Q: I am having trouble finding gourd plants for sale. Any suggestions?
A: Because they are so easy to grow from seed, you may have difficulty finding plants of gourds at nurseries or garden centers even at the height of spring planting. Try starting your own from seed. You will be able to find many more varieties than the one or two kinds you’ll be lucky to find for sale as plants.
Here are a few suggestions on where to find seeds:
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.
2278 Baker Creek Road
Mansfield, MO 65704
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
P.O. Box 460
Mineral, VA 23117
Be sure to check the ads in the Farmers and Consumer’s Market Bulletin as well. You can even place a free ad describing what seeds you are looking for. You should also consider becoming a member of the Georgia Gourd Society (www.georgiagourdsociety.com) and the American Gourd Society (www.americangourdsociety.org) to connect with other gourd fanciers who may be willing to share seeds and growing tips.
Q: Are there any perennial vegetables I can grow in Georgia?
A: Asparagus, garlic, Egyptian walking onions, Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb and horseradish (which may be considered more of an herb than a vegetable) are possibilities. Rhubarb does not do well in our heat and is not recommended for south Georgia. Don’t think these are easier just because you don’t have to plant them every year. Asparagus needs a well-prepared bed and needs to be kept weeded and cared for. Jerusalem artichokes can do so well, most of your work may be keeping them under control.
Q: What is the Easter rose?
A: Easter rose” is one of the common names for two different plants. One is Kerria japonica. It is usually called “Japanese kerria” or simply “kerria.” The most common kerria grown in Georgia is the double-flowered variety. It has yolk-yellow flowers that look like miniature pom-poms. There are single-flowered forms with bright yellow flowers. Kerria is very durable and especially prized for its shade tolerance. Its kelly green twigs make it an attractive addition to the winter landscape. The plant most commonly called "Easter rose" is Rubus coronarius (sometimes listed as Rubus rosifolius ‘Coronarius’). It is sometimes called “carnation rose” and “blackberry rose.” It has white flowers and looks more like a rose than kerria does. It is not as common as kerria, but is worth searching out. You may find it through an ad in the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin. The only commercial source we could find was Woodlanders, Inc., a mail-order nursery in Aiken, SC. Elizabeth Lawrence wrote a good description of this plant in Gardening for Love. She notes that in New Orleans it is sometimes called “nun’s rose.”
Q: The worker at the garden center wanted to put the shrubs I purchased in the trunk of my car. Won’t they get too hot in the trunk?
A: No. In fact, the plants are better off in the trunk, especially if you are making stops on the way home. Sunlight comes through the windows of your car and the trapped energy heats your car’s interior to very high temperatures that can wilt or fry plants if they are kept in there too long. A trunk is also better than the back of a pickup truck. Driving down the interstate at 65 mph is like exposing a young or leafy plant to hurricane-force winds. Cover plants in the back of your pickup if you are driving long distances. If you are buying houseplants in the winter, you will want to put them in the heated interior of the car rather than in the unheated trunk, however.
Q: Do you have any tips for getting children to eat vegetables and fruits?
A: There is no magic answer that will fit every child or family’s situation, but here are a few things you may want to try:
- Get your children interested in gardening. A child may turn up his nose at a turnip you put on his plate but will proudly eat one he sowed and pulled himself. Also try radishes. (They’re easy to grow with a short wait from sowing to harvest.) Cherry and grape tomatoes are sweet and very productive. (Your little gardener may begin bragging on how many he picked as well as how many he ate.) Plant some eggplants. (The fruits look like shiny purple or green ornaments, and some varieties look like actual eggs – novelty can be appealing to children.) Your child doesn’t need to do all the work in the garden, but let him contribute and feel his input is vital. Remember, your goal is your child’s willingness to eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Try raw veggies. Children may accept raw cabbage, turnips, broccoli and spinach – but not the cooked versions. They may accept the cooked form eventually, but try to prevent the child from becoming recalcitrant and saying “I hate spinach” every time he sees it just because he doesn’t like it cooked.
- Enlist your children’s help in shopping for and preparing food. They may claim not to like carrots but will eat the purple carrots they chose from Farmer John at the local farmers market or from a farm roadside stand.
- Include vegetables and fruits at breakfast. The breakfast meal is often devoid of fruits and vegetables. Your children may think this is the way every meal should be. Make vegetables and fruits an option at every meal. Cherry tomatoes can be halved and dipped into grits. Shave some fresh sweet corn into grits. Cantaloupe is another good breakfast choice. Gradually put some vegetables such as Vidalia onions and tomatoes into omelets. Georgia blueberries and strawberries are excellent on cereal, and a refreshing change from the standard banana. Wake up your family’s taste buds with Georgia fruits and vegetables!
- Create a veggie pizza. Kids love pizza – you don’t have to mention the word “veggie.” Use thin slices of eggplant and zucchini (you don’t have to call it “squash”), as well as mushrooms, tomatoes and Vidalia onions.
- Have “snackable” vegetables such as baby carrots, snap peas and radishes readily available after school. It is easy to open a bag of candy or chips; make it easy to eat vegetables and fruits.
