The is a reprint from a monthly feature in The Walton Tribune by the Walton County by Master Gardeners about gardening using the research and resources of UGA Extension.
Now more than ever people are wondering how to survive in uncertain times, but even the best “preppers” cannot live on stored food forever. Hark back to the days of yore when there were few grocery markets and just about everyone had a garden, because, well, they had to! So instead of making this article about a “survival” garden, let’s call it a “revival” garden to relearn what our ancestors knew for centuries, how to grow food at home.
In addition to water and long-lasting preserved/dried/canned goods, we must have seeds for fresh produce, but which ones? How long do they stay viable? Collecting and storing seeds is every bit as important as knowing how to plant, harvest, and store what you grow. Sure, many plants go to seed on their own, however; veggies like carrots and cabbage take a bit of finessing. Educate yourself on how to collect and store seeds so you can have a bountiful garden for years to come.
How many people you plan on feeding will determine how large your plot needs to be. Most vegetables require one to two inches of water per week. Rainfall can be unpredictable, so some form of irrigation will be necessary to help vegetables grow strong throughout the season. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are the best options to conserve water and keep the plant leaves dry, although overhead watering can be used when it is the only option. Organic mulch placed around vegetable plants will conserve moisture and help keep competitive weeds under control.
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet requires a significant number of calories and nutrients; so which are the top “revival” cropsto grow here in Walton County, Georgia? Let’s begin with what many Native American tribes call the “three sisters,”which are corn, squash and beans.
CORN is pollinated by the wind rather than insects, so you need a minimum of nine plants with three plants in three rows and in slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6 and 6.5. To learn more about the pH of your garden soil and what kind of fertilizer you need, submit a soil sample to the Walton County UGA extension office located at1258 Criswell Rd. Sweet corn matures in 60 to 100 days with Seneca and Sweet Breed Chorus being two of the earliest. Plant early, mid, and late-season varieties to maintain a broad harvest.
SQUASH have many varieties from winter-bearing to summer. They’re easy to grow and prefer well-drained,rich organic soil that is slightly acidic with a pHof 5.8-6.8. The main types of summer squash are yellow; straight neck or crooked neck; white scallop or patty pan; and oblong, green, gray, or gold zucchini. Small to large winter varieties include butternut, acorn, and banana jumbo fruits. A delicious yet rare one to look out for is the North Georgia Candy Roaster Squash, a sweet heirloom variety originally cultivated by the Cherokee Indians. Aphids, squash vine borers, and squash bugs, along with
diseases such as powdery mildew and blossom-end rot can be a problem, so be sure to check for any signs of these during the life cycle of the plant.
BEANS grow by the multitude here, including snap pole green, snap-bush green, bush yellow, and limas such as early maturing Kentucky Blue, Purple Pod, and Goldcrop. Beans require regular weeding and about 1 inch of water per week; however, they won’t germinate well if kept too wet, so good drainage is imperative! Rotate plantings to a different place in the garden each year and ask your local extension agent for insecticide recommendations to control bean beetles, which will eat holes in the leaves. Remember to pick beans often to keep plants producing.
CARROTS are a great source of important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Varieties that do well here include Hercules, Goldfinger, Scarlet Nantes, Thumbelina (small), and Bolero. You’ll know they’re ready to harvest when the top of the carrot emerges out of the ground and the color deepens, but don’t wait too long as they can turn hard and bitter when overripe.
CABBAGE is packed full of health benefits and is relatively easy to grow. There are several types and so many ways to eat this versatile veggie including raw, fermented, and cooked. The aptly named ‘Quick Start’ variety is the first to mature at just 60 days. Others include Bravo, Cheers and Early Thunder. Cabbage is a heavy feeder, so use an organic vegetable fertilizer that has an even balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (10-10-10 NPK) and supplement with organic rich compost every few weeks.
POTATOES have many varieties from the high yield of the Kennebec to the well-adapted, flavorful Irish Cobbler. There are many potatoes you can grow here, the main being Irish. Several varieties of sweet potatoes also grow well here with Covington being the most popular.
GARLIC is a powerful medicinal antibiotic/antiviral and adds huge flavor to almost any dish, plus it’s easy to grow! Plant in the summer, harvest in the fall, and use it during winter and spring until it’s time to repeat the process. Types that do well in GA include Silverskin and Artichoke. Plant cloves root side down, 1–3 inches deep and 6 inches apart, in a sunny space with well-draining organic soil. Be sure to choose a spot where they will remain undisturbed and where no onions or garlic have grown before.
BLUEBERRIES are rich in antioxidants, will produce year after year, and can be kept for a long time either frozen, dried, or made into jellies or preserves. They require acidic soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5.2, which you can help by placing mulched piles of pine needles or pine bark chips around each plant. Rabbiteye blueberry varieties such as Austin and Climax are native to Georgia. Be sure to grow at least two or more types so they can cross-pollinate.
HERBS are both culinary and medicinal, require very little maintenance and space, store well, and will attract pollinators that help sustain the overall eco-system of your garden. Most perennial herbs do great here including, thyme, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage,and chives. Mint is alsoa great herb to have onhand but be warned:ONLY GROW IN CONTAINERS OR IT WILL TAKE OVER!
KALE is a cruciferous leafy vegetable closely related to cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts. Considered a “superfood,” it’s densely packed full of vitamins A, B6, C, K, folate, fiber, carotenoids, and manganese. It’s cold hardy, which means that you can grow it well into late fall or early winter. Several varieties to look for are Vates, Dwarf Siberian, Blue Armor, and Blue Knight. Note: kale cannot survive below 40 degrees so don’t plant too early in the spring or too late in the fall.
With a proper plot, a little tilling, and soil-amending, you’ll be ready to kick-start your revival garden in no time! Be sure to include marigolds, milkweed, and other flowers that will attract pollinators such as bees, birds and butterflies.
Visit www.extension.uga.edu to download a detailed “vegetable planting chart” and come visit us in person at the Monroe Farmer’s Market on Saturdays with your questions, success stories, and ideas for future articles.
See you in the garden!
The Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program is offered through the Walton County UGA Extension office. Participants are trained and certified in home horticulture, gardening, and related areas and then volunteer their expertise and services, under the direction of our extension agent, Joel Burnsed. Our goal is to help others through educating the public about the benefits of a healthy environment and through horticultural projects that benefit the community.
Currently, we help to maintain four gardens in Walton County:
Gipsy’s Garden at Mc-Daniel-Tichenor House; Connect to Protect Garden Field Garden in partnership with the Walton County Sheriff ’s Office, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and Walton Wellness; Pollinator Sanctuary Garden at Friendship Park in Social Circle; and Vegetable and Flower Garden at Walton County Senior Center.
The UGA Extension is located at 1258 Criswell Road and the Master Gardeners hope to incorporate an Educational Garden on the campus in the next year