Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How to make growing your own vegetables as earth-friendly as possible

(ARA) - There was a time when it was the norm to go out in the yard and pull fresh vegetables up from the soil. At some point over the years, we moved from the goodness of home-grown vegetables toward processed foods and microwave dinners. Now consumers are becoming more aware of the financial value of growing their own vegetables, and how doing so can bolster the health of their families and of the earth.

Vegetable gardening might sound intimidating, but new technologies can make your thumb greener than ever. Combined with good old-fashioned growing techniques, your garden can be healthy and yield a good crop with less effort than you'd imagine - all while being good for the earth. Here are some tips for a garden that is doubly green.

Water, water everywhere, but not too much
* A fine balance needs to be struck when it comes to watering your vegetable garden, especially during drought conditions. You want your plants to get adequate moisture, but overwatering can be bad for plants and a wasteful use of a precious natural resource. Because it's better for both your crops and the environment, careful water usage is essential to being a truly green gardener.

Installing an irrigation system is a good way to keep water usage at the ideal levels. Plus, you don't have to plan a schedule around when you need to water. There are user-friendly, affordable solutions like Mister Landscaper's new Drip Irrigation Vegetable Kit, which connects to your outdoor spigot. It's a great way to ensure that your plants get the water they need, without wasting or over watering. The kit is drought approved in most areas and available at Lowe's in the plumbing department. Watering timers can also make the job of watering even easier. Keep in mind that it's best to water in the early morning, when the sun is lower in the sky, for 30 to 60 minutes, every other day. For more information about watering vegetable gardens, go to

One man's garbage is another's fertilizer
* Ever feel guilty about throwing out vegetable and fruit peelings, rinds or scraps? Your intuition might just be telling you that there's a better way to handle those leftovers. Composting is a great way to make use of organic matter that might otherwise just get thrown away.

Building a compost heap is relatively easy, and it will keep on giving back to your garden and the environment. The four necessary ingredients for composting, according to California's "CalRecycle" program, are nitrogen (from sources like grass clippings or those throwaway veggie scraps), carbon (from sources like sawdust or twigs), water and air. Once your compost is at the ideal level of decomposition (it will be uniformly dark brown and crumbly), spread it on your garden to give plants a nutrient boost.

Get growing - organically
* From the moment you start planning a garden, think organic. The most basic - and fun - choice of all is deciding which plants you'll grow. Choose organic seeds and starters so that you know you're buying into an earth-friendly business venture. There's the added bonus of knowing that your plants won't be tainted with harmful chemicals.

When it comes to maintaining your garden, you'll probably need things other than just compost. Look for products that are recognized as organic by respected organizations like the USDA or the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) - you'll be able to find an ever-growing supply of products like pest repellent or soil amendments.

Growing your own vegetables at home has many benefits: it saves money, allows you to control what your food is exposed to and provides a fun and easy activity that the whole family can participate in. And when you follow these green gardening principles, you'll be doing something good for the earth, too.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Lawn or Garden Not Picture Perfect? Enter Get My Pest Out Photo Contest

( With summertime fast approaching a lot of people dream of having picture perfect lawns and gardens, but outdoor pests can spoil the view. Now through July 30, homeowners can upload photos of their worst pest problems at, for a chance to win thousands of dollars in prizes to help make that summertime dream come true.

Whether it’s grubs, fire ants, disease, or any other kind of pest destroying lawns or gardens, weekly winners will be selected by popular vote, receiving products to help control pest problems, and three Grand Prize winners each will receive $1,000 gift certificates to local retailers that may be used to help solve their yard pest problems.

“Homeowners send us photos all the time asking ‘What can I do?’ or ‘What is this?’” says Daphne Huey, marketing manager, Gulfstream Home & Garden. “Here is a chance to showcase their pest problems and have a chance to win.”

Gulfstream Home & Garden, the sponsors of the contest, also are offering tips on yard care and ridding yards and gardens of pests through Facebook and Twitter, and the Get My Pest Out blog.

Entrants are encouraged to use their social networks to drive votes to their photo entry during the contest which began May 24. One Grand Prize winner will be selected by each of three methods: Popular vote, highest rated, and judges’ selection.

For more information and contest rules, and to enter, vote or rate photos, visit

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tips for keeping your garden truly organic

(ARA) - The trend for gardening at home continues to grow - and people are taking a particular interest in raising their flowers and vegetables organically. With such prominent figures as Michelle Obama taking public initiatives in organic gardening, more and more products that cater to the trend are appearing.

