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Urban garden grows
Extension office shows off drought-resistant garden

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The two little birds swooped down seemingly out of nowhere and landed, splay-legged, in the garden.

The chickadees grabbed at little black seeds spilled below the bird feeder, and then, flew up to the bare, winter branches of a small sapling.

"It's funny how the word gets out," said Slyvia Deitze, a master gardener standing in front of the new wildlife-friendly garden at The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service office in Jonesboro.

"We have all the little chickadees and titmice flitting around, so the word's out. They knew we're here," said Deitze.

The garden is fenced in with green wire stapled to posts. Running along one edge of the parking lot at the extension office, at 1262 Government Circle. The garden grows native Georgia plants, is designed to attract birds and chipmunks and require only limited water. Two bird feeders hang from a post in the middle of the garden, and birdhouses are posted on both sides.

A few months ago, this was weedy-looking grass along the end of the parking lot. Now, $500 and 270 hours of work later, it's a garden.

"It was a parking bump-out," Deitze said. "It was flat grass. Just nothing. Just awful. Now, we're just waiting for spring to see what pops."

In the back of the garden, against the brick wall, water cycles through a pump in a rusty tub, growing water-loving plants in the murky, miniature pond.

The bathtub is recycled and the running water is cycled in and out of the tub, which pretty much describes the idea behind the garden, Deitze said.

"Just use what you've got and go with it," she said. "We came out here one day and heard frogs. We got tadpoles in there. We don't know how they got in there, but they're in there."

Tom Bonnell, horticulture program assistant at the extension center, said the role of agricultural sciences has changed in Clayton County over the years, and the role of the extension office has changed, too. With the disappearance of farms, the extension center has been spending more time fielding questions about bugs, squirrels, home gardens and the drought.

"We're more urban agriculture now," Bonnell said.

The garden fits nicely into that new model, he said. It shows local residents what they can do with a small space, natural plants and natural techniques, to build a garden which will fit in with the area's needs.

"We give you the information and you can do it," Deitze said. "A lot of times, when we're working out here, people are late for their meetings in the extension office, because we're giving mini-classes in the parking lot."

Next year, the Jonesboro gardeners want to build another garden, on the other side of the office's parking lot, but this one will be dedicated to vegetables.

"We don't want it to be too fancy-schmancy where it will put people off," Deitze said. " This is something you can do in your yard."

On the Web

Extension office:

www.co.clayton.ga.us/extension_svc

Master gardeners:

www.hosting.caes.uga.edu/claytonmastergardeners