Q: How can I make sure I am purchasing a healthy pet?
A: Purchase from Georgia Department of Agriculture licensed pet dealers only. Do not buy from the back of a truck in a parking lot or from an unlicensed person at a flea market. And don't just limit your options to purchasing a pet. There are thousands of dogs and cats in animal shelters that need adopting and that make wonderful, loving companions.
Look for obvious signs of illness such as lethargy or a malnourished appearance. Insist on a written purchase contract and veterinary records. Have the animal checked by a licensed and accredited veterinarian within 48-72 hours of purchase.
Before you purchase or adopt anything, do some research on the particular breed of animal you are considering. Some animals have special needs that require immediate and close attention. Puppies of small breeds, for example, are subject to hypoglycemia if not fed properly during the first few weeks of ownership.
Q: What can I plant at my farm to provide food for wild turkeys? I want to improve my woodlands and old pastures to create a better habitat for them.
A: Wild turkeys consume a wide variety of foods including seeds, fruits, buds, tubers, snails, salamanders and insects.
Wild turkeys eat from an array of plant sources. Acorns and beech nuts are primary foods wherever most wild turkeys are found, so planting and preserving oaks and American beech trees is recommended. The tubers of chufa and other nutgrasses are renowned wild turkey favorites (although they can be weeds and are not something you would plant in a cultivated field or one you plan to cultivate.) The seeds of flowering dogwoods are favored, so you have another reason to plant them besides their lovely flowers. A few other plants that provide food are tupelo, wild grapes, hollies, black cherry, smilaxes, hickories, grasses, sedges, pines, sensitive fern, ironwood and lespedezas.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service has an online brochure that contains a wealth of information on what landowners need to do to provide the best cover for nesting, roosting and brood-rearing as well as considerations about food, water and other needs. It is available at www.mn.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/ecs/wild/turkey.pdf.
The Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources also provides excellent information online at www.georgiawildlife.org/node/492. The National Wild Turkey Federation (www.nwtf.org) is another source of information.
Q: When do I need to prune my crepe myrtles?
A: You may not need to prune your crepe myrtles. Many people are under the false impression that they must prune crepe myrtles every year and do so with shocking severity. This severe pruning can cause excessive growth that is more susceptible to powdery mildew and aphids and also result in hacked and butchered crepe myrtles that are not as attractive as the specimens in landscapes where the gardener has exercised some restraint.
You do not have to prune crepe myrtles unless they are not conforming to the form or size you want. If you do need to heavily prune crepe myrtles, late winter is a good time. Moderate and touch-up pruning can be done at any time of year.
Q: My ‘Bartlett’ pear tree died suddenly. I have been told that pears do not perform well in Georgia. Is this true?
A: We do not have commercial orchards of pears like in the Northwest due to fire blight, a bacterial disease that is prevalent in our warm, wet climate. ‘Bartlett,’ the most popular pear variety, is especially susceptible.
However, home gardeners can be very successful with pears if they choose the right varieties. These varieties are less susceptible to fire blight or tolerate it and keep going. Home gardeners will find that their pear trees will produce more than enough pears for fresh eating as well as preserves. Pears do not need a lot of attention. In fact, overly pruned and fertilized trees are more susceptible to fire blight.
A few of the best pear varieties for Georgia include ‘Orient,’ ‘Kieffer,’ ‘Seckel,’ ‘Moonglow’ and ‘Baldwin.’ The Georgia Cooperative Extension Service has a publication “Home Garden Pears” that is filled with information to help Georgians select and care for their pear trees.
Now (late winter) is a good time to order and plant pears and other fruit trees.
Q. Do weed-killers kill only weeds?
A. Herbicides are commonly called “weed-killers,” but they can kill the plants you want to keep as well as the ones you want to get rid of. Herbicides don’t even have to be directly applied to the plants to kill or do damage. For example, spraying an herbicide on a windy day can carry it to other plants in your yard or even your neighbor’s yard.
