Wasps are frantically looking for food to feed their families

Wasps are frantically looking for food to feed their families

By Walter Reeves, For the AJC

Troy Warren for CNT #HomeGarden

Q: We have been inundated this year with wasp nests inside our garage. Today I found a yellow jacket nest in a bench on my porch. Why do we have so many this year? Peggy Knight, email

A: I am not sure there are more this year than last year, but it is the nature of yellow jackets and wasps to be more visible and aggressive in the fall. They are supplying an ever-growing family of baby insects. The workers are desperately looking for sugars and proteins to feed the offspring. In spring, they might have let you move a piece of watermelon without a fight, but now the melon represents survival for their colony. But even though the insects fight you for food now, they will all surely die in the first hard frost. Only a couple of fertilized queens will be able to drag themselves to a nearby rotten log or leaf pile to overwinter and start a new colony next spring.

Q: This is my first year growing pumpkins. So far, I have four healthy-looking pumpkins and a little one covered in black fuzz. What caused this? Beth Peck, email

A: The black fuzzy fruit is just a little pumpkin that didn’t get pollinated. The fuzz is a natural fungus decomposing it. The four normal pumpkins should be enough for your family, but in the future, consider planting pollinator-attracting flowers around your pumpkins, melons and squash. I have a big list of plants for pollinators at bit.ly/GApollinator.

Q: My mother and I garden in raised beds and would like to try strawberries. Can you help us? Michael Highland, Autreyville

A: Strawberries are easy to grow if you perform regular maintenance on the bed. There are two systems for growing. The “matted row” system is best for North Georgia. The “annual hill” arrangement works well in Middle and South Georgia. I have details at bit.ly/GAstrawberry. Your project can be expensive if you buy individually potted plants. I have a good list of online vendors who sell packs of 10-50 plants at bit.ly/GAfruitsource.

Q: I purchased a small ponytail palm tree in 1997. I have repotted it every year since and now it is 16 feet tall and won’t fit in my house anymore. Can I plant it outside? William Carland, Cumming

A: You’re in a tough spot. A ponytail palm can’t be shortened from the top like you could do with a large ficus. It certainly can’t be grown outdoors in winter in the metro area. My only suggestion is to check with nearby churches and schools. They sometimes have large foyers where your palm might fit.

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By Troy Warren

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