Unfortunately, the increased interest in organic gardening has led to some confusion - and some deception - about what it means for a product to be "organic." The labeling of products has become a minefield for consumers who are interested in eco-friendly agriculture. It can be difficult to know exactly what is meant by products labeled "natural," "plant-based" or "organic."

Official organic labeling comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Their seal comes in a few forms, denoting whether a product is "100 percent organic," "organic," or "made with organic" ingredients. Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence suggests this multi-tiered labeling system is also contributing to consumer confusion.

For example, for a product to be labeled 100 percent organic, everything in it must be certified organic. If it says just "organic," that means that it must contain 95 percent certified organic ingredients. If a product contains 70 percent organic ingredients, it can be labeled as being "made with organic [ingredients]." Any product with less than 70 percent organic ingredients cannot carry the USDA seal.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a product labeled "natural" is not organic. While there might be some naturally occurring ingredients in the product, it doesn't mean that it's safe or earth-friendly - not to mention organic.

Perhaps in an effort to simplify the consumer's "organic" label options, the USDA also directs consumers to other organizations that can help them determine whether or not the products they're buying are 100 percent organic. One of those, the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is a non-profit, independent organization that gives reviews of products and how they stand up to the National Organic Standards from the USDA.

For concerned consumers, they provide a comprehensive list (available online) of products that pass the test. "OMRI's list is an invaluable tool for gardeners who want to keep their plots organic," says Claude Boisvert, president of Tree World Plant Care Products. "It makes it easier than ever to find gardening supplements that are not harmful to the environment."

If your main concern in planting an organic garden is providing your family with safe-to-eat, healthy food right from your own back yard, you'll want to take the trouble to make sure you're using truly organic gardening products. At the same time, you want your garden to look great and produce well.

One of the biggest challenges to organic gardening is keeping pests away in a way that is humane and safe. For smaller pests, it is increasingly easy to find organic insecticidal soaps that are safe unlike some traditional pesticides. Larger garden plant browsers can really wreak havoc unless you use a rabbit or deer repellent. An OMRI listed solution, developed in eco-conscious Sweden and now made in the United States, is Plantskydd. Its effectiveness and environmental soundness as an organic repellent have made it popular for farming and among gardeners, professional landscapers, nurseries, foresters and state conservation agencies.

It's important to remember that you have the power to influence the products that are available to you. If keeping your organic garden truly organic is important to you, discuss your concerns with local retailers. By asking them to stock products that have been subject to rigorous standards, like those of OMRI, you'll make it easier for everyone in your community to have access to verified organic materials.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Use deer-tolerant plants in your home landscape to keep wildlife at bay

Spring is the perfect time to add new flowers and trees to your home landscape. However, deer may love the new addition as much as you do.

“Deer like nutrient-rich plants, especially in spring and summer when does are pregnant or nursing, when young deer are growing and when bucks are growing antlers,” said Michael Mengak, wildlife specialist with the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. “Fertilized plants, such as those in home landscapes, provide protein, energy-rich carbohydrates, minerals and salts.”

Asiatic lilies, jessamine, daylily, hibiscus, hollyhock, hosta, Japanese maples, pansies and roses are a few deer favorites.

Adding deer-tolerant plants to the landscape will keep deer at bay, says Gary Wade, a UGA Cooperative Extension horticulturist.

“A good way to prevent deer from browsing in landscapes is to plant ornamental plants that deer do not like to eat,” Wade said. “Deer generally do not like plants with pungent aromas. They also shy away from plants with prickly or rough leaves and plants with a bitter taste.”

Deer-tolerant plants to try include:
Trees: bald cypress, crepe myrtle, Eastern red cedar, ginkgo, pawpaw, pine, spruce and tulip poplar.
Shrubs: boxwood, butterfly bush, common witchhazel, gardenia, Japanese rose, junipers, oleander, pomegranate, primrose jasmine and yucca.
Ornamental grasses: fountain grass, lemongrass, pampas grass and sedge.
Vines and groundcovers: columbine, creeping lantana, junipers and thyme.
Herbaceous perennials and bulbs: African lily, amaryllis, bee balm, butterfly weed, Christmas fern, daffodils, elephant ears, foam flower, iris, lantana, marjoram, peony, purple coneflower, tarragon, toad lily and yarrow.
Annuals: annual periwinkle, baby’s breath, basil, California poppy, snapdragon and sweet pea.

