Q: There was a load of sand used on the sidewalk of our building during the ice and snow. Is it all right to gather this sand to use in my garden or to root cuttings?
A: It will be all right provided no salt was used along with the sand. Salt would be detrimental to your plants, especially young ones or cuttings you are trying to root. If you think salt was mixed with the sand, don’t use it. If you’re not sure, but you’re set on using that sand, put the sand outside (away from sensitive plants) in a container with drainage holes at the bottom. Let rainwater rinse away the salt in the sand over the course of the winter and use the sand in the spring.
Q: I boiled some eggs earlier this week. How long can you keep hard-boiled eggs? Do you have any tips on the length of time to boil eggs?
A: Hard-boiled eggs (also referred to as hard-cooked eggs) can be stored in your refrigerator for up to seven days, either left in their shells or peeled. To boil your eggs, first place them in a single layer in a saucepan. Add enough tap water to cover at least one inch above the eggs. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat off, cover the pan and let the eggs cook in the hot water. Generally, you’ll want to cook medium-size eggs for 12 minutes, large eggs for 15 and extra-large eggs for 18. Instead of turning the heat off, you could also turn the heat very low and simmer the eggs for the same length of time. After cooking, rinse your eggs with cold tap water and refrigerate within two hours.
Q: I live near a highway. Do you have any suggestions about landscaping to help block some of the traffic noise?
A: Blocking sound is not an exact science and many factors come into play, such as topography and the direction and intensity of the noise. Blocking sound completely in a residential setting with a lot of traffic may be impossible, but there are ways to buffer and mask the noise of traffic.
Here are some tips: Plant as close to the source of the noise as possible. The row of shrubs near the sound source should have branches all the way to the ground. A second row of taller plants should branch close to the ground as well. The third row should be taller than the second but the branches need not reach the ground. The most effective sound barrier would repeat this pattern of short-taller-tallest after a “dead air” space. Of course, this is not practical on small lots, but planting anything is better than nothing. The wider the hedge is, the better its leaves, twigs and branches will be able to “absorb” and reflect sound. The most effective species of plants for blocking sound are those with large leaves that are curled or cupped. (Broadleaf evergreens are much more effective than conifers such as junipers and arborvitaes.) The most effective species also have dense branching patterns with branches that grow perpendicular to the sound source. A few possibilities include Southern magnolia, American holly, Burford holly, Convexa Japanese holly, leatherleaf viburnum, sasanqua, Japanese cleyera, pittosporum (coastal and southern Georgia), yaupon, mock orange and Harry Lauder’s walkingstick. Also consider masking the noise with "white sound,” like a trickling fountain placed between you and the source of the unwanted noise. Your attention is drawn to the sound of the water close at hand and this helps distract attention from background noise.
Q: A layer of snow has been on my perennials and pansies and around my azaleas for several days. Will this harm them?
A: No. Your plants will be fine. In fact, snow can act as a layer of insulation from biting winter temperatures. While pansies do not like to be under snow for long periods, a few days is not a problem.
Q: What is the difference between the Dominique breed of chicken and the Dominicker breed?
A: Dominique is the official name but people often refer to members of this attractive, black-and-white barred, heirloom breed as Dominickers. Both names are used and accepted in ads of the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin.
Q: What are pass-along plants? I heard this term recently and am unfamiliar with it.
A: A “pass-along plant” is a term used for plants that are commonly shared and passed along from person to person. They are often old varieties or are plants that have been grown for many years. Some are difficult to find for sale in the general nursery trade, perhaps because they are considered “old-fashioned” or may not be as showy as some newer varieties. However, they are generally very durable and easy to grow.
The Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin carries ads from people sharing, selling or looking for many such plants. Looking at the common names of some of these Market Bulletin ads is like taking a course in horticultural folklore and may bring back childhood memories. Consider: money plant, four-o’clocks, grancy graybeard, balsam, milk-and-wine lily, Job’s tears, multiplying onion, running onion, Confederate rose, mullein pink, rose campion, old maids, cat whiskers, Jerusalem cherry, resurrection lily, Mexican tree pepper, yellow hibiscus, Texas star hibiscus, re-seeding petunias, shoo-fly plant, caveman gourd, maypop and “old timey daffodils.”
The Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin is published biweekly (every two weeks) by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Subscriptions for Georgia residents cost only $10 per year. Out-of-state subscriptions are $20 per year. Out-of-state subscriptions must be within the United States or its territories. To start a subscription, send a check or money order payable to Market Bulletin, along with your name, complete mailing address and daytime phone number (in the event the Market Bulletin office needs to contact you concerning your subscription) to the following address: Market Bulletin, Georgia Department of Agriculture, 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SW, Atlanta, GA 30334-4250.
Q: I just saw a cherry tree (I think) in bloom in January. What is wrong with it? This winter has not even been that warm.
A: Perhaps what you saw is a winter-flowering Higan cherry (Prunus x subhirtella 'Autumnalis'). It is also called the autumn-flowering cherry. It has a very light dormancy and will pop into bloom on and off from November to March. It is also possible you saw a Japanese flowering apricot (Prunus mume). This beautiful tree also blooms in winter. Sadly, many people are unaware of these and other fall- and winter-flowering trees, shrubs and perennials because they only visit gardens, garden centers and nurseries in spring and summer. Visit the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens, Atlanta Botanical Garden or other gardens, nurseries and garden centers in fall and winter to see the plants that put on a show in what most people consider the “off season.” With a little planning, Georgia gardeners can have flowers in their gardens every month of the year.
Q: Will this cold December mean fewer insect pests next summer?
A: A cold winter does not necessarily mean fewer insect pests. Not all insects are susceptible to winter-kill. A lot of them have antifreeze in their blood, and Georgia winters are often not cold enough to rid fields or gardens of overwintering pests. In some cases, a mild winter could hurt insect populations by keeping insects in a state of semi-hibernation in which they use more of their energy reserves.
Q: Do I need a beekeeper license?
A: Only people producing queen and package bees for sale are required to be licensed.
Q: What causes dark bones in cooked poultry?
A: It is safe to eat chicken meat that turns dark near the bone during cooking. Darkening around bones occurs primarily in young broiler-fryers. Since their bones have not calcified completely, pigment from the bone marrow can seep through the porous bones. When the chicken is cooked, the pigment turns dark. Freezing can also contribute to this seepage.
Q: Georgia is the nation’s leading peanut producer, but I cannot find Georgia peanuts in any grocery stores. Why?
Answer: All the grocery stores you visited have Georgia peanuts, but in peanut butter form. Approximately 75 percent of Georgia’s peanut crop is used to make peanut butter. Anytime you pick up a jar of peanut butter you are probably purchasing Georgia peanuts. In fact, it takes 850 peanuts to make one 18-ounce jar.
Q: Is the ‘Wonderful’ pomegranate a good one to plant in Georgia? I want to plant a pomegranate orchard.
A: Although it has become the major kind grown in California and is the one you see in grocery stores, ‘Wonderful’ performs poorly as a fruit producer in Georgia. Research is ongoing to determine the best pomegranates for fruit production in the state. For more information about growing pomegranates, get a copy of “Pomegranate Production,” a new publication from the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. It is available online at www.caes.uga.edu/publications.
Q: Is coffee an actual bean?
A: No. Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee plant and get their name due to their superficial resemblance to true beans, but the two are unrelated. A vanilla bean is not an actual bean, either. A vanilla bean is the seed pod of a vanilla orchid.
Q: Why are some hard-boiled eggs difficult to peel?
A: Extremely fresh eggs are more difficult to peel, so it's better to boil eggs that have been in the fridge several weeks. That's because the air cell, found at the large end of the shell between the shell membranes, increases in size the longer the raw egg is stored. As the contents of the egg contract and the air cell enlarges, the shell becomes easier to peel.
-- Arty G. Schronce