Yesterday, early in the morning, I drove across Atlanta with my friend Electa to the Georgia Organics Conference, which was being held at a convention center near the airport. We had a fun day, met people who grow and love good food, and learned lots.
|Cover of the Conference Schedule. In real life, it is green.|
Eight different topics were presented in each time slot during the day, and they pretty much all looked interesting and potentially useful. However, picking the topic to see for our first session easy, because my friend Terri Carter was presenting about Food History in the South.
I was especially interested in the maps of trade routes she showed us and in the role of failing economies in influencing which foods were adopted into the “mainstream” diet.
At other presentations during the day, I wrote down ideas/thoughts that could help home gardeners. This is a not-so-short list:
- Sustainability starts with the seed. Choose varieties that are disease resistant and that don’t need pesticides.
- In a small farm or garden, “diversification hedges your bets.” Grow more than one variety of each vegetable.
- In a small space, ‘Georgia Rattlesnake’ watermelon, which produces Very Large Fruits, might not be the best choice, even though its flavor is spectacular. The plant covers a lot of ground to make those enormous fruits.’Ice Box’ and ‘Moon and Stars’ have a much lower brix reading than ‘Georgia Rattlesnake’. You might want to try different smaller varieties than those two.
- Look for open pollinated varieties when you can, since these tend to have a diverse genetic background. Even in bad years, some of these may survive and produce food.
- Trellising saves a lot of space and can reduce fungal diseases on leaves and fruits by getting them up off the ground.
- In trials looking at yields of tomatoes on different trellising systems, cages gave the most pounds of tomatoes per plant.
- For blackberries, our farmer-presenter got higher yields on North-South trellis rows than on East-West trellis rows.
- The same guy shears off the tops of his tomato plants about a foot above his trellis system (he uses a fence system, of wire fencing on T-posts, for his tomatoes).
- There are no effective sprays to stop diseases in organic systems. Serenade and Sonata sprays may slow down the mildews, but getting good coverage of the leaves is not easy, and these products need to be re-applied every 7-10 days.
- Neem is not helpful for squash bugs.
- Avoid composting plants that have root diseases, but composting plants that have leaf diseases is okay.
More thoughts prompted by the conference will be in my next post. Meanwhile, I have completely ignored my own good advice and planted out some lettuce seeds. The weather is seductively warm, and I am ready for spring!