- Try baking some kale chips. Children love the idea of “chips” but may be afraid of kale. This will help eliminate the fear factor and lead them to try kale in other forms. Occasionally substitute sweet potato fries and baked sweet potatoes instead of the ubiquitous Irish potato versions.
- Don’t give up. Some nutritionists claim that some children need to see a new food several times before they'll try it, so keep introducing those fruits and veggies. Remember, your ultimate goal is for your child to select fruits and vegetables when you are not there.
Q: I want to put in a model railroad in my garden. What are some of the best plants to use?
A: Select plants that will be in scale with your train and the buildings you install. You want plants that will enhance the illusion that your train is life size. Plants with small leaves and a tight branching structure are best. You don’t want anything with enormous leaves or that is a lax and sprawling plant. Irish moss (Sagina subulata) and Scottish moss (Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’) are not true mosses, but form a moss-like covering that will give the illusion of mowed fields in your model train landscape. True mosses should be cultivated and preserved if you already have them in your garden. Dwarf Alberta spruce can look like a tall pine in your miniature landscape. Trimmed plants of rosemary can be an evergreen forest. Thymes, blue spruce sedum and other small sedums, English boxwood, ‘Helleri’ holly and dwarf conifers are good choices. Most woody plants that can be trained into bonsais are good candidates for a train garden. Also, don’t forget the non-living parts of the landscape. A stone can become a boulder and a large stone can become a mountain. A small stream can be a river that the train runs along or crosses on a trestle. For more information, consider becoming a member of the Georgia Garden Railway Society (www.ggrs.info) or another model train group. A garden railway is a fun way to incorporate two engaging hobbies: gardening and model trains.
Q: I am worried about termites. I don’t know when my home was treated for them. How can I determine if I have any? Can I treat the house myself?
A: Spring is a good time to have your home checked to determine if it’s necessary to re-establish termite control measures. Termite inspection and control is best left to the professionals.
Properties are generally protected by either liquid termiticide barrier treatments or termite monitoring and baiting programs. Disturbance to the foundation soil or flooding can affect the protective measures. A licensed pest management professional can confirm whether a home or business is still protected against termites.
For an average-sized home, a termite inspection from a licensed professional should take about one hour. To ensure Georgia’s consumers receive proper termite treatments, the Georgia Department of Agriculture provides free inspections of treated structures to confirm the treatment meets established standards and is safe and effective. If residents have a termite control contract that is active, or no more than two-years expired, they can set up this free service. State field agents can also inspect structures that have a Georgia Wood Infestation Inspection Report, or termite letter, as long as the letter is no more than 90 days old.
Most professional liquid termite treatments are effective for five years, and a quick follow-up plan with your service provider will ensure steady protection for the life of your home.
Property owners should review their termite control contract to determine who is responsible for the reestablishment of the termite protection, which should be listed under the ‘terms and conditions’ within the contract.
Consumers should only use licensed professional pest control companies. If a company is not licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, it is illegal for them to practice termite control work. Residents can find a list of all licensed professional pest management companies by visiting www.kellysolutions.com/ga/structural or by contacting the Department’s Structural Pest Control Division at (404) 656-3641.
Q: I recently heard of something called a “French Breakfast Radish.” Is this a new variety or a new trend – eating radishes for breakfast?
A: ‘French Breakfast’ is a very old variety of radish. It is oblong, red with a white root tip and has a mild flavor. And, as the name of this old variety indicates, radishes may be eaten for breakfast. If it’s not trendy now, why not restart the trend by serving radishes at your next breakfast or brunch? They are healthy, inexpensive and readily available at grocery stores and farmers markets – and you don’t have to choose the ‘French Breakfast’ variety. A few raw, mild radishes are a crispy and refreshing follow-up to a Vidalia onion and cheese omelet with a side of bacon. Try them with a warm biscuit or a bagel. Radishes complement savory juices such as tomato or V8. If you never have time to cook a full breakfast on weekday mornings, boil some eggs the night before and eat a hard-boiled egg with toast, juice and a few radishes before running off to work or school. Although most people think only of eating radishes raw, consider slicing them thinly and sautéing them in butter for a few minutes.
Q: I always buy Easter lilies but throw them away when the blooms die. May I plant them outdoors?
A: Yes. After your Easter lily finishes blooming, you may plant it in your garden. With a little luck you will get several years of blooms. Prepare the soil by adding lots of organic matter. Do not plop the lily down in red clay. Good drainage is a must. Mulch with a two-inch layer of compost, shredded leaves or bark. This helps conserve moisture, suppresses weeds and keeps the soil cool. Dappled shade has been recommended for Easter lilies to keep the foliage from sprouting too soon in the spring and being damaged by late frosts. You will not get Easter lily blooms at Easter, however. Outdoors, it usually blooms in June.
Q: Is it all right to let children eat the Easter eggs they have hidden outdoors?
A: To be on the safe side, dye some eggs for eating and some for hiding. Explain to the children not to eat the ones they have hidden in the yard. The recreational Easter eggs may come in contact with the unwashed hands of numerous children, pets (and their residue) and lawn or garden chemicals. They also may stay too long outdoors in warm temperatures in which bacteria rapidly multiply. Keep the Easter eggs for eating stored in the refrigerator.
-- Arty G. Schronce