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Show your school spirit at home with a team garden

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

Chris Brannon and three of his friends spent four hours spray-painting a huge University of Georgia "G" on the front lawn of the UGA campus in Griffin, Ga. No, they aren't vandals. They're members of the campus's landscape crew.

They put the landscape art there to make a point, and it's working.

"People know us as the Georgia Experiment Station but many people don't realize we're part of the University of Georgia," said Wayne Crawford, head of the campus landscape crew. "Now people are making the connection, and they love the 'G.'"

The crew cut the 75-foot-high and 50-foot-wide "G" into the grass with an edger, then mowed the grass low and painted it red.

"We've had the 'G' cut into the grass for a while now but it's never been red," Crawford said. "With it being football season, we decided it was time to brighten it up."

The paint is athletic field turf paint specially blended to match the true UGA red color.

Don't try this at home

UGA turf specialist Clint Waltz doesn't recommend fans duplicating the process at home.

"Buying athletic field turf paint would be an expensive venture for most homeowners," Waltz said. "And you'd need to reapply the paint every 14 to 21 days to maintain a fresh, nonfaded appearance."

Before you start a project like this, he said, consider what it does to the turf.

"Turf isn't meant to be painted long-term," he said. "The turf stand can become weakened because the plant's natural metabolic processes are being blocked."

Waltz said you could use the paint as a temporary colorant on dormant turf with fewer harmful effects.

You can also support your favorite team, whether they're Bulldogs or Yellow Jackets, by creating a team flower garden.

Use pansies to create team garden

"Pansies are a great plant to use to create a garden showing your team support," said Bodie Pennisi, an Extension Service horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

"Pansies come in red, purple, blue, apricot, lavender, white, yellow, pink, bronze and mahogany colors," she said. "Thanks to the new Halloween varieties, they come in orange and black, too."

To create your team garden at home, select an area on a slope if you can. "Using a sloped area will allow you to see your creation better from a distance," Pennisi said.

Mark a circle on the ground with ordinary spray paint. Next, till the circle using a rotary tiller and remove all the grass. Place amended soil inside the circle to create a raised bed 4 to 6 inches high. Then mark the outline of your team symbol inside the circle using the handle of your shovel.

If you're creating a "G," Pennisi said, fill it in with red pansies first. Plant them a bit closer together than you normally would.

Finish your creation by filling in the remainder of your circle with either white or black pansies.

"This flower garden can be created as a show of support to any sports team," she said. "Just as long as you have an easily recognizable symbol and one you can draw."

Pennisi said pansies are perfect because they come in so many colors and grow close to the ground. They're a good choice for fall planting, too, because they perform well in cool weather.

"You can plant them now and they'll provide fall flowers and spring color," she said.

No matter which plant you choose for your team garden, smaller is better.

"If you use large plants like they do in the football stadiums, you have to have a large area," Pennisi said. "And you'll be looking at a lot of maintenance to make sure the plants look good ... so you'd better be a really devoted fan."

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

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