Archive for garden

George’s Soil Recipe

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George’s Soil Recipe:

by George Giltner, Advanced Louisiana Master Gardener

Ingredients:

  • Compost (homemade or purchased)
  • Garden soil (Not “potting soil”) Note: Your own top soil or soil from the garden is recommended.
  • Expanded Shale
  • Zeolite

WHEN USING THIS SOIL MIXTURE FOR CONTAINER PLANTING:

If you have several containers you will want to mix up a batch of soil mixture and then fill your containers.  In the bottom of your container(s), add about 2 inches of volcanic rock.  This is called “Red Lava Rock” at most stores or garden centers.  This rock allows for drainage and keeps the soil from coming out of the bottom of the pot, and it allows for oxygen.

The next thing you are going to do is mix up a batch of the soil mixture:

Use a wheelbarrow or other type large container and combine the following:

  1.  Compost — Use a five-gallon bucket and put in 1 ½ buckets of compost in your mixing container. You can use your own compost or purchase some. (And you know we are going to tell you that your own homemade compost is best.)Garden Soil (Any will do, but your own is best.) (Use Five-Gallon Bucket and put in 1 ½ buckets).

 

  1. Garden Soil (Any will do, but your own is best.) (Use Five-Gallon Bucket and put in 1 ½ buckets).
  2. Expanded Shale (Use Five-Gallon Bucket and put in 1 ½ buckets).
  3. Zeolite (This is called “Horse Stall Refresher at Tractor Supply) (Use approximately 1 cup – it doesn’t take much of this.)

(Note:  If you just want to use the mixture in one planter and not mix up a batch, you could just put in red lave rock, use a container such as a five-gallon bucket and add 1/3 expanded shale, 1/3 compost and 1/3 potting soil to fill the five-gallon bucket.  Toss in a small handful of zeolite and mix this up.  Use the mixture to fill your planting container.)

When you are ready to plant, fill your planting container(s) almost to the top with your mixture, allowing room to plant and to water.  Add your plants and water in.  The organics in the pot will have to be replenished as they break down over time.
WHEN USING EXPANDED SHALE SOIL MIXTURE FOR IN-GROUND GARDENING:

Obviously you will not be able to mix up large enough batch for in-ground planting.  In this case you will just add a couple of inches of fresh compost, spread about two inches of expanded shale on the top, then sprinkle a light coat of Zeolite on top, then rototill in.

Explanation of why this Works:

  1. Compost is your nutrient source for plant fertility.
  2. Garden soil provides life (microbes to insects), nutrients, humus, minerals, etc. much like the compost.
  3. Expanded shale provides a large porous structure for air and water exchange, and it contains charge sites for nutrient retention (improves CEC).  Roots need oxygen and a stable supply of water that expanded shale provides this.
  4. Zeolite is a group of minerals consisting of hydrated aluminosilicates of sodium, potassium, calcium, and barium. They can be readily dehydrated and rehydrated, and are used as cation exchangers and molecular sieves.  Zeolite acts as a good binder for dry soil (for example soil that has too much organic matter and as a result it dries out).  Zeolite will bind the soil and keeps it from drying out.  Zeolite is much like expanded shale on steroids in a micro-sized granular form.  It encourages bacterial life in rhizosphere of the root zone.  Therefore your containers will have to be watered less, plants will grow healthier, and less nutrient amendments will be needed.  Once the expanded shale and zeolite has been added, it does not break down like many other soil conditioners.  These two soil conditioners have proven themselves in NASA Space Station experiments, and in down-to-earth gardens like the Dallas Arboretum.

 

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

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By: Emily Shirley, President, Beauregard Master Gardeners Assoc.

Happy June!  If you live in the South, you know what we do in June and it does not necessarily have anything to do with gardening.  We prepare for hurricane season.  This month’s newsletter will toss in a little reminder of things to do for this season.  As with all our newsletters, we publish with the new gardener in mind, while also reminding seasoned gardeners of things they already know. 

 

This month we give you articles on composting and even share that now not-so-secret “Master Gardener soil recipe” developed by Advanced Master Gardener, George Giltner.  And you say, what else is there to learn about composting?  It really is science and I am one of those people that have to let science soak in.  Composting really is such an important topic not only for the home gardener, but for everyone involved in tending the earth and growing crops, whether you live on thousands of acres or on a tiny plot. If you are going to garden, “it all starts with the soil.” 

