Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Harvesting, Cleaning and Curing Gourds

More and more home gardeners are growing gourds for use in dried floral arrangements, bird houses, etc. The easy part is raising the gourds, the hard part is to determine when to pick them. If vines die prematurely before the fruit becomes hard it will be difficult to keep these for a very long period. In order to be successful with gourd storage, the gourds need to ripen on the vine. The best indication of a ripe gourd is the withered condition of the stem. Immature gourds that have frozen will not keep if storage is attempted.

There are several different types of gourds and each requires special handling methods. The most common Lagenaria gourds are often referred to as the dipper, caveman’s club, Giant bottle, Powder Horn, or Martin gourd. If fruits are dirty or dusty they can be washed in a mild soapy water and then rinsed with a solution of one part household bleach to ten parts water. Place gourds in a warm spot with good ventilation and out of direct sunlight until completely dry. Mature Lagenaria gourds may only require curing, if so, place in a spot with a temperature of 60 to 85 degrees F and with low humidity. Immature Lagenarias may be hung by a string attached to the stem and placed in a well ventilated, out-of-the-way place since they may require several months to completely cure.

If gourds are to be painted, shellacked, waxed or lacquered the surface must be completely dry. The Lagenarias may have a surface mold present and this can be removed before painting or waxing by soaking in warm water for a few minutes and then the mold can be removed by scraping with a knife blade. Dry gourd again before spraying with acrylic resin paint or waxed with a good liquid floor wax is applied.

Luffa cylindrical, also called the sponge or dish rag gourd, is grown mainly for the tough, fibrous netting that remains after the pulpy flesh is removed from mature fruit. The fibrous netting makes excellent sponges that are valued for use in the bath or as dish and pot scrubbers. Other important uses of the spongy material have been marine steam engine filters, doormats, table mats, mattress or shoulder pad stuffing, and for absorbing sound.

Luffas that are allowed to mature on the vine will turn from green to a dark tan or brown. At this time the internal fiber is mature and the gourd can be stored in a cool dry place until further processing of the gourd can be done.

The basic method for preparing the sponge material is to immerse the dry, mature fruit in water for a few days to allow the skin and flesh to soften so that it can be easily removed. Some additional drying may be required before the seeds will separate.

Once cleansed of seeds and flesh, the fibrous network is dried and, for some purposes bleached in hydrogen peroxide or one part bleach to nine parts water if a whiter color is desired. After soaking in bleach, rinse sponge and dry in full sun.

Cucurbita gourds (Apple, Bell, Egg, finger {Holy Crown}, Pear, Spoon, etc) usually ripen before other types and the fruit is ripe when the outside shell of the fruit has become hard. Lagenaria gourds on the other hand are ripe when they change colors from green to tan, are lightweight and have a firm shell.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stop Blossom-End Rot Now, It's Easier Now Than Later

Too many tomatoes and bell peppers grown in home gardens are lost each year to a condition called blossom-end rot. Blossom -end rot is a disorder found on fruit near the blossom end and first appears as a darkened, sunken, leathery scar. This condition usually causes the fruit to ripen prematurely and makes it worthless.

Blossom-end rot can be caused by several factors and the severity of this condition can be compounded when two or more of these factors interact with each other. It is known that inadequate calcium levels in the fruit can cause this condition and a low soil calcium level in combination with inadequate soil can compound the situation. Severely pruned tomato plants are more prone to develop blossom-end rot than unpruned plants.

In order to control blossom-end rot, the home gardener will need to take several steps and one needs t0 start early, even before the crop is planed if his condition is to be prevented.

Steps to control blossom-end rot:

1. Test the soil early in the spring and apply dolomitic lime if needed. This should be done several weeks before planting.

2. In gardens where this condition has been severe in past seasons, also broadcast five lbs. of dolomitic lime per 100 square feet just before planting and plow the ground six(6) to eight(8) inches deep.

3. Mulch plants with black or organic mulch.

4. Apply irrigation water to keep soil uniformly moist throughout the season.

5. Apply a calcium spray, first applied when fruits are first visible can help prevent this disorder. Mix four tablespoons of calcium chloride per gallon of water. Spray plants until solution begins to run off the leaves. Three applications are recommended at seven(7) day intervals. Calcium can be obtained at your local garden center or supply store.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Used coffee grounds are a fertilizer for your plants and a great addition to Compost piles. You may add them to either existing or brand new plant beds.

Many gardeners compost their leaves, grass clippers and trimmings from their yard. The soil can be improved and more productive by mixing organic matter into the soil. Kitchen waste such as vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea leaves and eggshells may be added to the compost pile. Coffee grounds added to the compost pile help maintain the nitrogen balance which is import for decomposition of the organic materials in compost.

Coffee grounds can be applied directly to acid loving plants like blueberries, hydrangeas, azaleas, roses and tomato plants. Ground coffee is high in nitrogen, making it a good mulch for fast growing vegetables. Coffee contains a number of substances that promote healthy plant growth. Work coffee grounds into the soil so that they don’t form a crust on the top.

