Q: I love the oleanders I see growing in gardens at the beach. I hear oleanders are not hardy in Atlanta, however. Is there a way I can grow one in north Georgia?
A: Oleanders, in general, are not considered hardy in north Georgia although you can see some in a few Atlanta gardens.
Here are tips for growing oleanders in colder areas outside their ideal range:
Select varieties listed as cold hardy. Some of these are ‘Calypso,’ ‘East End Pink,’ ‘Franklin D. Roosevelt,’ ‘General Pershing,’ ‘Hardy Pink,’ ‘Hardy Red,’ ‘Jannoch,’ ‘Little Red,’ ‘Magnolia Willis Sealy’ and ‘Mathilde Ferrier.’
Plant your oleander in an area that is protected from winter winds. Planting near a sunny brick or stone wall may help in that it can collect heat and radiate it back into the surrounding area after the sun goes down and temperatures drop. These protected “microclimate” areas may help the oleander survive the few hours of extreme cold that can kill or damage ones planted in exposed locations.
Mulch well to help protect the trunk of the plant. If the upper part of the shrub is killed, it may re-sprout from the base.
Fertilize modestly, if at all, and do not fertilize late in the summer or fall as it may lead to a flush of vegetative growth that is more susceptible to cold damage than older growth.
In even colder areas or when dealing with the more tender varieties of oleander, people grow them in tubs or large containers and bring them into a greenhouse or sunroom in the winter. Some gardeners are successful overwintering them in unheated basements or cellars and watering them only enough to keep them from completely drying out.
Q: I have a lot of tree seedlings on my property. Is there a way I can donate them to help reforest the burnt areas of Colorado?
A: Trying to dig and ship your seedlings out West is not practical. The success rate would be low, you may send a disease or insect pest not found in Colorado (and cause them even more problems) and the trees growing on your property in Georgia are not the ones native to or needed in Colorado. Look for other ways to help the people and forests of the Centennial State.
Q: As children we were told not to eat watermelon and ice cream together because it would make us sick. Is there a reason for that or any truth to it?
A: We know of no scientific reason for what you were told. In fact, there are numerous recipes that use Georgia watermelons to make some delicious ice creams. Your elders may have told you that to help prevent overindulging.
Q: Does the juice of the aloe plant actually help burns, including sunburns?
A: The transparent juice from the succulent leaves of Aloe vera has been used topically for thousands of years to treat burns (including sunburn) and numerous other skin conditions. Numerous studies have provided evidence that tends to support that it is an effective treatment for minor burns. While it is only anecdotal evidence, we know of numerous people who got relief using it after burns in the kitchen and at the beach.
Aloe vera is an easy-to-grow houseplant that is readily available at Georgia nurseries and garden centers.
Q: When is the Georgia Department of Agriculture holding its next auction for rehabilitated horses?
A: The next auction will be Saturday, August 11, 2012, at the Mansfield Impound Barn at 2834 Marben Farm Rd., Mansfield, Georgia 30055. The horses may be inspected at the facility beginning at 10:00 a.m. The sale will start at 11:00 a.m. Contact the Equine Health Office with any questions at 404-656-3713. Proceeds from the sale go to help fund the Department’s impound and rehabilitation program.
Q: Are double cantaloupes common?
A: A double cantaloupe occurs when two small melons near each other on the same vine or adjacent vines fuse together as they grow larger. Double cantaloupes are not common. This doubling occurs much more frequently with cucumbers and summer squash than with cantaloupes. We ran a photograph in the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin in 2000 of a man who grew a double cantaloupe. You may find one in your vegetable garden, but you are never going to see one at the grocery store, as a double cantaloupe does not conform to standard sizes and would be culled before it reaches the market.
Q: Someone gave me a bottle of balsamic vinegar. Does it need to be refrigerated after opening? It looks expensive. What do I use it for?
A: You do not need to refrigerate it. The finest balsamic vinegars may be aged for 25 years or more and are savored like fine wines or liqueurs. They can be expensive. Mass produced (and less expensive) kinds may not be as thick or sweet as the traditionally produced balsamic vinegars, but can still be tasty and add a kick to many foods. Experiment with different brands and ways to use them. The more expensive ones are used sparingly and in ways in which their rich and complex flavors can be fully appreciated. The less expensive ones are used when greater quantities are needed.
