Nothing is more irritating than seeing a crop you have invested time and money into be destroyed by pests and diseases. There are many practices you can put in place to keep these annoyances out. Today we will take a deeper dive into what is preventing you from having your best harvest.
Some of the most common pests and diseases we see in our vegetables throughout the southeast include powdery mildew, root-knot nematodes, and southern blight. It is vital to know how to identify diseases and pests to put practices in place to prevent them.
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that commonly affects cucurbits, including pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, and melons. Powdery mildew is easiest to identify as it covers the upper part of the leaves with white powdery spots. Powdery mildew slows the growth of your plant and reduces fruit and yield quality.
The other disease to keep an eye out for in the garden is southern blight, also known as southern wilt or southern stem rot. This disease is a soil-borne fungus and can attack many different vegetable and ornamental plants. To spot southern blight, you need to look for discolored lower leaves and wilted foliage; these symptoms will usually lead the plant to collapse, resulting in a crop loss.
Not only do you have to watch out for diseases in the garden but also be on the watch for non-beneficial pests. Root-knot nematodes are a parasitic nematode and are different from predatory nematodes. Predatory nematodes are often referred to as beneficial nematodes because they attack other pests. Root-knot nematodes are invisible to the naked eye and attack living plant matter, causing the plant to wilt, and it may result in stunted growth and lack of fruit production.
These are just a few of the common pests and diseases found in the home garden. Though many things can hinder you from having a successful garden, there are also many ways to prevent it. One major thing to do to keep these things out of your garden is selecting the right seeds. If you realize last year you had powdery mildew on your cabbage, next year, you need to get seeds that are powdery mildew resistant. Growing the correct variety for your garden will ensure fewer diseases and pests, which will lead to a successful harvest.
Carrying out conservation practices within your garden will ensure a healthy harvest for many years. Conservation in the garden can come in all shapes and sizes. Three main conservation tips we are going to touch on today are irrigation, cover crops, and crop rotation.
Irrigation is the process of applying controlled amounts of water to plants at set intervals. This practice can vary on water usage depending on the scale of your garden. If you have a more extensive garden, investing in drip irrigation may be a smart idea as it can be re-used. Drip irrigation only applies water right to the roots, which is an excellent conservation method even if you water your plants with a hose or watering can. Conserving water will cut down on your costs and time invested in your garden in addition to implementing best management practices.
The second conservation tip that will help your garden become more efficient is crop rotation. Crop rotation is the act of not planting the same type of crop in the same spot every year. This rotation will help keep soil healthy since growing the same kind of crops repeatedly will strip the soil of its nutrients. Having a good crop rotation is only possible with good planning. Planning out where you will plant what and having records of where you planted certain crops last year will help you in this conservation method. Not only should you not plant the same crop in one spot, but you need to make sure the crop you follow it up with isn’t from the same family. You can find crop families with a quick Google search.
If you would prefer not to rotate crops, another option to use is cover crops. Cover crops are crops you plant in-between seasons in the garden. There are many different cover crops such as sunflowers, buckwheat, and iron clay peas. Each cover crop adds other nutrients into the garden and can help with specific problems you may identify in your garden. Cover cropping is significant in making sure your cash crops get the essentials it needs. You don’t want to put too much effort into your cover crops, though, since they may not give you much of a return other than added nutrients to the ground. Spread the seed out and just let them grow. Take the time you are cover cropping as your break from the garden before you gear up for the next season.
These are just a few conservation practices that will help your garden and soil stay bountiful for many years. If you were to implement all three, you’ll see a positive change in your garden.
Gardener Must Haves: Tools You Need to be a Successful Gardener
A green thumb is one of those characteristics that if you don’t have it, you definitely wish you did. Some people are blessed with the ability to take care of a garden easily, and the rest of us need a little bit of help. Last week, we gave tips on where to start with this backyard garden, and today we’re going to touch on some tools to help keep it growing.
Equipment, like watering tools, shovels, and wheel barrels, that you use throughout the duration of the crop can have a significant impact on the success of your garden. Once you have your garden crops selected and planted, it is important to keep them hydrated. A basic water hose allows for easier access to make sure the plants have enough water to grow. If you don’t want to use a hose, a watering can is another good option. A shovel will come in handy for digging up weeds or when the crops are finished and ready to get out of the garden. It is crucial to get plants that are finished producing out of the garden promptly. Doing this will prevent pests and weeds. A wheel barrel can also be nice to have for your garden because you can haul waste and weeds off or bring in new compost with it.