Coffee grounds are a source of nitrogen, calcium and magnesium. These nutrients are beneficial to the plants in your garden. Using the grounds is an environmentally friendly and cost effective way to nourish plants.

Increase carrot and radish harvest by mixing seeds with dry coffee grounds before planting the seed.

Coffee grounds may be used on indoor plants too or use left over coffee to water indoor plants.

An analysis of coffee grounds was performed in 1995 by the University of Washington, College of Forest Resources, the

Primary Nutrients are:
Nitrogen 1.45%
Phosphorus not a significant amount
Potassium 1204 UG/G

Secondary Nutrients
Calcium 389 UG/G
Magnesium 448 UG/G
Sulfur high UG /G

Terms: UG/G=microgram/gram

In summary, coffee grounds can lower pH and add organic matter to soil. Coffee grounds can be sourced from your home or you may be able to find used grounds at your local restaurant or coffee shop.


Does your soil have the necessary nutrients for a lush lawn and beautiful gardens? Do not guess about your lawn’s and gardens’ fertility—have your soil tested!

To get good soil samples first make sure your sampling tools are clean ;then take soil from a minimum of ten(10) random locations in the sample area and mix together in a clean container. For lawns sample to a depth of four (4) inches and for gardens, ornamentals, and mixed fruit trees and wildlife plots collect samples to a depth of six (6) inches. Cut a thin slice about ¼ inch thick, two inches wide and to the depth specified above. Combine and mix samples and let dry. Place the soil samples in the UGA soil sample bags available at your County Extension Office. The County Extension Office will send the samples to the UGA Soil Testing Lab and once the tests are completed you will receive a Soil Test Report which will provide an interpretation of all soil tests done and recommendations concerning appropriate nutrient and lime recommendations.

Soils can be tested any time of year. Late fall and winter are excellent times to prepare for spring since it takes two to three months for recommended nutrients such as lime or sulfur to change the soil’s pH. Once medium or high fertility levels are achieved, the soil should be tested every two (2) to three (3) years.

To view the University of Georgia’s publication on soil sampling visit:

Friday, February 12, 2010


Hey, I wanted to pass on this great article Paul wrote on fertilizing your yards. It is very informative and will help you make better decisions in the landscape. You can also find a month by month to-do turf calendar at our website:

By Paul Pugliese, Bartow County Agriculture Extension Agent

March is usually the time of year that local garden centers begin major advertising campaigns to sell lawn fertilizers. But depending on the type of grass you have, it may be too early to start fertilizing your lawn. In general, the best time to fertilize a lawn is when it is actively growing.

Fescue should be fed in the fall

Fescue lawns and other cool-season grasses that don't go dormant should be fertilized in the fall (October) and spring (March). Most other lawns, including bermudagrass, zoysia, centipede and other warm-season grasses that go dormant in winter, should not be fertilized until late spring through mid-summer (May to August). Fertilizing now would be a waste of time and money.

Why shouldn't you fertilize warm-season grasses when they are dormant? First, when grasses are dormant, their roots are not able to absorb or use the nutrients from fertilizers. By the time the grass does begin actively growing, most of the nitrogen you applied will have been lost from the soil.

Don't feed the weeds

Also, fertilizing while the grass is dormant actually encourages more winter weeds, because you are fertilizing the weeds instead of the lawn. Without competition from the lawn, these weeds will grow faster and become more prolific as a result of dormant fertilizer applications.

Lastly, fertilizing lawns during their transition into dormancy in the fall or out of dormancy in the spring may encourage lawn growth that is more likely to be injured from winter kill. Bare spots and thinning of the lawn as well as delay in spring green-up may occur when lawns are forced to grow when they should be dormant.

Combo products not the answer

So, should you apply convenient "weed and feed" products that combine a
pre-emergent herbicide and fertilizer in one application? Unfortunately, the ideal time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide actually contradicts the ideal time to apply fertilizer for warm-season lawns. These products are intended for fescue and other cool-season grasses. In north Georgia, the recommended application window is Sept. 1-15 and March 1-20 to maximize the effectiveness of pre-emergent herbicides.

The application timing for these products is critical since they must be applied before annual weeds germinate in spring and fall. It's always better to apply
pre-emergent herbicides a little earlier rather than too late. And don't forget to activate them by watering them into the lawn.

bermudagrass and other warm-season grasses, buy fertilizer that is separate from the pre-emergent herbicide. Apply each at their recommended times.

Start with a soil test

A soil test is always a good starting point before investing in fertilizer or lime. Your local University of Georgia County Extension office [Thomas County - 229.225.4130] can test your soil and provide an exact pH and nutrient analysis with recommendations on how much fertilizer and lime to apply, if any is needed. Contact your local Extension office by calling 1-800-ASK-
UGA1. A soil test kit can also be ordered online at