Soil must be replenished. And adding compost, (organic matter), is how soil is replenished. There is no substitute for adding back organic matter to your soil.  If you are gardening and you aren’t composting, make it a resolution to start a compost pile, or two or three, somewhere in your garden area. You’ll be a better gardener and have better soil too.

 

The AgCenter has been getting calls about these “tiny worms” that are coming inside the home so we are also sharing information on these “Millipedes”.  And, oh the confusion between the leaf-footed bug and the milkweed assassin –we will try to clear that up for you too. Probably the last thing a gardener would want to do is kill off a beneficial insect, like the Milkweed Assassin Bug, that is controlling pests (flies, mosquitoes, caterpillars, cucumber beetles, the Asian citrus psyllid, aphids, army worms, and other prey 6x their size). 

 

We know that next to tomatoes and peppers, the next vegetable that most gardeners always grow is squash.  But growing squash means there are many questions to ask about what is going on when you do have issues.  The article “Six Reasons Squash Fails and What to Do About It” will hopefully help you with all your squash issues. 

Emily

 

 

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GOOD HABITS IN THE GARDEN

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GOOD HABITS IN THE GARDEN

By Emily Shirley, Master Gardener

Bad habits are hard to break, and sometimes all it takes to break a bad habit or establish a new or good habit is to just give it some thought.  Here’s some food for thought:

Get in the habit of controlling weeds every chance you get.

Do not let weeds get out of hand before taking efforts to control them. Dealing with weeds is an unavoidable part of landscape upkeep. Yards with regular weed maintenance tend to have less severe weed problems.

Avoid creating a landscape that demands more time and maintenance than you can keep up and enjoy. Get in the habit of finding ways to reduce the maintenance you already have.

It’s important to design a landscape that only requires as much maintenance time and effort as you have to give. Remember lawn areas, large vegetable gardens and flowerbeds are high maintenance.  Consider letting some areas go native – plant native wildflowers and let that area be for a while.  Maybe you will need to mow it a couple of times a year instead of every week.

Make it a habit of seeking out only gardening information that is appropriate for southwest Louisiana.

I have a pretty large library and a lot of shelf space goes to the gardening books.  I try to focus on plants and gardening information on plants that will grow in the area where I live.  The Internet is full of gardening information, but much of it is not suitable for our area. We want to focus on what grows here and how to manage what we grow here.  For information on a wide variety of garden topics that is specifically prepared for Louisiana gardeners, check out the LSU AgCenter at http://www.lsuagcenter.com. Click on “Lawn & Garden” & “Get It Growing.”

Effectively use mulches in flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, around shrubs and other appropriate areas every chance you get. Good habit–replace as needed. Mulches — such as pine straw, leaves, dry grass clippings, ground bark and wood products — are our best, first line of defense in controlling weeds in beds. They also conserve soil moisture reducing watering, look attractive, and prevent soil compaction and moderate soil temperatures. There are few things we do as gardeners that are more beneficial than mulching.

Get the soil tested (good habit, at least every three years.) Getting your soil tested will help you make the best gardening decisions. Test results indicate what fertilizers are needed. And knowing the soil pH can help with plant selection. Instructions are inside the soil testing kit that you get from the AgCenter.

Attend as many gardening educational events as possible. You cannot get more local than attending educational events right in your state.  You can learn so much from just having conversations with gardeners at gardening events and listening to lectures from experts in the field of horticulture.  I so look forward to spring each year when I can start attending all these gardening events!

Visit the outstanding public gardens around the State, country, or the world. Always take a notebook and a camera to write down and take pictures of the things that you see that inspire you.  When they have labels by or on their plants, I take a close-up picture of the label, then a picture of the plant.  Besides the beauty of public gardens, they also can teach us many lessons about design and plant materials. We have so much to see in Louisiana!  And, I’ll toss this in as a reminder of those of you traveling abroad.  Always look up public gardens before you travel and make it a point of seeing some of the beautiful gardens of the world while on your trip.  I’ve been to Monet’s Garden in France twice and am going again this spring.  I just can’t get enough of it!

Grow something you can eat this year, and get in the habit of eating more clean food.  One of the goals of the Beauregard Master Gardeners is to teach people to grow food.  In this day and age of so many processed foods causing so many health (and weight) issues, it is even more important that we find a way to get back to eating good clean food.  Growing your own is the best way.  You don’t have to till acres of land in order to grow vegetables. You can grow just about every vegetable in a container.  If you are new to vegetable gardening, don’t worry – it needn’t be complicated.

