Ask Farmer Jason
Summer 2017

Question: Are bees bad? My mommy says they can sting me.

–Colin, age 9, McMinnville, TN

Farmer Jason: Like all creatures on this earth, bees have their good points and bad points. Yes, your mommy is correct that bees can string you. Some people get very sick if this happens. The bees sting humans or animals that they think might be a threat to them or their homes. So, if you get near their home, which is called a hive, they will come out and sting you. Or, if you get close to them as they are flying around they sometimes will sting you. So do pay attention to them when you are outside. It is best to stay clear of them and their hives.

However, all bees serve a great function in nature. They pollinate our flowers and vegetables. This helps the flowers and fruit trees produce more fruit and flowers. The big gift to us though, comes from honeybees. They produce sweet honey that you can put on or in pancakes, cookies, cereal and just about anything that needs sweetening.

Question: What is a hybrid?

–Gracie, age 14, Nashville, TN

Farmer Jason: That is a very good question, and one to which even some qadults donâ€TMt know the answer. A hybrid happens when you cross one breed of plant with another to get the best qualities of both in the seeds of the crossed plant. While many folks these days prefer the original plants, sometimes called heirloom breeds, many folks do use hybrids. Some hybrids for example, can be more drought-tolerant than their parent plants. Others can grow larger with more vigor. But old heirloom breeds are gaining in popularity, and have their advantages.

Question: I helped my mom plant our garden. It rained a lot after we planted it, which made me happy. But the plants didnâ€TMt grow. What happened?

–Karsen, age 10, Burns, TN

Farmer Jason: Ah, that is very unfortunate but does sometimes happen. Plant seeds do absolutely need rain or watering to make them sprout. (Germinate is another word for sprouting.) However, if the rain falls too heavily and then is followed by intense sunlight, the ground can get a hard crust. The little seeds simply canâ€TMt punch through that crust. The only real answer to a soil heavily crusted is to keep watering the soil, or lightly, with a hard rake, put holes in the soil. But either way the plants will have problems punching through.

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Useful gardening tips for busy parents

In early springtime, birds will often pick out your sprouting plants and eat the seeds. They can destroy a garden very quickly. I have had them pick out and wreck every sprouted seed in our corn patches. The only answer to this is to cover the rows or beds with chicken wire. It doesnâ€TMt have to be completely bird-proof—just the presence of wire over the beds will discourage the birds. Once the plants are a few inches tall you can remove the wire.