If misapplied or mishandled, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and other pesticides can also kill fish, birds, pets or even people. Please read and understand the label instructions before using an herbicide or any pesticide. Make sure all pesticides are used properly and stored properly.
Q: Can I sell llamas in the Market Bulletin?
A: Yes. Llamas are sold under the “Alternative Livestock” category. This category also contains the ads for other non-traditional livestock as well as emus, ostriches and rheas. For more information, call 404-656-3722.
Q: How can I nominate a farm to be a Georgia Centennial Farm?
A: The Georgia Centennial Farm Program was created to draw attention to historic farms and to encourage their preservation. Nominees must be a working farm with a minimum of 10 acres of the original purchase actively involved in agricultural production and must generate at least $1,000 in annual farm-generated income. In addition, farms must have been continuously farmed by members of the same family for at least 100 years. Qualifying Georgia Centennial Farms are honored each October at an awards ceremony at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry.
For more information, contact Steven Moffson, Chair of the Georgia Centennial Farm Committee, at 404-651-5906 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The postmark deadline for applications is May 1 of each year. Applications are available online at www.georgiacentennialfarms.org.
Since 1993, the Georgia Centennial Farm Program has recognized 426 farms around the state. The program is administered by the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Farm Bureau, Georgia National Fair and Agricenter, Georgia Department of Agriculture and Georgia Forestry Commission.
Q: I bought some wildflower honey recently that tasted different from what I bought from another source. Is this normal?
A: Wildflower honey is the end product of the honeybees collecting nectar from many different kinds of flowers growing wild and in gardens. The taste may vary from year to year and place to place. The color, aroma and flavor will depend on what flowers were visited.
Q: Will there be an agriculture forecast presentation in north Georgia this year?
A: Yes, there will be one in Rome on January 28. You can also attend the forecast in Athens (Jan. 25), Macon (Jan. 29), Tifton (Jan. 30), Bainbridge (Jan. 31) and Lyons (Feb. 1).
The University of Georgia (UGA) College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Georgia Farm Bureau and the Georgia Department of Agriculture present the Georgia Ag Forecast every year. In each session, UGA faculty will give an overview of the coming year, and a regional speaker will discuss the hottest topics in Georgia agriculture. This will be followed by a Q&A session and a networking lunch. Participants also receive a copy of the 2013 Ag Forecast Book, which provides an analysis of each major product produced in Georgia. For more information and to register, go to www.georgiaagforecast.com.
Q: Can camellias be grown from seed?
A: Certainly. Collect the seeds when the seed pod splits and plant them as soon as possible about one-half inch deep in well-drained potting soil or seed-starting mix. Germination usually takes from two to four months depending on temperature. Camellia seeds should not be allowed to dry out. If you can’t plant your seeds right away, store them in the refrigerator in a sealed container with a damp paper towel.
Seedlings of named varieties are unlikely to look like their parents, but that is part of the fun: seeing what you will come up with.
Q: What is the difference between biddies and dibbies?
A: Biddy and dibby are both synonyms for chick. A biddy can also be a hen, however, so you have to determine from the context what the speaker or writer is referring to.
Q: What is the most popular breed of dog in America? I am trying to decide what kind I want.
A: We do not keep statistics on breeds of dogs. The American Kennel Club puts out an annual list of “Most Popular Dogs in the U.S.” based on its registration statistics.
Popularity, rarity or novelty are not good factors in selecting a dog or any pet. The dog should fit into your home and lifestyle. If you live in a cramped apartment in the city, a Great Dane may not be the best choice. An active, working breed dog may not be a good choice for a fragile person with mobility issues. Consider all factors when deciding. The best dog is one you can love and enjoy caring for. A common mutt may be the perfect dog for you. Love makes what is common in the world’s eyes unique to yours.
Q: I have seen apple trees advertised as “bare-root.” What does that mean?
A: A bare-root plant is one that is sold with the soil removed from its roots. It is a common way of selling fruit and nut trees, strawberry plants, rose bushes and some perennial flowers. The plants are dug and shipped while they are dormant in the winter or early spring. The roots are packed in damp sphagnum moss or similar material and placed in a plastic bag or wrap to keep the moisture in.