Take better care of your garden tools. Those that know me know that I am a little obsessed about gardening tools.  I want three of each! I also like to see people take care of their tools.   I must admit, there are times when I fall behind and let bad habits slip up on me.  When I am really tired at the end of the day after being outside in the heat all day, I sometimes do not clean my tools before putting them away.  But I try to not go for months without cleaning and oiling them.  Good quality garden tools should last for many years. There are three important points: avoid rust-inducing moisture, keep them sharpened, and occasionally apply a coat of oil.  For shovels, just keep a pail of sand with some oil soaked in sitting in the tool shed.  When you are done with the shovel at the end of the day, stab it in the sand a few times to clean and oil at the same time.  The easier you make something, the more likely you will develop the habit of doing it.

Start a compost pile, or if you have one, take better care of it. Nothing beats biologically active homemade compost when doing bed preparation or putting together potting mixes. Composting is not complicated; it can involve nothing more than piling up grass clippings, leaves and other landscape waste in an out-of-the-way area and allowing it to naturally decay. Toss in those kitchen scraps of greens and vegetables that go bad in the refrigerator and “make the worms happy.”  Don’t forget to harvest it and use it as needed.

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Alternatives to Toxic Insecticides

Alternatives to Toxic Insecticides

By George Giltner, Adv. Master Gardener, MS Biology

A third study now validates results of earlier research of associations between autism and prenatal exposure to agriculture chemicals (www.ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1307044/).  “Women who are pregnant should take care to avoid contact with agricultural chemicals whenever possible” says author, Janie F. Shelton who is now a consultant with the U.N.

Three groups of common pesticides were studied that included organophosphates (chlorpyrifos, acephate, diazinon, and others), pyrethroids (esfenvalerate, lambda-cypermethrin, taufluvalinate, and others), and carbamates (methomyl, carbaryl, and others). The organophosphates were associated with an elevated risk of autism spectrum disorder, especially chlorpyrifos applications in the second trimester. Pyrethroids had a moderate association with autism spectrum disorder immediately prior to conception and in the third trimester. Carbamates were associated with developmental delays.

The present rate of autism is now at 1:68 births according to estimates from the CDC.  Also about 1 in 6 children in the United States had a developmental disability in 2006-2008. In the birth year of 1992, the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder was 1 in 150, which has steadily increased to 1 in 68 in the 2002 birth year.

Therefore as gardeners, we should always use the least toxic chemicals, read labels, follow all safety precautions, and keep up with the latest research concerning pest control.

The good news is that more and more information is available on less toxic pesticides.  Clemson Cooperative Extension has an outstanding article on “Less Toxic Insecticides” which conscientious gardeners should print out (www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic).  “Most essential oils used as pesticides work by disrupting an insect neurotransmitter that is not present in people, pets, or other vertebrates.” The EPA no longer requires approval for use as pesticides due to minimum risk to uses of these essential oils (cedar, cinnamon, citronella, citrus, clove, garlic, mints, rosemary and others).

Microbial insecticides include Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) for caterpillar control.  Milky Spore (Bacillus papillae and lentimorbus) is used against June bug larvae – grub worms. Spinosad, Saccharopolyspora spinosa is a treatment for fire ants, caterpillars, thrips, whiteflies, aphids, and even borers of fruit trees. Beneficial nematodes are the good nematodes that control clearwing borers, cutworms, sod webworms, mole crickets, and grub worms.  However nematodes are difficult to get started due to humidity, moisture, shipping, and temperature issues.

Bacillus subtilis and pumilus combat downy and powdery mildews, rust, bacterial spot, blight, botrytis and multiple other mildews on veggies, fruits, ornamentals, trees, and shrubs.

Minerals like boric acid acts as a stomach poison which causes the insects to die from starvation.  Diatomaceous Earth controls slugs, millipedes, ants, cockroaches, and soft-bodied insects like aphids. However use the “natural grade”, not the swimming pool filtering-agent that poses an inhalation hazard.  Sodium Fluoaluminate has sharp edges which punctures insect (caterpillars, sawflies, beetles, etc.) gut cells from consuming leafy material, however beneficial insects are not affected since they are not leaf eaters.  Iron phosphate is used as an organic slug and snail bate.  It is not poisonous to cats and dogs.

