Q: What can you tell me about the Brown Snout variety of apple?
A: ‘Brown Snout’ was discovered in 1850 in England on the farm of Mr. Dent of Yarkhill. It is small, green to greenish-yellow with patches of russet and a brown russet eye at the calyx end of the fruit, hence the name. This 19th century cider apple has high tannins but low acidity. It produces a sweet, slightly astringent juice and makes a mild to medium bittersweet cider.
Brown Snout is not common but is just one of many apple varieties you may find at Georgia orchards or farmers markets this fall. Plan a day trip to a Georgia apple orchard to discover some firsthand. It can be a fun, inexpensive and educational adventure for the whole family. If you want more festivity, the Georgia Apple Festival will be held in Ellijay the weekends of October 13-14 and 20-21.
If you are only familiar with one or two kinds of apples, try a different Georgia Grown variety this year. We grow more than four dozen varieties commercially in the state. Some of the variety names are intriguing, poetically describing the apple or honoring its discoverer or telling of their origin. Other names may make your mouth water. Consider Arkansas Black, Detroit Red, Stayman Winesap, Limbertwig, Ozark Gold, Lady, Cameo, Ginger Gold, Goldrush, Horse, Pritchett Golden, Braeburn, Criterion, Splendor, Swiss Gourmet, Yates, Empire, Albemarle Pippin, McIntosh, Mutsu, Gala, Pristine or Honeycrisp, to name a few grown in Georgia. Find out more at a Georgia apple orchard or farmers market.
Q: I have been told to plant garlic in the fall, but all the catalog suppliers are sold out. Am I out of luck until next year?
A: Visit a farmers market and purchase some there. By purchasing bulbs grown in Georgia, you know they will perform well here in our climate. You may even get some tips from the grower. If you can’t find any locally grown garlic, try planting some bulbs you find at the grocery store.
Q. I bought some cockscomb (celosia) seed from an advertiser in the Market Bulletin. It has done splendidly this summer with lots of blooms. How do I dry it for winter bouquets?
A: The oldest and simplest method is to hang the cut cockscomb upside down in a dark, dry storage room, closet or attic. The room should be warmer than temperatures outside and as dark as possible to help the flowers retain their color. Do not use the basement since basements are usually damp. Strip off the leaves and spread paper on the floor to catch any seeds that drop. Some people prefer to hang the flowers upside down in a brown paper bag that will catch the seeds and help block out light. Yarrow, gomphrena, statice and many other flowers retain their shape and color when dried this way. It is a good idea to create bouquets when the flowers are fresh (and more flexible) by bundling the flower stems with a rubber band. As the flowers dry, the rubber band will keep them pulled together.
Q: I have just created a raised garden bed. Is it too late (September) to plant sweet potatoes? What vegetables can I plant in the fall?
A: Sweet potatoes are planted in the spring. Vegetables that can be planted in the fall include radishes, lettuce, cabbage, collards, broccoli, turnip, kale, mustard, garlic, beets, spinach, Swiss chard, onions and carrots. It is also a good time to plant herbs, especially parsley and coriander/cilantro. Check with your local nursery or garden center for seeds or transplants.
Q: We recently pulled numerous frames of purple honey from our hives. What could cause this? We live west of Atlanta in Douglas County.
A: The honeybee experts we consulted said it is probably kudzu honey, especially if it has a grape soda smell. Kudzu blooms in late summer with purple blossoms that smell of grapes. Titi (Cyrilla racemiflora) can sometimes lead to purple honey and an unfavorable condition for honeybees called “purple brood.” However, titi is primarily a coastal shrub and is unlikely to be the source of purple honey in Douglas County.
Q: Can you identify this flower? Its leaves look something like an amaryllis, but they are more pleated. Its blooms are pale pink and more lily-like than an amaryllis and are nicely fragrant. The blooms are bigger than a crinum. It bloomed late this summer.
A: From your description and the photographs you sent, it looks like your mystery plant is the ‘Fred Howard’ variety of amarcrinum. (The full botanical name is × Amarcrinum memoria-corsii ‘Fred Howard’.) Amarcrinum is also known as crinodonna or crinodonna lily. It is a cross between Amaryllis belladonna and Crinum moorei. Because it is a cross between two different genera of plants (a rare occurrence) it has the x in front of its botanical name. The x is not pronounced, however. Amarcrinum/crinodonna is a beautiful and durable perennial bulb.
Q: I found a large caterpillar feeding in my garden. It is dull brown with a horn at the tail end and two large spots that look like eyes on the top of what looks like its head. His actual head is much narrower and when he extends it, it looks like an elephant’s trunk. When the caterpillar pulls his head in, he looks like a snake. Can you help me identify it? Is it harmful? Will it sting?
A: By your description and photographs, it appears to be the caterpillar of the Tersa sphinx moth (Xylophanes tersa). The Tersa sphinx moth is found from Massachusetts to Florida, west to Nebraska and New Mexico, and south all the way into South America.
Those spots that look like eyes may trick a predator into thinking the caterpillar is a snake. That stinger-like horn at the tail may look intimidating but is harmless. It will not sting you. The caterpillar feeds on a wide range of plants including pentas, catalpa, manettia (firecracker vine) and hamelia (firebush). It is usually not abundant enough to be of any economic importance. Some forms of the caterpillar may be green or olive instead of brown.
