep the weeds out. Weeds compete for nutrients and may harbor pests and diseases.

Monitor for pests: Destructive insects such as Japanese beetles, aphids and hornworms like veggies, too. Bayer Advanced™ Complete Insect Killer for Gardens kills more than 100 different pests. Spray it on the upper and lower leaf surfaces, stems and branches. Be sure to read and follow label directions. Visit for more details and for other products that will prevent insects from eating your vegetables.

Water and fertilize: Vegetables need consistent water and nutrients.

Enjoy the bounty: Pick often and share the wealth. Many vegetables will stop producing if not harvested often.

If you don't have adequate space for vegetable gardening, Walheim says you can always start small by growing vegetables in containers. A container for vegetables can be as simple as a bushel basket, ceramic pot or a planter box.

Vegetables are an important source of nutrients.

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