Here are a few suggestions on how to use balsamic vinegar: Mix it with extra virgin olive oil as a dip for warm bread or as a salad dressing. Drizzle it on tomatoes or grilled eggplant. Try a small amount over fresh or grilled peaches or roasted figs. A little can also perk up a bland sauce or soup.
Q: How can I have fleas in my tool shed? I do not have dogs or cats.
A: Buildings can become infested with fleas even when there are no pets around. Other animals such as roof rats, squirrels, raccoons and stray dogs or cats may take shelter or nest in structures and be the source of the infestation. Seal openings through which these animals may have entered your shed. A pest control company can treat for fleas if you cannot get the situation under control.
Q: What are some shrubs that will bloom in the summer? What colors are available?
A: Some options for summer-flowering shrubs are vitex (lavender, white), pomegranate (vermilion), hydrangeas (blue, pink, purple, lime, white), althea/rose of Sharon (purple, lavender, white, pink, bi-colors with purple or wine eye-spots), crepe myrtle (pink, crimson, white, orchid), abelia (white or rose flowers with rosy bronze or copper calyxes), roses (red, pink, white, yellow, coral), buddleia/butterfly bush (white, violet, purple, pink, orange, gold), oleander (white, pale yellow, red, pink) and gardenia (white). Don’t rule out sub-shrubs, semi-shrubs or shrubby perennials such as hypericums (yellow), Argentine senna (yellow), anisacanthus (orange), coral bean (red), yellow bird-of-paradise (yellow with red stamens), Confederate rose (white to pink) and lantana (yellow, light purple or a mix of crimson, magenta, orange and pink).
Q: I love the sea oats I see on the dunes at the beach. Can I collect some seed and grow them in Atlanta?
A: No. Sea oats (Uniola paniculata) have very specialized needs that you will not be able to replicate. Also, it is against the law to disturb sea oats or to cut their seed heads because they are such a valuable asset in protecting our beaches, marshland and coastal homes from erosion and storms. Their leaves and large network of roots build and protect sand dunes. Dunes function as dikes against flooding from ocean waves and as reservoirs of sand to seasonally replenish the beach. During hurricanes and storms, dunes help reduce the energy of strong waves.
However, there is a related grass you can find at nurseries and garden centers you can substitute that will grow very well in all parts of the state. Its botanical name is Chasmanthium latifolium. It goes by various common names including river oats, inland sea oats and upland sea oats. It is native to Georgia and grows in sun or shade and a wide range of soil conditions. The graceful and attractive seed heads resemble those of sea oats. Flower arrangers like to cut the seed heads of river oats before they turn brown and use them in fresh or dried bouquets.
In addition to river oats, other grasses such as pampas grass or narrow-leaved varieties of miscanthus (also known as maiden grass or eulalia grass) can also help give you the look of the dunes in your garden. They are readily available at Georgia nurseries and garden centers and are easy to grow.
Q: My refrigerator went haywire and froze the cantaloupe I had cut for supper. Is there anything you can use frozen cantaloupe for?
A: You can eat frozen cantaloupe when it is partially thawed. If it thoroughly thaws, it is too mushy. However, the semi-frozen product is not as good in most people’s opinion as in its unaltered form.
A better option is to use the frozen cubes to make a smoothie. Take one cup of watermelon (seedless or pieces that have had the seeds removed) and crush it to release as much of the juice as possible. Place the watermelon in the blender along with one cup of frozen cantaloupe and blend until mixed. If it is not icy enough, add ice cubes to the blender. If you need more liquid, you can add skim milk. If you don’t have watermelon, blend the cubes of frozen cantaloupe with yogurt or skim milk (it will look like peach ice cream) or orange juice.
If you have a cantaloupe that is too ripe, cubing and freezing it to make smoothies is an excellent option. If you don’t have time to freeze the cantaloupe, you can add ice cubes to cool the smoothie and bulk it up. However, this kind of smoothie melts quicker. (It is so refreshing, however, you may drink it too quickly to notice.)
You can also puree overripe cantaloupe to make frozen pops. Puree the fruit, add fine sugar or a sweetener if necessary and pour into your molds and freeze.
Q: Can I use insect repellent on my dog?
