18 Ga. Gardening Challenge

first_img Volume XXVII Number 1 Page 18 For newcomers, gardening in Georgia can be challenging.High humidity, fluctuating temperatures, heavy clay soils and uncertain frost dates complicate gardening in north Georgia.South Georgia has many of the same problems. The high humidity lasts longer, though, and south Georgia has, for the most part, sandy soils that require more fertilizer and water than you’re used to providing.Gardening zones Georgia is split into two major gardening zones by the fall line, which runs from Columbus through Macon to Augusta. North of the fall line, soils tend to be predominately clay, while south of it they’re more sandy. Some of the sandy areas will have an underlying clay base, while others are deep sands.Still, Georgia gardeners grow great lawns, stunning flowers and excellent vegetables. Those who are patient, select the right plants and manipulate the soil and microclimate are amply rewarded.More often than not, newcomers previously gardened where “you stick a plant in the ground and it grows.” Those from Northern states are often puzzled why certain plants that did well for them there do poorly here.Many of Georgia’s major growth areas are on heavy, clay soil. These soils have poor aeration that limits root growth and plants’ ability to replenish water losses when rainfall is low and the temperature high. On this soil, use organic matter to help break up the heavy clay and hold more water.Big state, big differencesGeorgia is a big state — the largest east of the Mississippi. Frost dates vary widely. South Georgia’s growing season can be four months longer than north Georgia’s.In extreme south Georgia, the last spring frost is around March 5, while the mountains may see frost as late as May 15. The first fall frost can be in mid-October in the mountains and Dec. 10 near the Florida line.With this in mind, put your garden in the best place you can. The best plot is sunny, away from trees and close to water, with good air circulation and drainage.Raised beds will help move air and reduce some of the humidity-spawned diseases. Low places are likely to get killing frosts much quicker than places with good air drainage.Gardens where cold air is trapped may have earlier frost kills than even nearby gardens. So don’t put hedges, fences or walls downslope from your garden, where they can trap cold air and cause early cold injury.Our long growing season brings problems. Insects. Diseases. Weeds. But don’t despair. You can cope with them as we have for 250-plus years.Don’t try to kill them all. You can’t. They’ll outsmart you. But don’t just do nothing, either, or they’ll take you over. Plant more and share might seem the solution. No, seriously, there are organic and inorganic ways to deal with pest problems.Going against popular belief, weeds will likely be the worst problem, diseases second and insects the least of your worries.But it isn’t all bad. There is a brighter side.The brighter sideGeorgia’s long growing season and abundant sunshine enable gardeners to grow some of the best vegetables and flowers anywhere.Vegetables, with some care in selecting varieties, grow luxuriantly in most places. Without snow and numbing temperatures, Georgians can grow something almost year-round.Fall and winter are prime gardening times for cool-season crops. Cool nights and warm days let gardeners grow excellent potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and other cool-season vegetables.And gardening information is close by. The University of Georgia Extension Service is on-line with the latest gardening information (www.ces.uga.edu and click on “Publications”). County agents can answer specific questions (look in the blue pages under county government). And your neighbor has been gardening here a long time and likely knows most of the tricks.Many great friendships have begun over the garden fence. By Wayne McLaurin Georgia Extension Servicelast_img

Leave a Reply