“Organic Farm and Garden” 2013, Vol.1, 2nd Ed., lists Biological Control Options which incorporates predator and prey functions in every ecosystem.  Plant nectar sources attract beneficial insects, and allow them to lay eggs near this food source.  Plant small flower favorites like dill, parsley, fennel oregano, cilantro, and thyme.  Also include annuals like sunflowers, cosmos, amaranth, alyssum and statice.  Perennials like yarrow, tansy, daises and angelica can be inter-planted within your garden.  Your beautiful garden will buzz with beneficial insects, and will have an ecological balance of predator and prey bugs.

“Louisiana Gardener”, Feb. 2015, has a super article, “What’s Bugging You?” by Cindy Shapton.  She puts emphasis on learning good bugs and bad bugs. Numerous recipes for repellants to easy to make sticky-traps are highlighted.

“The Naturally Bug-free Garden”, 2012, by Anna Hess is now available at Amazon.  It focuses on the worst garden pests that we have here and in Texas, and gives organic control measures.  Good bugs and good animals are reviewed and used to make your garden a living balance of natural defenses.  Resistant varieties, row covers, companion planting, and plant nutrition are tools for helping plants resist insects.  This is a good book to assist the beginner and young gardeners in learning about organic gardening.  It is a treasure!

So this year, learn, read, and experiment with organic chemical-free gardening to avoid potentially dangerous chemicals that are used in commercial agriculture.

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Beauregard Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens Closing

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 Beauregard Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens Closing

by Ms. Emily Shirley, President, Beauregard Parish Master Gardeners

I almost started this paragraph with “On a sad note…” but I corrected myself – it is not on a sad note, it is on a note of appreciation and thankfulness. There was so much that was accomplished, good times, sharing, and lots of learning that too place in the Demo Gardens.  Last month the Beauregard Master Gardeners made the decision to close the Demonstration Gardens that have been in existence for approximately five years.  This was a wonderful and successful project and now we are ready to move on to other projects.

There are so many of you to thank and recognize for the work that you did, as well as the time, money, and energy you spent to make this project so successful, I can’t begin to name everyone.  We have money in our account at this time because you so willing to spend your own personal money to pay for things in the gardens. I want you to know that that has not gone unnoticed.  There are a few that spent a considerable amount of time and personal money and I do want to publically acknowledge them.

George and Merlyn Giltner spent so much in terms of money and time that I cannot begin to list all the things they did or all the things they paid for.  There were times when it was so hot and some days when it was so wet and ugly, but you could pass by the gardens and you would see George and Merlyn out there working.  On those hot days when things needed to be watered every day, we could always know that things were being taken care of because George and Merlyn would be there to water things.

The same goes for John Markham.  I even joked one time that I really thought John was living the potting shed in the Demo Gardens and had not informed any of us.  He was there almost every day working and taking care of things.  Not only did John oversee the installation of the irrigation system, I never worried about the system in the winter time because I knew John would take care of it.  The same for the raised beds.  John was always around to plant, fertilize, water and harvest the vegetables.  John and Dale Vincent raised some beautiful corn that we were able to sell at the Farmer’s Market and made money for future projects.

Jimmy Cooley installed an awesome Muscadine orchard and showed us all how it is done and what materials to use.  It was a wonderful teaching project and we so appreciate all the time, money and energy that went into that project.

Chris Krygowski came along just as we were all talking about a Children’s Garden.  She not only volunteered to help with this project, she agreed to head up this project and made it into something the rest of only dreamed of.  We all have commented on the energy Chris seemed to always have and the number of hours she spent making that area into what it is.

Dana Whittington took over an area of the garden that was difficult to garden for a number of reasons, but she certainly showed us that it can be done — if you have a difficult area you can always garden in containers.  In addition to the onions, garlic in the ground, she demonstrated how to grow purple potatoes and carrots in containers.  I harvested some of her onions and carrots for a wonderful soup one day last year.  Fresh from the ground is always good!

Allen Wells demonstrated how to grow vertically with his “Arbor Garden”.  His use of cow-pen panels is a unique way to have things growing overhead while other plants in-ground below.

And who can forget John Hendrix’s okra – we thought he had some type “Jack-And-The-Beanstalk” type okra out there.  And he harvested okra right into the fall.

Shirley Corda spent a considerable amount of time helping us get our Five-Year-Plan on paper to be presented to the Fair Board.