A: There are insect repellents available for pets. Be sure to follow the label directions. Products intended for humans can be toxic to pets, however. Insect repellents made for humans should not be used on animals without a veterinarian's recommendation.
Q: How can I prevent kinks from developing in my hosepipe?
A: The way to keep from getting kinks in your hosepipe is to prevent getting kinks in your hosepipe. That may sound like advice from Yogi Berra so please allow us to explain. Once a kink develops in your garden hose, it is likely to keep occurring at that same spot. Try to keep the kink from happening in the first place by buying the best quality hose you can afford and by taking proper care of it. When purchasing a hose, look for one made of quality material. In general, the heavier the rubber, the less likely it is to kink. Keep your hose coiled when not in use so that it doesn't become a twisted, kinky mess. When you use the hose, turn on the water and let it fill the hose before you uncoil it. The pressure of the water helps the hose hold its shape. Next, uncoil it gradually and avoid sharp turns as you drag it. When you're done, keep the water turned on and the hose filled until after you've finished coiling it. An empty hose tends to twist and kink while being coiled.
Q: I have several shrubs in containers that got too hot and dry. Some of their leaves have dried up and the rest are very wilted. What fertilizer will help revive the plants?
A: Do not fertilize plants that are extremely wilted or that have been damaged by heat or drought as you describe. Fertilizing could cause further damage. Water them immediately and deeply. Also wet the entire plant, especially the leaves. Skip fertilizing until the plants have fully recovered.
Q: What is ‘Zephyr’ squash? I saw it for sale at the farmers market.
A: ‘Zephyr’ is a variety of summer squash that is a hybrid of a yellow crookneck with a squash that is a cross between the delicata squash and yellow acorn squash. ‘Zephyr’ is unusual because it is yellow with light green at the blossom end and sometimes at the stem end. Don’t let this distinctive appearance make you think it is not ready to pick or cook. It is usually harvested at four to six inches long. It has a nutty flavor and firm texture that holds up well in cooking. It is also good for crudités.
Q: Will brewer’s yeast protect my dog from fleas? What about garlic?
A: Tests have shown that brewer’s yeast does not protect pets from fleas. Some claim that garlic and various dried herbs control fleas, but there is little scientific evidence to support such claims.
Q: Will there be another Georgia Grown Farmer Showcase?
A: Yes. The second Georgia Grown Farmer Showcase will be July 28 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Atlanta State Farmers Market. The first one in June was a great success with 47 vendors selling vegetables, fruits, vegetables, meats, multicolored eggs, meats, beef and pork jerky, apple juice and apple products, alpaca yarn and products, cheeses, plants and flowers, jams, jellies, honey, bread, Georgia Grown T-shirts (in an assortment of fruit and vegetable colors) and more. For information contact Paul Thompson at 404-675-1782. The Atlanta State Farmers Market is at 16 Forest Parkway, Forest Park.
Q: Do you have any advice on protecting horses during hot weather?
A: You need to take precautions during these extremely hot temperatures. Here are a few tips for helping horses stay safe and healthy:
· Limit activity to morning and evening hours. Keep work and exercise to a minimum during the hottest part of the day.
· Leave barn doors open as often as possible to allow proper ventilation.
· Place large fans around the exercise area, being sure to keep cords out reach of horses.
· Loosen or remove saddles and harnesses.
· Be cautious when allowing horses to walk on concrete; bare feet can be burned and horseshoes can become extremely hot.
· When hosing horses down after exercise, start with the legs and work upward to avoid shock.
· Work horses should be given regular breaks in places with shade, plenty of water and cool ground.
· Horses should always be given access to cool water (not heated by the sun) and shade throughout the day during the summer. In extreme heat a horse can drink more than 20 gallons of water a day. Some horses may require extra electrolytes, which can be given through store-bought supplements or by a mixture of three parts salt (sodium chloride) and one part lite salt (potassium chloride).
· Older and overweight horses have a harder time dealing with heat.
· Horses that are exposed to extremely high temperatures for long periods of time can experience heat stress or heat strokes. Excessive sweating, panting, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate and high rectal temperature are all signs of heat stress and should be treated by running cool water on the horse’s legs and giving frequent, small amounts of water. These signs can also be an indication of a heat stroke, in which case a veterinarian should be called immediately. While waiting for a vet to arrive, the same treatment methods for heat stress should be administered to the horse.