Lawn care and vegetable gardening in Newton County
Many years ago, a clean-swept yard was a common sight in rural Georgia. If a grass seed germinated, it meant that someone needed to pull it up and sweep the ground evenly. That mindset left the soil unprotected from the elements and erosion took place.
Today, a lush, green lawn is preferred by most homeowners because of the many benefits it offers. Lawns provide protection from dust, glare, heat, noise and erosion, not to mention lawns add beauty and value to a home.
Maintaining a nicelooking lawn takes time and money whether you, the homeowner, or a lawn care service is doing the job. The first thing to think about is weed and disease prevention. Being timely with management practices will prevent many problems associated with different lawns. For example, thick lawns, like zoysia, can be plagued with diseases if mowing heights are kept too high and the lawn is watered too frequently.
Want to have a lush lawn? Your University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office offers Lawn Calendars that tell you when to fertilize, aerate, dethatch and apply products to control weeds. The calendars lack detailed information like what specific fertilizer or herbicide to use, but specific questions can be answered by a county agent.
Just make sure you follow the recommendations for your type of grass. If you don’t match up the correct recommendations with the correct grass, you may be sweeping dead grass and starting over.
For a lawn calendar, go to the University of Georgia Turf website at http:// www.commodities.caes. uga.edu/turfgrass/georgiaturf/CultPrac/1310_Calendar.htm
While teaching master gardeners how to grow vegetables, I tell them to watch the soil temperatures rather than going by the moon or any other sign. Soil temperatures in Newton County generally are warm enough in the middle of April to plant sweet corn, beans, cantaloupe, peppers, squash, watermelon and tomatoes. Planting early will also help with the control of many pests. For example, corn earworms eat away on your corn if planted later in the summer, but if planted now, worms are likely to be fewer. Make sure to plant corn on the northern end of the garden to prevent shading lower growing vegetables. You also need to plant at least four to six rows of corn for better pollination.
Once your vegetables are up and growing, consider using mulch to main- tain moisture and weeds. Cull weeds before laying mulch because weeds will come through the mulch, making weed control more difficult. Use about three inches of mulch around vegetables, making sure the mulch is not touching the vegetables.
More people plant tomatoes than any other garden crop. Every year someone comes into my office with a tomato that has “Blossom-End Rot”. While growing the tomato, you will be looking on the fruit with great anticipation thinking you are home free-you can’t wait for that BLT sandwich. Then a spot on the bottom of the tomato begins to rot, leaving you with frustration. The rot is caused by a lack of calcium in the bloom.
Calcium deficiency can occur with a fluctuation in water supply. Soil moisture extremes can cause reductions of calcium uptake. Keep soil moisture consistent by watering twice a week and using mulch. Over-fertilization can also cause the plant to have blossom-end rot.
Take a soil test early in the fall to determine if calcium levels are low. If they are low, apply lime to raise the calcium levels. If deficiencies occur during the growing season, foliar sprays with a blossom-end rot product may help or apply gypsum.
Gardening is fun only if you have good fruits from your labor. You can plan for a successful garden by visiting the Newton County Extension office and picking up our University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences research publications. The office is at 1113 Usher St., Suite 202, Covington. Or, see our website, http://www.ugaextension. com/newton/.