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Start planning your spring garden now by ordering seeds

By Alicia Holloway

The holidays are over, and we’ve had snow and plenty of cold weather to make a dent in next summer’s insect population. I have no more use for winter. I’m ready for spring.

Others may be daydreaming of sunny, sandy beaches, but I am dreaming of gardens. Visions of seed catalogs and planting charts fill my mind, and I am downright giddy at the thought of planting in cool, earthy-smelling soil with the soft warmth of the spring sun on my back.

I’m not alone. Gardeners everywhere anticipate the arrival of spring. The best way to indulge in pre-gardening bliss is to snuggle up in fluffy blankets with a large mug of coffee and peruse seed catalogs. I typically don’t order all of my seeds from catalogs; some I buy from local stores. I purchase some vegetables as transplants, but seed catalogs are a great place to find new varieties to experiment with when planning next season’s garden.

Knobby pumpkins, feathery foliage and unusually colored vegetables are just a few of the delights you may come across. My favorite catalog finds last year were mini-cabbages and lettuces. These smaller-than-normal varieties are just the size I need. They are also perfect for planting in small gardens and containers.

Seed catalogs

I chose mini-greens, but mini and patio varieties are available for many different fruits and vegetables, and many even produce normal-size fruit on a more compact plant. I’ve seen mini or patio varieties of everything from bok choy and eggplants to tomatoes and watermelons.

Pelleted seeds are easier to find in catalogs. This past year, I tried pelleted carrot seed, and it is a gardening miracle. Carrots have miniscule seeds and the dissolvable, pelleted coating makes them easier to handle, thus easier to space, which saves wasted seed and time spent thinning. I find pelleted seed is also great to use when planting with children, especially in spring gardens where many seeds are small.

My true weakness when it comes to seed catalogs are flowers. I dream about having a large cut-flower garden à la Martha Stewart. Sadly, however, I do not have a team of gardeners. My husband usually reminds me of this after seeing the first draft of my seed order. But it’s fun to daydream, and I have at least 10 different varieties of zinnias, 20 sunflower varieties, and an assortment of sweet peas, cosmos and ornamental, long-stemmed cabbages from my favorite seed catalogs.

There are many interesting varieties available for flowers, vegetables and herbs, both heirlooms and new releases. You may find that you need a second or third garden, or maybe a small farm to fit all of your plants.

As much as seed catalogs are great sources for inspiration, they also provide information to help you narrow down your choices. One flower that I will actually order this year is ‘White Finch,’ which I’ve been obsessed with since I saw it at the University of Georgia’s Research and Education Garden in the research pollinator garden on the UGA Griffin campus last year. To me, it looks like a cross between yarrow and Queen Anne’s lace. Because small-space garden flowers must play multiple roles, I was ecstatic to learn that not only is it great for attracting beneficial insects, but it also doubles as a cut flower and can be dried as well. Having information on hand about each variety makes it easier to decide which varieties make the cut and which ones will grow well in my area.

Though winter may still be around in full force, the time for planning gardens is now.

For more information on planting a spring garden in Georgia, read UGA Cooperative Extension Bulletin 577, “Home Gardening,” at

(Alicia Holloway is the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources agent in Barrow County.)



State's top food products make final round of University of Georgia's 2018 Flavor of Georgia contest

By Merritt Melancon

Judges selected 33 products to compete in the final round of the University of Georgia’s 2018 Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest in Atlanta set for March 20.

The contest is the state’s premier proving ground for small, upstart food companies as well as time-tested products. This year’s finalists represent all corners of the state and the best of Georgia’s diverse culinary heritage.

The finalists passed the first round of judging and were selected from a field of 126 products in 11 categories.

Finalists will bring their products to Atlanta for the final round of judging, which will be held in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Awareness Week celebration March 19-23. Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black has designated March 20 as Flavor of Georgia Day.

“Georgia is home to some of the best and most creative minds in the food business, and each year the Flavor of Georgia contest helps to showcase that talent,” said Sharon P. Kane, contest coordinator and economist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ (CAES) Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development. 