In addition, you may want to consider some other tools outside of the basics, but they do add some additional costs. Tools to consider using before planting include a wheel hoe, a single tine cultivator, or a walk-behind tiller. These tools will ease the process of getting your soil ready to plant. These items can be a little more costly, but you will get a large return on your investment. Another garden investment is a good lawnmower. Though most people don’t think of it as garden equipment, a lawnmower can be a very vital piece to help trim the garden once plants are done producing.
Having the right tools is just one of many factors that go into having that successful backyard garden. Next week’s blog will be all about conservation practices and how to water your garden efficiently, which is another critical factor when growing a garden. Come back to learn more about achieving your best garden!
Want to Plant Your Own Garden? Here’s Where to Start!
During the months of quarantine, many people stuck at home took up the new hobby of gardening. Backyard gardening is possible for anyone but looks different for everyone; the garden can live in raised beds, bigger plots, or containers. More and more people are finding comfort in growing their own food. If you took up this new hobby or want to join the trend, how do you start with fall coming? The first step is to decide what you want to plant in your garden.
Popular and successful fall crops include sweet corn, herbs, and any leafy greens. Specific varieties include Ambrosia or Temptress sweet corn, herbs like cilantro and parsley, and any lettuce mixes. Some other plants that would be great for a backyard garden in the fall could be eggplants, peppers, and carrots.
The next step, once you decide what you want to grow, is to create a plan. Planning is an essential step when becoming a successful gardener. When planning for the crops you want to grow, there are two critical things to consider – first, maturity dates and, second, if they need to be transplanted or just directly seeded.
Maturity dates can be found on most seed packets or just with a simple google. It is an important date to know because this determines when you should plant by working backward from the maturity date to select your plant date. You want to have enough growing days that you can harvest your crop before the first frost date.
The other thing to consider is what seeds need to go directly into the ground or start as transplants. Seeds that would go straight into the ground would be lettuce, corn, peas, and carrots. Crops that would be better off as transplants include eggplant, peppers, beets, and any of the herbs.
Our garden at the Sunbelt Ag Expo is growing many of these favorites right now. Though we do not have people coming to see it for educational purposes, the garden is still making an impact. Every crop coming out of our Sunbelt Ag Expo garden is being donated to the Moultrie Food Bank to help those in need. Continue looking out for our gardening blog series so we can help you have a bountiful harvest to share with your friends, family, and those in your community.
“HAY FOR SALE!” Driving down a lonely country road in the middle of Smalltown, USA, you are more than likely to see a sign screaming at you in bright red letters about hay. This seems to be the way it has always been when you have some extra hay to spare for the year. There may be an ad placed in the local newspaper, phone calls made to friends and acquaintances who have cows or a dairy, or a sign posted on the side of the road with a number to call. While these methods are still common practice, a beginning hay farmer or someone looking to expand their operation may need new ways to reach a broader audience.
This was true in the case of Adam Verner whose family owned a hay farm in Madison, Georgia. The family farm had been in the Verner name for over 135 years; at its peak producing over 40,000 square hay bales, and 5,000 round bales were produced while also importing more hay and haylage from western states. This hay went to many ranches and dairies around the state and horse facilities in the Atlanta area as well as many bales going to the UGA Vet Science School. Verner Farms learned over the years that nothing sold hay better than just producing good, high quality hay.
“If you’ve got good hay, it will sell itself,” Verner says.
Verner believes, rather than marketing your hay to your neighbors and friends, entering it into hay contests such as the Southeastern Hay Contest, where winners are recognized at the Sunbelt Ag Expo, and the Georgia Farm Bureau Hay Contest is good practice in addition to donating it to local shows where hay is needed. With these tactics, the hay’s quality can speak for itself.
“Being a dependable producer that always provides a quality product will keep you in business,” says Verner. “It also helps to put yourself and your product out there through being involved in the industry.”
After Verner’s grandparents passed, the farm was sold, but the love for agriculture, and of course quality hay, still lives in his heart. He now owns a tractor dealership in Leesburg, Georgia, where he specializes in dairy, beef, and commercial hay equipment. He carried his ideals of being a dependable businessman with knowledge of the hay industry into his new venture and because of this, owns a thriving enterprise.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused many changes in 2020. Even though schools closed for long periods of time, many events cancelled like our beloved Sunbelt Ag Expo, some conferences have gone virtual, and events were postponed, we are happy to say that at least one thing is continuing – The Southeastern Hay Contest! A tradition since 2004, The Southeastern Hay Contest has been keeping hay growers striving for the best for over a decade.
The Southeastern Hay Contest spotlights high-quality hay and balayage production across the southeast, including submissions from multiple states across the region. Massey Furgeson and multiple other sponsors encourage and enable farmers to submit their hay into seven different categories ranging from warm season perennial grass hay to legume baleage.