“There is no such thing as a deer-resistant plant, and when deer populations are high and food becomes scarce, deer may feed on plants that are thought to be deer-tolerant,” Mengak said.

By April Reese Sorrow
University of Georgia

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Public Meetings: DNR Land Classification System; Recreational User Fees

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division is considering changes relating to the marketing of recreational opportunities on lands owned and managed by the Department. These changes may include: charging fees at DNR-managed properties and facilities, classification of DNR-managed properties, and diversifying recreational opportunities on DNR-managed properties.  (Click here for more information).

The Department has scheduled four (4) public meetings across the state to provide the public an opportunity to offer input on these changes for consideration. Those interested are encouraged to bring these meetings to the attention of others that also may be interested in participating.

Public meetings have been scheduled on the following dates at the specified times and locations:

May 17, 2010
7 p.m.
Pickens County Chamber of Commerce, 500 Stegall Drive, Jasper

May 18, 2010
7 p.m.
Macon State College, 100 College Station Drive, Professional Sciences Building, Room 211 A-B, Macon

May 19, 2010
7 p.m.
Laura S. Walker State Park, 5653 Laura Walker Road in Shelter #1, Waycross

May 20, 2010
7 p.m.
Gwinnett County Parks & Recreation, Shorty Howell Park, 2750 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth

Any participant at a meeting may present data, make a statement or comment, or offer a viewpoint or argument, either orally or in writing. Statements should be concise to permit everyone an opportunity to speak. Participants must register upon arrival and notify the registering official of their intent to give a statement. Those unable to attend a meeting may submit comments electronically to or in writing by May 28. Written statements should be mailed to:

Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, Game Management Section, Attn: John W. Bowers, 2070 U.S. Highway 278, SE, Social Circle, Georgia 30025.

These meeting sites are accessible to people with physical disabilities. Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aids should be directed to John W. Bowers at (770) 918-6404 no later than May 7.

For more information on the scheduled public meetings, visit the Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Division Web site at, Wildlife Resources Division website at, or contact Eric VanDeGenachte at (404) 323-7333.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

Georgia Forestry Commission Sets Traps for Destructive Forest Pests

Residents in 23 Georgia counties may soon notice the Georgia Forestry Commission erecting special insect traps in their neighborhood. The traps, which are mounted on trees and look like small paperboard tents, are designed to detect the tiny gypsy moth, which has destroyed thousands of acres of trees throughout the Northeastern United States.

“Gypsy moths will feed on any kind of tree species, but especially like oaks,” said Scott Griffin, Forest Health Specialist with the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC). “Through the end of May, GFC Professionals will be putting up 4,600 traps statewide. We’ll be targeting fast-growing counties and likely introduction sites, such as state parks, where visitors might inadvertently bring in the gypsy moth.”

The gypsy moth is a serious forest pest capable of causing severe damage to trees. There are currently no known gypsy moth infestations in Georgia; however, White, Fannin and Rockdale counties have recorded infestations in the past. Gypsy moths were caught in Glynn, Chatham and Morgan counties last year, so more intensive trapping is planned for these three counties to determine whether an infestation is beginning. The traps being erected by the GFC contain pheromone lures, which mimic what the female gypsy moth releases, and in turn lure male moths and catch them in a sticky trap. Gypsy moth larvae are the insect’s destructive life stage, which hatch and feed on trees’ young leaf sprouts in the spring.

“Gypsy moths can defoliate thousands of acres of trees in short order,” explained Griffin. “If we find evidence of even one moth, we start high intensity trapping where it was caught. We’re working hard to ensure this destructive pest does not invade Georgia’s 24.8 million acres of forest land.”

The 23 counties in which gypsy moth traps will be placed are: Brantley, Chatham, Clarke, Columbia, Dade, Effingham, Elbert, Floyd, Glynn, Houston, Laurens, Liberty, Macon, Monroe, Morgan, Putnam, Seminole, Talbot, Troup, Union, Wayne, White and Whitfield.

For more information about the gypsy moth or other forest pests, forest health, and the many services offered by the Georgia Forestry Commission, visit

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Downtown Canton Farmers Market Open June - Sept

The Downtown Canton Farmers Market promotes local farmers and local artisans. All produce is Georgia grown and most is organic. All of our artists hand make their items. We started the market in 2009 and it has been a huge success. The market is located in Cannon Park by the gazebo and the hours of operation are 8:00am – 12:00pm.We will have the market every Saturday through September, rain or shine.

