Question: I want to plant things to help bees. Do you have some suggestions?
Answer: Many people are looking for ways to help honeybees and the many more native bees such as various bumblebees and halictid bees. Many of our bees have declining populations due to habitat loss, excessive pesticide use and disease. Planting a garden (or even just a few plants) for them is a good way to help these pollinators and the farmers who depend on them. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Try to have a long period of blooming with overlapping bloom times. Include winter-flowering plants. A wide diversity of plants is better than one single kind.
Avoid double-flowered varieties. These have more than the normal number of petals but produce less (if any) pollen and nectar.
Choose native plants if possible. While many non-natives are excellent sources of nectar and pollen, by choosing native plants you can almost assuredly help native bees.
Avoid insecticides or don't use them at all. Remember, they will kill non-targeted insects including bees and butterflies.
Learning the life cycles of bees will enable you to better help them. Protect and create nesting and egg-laying sites. Native bees need sites in the ground or woody vegetation and nesting material. Leave dead tree snags and branches, if possible. Some bees nest in the stems of flowering plants, so don’t cut them down until the following spring after the bees have emerged. Create sites for hibernation and overwintering such as brush piles, rock piles, log piles and hedgerows. You can even find examples of “bee hotels” and nesting boxes you may want to purchase or make yourself.
A shallow concrete birdbath can help bees by being a water source. A shallow saucer with water and pebbles is another option.
Here are a few favorites of bees that you can plant or preserve on your property. They represent only a small slice of the possibilities:
Trees and shrubs: Cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas), flowering quince, pussy willow, sarvisberry, redbud, black locust, lilac, catalpa, false indigo bush (Amorpha fruticosa), red maple, titi, blueberry, tulip poplar, Japanese flowering apricot (Prunus mume), Chickasaw plum, gallberry, American holly, yaupon, sourwood, chaste tree, cabbage palmetto, dwarf palmetto, witch hazel, persimmon, American basswood, littleleaf linden, wild cherry, buttonbush, glossy abelia, sumac, bottlebrush buckeye and other buckeyes, crabapple, tupelo, elderberry, blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium), possumhaw (Viburnum nudum), native azaleas and rhododendrons, blackberry, clethra, rosemary, Cumberland rosemary (Conradina verticillata) and gray-leaved conradina (Conradina canescens).
Annuals and perennials: clover, bee balm and other monardas, hoary mountain mint (Pycnanthemum incanum), button eryngo (Eryngium yuccifolium), Eastern prickly pear cactus, sunflower, native asters, tithonia, goldenrod, mollypop, butterflyweed and other milkweeds, anise hyssop, zinnia, purple coneflower, blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum), lemon balm, great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), sedum, Russian sage, liatris and phlox.
Besides planting for bees, help them by educating your friends and neighbors about their importance to agriculture and the environment. We would not have fruits and vegetables without our insect pollinators. Also, buy local honey and support your local beekeepers; they are working hard to protect honeybees and will appreciate the help you give to them and other bees.
Q: Are there any heat-tolerant dahlias for Georgia?
A: We can grow many dahlias here. Keys to success include selecting heat-tolerant varieties, preparing the soil with plenty of compost and mulching them well.
Please look at the website of the Dahlia Society of Georgia (www.dahliasocietyofgeorgia.com) It is a wealth of information and includes a "Dahlia Growing Guide for Southern Gardens" and an extensive list of heat-tolerant varieties. Here are a few suggested varieties from John Kreiner of the society grouped by flower size:
GIANT 10 inches and over: AC Ben (orange), Ben Huston (orange), Bonaventure (yellow), Inland Dynasty (yellow), Ivory Palaces (yellow), Kelvin Floodlight (yellow), Pennsgift (lavender), Totenko (red), Zorro (dark red).
LARGE 8-10 inches: Clearview Sundance (yellow), Elsie Huston (pink & lavender), Harry Meggos (yellow & orange); Hy Debut (white),
Kenora Wildfire (red), Kidd's Climax (pink & yellow), Spartacus (dark red), Trooper Dan (yellow), Vassio Meggos (lavender), Verda (white).
MEDIUM: Amy Kay (pink & white), Bo-Bay (lavender & yellow),
Bo-Joy (yellow), Bode (lavender), Dr. John E. Kaiser (orange), Gloriosa (yellow & red), Hamari Accord (yellow), Just Married (pink & white), Magic Moment (white), Skipley Bonanza (red), Thomas Edison (purple).
