Question: I saw a flower named stokesia at the garden center. Is it a good plant for Georgia?
Answer: Yes. Stokesia (Stokesia laevis), also known as Stokes' aster and cornflower aster, is a beautiful native wildflower that makes an excellent garden plant.
It is an evergreen perennial with wisteria blue flowers that is native mostly along the coastal plain from North Carolina to Florida to Louisiana. It typically grows one to two feet tall and seems to prefer moist, yet well-drained (especially in winter) soil. It is much more cold-tolerant than its native range would suggest. Although native, you are more likely to encounter it in a garden than in the wild, however.
Stokesia blooms in early summer and may repeat in the fall. There are different cultivars on the market that vary in color and height from the straight species. Stokesia likes full sun to partial shade and is a good companion for butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), spigelia (Spigelia marilandica), daylilies and purple coneflowers.
The species name laevis means “smooth,” and the leaves are calmingly smooth to touch, almost like a polished stone. This overlooked trait makes it a good choice for a child’s garden or a five-senses garden.
Q: What is the name of the plant with fuzzy, silver leaves and bright, deep magenta-crimson flowers that blooms in late spring?
A: You are probably referring to Lychnis coronaria, an old-fashioned favorite in the carnation family that goes by the common names of “rose campion” and “mullein pink.” It is a biennial or short-lived perennial that is easy to grow, drought tolerant and deer resistant. Some people have complained that it seeds itself too readily in sunny gardens, but it is easy to weed out if it sprouts in places it is not wanted. The only other complaint about it is that the color of the flowers is too intense for some people’s taste. There is a pure white form and some that are white with only a touch or blush of magenta, however, for those who are timid about bold colors in the garden.
Q: Will cantaloupes ripen after they have been picked?
A: Once the melon is removed from the vine, the flesh will soften but the sugar content will never be higher than it was at harvest.
Q: Do you have any special advice or precautions about protecting horses during hot weather?
A: At the beginning of summer, consult your veterinarian about your horse’s overall health. Older and overweight horses have a harder time dealing with heat. Your vet may offer specific recommendations for your horse.
Make sure your horse’s vaccinations are up to date, especially those for mosquito-borne diseases such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus. Since mosquitoes are more abundant during the summer, practice mosquito control such as eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed.
Horses should always be given access to cool water (not heated by the sun) and shade throughout the day during the summer. Change the water multiple times daily as needed to keep it cool and fresh and to keep mosquitoes from breeding. An automatic water apparatus can help with this.
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. A horse is not a camel, however. Rapid consumption of water can cause problems in horses (and large dogs, too.) Allow regular breaks so horses can cool off and drink moderately. Work horses especially should be given regular breaks in places with shade, water and cool ground.
Limit activity to morning and evening hours. Keep work and exercise to a minimum during the hottest part of the day. 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.
Leave barn doors open as often as possible to allow proper ventilation and air movement. A mist system may be a good investment to help your horse deal with high temperatures. Place large fans around the exercise area, being sure to keep cords out reach of horses.
Horses that are exposed to extremely high temperatures for long periods 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.
Question: My picnic cooler was used to transport raw hamburger meat. How can I make sure it is clean and sanitized before using it for prepared food?
Answer: Wash the cooler with soap and warm, clean water. Rinse with clean water and then sanitize with a mixture of one teaspoon of bleach per one gallon of clean water. If the cooler has a drain hole and plug, make sure these are cleaned and sanitized as well. Allow the cooler to air dry.
Q: Sparrow-like birds are eating seeds off my rosemary bush. One is grayish brown with light streaks on its breast and the other is grayish brown, too, but with a cranberry-rose cast to its head and breast. Do you know what they are? I have never seen birds eat rosemary seeds before.
A: It sounds like a pair of house finches. The male house finch is the one with the colorful plumage. Some people mistakenly call these “purple finches,” but the purple finch is a different species and does not breed in Georgia.
We do not know of other wild birds that eat rosemary seeds, but we have read an account from Texas of goldfinches eating them.
Q: Can we grow pomegranates in Georgia?
A: Yes. With its mentions in the Old Testament and Greek mythology as well as Shakespeare and other works of literature, you would think pomegranates would be part of the landscaping of churches and high schools wherever the plant is hardy. That would be almost everywhere in Georgia except the coldest parts of the mountains.
Generally, pomegranates are grown here primarily for the ornamental qualities of their flowers and fruit rather than for the eating quality of the fruit. However, university researchers are testing varieties and looking for ways this fascinating fruit could become a commercial crop in the future.
Most pomegranate flowers and their waxy buds are vermillion to brilliant scarlet. There are double and single varieties. Toyosho is a double-flowered variety with peach-colored blooms. Pomegranates are large shrubs. There are dwarf varieties that will fit into almost any landscape and can even be grown as bonsai.
Q: Is million bells a good flower for containers?
A: Calibrachoa (pronounced cal-ih-bruh-CO-uh), sometimes called “million bells,” produces copious bell-like flowers that look like mini petunias. Calibrachoa prefers full sun and is good for pots and hanging baskets as well as borders. It is available in many colors including violet, purple, red, orange, yellow and white.