The Grand Opening Day, June 5th will feature Kipley Jazz Trio to kick off the event. This year we will have cooking demonstrations and more kid’s activities. We urge you all to come check out the freshest and most beautiful produce. Some of our vendors may give out samples. We promote buy local, shop local. We support our downtown community and downtown merchants. We also promote lots of fun! Hope to see you there.

Saturdays, June 5th through September
Cannon Park in Downtown Canton
8:00am - 12:00 pm

Attract Goldfinches, Banana Popsicle Smelling shrubs and more...

 Question: What can I plant in my garden to attract goldfinches?

Answer: Sow sunflowers. Goldfinches love to eat the seeds. Choose varieties with lots of flowers instead of a variety that produces only one giant flower per plant. Goldfinches also eat the seeds of purple coneflowers. Purple coneflowers are perennials and though they may be grown from seed, they are more commonly acquired by purchasing the plants from your local nursery or garden center. To a lesser extent, goldfinches will eat the seeds from Mexican sunflower (tithonia), zinnias and black-eyed Susans. They love to eat seeds of dandelion and thistle and will use thistle down in making their nests.

Q: My neighbor has a shrub with small flowers that smell like banana Popsicles. What is its name?

A: It is appropriately called “banana shrub” (Michelia figo), and it does indeed smell like banana-flavored Popsicles or Creamsicles. The fragrance is strongest in the afternoon. The flowers are cream to creamy yellow, edged in purple and not particularly showy. The fragrance is unique and wonderful. The shrub is an attractive evergreen and can reach 10 feet high and 15 feet wide but is usually much smaller. With occasional pruning it can easily be kept as an informal hedge. It is a good shrub for planting next to a patio or porch where its fragrance can be appreciated up close. It is best for coastal, southern, and middle Georgia. It may be killed or suffer winter damage in the mountains.

Q: What is surimi?

A: Surimi is a minced fish product used to manufacture simulated crabmeat, lobster and other seafood.

Q: When do Georgia peaches come in season?

A: Some early varieties from south Georgia become available in May. The season extends through August and even into early September thanks to late varieties and Georgia’s geography and topography. Trees in north Georgia and at higher elevations will bloom and bear later than their south Georgia counterparts. 
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Georgia's Burn Ban Effective May 1

Georgia’s annual air quality ban on outdoor burning, mostly in the northern half of Georgia, begins on Saturday, May 1, 2010. The annual restrictions will be in place for 54 counties through September 30.
“The Georgia Environmental Protection Division puts this ban in place to comply with Federal Clean Air Regulations,” said Alan Dozier, Chief of Forest Protection for the Georgia Forestry Commission. “Ozone levels increase to unhealthy levels in summer,” he said. “Most types of open burning are restricted during the ban in an effort to manage the summertime surge in ozone levels.”

The following counties are under the 2010 burn ban: Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Bibb, Butts, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clarke, Clayton, Cobb, Columbia, Coweta, Crawford, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Floyd, Forsyth, Fulton, Gordon, Gwinnett, Hall, Haralson, Heard, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Lamar, Lumpkin, Madison, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Paulding, Peach, Pickens, Pike, Polk, Putnam, Richmond, Rockdale, Spalding, Troup, Twiggs, Upson, Walker, and Walton.

The outdoor burning ban is under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Environmental Protection Division (EPD), Air Protection Branch.

The Georgia Forestry Commission operates an on-line burn permit system at 1-877-OK2-BURN. The phone system informs callers by county whether or not they can burn. Residents may also call their county GFC office for more information or visit

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Metro Market Atlanta Seeking Great Produce!

Just had a great conversation with Dori Ginsberg about the Metro Market Atlanta event happening this month (May). It's a fantastic set up and they're doing a lot of marketing to get folks walking through the show. One area they'd like to expand is the Farmers Market portion of the show.

If you have produce, especially organic (but not required) then you may want to check them out. I'll be there the weekend of May 22nd with my pottery ( and one of our other advertisers ( will be there the entire month with their garden tools and products.

Dori and partner Candice Keilin have both had successful independent ventures in the past and I know this is going to be another now that they've partnered for the Metro Market Atlanta.

There will be art, activities for kids, demonstrations, food, crafts and something for everyone.  

This is currently a one month event but they have high hopes it will expand into a permanent Market located right downtown in the midst of Buckhead. They have super visibility on Hwy. 85, too. The Metro Market Atlanta is located in the Old Buckhead Design Building.

