Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fall Plantings of Pansies

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, September 11, 2014 in the Fellowship Hall of the Greenville United Methodist Church on Court Square. Toots Hobson and Jane Morrison hosted the meeting and greeted members and guests with a delicious afternoon tea featuring fresh fruit, tea sandwiches, cookies and chocolates.


While members enjoyed the refreshments and chatting, several interesting announcements and news items were related. The club’s October and November meetings have been confirmed: the Thursday, October 30th meeting will be at 11:30 at Carla Snider’s and will be an Italian feast with the emphasis on cooking with herbs. Walter Citterio will be the speaker. Monday, November 3rd, 5:30-6:30, the club will join the Elms and Roses Council of Garden Clubs on the rooftop at Del'Avant for wine and cheese then the lecture at 6:30 by Staci Catron, Director of the Cherokee Garden Club Library in Atlanta and expert in landscape and garden history. Catron will present a program on important Georgia gardens which are rarely open to the public.  Tickets are $10.


Gail Coffee reported to the club that she had adopted out fourteen cats this past summer from the animal shelter but that recently fourteen more had been admitted. Back to square one, she said. She also reminded everyone that the Chamber’s Business after Hours will meet on November 5th at the shelter from 5:30 to 7, and she requested any garden club members attending to please help with refreshments.


Three garden club members (Carla Snider, Helen Claussen, and Gail Coffee) attended the Keep America Beautiful workshop and training.  They learned how to assess the litter problem, work with the schools, teach awareness of the litter problem, and make behavioral changes.


Meriwether is one of the state’s largest counties and our state has the most KAM affiliates (77) in the nation. The garden club had donated $100 to keep the America Beautiful program whose training session cost approximately $3,000 to hold in our county. The group learned the best methods of positive reinforcement that will make the changes and learned ways to raise the public’s awareness and conscience of the problem.


Trey Gafnea, our full time extension agent in Meriwether, introduced himself noting that his animal science degree from Berry and experience on ranches and with beef cattle did not make him the perfect flower expert, but he researched fall flowers and presented a delightful program on pansies.


Beginning with our new classification as 7b, Gafnea and the club heartily discussed climate change or as Gafnea called it “the variable patterns” that research is showing clearly are happening.


Pansies are best planted when the soil temperatures are 45-65 degrees which is usually October 1-15. Buy pansy flats with plants that have good dark green leaves, not leggy, and abundant white fibrous roots. The best performing beds are raised six to ten inches above ground level. Gafnea warned against using old mulch as it uses up nitrogen in the decomposing process.


Pansies love organic material but not more than 25% of the bed should be organic. He recommended adding three inches of soil above the twelve inch raised bed. Soil samples were recommended as pansies like slightly acidic soil-5.4 to 5.8. Pre emergences are encouraged if the bed has a history of weeds.15-2-20 fertilizer is recommended every two weeks through the winter with no fertilizer spread during September, April or May when it is warm.  


Pansies are hearty through cold weather down to 25 degrees, and if the cold spell lasts a long time, a two to four inch topping of pine straw helps. Remove frost damaged flowers and any diseased plants through the winter.


With Gafnea’s expertise there, the club members discussed a myriad of problems from armadillos to army worms. He explained the invasion by army worms and how they migrate from Florida in moth swarms and usually get to us in July. They are green and brown 1 ½ inch caterpillars that eat grass leaving only a stem. Sevin dust will take care of the currently invading black oak worm that is part of the tent caterpillars in hardwoods. Coral snakes have been spotted in southeast Meriwether County.


The knee slapping story of the meeting was told by Helen Claussen who, like most gardeners, has been at war with armadillos.  She thought she had killed one and bagged it up to dispose of it.  As she was driving, the bag started moving and as she drove keeping one eye on the bag in the floorboard, the bag opens and the armadillo climbs out and up onto her lap! She stopped her car, opened the door and released the pest.



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