SMALL: AC CJ (orange), Bloomquist Barbara (yellow), Brookside Snowball (white), Embrace (bronze), Ferncliff Lemon Aura (yellow),
Hart's Lora Ann (dark red), Hollyhill Gold Rush (yellow & pink), Hy Clown (yellow), Hy Sockeye (dark red), Parkland Rave (lavender).
The list here and the larger list on the website are not all-inclusive, but are a good place to start on the road to success with dahlias.
Dahlia tubers are available at garden centers. You may find a few potted dahlias there as well. There are dahlia growers and suppliers you can order from as well. For a list of some of them, visit www.dahlias.net/dbiglist.htm. Another way to purchase tubers is to attend the Dahlia Society of Georgia’s two spring tuber sales on the third Monday night of April and May at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Some seed companies sell dahlia seed, an inexpensive and relatively easy way to get a lot of plants, although the range of varieties is limited.
If possible, visit the society’s display garden at Stone Mountain State Park to see different varieties in bloom and judge how they perform. The best time to visit is mid-September through October. Another good idea is to attend the Georgia Dahlia Show, September 26-27, at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
Q: What are lentils? Where are they grown?
A: Think of lentils as a flatter, lens-shaped version of a dried pea. Like peas, beans and peanuts, lentils are a legume. They are easy to cook and do not require pre-soaking or long cooking times. In North America much of the acreage is in Idaho, Montana, Washington, North Dakota and western Canada where drier growing season conditions prevail. Leading lentil-producing countries are Canada, India, Turkey and Australia.
Q: Is there a difference between Carolina jessamine and Carolina jasmine?
A: They are common names for the same plant, Gelsemium sempervirens, although jessamine is more accurate since it is not a true jasmine or even in the same family as jasmines. It is also called yellow jessamine. It is renowned for its bright yellow flowers in late winter and spring and their delightful fragrance. The fragrance is equal or superior to that of any true jasmine. ‘Pride of Augusta’ is a double-flowered variety that is commonly available. A similar species, the swamp jessamine (Gelsemium rankii), looks almost exactly like the Carolina jessamine but has no fragrance. Its main selling point is that it flowers in fall as well as spring and may have a few blooms in the winter.
Q: What is “temperature abuse”? I read that a food company had a violation of temperature abuse with their meat.
A: Temperature abuse or, more accurately, time-temperature abuse is when foods stay too long at temperatures that are ideal for pathogen growth. It is a leading cause of foodborne illness with foods requiring time and temperature control for safety (TCS foods). The danger zone for time-temperature abuse is 41 to 135 degrees F. and may occur when food is not cooked to the recommended minimum internal temperature, not held at the proper temperature or not cooled or reheated properly.
The longer food is in the temperature danger zone, the more time pathogens have to grow. The goal is to reduce the amount of time TCS food spends in the temperature danger zone.
Q: Everywhere I turn in grocery stores and restaurants I see blueberries and blueberry products. Is it just my imagination or are blueberries more common than they used to be?
A: It’s probably not just your imagination. U.S. Department of Agriculture calculations have revealed an impressive increase in national per capita consumption of blueberries, rising from 0.26 pounds in 2000 to nearly 1.3 pounds in 2011. The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council reports that almost 1,000 new products containing blueberries came on the market in 2012 in North America. Some blueberry products that have come on the market in recent years are produced in Georgia including blueberry snack bars, juice, barbecue sauce, chocolate covered blueberries and blueberry hot pepper jelly.
It’s no wonder blueberry products should originate here. In 2014 Georgia produced 96 million pounds of blueberries, edging out Michigan to become the top blueberry-producing state in the nation.
In addition to the many new processed foods containing blueberries, fresh and frozen blueberries are finding their way into kitchens and onto restaurant menus and are crossing culinary boundaries. Once you only heard of blueberries in baked goods. Now, blueberries are showing their versatility by popping up in savory dishes such as meats and green salads.
Besides the taste and color they provide, blueberries are being praised for being a healthy food high in antioxidants and fiber. If eating healthy food produced in Georgia is a trend, it’s a trend we encourage!
A few ways to use blueberries: Use fresh blueberries to garnish your morning grapefruit. Add them to fruit salads or green salads. Try a salad of spinach or mixed greens with blueberries, roasted pecans, mandarin orange slices and Gorgonzola or blue cheese. Fruit salsas with blueberries are a new twist. Try blueberries on cold cereal or hot oatmeal. Frozen blueberries can be used on cold cereal by thawing them for a few minutes in warm water. Put some frozen blueberries and a frozen banana in a blender with yogurt to create a delicious smoothie. Experiment and create your own smoothie recipes combining blueberries with other frozen fruits such as strawberries and peaches. And don’t forget those pies, pancakes, muffins, jams and syrups.