Keith Hawkins has been our MG Coordinator from the beginning and we appreciate what he has done for this program.  And to ALL the others not mentioned above, THANK YOU for all your contributions of time, money and sweat equity.  A job well done!

Ms. Emily Shirley is a Master Gardener in Beauregard Parish. She also publishes the BEAUREGARD MASTER GARDENER NEWSLETTER.

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Results of a Successful French Drain

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Results of a Successful French Drain

By Beauregard Master Gardeners

A French drain system consisting of 4 inch perforated sleeved drain pipe was installed on the east end of the Beauregard Master Garden in DeRidder, Louisiana on October 27.  The depth varied from 8 inches to 20 inches as a sighted laser level for gravity drainage in a South direction.  Gravel was placed below and above the drain pipe along with a tight weave landscape fabric above a portion of the gravel fill.

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Before: Demonstration garden at 7:30 AM.

On November 23 an overnight flooding rain occurred.  Pictures were taken at 7:45 am and then at 4:30 pm for comparison.  Typically rain-water would keep this garden area flooded for several days.  Within 9 hours, the area around the French drain showed minimal surface water.  In other parts of the garden on the west end, water holding low areas were still flooded after the 9-hour lag.  The desired effect of the drain is demonstrated in the photographs.

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After: Demo garden at 4:30 PM of the same day. Photos: George Giltner

The project was necessary to prevent fertilizer leaching, water-logging of soils, fungal and bacterial infections of planted materials, anaerobic acidification, and volatilization of sulfur and nitrogen compounds.

 

 

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Residue Problems with Herbicides in Gardening

Residue Problems with Herbicides in Gardening

By George Giltner, MS Biology, Adv. Master Gardener

 

A recent Mercola interview with MIT research scientist, Dr. Stephanie Seneff has raised the awareness of human health problems with glyphosate (Roundup) that has entered the American food supply by genetically modified organisms (GMO’s which include wheat, corn, soybeans, etc.).

 

Everyone has heard the sales pitch of how “biodegradable”, “environmentally friendly”, and “clean and inert” it is for years.  Now biochemical research is painting a different picture that looks more like an evil villain.  Mounting evidence according to Dr. Seneff pictures glyphosate as “the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies”.

 

These chronic diseases are the result of nutritional deficiencies and systemic toxicity caused by glyphosate. Strangely, the mechanism of harm is through intestinal microbes.  Beneficial gut bacteria are preferentially affected (as weeds), causing disruption in microbial functions and lifecycle.  Pathogens flourish and then inflammation causes disease.  For a better description of the mechanisms, please view the hour-long interview: www.articles.mercola.com./sites/articles/archive/2013/06/09/monsanto-roundup-herbicide.aspx.  Note: Some terms are scientific, however concepts are simplified by an interviewer.  Discussions involve biochemical mechanisms related to autism, allergies, gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.

 

When you do use Roundup at home treat it with respect. Wear PPE, bathe, wash clothes, and do not inhale spray droplets.  Keep the kids away from spray area and don’t let the dog roll in grass sprayed that will be rubbed off by petting at a later time.  Remember that the half life of glyphosate ranges from 1 to 174 days as water and bacterial action are required for degradation.  In ponds the half life is about 2 weeks to 10 weeks.

 

Another herbicide commonly used is “Sledgehammer”, halosulfuron-methyl. For controlling pesky nutgrass this herbicide will work by systemically destroying the nut tuber and stem.  The question always comes up – “Can I use it in my Vegetable Garden?”  The answer is emphatically “No” or “No Way”.  The reason – The EPA states that it can persist at toxic levels to plants for months or years.  Therefore if you have a garden area that was sprayed with this chemical, and it has not produced vegetables for years, it may be due this persistent chemical herbicide.

 

Yet another herbicide, Tordon (picloram) is commonly used to rid property of tallow trees or to destroy regrowth from stumps. The problem with Tordon is that it also persist for a long time, like several years.  Trees in the vicinity of a treated tree may also be killed as the chemical can be easily absorbed by nearby roots.  Broadleaf crops can be damage for up to two years.  Extension recommends use of Roundup for stumps and root sprouts.  Tordon should not be used for backyard usage.

 

These are just three examples of herbicides with residual or human health effects. Before you use any chemical for gardening, do like our county agent says, “Read everything on the herbicide label”.  Also be sure to wear PPE, and above all keep updated on new research and herbicide safety.

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