The adult moth is not colorful but is attractive with its subtle patterns of browns and grays. It has a wingspan of about two to three inches. It is as stream-lined as a jet fighter and is a rapid flyer. For more information visit www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Xylophanes-tersa.
Q: I am going to clear an old pasture that has a lot of brush. I know there are underground yellow jacket nests in the area. Where can I buy clothing that will protect me from the yellow jackets and other wasps and hornets I may encounter?
A: Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to wear long sleeves and long pants. Tuck the cuffs of your pants into your boots or knee socks to prevent the insects from flying up your pants legs. Seal your shirt sleeves as well by tucking them into gloves.
There are inexpensive, one-piece, disposable Tyvek® suits you may want to consider. They are available from various sources. There are veiled hats and head coverings designed to protect against mosquitoes that may keep the yellow jackets and other insects from flying in your face. These are available from outdoor and hiking stores. You may also wish to look at suppliers for beekeepers. Several are listed on the Georgia Beekeepers Association website (www.gabeekeeping.com).
Q: My tomato plant is more than seven feet tall. Is this a record?
A: A tomato plant that reaches seven feet is indeed tall but not uncommon. Some tomato varieties are classified as “determinate.” That is, they reach a certain height and stop growing. “Indeterminate” varieties will keep growing through the season and reach quite tall when happy and well-cared for.
Q: There is a large yellow, black and white spider in my yard. It has a large web with a thick zigzag band in it. What is this spider and is it dangerous?
A: You are describing the black-and-yellow argiope (Argiope aurantia), also known as the writing spider. It is beneficial because it preys on grasshoppers, flies and other insects. It will not harm you. Its web can be large, up to two feet in diameter. If the web is in a place that is inconvenient for you, gently tear it down and the spider will likely build elsewhere.
No one is exactly sure of the reason for the zigzag bands (technically known as stabilimenta) in the webs. Some findings suggest that these make the webs more noticeable and may keep birds from flying into them. Some believe that the way the bands reflect ultraviolet light may help attract prey.
These zigzag bands are the reason for the common name “writing spider.” Folklore has it that if you see your initials in the web, you will die. One variation claims this happens only if you show the spider your teeth. However, since the spider makes a zigzag pattern, only people with names like Marilyn Monroe, Vanna White or Woodrow Wilson have anything to worry about. Seriously, though, only insects have anything to fear from this interesting and attractive spider.
Q: Is it possible for mosquitoes to breed inside my house? I seem to have a lot of them.
A: Yes. Houseplants such as “lucky bamboo” grown in pebbles and water can serve as a place for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. Unused toilets in guest bedrooms can become mosquito-breeding sites. Flush them at least once a week.
Mosquitoes indoors usually come from outdoors. Repair or replace torn screens. Do not leave doors open longer than necessary. Mosquitoes can slip in quicker than you may think or even hitch a ride in attached to you. Decreasing the amount of mosquitoes outdoors will usually decrease the amount of mosquitoes in the house.
Q: How do I harvest broccoli? How far down should I cut?
A: With a sharp knife, cut a few inches below the head. New heads will form from the side shoots. These secondary shoots will not form heads as large as the first one, but they are just as tasty and useful. Cut these new heads off as soon as they are ready to use.
Q: I want to plant some daffodils and other bulbs this fall. However, I have had problems remembering where I put these in the past and have damaged or destroyed them by digging into them while they were dormant in the summer. Do you have any advice about marking them? I don’t want hundreds of plastic labels in the garden.
A: Consider marking the bulb area with a circle of large stones, rocks or bricks. Knocking the bottom out of a terra cotta pot will create a protective sleeve for the bulbs while not interfering with drainage. Bury the pot up to the rim and plant the bulbs inside it. A black plastic pot can be used as well. Cut out the bottom or add more holes if necessary to make sure the water can run through as most bulbs need good drainage. The plastic will last longer, but both will help keep you from slicing bulbs in two with your shovel.
Many of Georgia’s nicer garden centers have zinc labels that are long lasting and not as visually obtrusive as plastic ones. Also, photograph the bulbs when they are in bloom and refer to the photo before you dig.
Q: What is the name of the vine with the white flowers that is blooming now (late August) all over the north Georgia roadside and in my yard?
A: Without seeing the vines, it is impossible to be sure, but it sounds like what you are describing is either Clematis virginiana or Clematis ternifolia. The vines look similar and both are found in Georgia.
Clematis ternifolia is native to Japan and usually goes by the common name of “sweet autumn clematis.” Clematis ternifolia is sometimes listed under the botanical names of Clematis paniculata and Clematis maximowicziana. It is terribly invasive and should not be planted in your garden. It has escaped from cultivation in many areas including Georgia and has become a real weed, albeit an attractive one.
Clematis virginiana is a native vine and often goes by the common names of “Virgin’s bower” and “devil’s darning needles.” It can be an aggressive spreader in the garden.
These links give excellent photos and descriptions of the two vines: www.duke.edu/~cwcook/trees/clvi.html and www.duke.edu/~cwcook/trees/clte.html.
If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, visit our website at www.agr.georgia.gov,write us at 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Room 218, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about agricultural issues, get garden tips and find sources for flowers, livestock and other products, consider a subscription to The Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin. Subscriptions for Georgia residents are $5 per year for the online version and $10 for the print version. To start or renew a subscription, send a check or money order payable to Market Bulletin at the address above or subscribe online at our website.