A food business development specialist, Kane and her center colleagues have organized the annual contest since 2007. 

“The legacy of excellence and camaraderie that our Flavor of Georgia finalists and winners have achieved continues to be remarkable,” she said. “It is a competition, but it’s also a family. Over the years, contestants have built collaborations and networks that continue to support and enhance food entrepreneurship in Georgia, from the coast to the mountains. It’s not just great food, it’s economic development.”

Judges for the final round of the contest will include food brokers, grocery buyers and other food industry experts. They evaluate entries by category based on their Georgia theme, commercial appeal, taste, innovation and market potential. Contestants will provide samples to judges and pitch their products in a “Shark Tank”-style presentation. Finalists will be named in each category, and a grand prize winner and People’s Choice Award winner will be named.

This year’s finalists are listed by product name, company and city. All entries are from Georgia-based businesses.


Barbecue Sauces:

  • Jamaica Me Sweat Soppin’ Sauce, Two Fat Chile Cats, Savannah
  • Original BBQ Sauce, The GrillMan BBQ Company, Cumming
  • Sorta White BBQ Sauce, Lane’s BBQ, Bethlehem


  • Blueberry Citrus Tea, Olympus Greek Mountain Teas, Lawrenceville
  • Ginger’s Bunkhouse Spicy Ginger Ale, Bunkhouse Beverages, Athens
  • Magnolia Green Tea, Biron Herbal Teas, Macon

Condiments and Salsas:

  • Georgia Gourmet Tomato Ketchup, The Sauce Company Inc., Lilburn
  • Sourwood (Honey) Balsamic Vinegar, Built By Bees, Atlanta
  • Vidalia Onion & Balsamic Vinegar Jam, A&A Alta Cucina Italia, Johns Creek


  • Brown Butter Crunch Gelato, Honeysuckle Gelato, Atlanta
  • Georgia Pecan Bar, Bread and Butter Bakery, Covington
  • Pecan Sandie, Watanut, Augusta

 Dairy Products:

  • BlackRock Cheese, CalyRoad Creamery, Sandy Springs
  • Feta Cheese, Bootleg Farm, Springfield
  • New World Chocolate Milk, Rock House Creamery, Newborn

Honey and Related Products:

  • Creamed Honey, H.L. Franklin’s Healthy Honey, Statesboro
  • Gourmet Vanilla Infused Honey Pot, Built By Bees, Atlanta
  • Southern Sriracha Spicy Honey, Bear Hug Honey Company, Athens

Jams and Jellies:

  • Datil Peach Marmalade, Emily G’s, Dunwoody
  • Hibiscus Jelly, Pride Road, Smyrna
  • Wild Elderberry Pepper Jelly, Fairywood Thicket Farm, Fairburn

Meats and Seafood:

  • Applewood Smoked Bacon, Pine Street Market, Avondale Estates
  • Grassfed Beecon Grind, White Oak Pastures, Bluffton
  • The Georgia Pie, Pouch Pies, Athens


  • Honey Cinnamon Pecan Butter, Goodson Pecans, Leesburg
  • Laynee’s Walnut Butter, LWB, Cumming
  • Savory Pimento Cheese Cheesecake, Honey Catering, Millen

Sauces and Seasonings:

  • BBQ Rub, Joe Kem’s BBQ, Moultrie
  • Cajeta, Bootleg Farm, Springfield
  • Lane’s Qnami Rub, Lane’s BBQ, Bethlehem

Snack Foods

  • Georgia Fried Peanuts, Georgia Fried Peanut Company, Edison
  • Signature Champagne Pecans, Pearson Farm, Fort Valley
  • Sugar and Spice Cashews, High Cotton Company, Sandy Springs

The Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest is organized by the UGA CAES Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development with support from the Georgia Center of Innovation for Agribusiness, the Office of the Governor, Walton EMC, Gourmet Foods International, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Agribusiness Council.

More information about the contest is available at and by following the contest on Twitter @FlavorofGA or on Instagram at



(Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)