Georgia Department of Agriculture

Consumer Q's August 2010

Q: Will an electric “bug zapper” help control mosquitoes in my yard?
A: Bug zappers can actually make things worse by attracting more mosquitoes to the area. They also kill insects indiscriminately, including those that do not bother people or even ones considered beneficial to gardeners and farmers. Another drawback is the electric grid that kills the insects can cause the trapped insect to explode. Not a pleasant thought as you bite into that hamburger you grilled near your bug zapper.

Q: What about machines that emit ultrasound to keep mosquitoes away? Are they effective?
A: No. They are a waste of money.

Q: Are citronella candles and coils effective at repelling mosquitoes?
A: Their effectiveness is limited to small areas (a few feet) and windless conditions.

Q: I have fallen in love with crepe myrtles. They do so well in Georgia; are they native here? Can they be planted in the fall?
A: Crepe myrtles (also spelled crape myrtles) do so well here and are so widely planted, it is easy to think they are native. Our most common crepe myrtle is Lagerstroemia indica. It comes from China and Korea, although the indica in its name means “from or of India.” It is possible that the crepe myrtle in your garden may be a cross between Lagerstroemia indica and Lagerstroemia fauriei, a species of crepe myrtle from Japan. Although not as common, the Japanese species is finding its way into garden centers and nurseries. Its flowers are not as showy as Lagerstroemia indica, but it has beautiful cinnamon-colored bark, a trait it sometimes passes along to its offspring as well as more resistance to powdery mildew and ability to withstand colder temperatures. Fall is an excellent time to plant crepe myrtles.

Q: My marigolds are almost six feet tall. I save the seeds from year to year, and this is the first time I have ever had giant marigolds. In the past they have always been very bushy and about two feet tall. I have never used any fertilizer. Do you have any idea why these plants are so tall? Did they get cross-pollinated with zinnias last year?
A: Your marigolds did not cross-pollinate with your zinnias. What has probably happened is that the marigolds have reverted to something closer to their original form. Hybridizers have worked for many decades breeding marigolds with larger flowers and a greater range of flower colors. They have also worked making marigolds shorter and more compact. Although shorter plants can have benefits (less likely to require staking, less likely to blow over in a storm, more suitable for growing in containers), shorter is not always an improvement. Some people like the taller forms, especially if they are going for an old-fashioned look in their gardens or want long-stemmed flowers for cutting. The seeds you save from this year’s marigolds are very likely to come back to produce plants of similar height next year. If these are too tall for you, purchase some seed of a shorter variety.

Q: Which is hotter – a jalapeno pepper or a cayenne pepper?
A: Cayenne is hotter. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the hottest, jalapenos rate 5-6 and cayennes rate 8. Other common types of hot peppers rate as follows: cherry 1-5, ancho/poblano 3, wax 3-8, serrano 6-7, Korean 6-7, Thai 7-8, tabasco 8-9, Scotch bonnet 9-10 and habanero 10. The heat in hot peppers can vary depending on where and how they were grown and vary among different varieties within the type of pepper. There are more differences between these peppers than just how hot they are, however. They have different flavors. These flavors can also vary depending on how ripe the pepper is when harvested and whether it is fresh or dried. If you are experimenting with tasting hot peppers, keep some milk on hand. Drinking milk or eating a dairy product such as ice cream or yogurt will help quell some of the burning if you are not used to eating hot, spicy foods.

Q: Can figs be grown in pots? I love figs but only have a deck.
A: Yes, figs may be grown in large pots or tubs. Be prepared to keep a careful eye on watering as figs grown in containers can dry out quickly. Provide some winter protection if possible as the roots of the fig are more exposed to cold temperatures than if planted in the ground. You may also want to consider a smaller cultivar such as ‘Petite Negri.’

Q: What is the best time of day to water vegetables and flowers?
A: The time of day isn’t as important as ensuring that the plants receive sufficient water at all stages of growth. Plants are more vulnerable when they are young or recently transplanted and do not have extensive root systems. Demand for water is higher when temperatures are higher. High temperatures cause more water to transpire from the plants which can lead to wilting, desiccation and even death. If your plants are wilted, you need to water them as soon as possible whatever time of day it is. Watering in the morning is a good way to help keep your plants cool and hydrated through long, hot afternoons. Watering plants in the evening will not cause serious problems, although moisture left on foliage overnight can encourage fungal growth such as powdery mildew. Watering in the evenings can also encourage plant-munching slugs and snails.

Q: What is a chipotle pepper?
A: A chipotle pepper is a smoked and dried jalapeño pepper.

Q: Are there any special precautions or tips for horse owners to best care for their horses during hot weather?
A: Here are a few tips for helping horses beat the heat:

  • Work and exercise should be minimal during the hottest part of the day. Limit activity to morning and evening hours.
  • 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 extreme 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.

Q: Is it possible to substitute pecans for pine nuts or walnuts in a basil pesto recipe? Pine nuts are so expensive, and I like to use Georgia products when I can.
A: Yes, it is possible to use Georgia pecans in your basil pesto instead of pine nuts or walnuts. The pecans may be toasted or used raw. Because pecans taste different than pine nuts and walnuts, you may want to make a small batch at first to see how it compares with what you are used to and to make sure you have just the right mix of basil leaves, nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic cloves and olive oil.

Q: This spring I sowed a mixed packet of bell pepper seeds. One of the plants is producing white bell peppers. Is this unusual? I have never seen white bell peppers before.
A: Most bell peppers turn from green to red when ripe, but some varieties turn yellow, orange, purple, brown or white. The white varieties are actually closer to ivory or cream than truly white, however.

Q: I am impressed by how my neighbor’s glossy abelia has kept blooming through the summer heat. It has been producing its small, white, bell-shaped flowers for months. Does it require full sun?
A: Glossy abelia (Abelia X grandiflora) grows best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade. You are correct about its ability to keep producing lots of flowers even during hot temperatures and all through the summer until frost. The shrub is also drought tolerant. The flowers are a magnet for butterflies. Some varieties have pink-tinged flowers. Glossy abelia is easy to grow and is easy to find at Georgia nurseries and garden centers.

Q: When do I sow rutabaga seeds for a fall crop?
A: In north Georgia sow between August 1 and September 15. In south Georgia sow between August 1 and October 1. For more information about home vegetable gardens, contact your University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office or see what information is available online at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/#.

Consumer Qs is a weekly column written by Arty G. Schronce that appears in newspapers around the state. For more information write Arty at arty.schronce@agr.georgia.gov or call 404-656-3656. 

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