The top three category winners are awarded cash prizes sponsored by R.W. Griffin Industries, America’s Alfalfa, Perennial Peanut Producers Association, Corteva Agriscience, Athens Seed Company, Pennington, and Southeast Agriseeds. The grand prize winner is sponsored by Massey Ferguson and will have the choice of the use of a new Massey Ferguson RK Series rotary rake or a new Massey Ferguson DM Series Professional disc mower for the 2021 hay production season AND receive $1,000 cash.
The awards are typically presented at the opening ceremony of the Sunbelt Ag Expo. Since this is not possible this year, the award winners will be announced at the American Forage and Grassland Conference conference Jan. 4, 2021, in Savannah, Georgia. Winners will be recognized for their accomplishments at the conference or virtually. For more information on the contest visit www.sunbeltexpo.com/highlighted-events/southeast-hay-contest and for more information on the conference visit www.afgc.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageID=3459 .
We often see a green field of grass during the summer as we drive down a winding country road. Then, later on we see neatly stacked bales of golden hay all in tidy rows. However, most people do not often think of the process that takes the green grass and turns it into the golden bales.
The hay harvesting process can be tricky. While you have to take into account the height and growth of the plant, moisture content is one of the most important factors when baling hay. For quality bales, the stem moisture of your hay should be between 8 and 15 percent. At that level of moisture, hay feels brittle and breaks easily. To accomplish this, it is best to have a few sunny days in the forecast to cut your pasture and this allows for the sunshine to help dry your hay.
So how does someone achieve a moisture level of 8 to 15 percent? Fortunately, farmers have traded their scythes, which used to be the only hay making tool, in for mowers, conditioners, tedders, rakes, and balers. This makes the process much quicker, saving time and labor.
To start the hay making process, mowers are used to make a clean and consistent cut no matter the terrain. Then, if needed, tedders spread the hay out of the rows created by the mower to allow the fresh cut forage to dry easier and more quickly. A must for any hay field is the rake. Rakes allow for hay to be collected into rows for easier baling. Then, the baler comes through and picks up the hay that was made into windrows by the rake to be packed into nice, neat bales.
Hay can be baled in many different shapes and sizes. The shape of the hay bales comes down to the baling equipment that is used. Large round bales are around 1,500 pounds each and can be moved by one person and a tractor, cutting down labor. Square bales may be smaller at 50 pounds each but these require more labor with multiple people moving them by hand.
Whether you choose round or square bales, hay can be offered as another source of nutrients that the animals might not receive from feed or grass. When there is not enough pasture land or maybe grazing is not giving them all of the nutrients they need, making hay is an effective and efficient way of getting your livestock the nutrition they need all year long.
Want to learn more about the nutritional qualities of hay?
Check out the blog here.
A lush, green field of forage paints a picturesque view on a drive through the country, but it also serves as the perfect grazing for a herd of cattle. However, when fresh forage is not available, high-quality hay can be the perfect nutritional substitute and can be a more cost effective option compared to other supplemental concentrates.
Lisa Baxter, a forage specialist with the University of Georgia, states, “although we have the ability to graze 365 days a year in Georgia, the reality is we will always have a few weeks that require supplementation. It is always good to have a month or so of high-quality hay on hand just in case of a failed stand of annual forage or inclement weather.”
Quality forage and hay are essential to a proper diet for cattle. The nutritional value of hay depends on different factors including forage species and variety, management, and fertilization.
“Cool season forages are generally more nutritious than warm season forages. Annual forages are usually better than perennial forages as well,” Baxter says.
The different types of forage also offer a variety of attributing factors to choose from based on the needs of your herd. Legume hay generally has a higher level of digestible energy as well as greater vitamin A and calcium content compared to other species. Alfalfa hay also offers more protein and calcium compared to other species. Also, Bermuda hay is a good source of vitamin A and D without an overload in protein, and it has a better balance between calcium and phosphorus. Forage sorghum is also another option that is good for cattle as well as conservation. It provides excellent hay and grazing and serves as an excellent cover crop, suppressing weeds and protecting the soil from wind and water erosion. While other factors are important to keep in mind, the number one factor that impacts hay quality is harvest timing.
“We recommend harvesting actively growing forages every 28-35 days. We tend to lose 0.5-1% TDN [total digestible nutrients] each day we delay harvest after the ‘ideal’ time,” Baxter says.
With this in mind, forage and hay sampling and testing can provide valuable information toward the health and nutrition of a herd. Baxter notes the importance of determining the nutritional demands of the animal consuming the hay to match that with the correct quality and type of hay. Georgia Forages offers many articles and video demonstrations on sampling and testing hay and forage in order to make smart management decisions. Check out georgiaforages.caes.uga.edu/ and the Georgia Forages Youtube Page to learn more.