If you need some more guidance, here is a demonstration on making an arugula salad with blueberry vinaigrette from Georgia Public Broadcasting: www.gpb.org/pick-cook-keep/episodes/blueberries, and here is a salsa recipe from the Georgia Grown Test Kitchen at the Georgia Department of Agriculture:
Georgia Blueberry Salsa
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh Georgia blueberries
1 cup whole Georgia blueberries
¼ cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients, cover and chill for 8 hours. Note: This salsa holds up very well for several days in the refrigerator. We tried this with blue corn chips, and it was delicious. It would also be good with grilled or roasted chicken.
Q: What crops in Georgia are pollinated by honeybees or other bees?
A: In Georgia we are able to grow a wide variety of crops. Many depend on (or benefit from) honeybees or other bees for pollination. Here are a few: watermelon, muskmelon/cantaloupe, peach, apple, blueberry, plum, pear, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, strawberry, blackberry, persimmon, eggplant, pepper, tomato, cowpea/field pea, soybean, cotton and okra. Also in order to have seeds for crops that we plant such as broccoli, onion, clover and alfalfa, the flowers of these must be pollinated by bees or other insects in areas where they are grown for seed production.
Q: What are chicken feet used for?
A: Well, chickens use them for standing, walking, scratching and to make those proverbial trips across the road, but you probably mean what people use them for. Among the most popular uses of chicken feet are to make chicken stock and soup. Soup made containing chicken feet was once more familiar in America than today, but some food writers are rediscovering it and praising its rich flavor, silky texture and high collagen content.
Chicken feet are popular in Chinese and Asian cooking. They may be fried, braised or used to make "phoenix claws" and other dishes. The cuisines of Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Jamaica, South Africa, Mexico and other countries also utilize chicken feet. Most chicken feet (often referred to as “paws” in the poultry industry) produced in the U.S. are exported. China and Hong Kong are the main importers. South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and Singapore also import a lot of U.S. chicken feet.
Look for chicken feet in specialty meat markets or in Chinese or Asian markets.
Q: I need to divide a clump of daffodils. When should I do it?
A: As a general rule, the best time to dig spring-flowering bulbs, such as your daffodils, is about six weeks after they finish blooming. The foliage will have died back, but you can still see it, which makes locating the bulbs easier. There’s less of a chance of damaging the bulbs if you can see exactly where they are. Waiting until the leaves die allows them to complete their job of providing nutrients to the bulb for next year’s blooms and growth. Although you can store the bulbs until fall in a cool, dry place, we recommend going ahead and planting them so you don’t forget about them.
Daffodil clumps may need to be divided if the bulbs become too crowded. Overcrowded bulbs produce few flowers or may produce only foliage. Also, you may want to dig up bulbs to share with friends and neighbors.
If you need to move the bulbs while the foliage is still green, dig them up, divide them and replant them immediately without damaging or removing the foliage. Water them thoroughly at planting. We don’t recommend moving while they are blooming or getting ready to bloom because you may damage the blooms. Of course, if you need to move them to rescue them from construction or something like that, go ahead and do it.
Q: I remember something from childhood called a “plumgranny.” It looked like a miniature orange watermelon and was very fragrant. I don’t remember anyone eating it. What is it?
A: A plumgranny or plum granny (Cucumis melo Dudaim Group) is a small melon that is also known “Queen Anne’s pocket melon.” It is about the size of a tennis ball or smaller and has smooth skin and orange stripes when ripe. Plumgrannies are edible, but bland. They are mostly grown for their fragrance. One or two can fill a room with their perfume. Think of them as potpourri. Do not confuse plumgranny with pomegranate, a different thing entirely.
Plumgrannies have been grown for a long time. In the days before perfumes and deodorants were commonly available or bathing facilities were limited, plumgrannies were carried in pockets and purses to mask body odor -- your own or that of the people you encountered.
Plumgranny seeds are sometimes offered for sale in the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin and in various seed catalogs. Here are a few we found offering them:
New Hope Seed Company
P.O. Box 443, Bon Aqua, TN 37025
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
P.O. Box 460, Mineral, VA 23117
Seed Savers Exchange
3094 North Winn Rd., Decorah, IA 52101
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company
2278 Baker Creek Rd., Mansfield, MO 65704
If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the department’s website at www.agr.georgia.gov.