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Time is right to plant for bountiful summer harvest
by Liz Marino
lmarino@neighbornewspapers.com
April 10, 2013 05:11 PM | 1291 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Liz Marino<br>Laila Arfaoui, 7, Hailey Wilson, 9, and AJ Jackson, 8, who attend Trowers Dream Academy afterschool program at Deer Lick  Park, get some gardening time in the Junior master Gardener’s garden at Deer Lick Park.
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Vegetable gardening has taken on a resurgence in popularity in recent years for a number of reasons, according to Douglas County extension coordinator Susan Culpepper.

In addition to the obvious health benefits of growing – and eating — a variety of nutritious, healthy vegetables and fruits, gardening can be a rewarding hobby and a way of getting outdoors and improving physical fitness, she said.

It can also be a source of peace and pride and self-confidence in learning and achieving something new.

“Gardening is a wonderful family activity for bringing everyone together,” she said. “It can bring you a sense of joy, pride and a way to do something together as a family.”

The weather this spring has bounced between bouts of warm sunshine and below- or near-freezing temperatures.

Douglas County Extension Agent Kevin Livingston has made it official: gardeners, start your tillers.

With gardening, timing is important. Free publications about gardening in Georgia, including planting dates, are available from the UGA Cooperative Extension Service by visiting its website at http://www.caes.ug.edu/Publications.

Livingston explained that the key factors in having a successful vegetable garden are sunlight, closeness to home, soil and water.

“Most vegetables need full sunlight for growth and development,” he said. “Try to select a site that receives at least eight to 10 hours of sunlight each day.”

As in property, a Realtor will tell you it is all about “location, location, location.” This is also true of planning a garden site. In addition to providing full sunlight, Livingston says it should be close to a house.

“Having the garden close to home allows greater convenience for routine maintenance, and to notice problems such as insect, disease and weed problems that might crop up.”

Soil that offers nutrients, good drainage, good texture and holds moisture in is vital to a successful garden, Livingston said. Soil tests are offered at the county extension office on Fairburn Road in the old United Way location for $10.

“Soil tests show that soil around here is acidic,” said the county agent.

Chemical fertilizers provide a fast nutritional feed for soil, while adding organic matter through use of compost – which can be made from straw, hay, leaves, manure and sawdust – offers a slower and effective way of returning healthy organisms to soil.

Livingston warns against using grass clippings treated with chemical herbicides for garden composting.

Soil should be tilled to a minimum of eight inches for good root growth, he said.

A good source of water is vital to a good crop production.

“The environment is such that there is a fluctuation in water,” he said. “Proper watering time – early morning is ideal – gives leaves time to dry off.”

He recommends drip irrigation rather than overhead irrigation because it puts water right at the root system.

Too much water can be as detrimental as too little, said Livingston.

“I’ve seen people lose more plants by overwatering than underwatering.”

Information: visit www.caes.uga.edu or call the Douglas County Cooperative Extension Service at (770) 920-7224.
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