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Playing in the incredible, edible garden

Residents learn to grow food in back yard

Participants in an edible gardening class sample some of the native Georgia flowers people can eat Thursday at the Clayton County International Park VIP Complex in Jonesboro.

Participants in an edible gardening class sample some of the native Georgia flowers people can eat Thursday at the Clayton County International Park VIP Complex in Jonesboro.

— Clayton County residents don’t have to go very far if they want fresh food for a picnic.

That’s because while Georgia is famous partly for its peanuts, peaches and Vidalia onions, it is also one of America’s top producers of pecans, blueberries, cucumbers, sweet corn and watermelon.

Those nine foods, along with cotton, are the state’s leading agricultural products, Clayton County Master Gardener Clifford Pauling told an edible gardening class Thursday.

“Georgia’s known for these nine things,” Pauling said.

The edible gardening class is the latest in a series of free monthly “Noontime Knowledge” classes the Clayton County Master Gardener’s program offers. The program is sponsored by the University of Georgia’s Clayton County Extension Service office.

The gardening group holds the classes on the fourth Thursday of each month, from 12:15 p.m. until 1 p.m., on the second floor of the Clayton County International Park VIP Complex, located at 2300 Ga. Hwy. 138, in Jonesboro.

Residents are invited to attend the sessions so they can learn tips to use in their home gardens.

In addition to produce, Pauling said there are also several types of edible types of edible flowers which can be found in Georgia. Those flowers include roses, lavender, calendular, anise, sweet woodruff, onion chives and mints.

He let attendees sample several of these flowers after the class ended.

The gardener also talked at length microscopic organisms found in Georgia soil and how they can be beneficial to people. He told attendees at the edible gardening class that they would be better off from a health standpoint if they eat foods that were grown locally.

“The soil has microbes and other biological factors that plants have built up an immunity to,” Pauling said. “If you eat foods grown in this area, you ingest those microbes and build up an immunity to them as well. You can buy produce grown in other parts of the country, but you’ll only end up building an immunity to the microbes found in those areas in stead of the ones found here.”

Pauling recommended gardeners use a square foot garden where plants are separated into square gardening areas in spaces where they can get between six and eight hours of sunlight each day. He said square foot gardens cost as much as $50 to startup.

Upcoming “Noontime Knowledge” classes include:

• “Sweet Potato — A World Super Food,” with UGA Extension Service Agent Tom Bonnell and “The Sweet Potato” author Lyniece North Talmadge, on Feb. 28

• “From the Ground Up,” with Clayton County Master Gardener Lou Hisel, on March 28.