May 7th - 30th 2010
Yes the whole month of May!!!
Friday - Sunday Only
2133 Piedmont Rd
Atlanta, GA 30324
(The Old Buckhead Design Building)

Presenting another fun and exciting show. 
Now you can enjoy the flavor of a European Style Market right here in Atlanta
Time :
 FRIDAY 12pm -6pm,
SATURDAY 10am-5pm,
SUNDAY 12pm-5pm

Metro Market Atlanta is proud to present its Spring 2010 show. We open just in time for Mother's Day.  It's true Atlantans love to Shop, so the Metro Market has put together the finest group of Local talented artists and a few artists from out of state. which includes unique handmade gifts, gourmet foods, children's clothing, jewelry, metal and fine art.  Each Market has its own distinctive feel of a European indoor street fair. Come out and be apart of the experience. Check the website for the dates and times of our Buckhead Farmers Market......coming soon!



Old Man Winter’s Effects “Spring Up” in an Early Mosquito Season

(BUSINESS WIRE)--While Old Man Winter may be gone, his wicked ways still haunt homeowners and this year will cause mosquitoes to make an early and strong return. According to Arrow Exterminators pest expert Shay Runion, the unusually moist ground from heavy rains in March, combined with the warmer than normal spring temperatures, have provided the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Large numbers of mosquitoes have already been spotted across the southern United States -- from Atlanta to Dallas. Arrow Exterminators has also received earlier than normal calls requesting seasonal mosquito treatments, and encourages homeowners to prepare their yards and homes now for the mosquito invasion.

“Many people don’t realize that a few simple changes can prevent a yard from becoming mosquito central”

Mosquitoes are arguably the most notorious summer pests. Active from dusk until dawn, mosquitoes will travel up to 14 miles to feed on human blood. Mosquitoes often leave behind itchy, red bumps on the skin of their victims. More seriously, they can also spread diseases, most notably West Nile Virus and malaria.

Mosquitoes breed in areas with stagnant water, such as birdbaths, old tires, storm drains and wading pools. Once mosquitoes lay eggs, it only takes 7-10 days for them to mature into adults in these prime conditions leading to more mosquitoes sooner.

“Many people don’t realize that a few simple changes can prevent a yard from becoming mosquito central,” said Runion.

Arrow Exterminators suggests taking the following steps to combat mosquitoes this spring and summer:

* Eliminate sources of standing water or replace standing water once a week.
* Introduce mosquito-eating fish such as gambusia, green sunfish, bluegills and minnows to a home pond.
* Screen windows and doors with mesh to prevent mosquitoes from getting inside homes.
* Be alert when going outdoors during dusk or dawn, when mosquitoes are at their peak.
* Use insect repellent containing (DEET) on exposed skin whenever or wherever mosquitoes are likely to bite.
* When outdoors, wear shoes, especially in grassy areas.
* Cut back or get rid of unnecessary vegetation around the home where pests can breed or nest.

Arrow protects homes from mosquitoes with the STEPS™ Total Protection System, an industry-leading process that utilizes Integrated Pest Management. STEPS includes a full inspection of home and property to pinpoint pest control issues; identification of not only the pest, but the true cause of the problem; and treatment in the most environmentally responsible way to alleviate current issues and help prevent any future recurrence.

Consumers interested in protecting their homes from pests may obtain additional information or view photos at Arrow’s Online Pest Guide or contact Arrow for a free whole home evaluation at 1-888-462-7769.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

7th Annual Daylily Festival June 4 - 5

Friday 5PM - 9PM Saturday 9AM - 4PM

Gray Elementary Pecan Orchard
273 Railroad Street - Gray, Georgia

Entry Deadline: May 26, 2010

Located on Railroad Street and presented by Gray Station Better Hometown, Inc, The 7th Annual Daylily Festival invites you to participate in this annual event.

Just fifteen minutes from Macon, an easy drive from Atlanta and Georgia's Lake Country, the Daylily Festival is growing every year... This is truly an event in which the entire community is involved!
Arts and Crafts
5K Road Race/Fun Run
Live Music
Generous Selection of Food
Children's Area
Horseshoe Tournament
Golf Tournament
Teddy Bear Walk
And...of course, DAYLILIES!

Nancy PaceGray Station
Better Hometown
Daylily Festival
P. O. Box 626

Gray, Georgia 31032

Gray Station Better Hometown, Inc.

Jones County - Gray Chamber of Commerce