Q: Where can I find a list of food recalls in Georgia?
Answer: You can sign up to receive email or text alerts and see a comprehensive list of recalls impacting Georgia online at the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s (GDA) website at www.agr.georgia.gov/recalls.aspx. You may also wish to follow the GDA on Twitter @GDAFoodSafety for recall alerts and food safety tips.
Q: I thought halva was always made from sesame seeds. I purchased some prepackaged Ukrainian halva recently, and it caused an allergic reaction. I discovered it was made from sunflower seeds, something I am allergic to. However, it did not have any ingredients listed. Shouldn’t it have had the ingredients listed?
A: All foods that are offered for customer self-serve, like the prepackaged halva you purchased, should be properly labeled to include the full list of ingredients. This does not apply to foods that only have one ingredient (peanuts, apples, etc.) or for foods that are handed/served directly to the customer (food service).
Anyone with questions or concerns about labeling should contact the Food Safety Division of the Georgia Department of Agriculture. We can determine if an investigation needs to be conducted to ensure compliance with regulations and ensure public health is protected.
Q: Will deer eat Irish potato plants? I know they will eat sweet potato plants.
A: Yes. Deer may prefer sweet potatoes and other plants to Irish potatoes but will eat almost anything if they are hungry enough.
You may need to use fencing or a deer repellent to protect your crop. Here is the recipe for a homemade repellent you may want to try: Beat two raw eggs in a bucket. Add one gallon of water and place one cake of very fragrant soap such as Irish Spring in the mixture. Leave the soap whole. Set the bucket aside for several days. Stir the mixture and strain it into a spray canister. Spray the mixture on the foliage of the plants the deer are eating. Re-apply after rains. After a time, you may only need to spray the plants at the perimeter of the area. (When the deer encounter it, they may back away and go elsewhere to feed.) If you need more than one gallon, add two extra eggs but no more soap. The same bar of soap can be used to make subsequent batches until it dissolves. From our experience, the mixture has done a good job keeping deer away from the tasty foliage of cantaloupes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, peanuts and peas.
There are numerous recipes for homemade deer repellents, some including hot peppers, garlic and other products. To check out a few, visit this website: www.deer-departed.com/deer-repellent-recipes.html. For more information and suggestions about dealing with deer, contact your county Cooperative Extension office or look at some of their publications online at http://extension.uga.edu/.
Q: My son has an infestation of powderpost beetles in his house. Are they related to termites? What should he do?
A: Powderpost beetles are not related to termites, but, like termites, they are wood-destroying organisms. Powderpost beetles are small, wood-boring insects that reduce wood to a fine powder. Damage is done by the larvae as they create narrow, meandering tunnels in wood as they feed. Infestations are sometimes discovered after noticing small, round shotholes in the wood surface.
Your son should contact a licensed pest control operator to determine if the infestation is active or not. Perhaps he is seeing holes from a long-ago infestation. If it is active, the pest control operator can advise him on what he needs to do. The plan of action or treatment will depend on the type of infestation, for example, whether it is in a crawlspace, a log cabin or a piece of antique furniture.
Q: When are Georgia cantaloupes in season?
A: June and July are the main harvest months for Georgia cantaloupes although you may find some available in late May and early August.
Q: What are some flowers that will bloom in shady areas during the summer?
A: Impatiens, also known as sultanas, are the go-to annual flower for producing lots of blooms in shady areas over the summer. Other good annual flowers to try are torenia/wishbone flower, wax begonia, jewelweed and woodland tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris). Don’t discount foliage plants such as coleus, caladiums and hostas whose leaves can bring lots of summer color to shady areas. Hostas are popular perennials grown primarily for their foliage, but their stalks of bell-shaped white or lavender flowers are an attractive bonus. A few other perennials that will bloom in shady areas in summer or early fall are cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and hardy begonia (Begonia grandis).
Q: Where can I get a copy of “Protecting Georgia’s Pollinators?”
A: Contact your county Cooperative Extension office or visit the Georgia Department of Agriculture website (www.agr.georgia.gov/protecting-georgias-pollinators.aspx) to view it online.
The booklet is a collaboration of faculty members of the Department of Entomology at the University of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. The purpose of the publication is to provide practical suggestions to anyone interested in pollinators, encourage communication between landowners and beekeepers and encourage protection of managed bee colonies and native pollinators.
Q: I tried using nut milk in my coffee but it separated into little clumps. What is the reason for this? Is something wrong with it?
A: While milk that has blinked (gone slightly sour) will sometimes curdle when added to hot coffee, fresh (and perfectly good) nut milks and soy milks will sometimes separate into the unappealing clumps you describe. The separating could result from the coffee’s acidity or from too great a temperature difference between the cold nut milk and the hot coffee. Try warming the nut milk slightly and then slowly adding coffee to the cup or tempering the coffee so it is not quite as hot. Some commercial nut milk brands have stabilizers that help prevent this. If it continues to be a problem, try switching coffee or nut milk brands.
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.