Plant bare-root trees, shrubs and perennials as soon as you receive them. If you cannot plant them right away, keep them in a cool place and keep the roots moist.
Q: What is the average life span of a houseplant?
A: The life span of a houseplant depends on what kind of plant it is. It also depends on the care and environment you provide. Some houseplants will live for many years and have been handed down for generations. Jade plants, begonias and amaryllises are examples of long-lived houseplants. Paperwhite narcissus and florist’s cyclamen, on the other hand, are usually discarded after blooming. Some people grow annuals such as nasturtiums and alyssum indoors for some winter flowers. These are short-lived and should be discarded after the plants’ period of blooming. Some plants – many ferns for example – will last a long time provided they are divided occasionally to prevent them from becoming rootbound. Properly pruned, fed and watered plants receiving the correct amount of light should last for years.
Q: My neighbor keeps his dog chained all the time. It looks like he never cleans up after it. During extreme weather the dog has no protection. Is this something the Department of Agriculture would investigate?
A: We do not have jurisdiction over personal pet dogs or cats. Please report your concerns to local law enforcement officials.
Q: Could you tell me the price of raw cashmere? It is right off the goat. Nothing has been done to it.
A: We do not track the price of cashmere, but, like everything, price depends on demand, supply and quality.
Contact wool processors to see if they are interested. Call or visit a store where weavers, knitters and felters get supplies. These stores often carry various kinds of roving, yarns, fibers and such, and may give some advice or even be interested in purchasing what you have. You may also visit a library, bookstore or newsstand and find a magazine or book on weaving to get some ideas.
Other cashmere producers may have suggestions. Here is a link to the website of Cashmere America: www.capcas.com/Coop_Homepage.html. The website has information and links to other websites that may be helpful. We could not find any ads for cashmere in the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin, but if you decide on a price you could offer it there or place a free ad looking for other Georgia cashmere producers.
Q: I love pesto. Now that basil is out of season I am looking for some alternatives. Any suggestions? I have not had luck growing basil indoors.
A: You have several possibilities for winter pestos.
Try parsley or arugula. They grow throughout the winter in Georgia and, after basil, are probably the most popular green components for making pestos. Check out this short video on the Georgia Public Broadcasting website demonstrating how to use Georgia Grown pecans and arugula to make pesto: www.gpb.org/pick-cook-keep/pecans.
Collards and kale are two other pesto options that you can grow in your own garden in the winter or find at local farmers markets or grocery stores. They are traditional Southern crops but are not traditionally used to make pesto. Fresh spinach is also a choice and is easier to find in the winter than basil is.
Rosemary can be used, but rosemary pesto is much stronger than basil pesto. The strength of the rosemary may be moderated by adding parsley or spinach. Rosemary pesto is often used on lamb and potatoes.
Pesto is easy to prepare, and there are many variations, so experiment to find what you like best.
Q: Do I need to clean and polish the leaves of my rubber plant with olive oil?
A: No. Olive oil, mayonnaise, mineral oil or similar commercial products make leaves sticky, allowing them to collect even more dust than they would otherwise and reducing photosynthesis by blocking light – not a good thing since light levels are lower in the winter to begin with. Oily products can also clog the stomata, the openings, mainly on the underside of the leaves, through which the plant expels oxygen and takes in carbon dioxide.
If your houseplants need cleaning, give them a shower or sponge bath. Large plants can be placed under the shower for a few minutes. Place towels over the pot to keep soil from splashing out. Smaller plants can be treated the same way using the hand sprayer or a spray bottle. A bath or regular misting helps control spider mites, a pest that thrives in warm, dry conditions. Spray underneath the leaves as well as that is where spider mites often congregate.
Arty Schronce writes this weekly question-and-answer column to address questions about agriculture and questions about the services and products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. If you have a question, please email him at email@example.com or call him at 404-656-3656.