Ga Dept of Agriculture


Consumer Q's December 2010

Q: What kind of kerosene should be burned in a home heater?
A: Only K-1 kerosene should be burned in a home heater. Also, heater manufacturers and the Georgia Department of Agriculture recommend clear, non-dyed fuel for home use because over an extended period of time, dye can damage a heater. Be sure to follow all the manufacturer’s safety instructions when using a kerosene heater.

Q: Is it safe to cook meat in a crock pot?
A: Slow cookers or crock pots can safely cook food. These countertop appliances cook foods slowly at a low temperature – generally between 170 degrees F and 280 degrees F. The low heat helps leaner, less expensive, cuts of meat become tender and causes less shrinkage. The direct heat from the pot, lengthy cooking time and steam created within the tightly covered container combine to destroy bacteria and make a slow cooker or crock pot a safe option for cooking foods.

Q: How close should a houseplant be placed to an incandescent light?
A: Generally, it is best to keep the tops of plants at least one foot away from incandescent light sources. A rule of thumb is: If your hand feels warm when held at the foliage closes to the light source, the plant is too close. Because compact fluorescent light bulbs generate less heat, they can be used closer to houseplants.

Q: Where do mosquitoes go in the winter?
A: In Georgia some species of mosquitoes overwinter in the egg stage and some in the adult stage. The adults that overwinter are females that will be able to start laying eggs again when warm weather returns in the spring. Mosquitoes that overwinter as adults undergo changes in body chemistry that enable them to endure the cold.

Q: My house has a Southwest desert décor. I want to use cactuses indoors. Do they make good houseplants?
A: There are numerous types of cacti that may be used as houseplants. Visit a local garden center to see some of the options. Cacti do have a high light requirement and are unsuitable for dark rooms.

Q: How many bones does a turkey have?
A: A turkey has about 200 bones.

Q: What is a capon?
A: A capon is a male chicken about 16 weeks to eight months old which is surgically unsexed. They weigh about four to seven pounds and have a good quantity of tender, light meat. They are usually roasted.

Q: What are chitterlings?
A: Chitterlings are more commonly known as "chitlins." They are the large intestines of swine.

Q: I like sweetgum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua), especially their multi-colored leaves in autumn, but don’t like raking the gumballs out of the lawn and neither does my husband. Are there any varieties that don’t produce the gumballs? My husband wants to cut ours down.
A: The fall foliage of sweetgums is amazing. Some trees turn pale yellow and others deep maroon, orange, red or combinations of all these. There is a variety named ‘Rotundiloba’ that does not produce fruit. Its fall color is not as spectacular as other sweetgums, however. Sweetgums are valuable and undemanding trees. It seems sad to cut one down just to have a lawn. Consider eliminating the lawn near the sweetgum and converting it into a mulched area in which you plant shrubs or spring bulbs. That way you never have to rake. Besides the beautiful colors and interesting star-shaped leaves, sweetgums provide food for numerous Georgia birds including American goldfinch, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, Carolina wren and various species of warblers and nuthatches.

Q: What are some houseplants that will tolerate low levels of light? My apartment only has windows that face north.
Answer: A few suggestions include Chinese evergreen, snake plant, peace lily, pothos or devil’s ivy, cast-iron plant, rohdea, heart-leaf philodendron and parlor palm.

Q: I want to raise parakeets to sell. Am I required to have a license?
A: In order to help prevent the outbreak and spread of avian diseases, as well as to insure humane care, bird breeders and dealers are required to be licensed and inspected. Please contact our Animal Protection Section at 404-656-4914.

Q: I want to give my mother a dogwood tree for Christmas and have it decorated with bows. Can I plant it on Christmas Day or do I need to wait until spring?
A: Go ahead and plant it on Christmas Day. Do not leave the tree indoors in the warmth for more than a day or two as it may begin to think it is spring and start sprouting. If the ground is frozen, plant the tree on the first available chance you are able to get a shovel in the ground.

Q: Is it true that there are hollies that are not evergreen? Why would anyone want hollies without the leaves?
A: Yes, there are hollies that are deciduous (lose their leaves in the fall.) Possumhaw (Ilex decidua) and winterberry (Ilex verticillata) are two deciduous hollies that are Georgia natives and that provide loads of berried branches for Christmas decorating or for adding to wintertime flower arrangements. These hollies are also very beautiful, durable and useful in the landscape. Although you may only be familiar with hollies that have evergreen, spiny leaves, give the deciduous ones a chance.

Q: Are there any Georgia native trees and shrubs that I can grow as a bonsai?
A: Yes. There is no reason why this Japanese art form can’t have a Georgia twist. Here are a few possibilities: winged elm (Ulmus alata), Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana), shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata), Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), Carolina hemlock (Tsuga caroliniana), red maple (Acer rubrum), hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), hop hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), sarvisberry/serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), baldcypress (Taxodium distichum), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), willow oak (Quercus phellos) and don’t forget the live oak (Quercus virginiana), our state tree. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Q: Please help settle an argument. Are poinsettias poisonous?
A: Poinsettias are NOT poisonous. Buy a poinsettia and enjoy its beauty without worrying about it harming you or your pets. Place a poinsettia anywhere that could use some red, white or pink floral holiday cheer: churches, schools, kindergartens, nursing homes – even as the centerpiece on your dining room table.

Q: How do you cook bison?
A: Since it is very lean and lacks fat marbling, bison (commonly called buffalo) can cook faster than other red meats. Care should be taken not to overcook it. In general, bison should be cooked using low heat (325 °F) with moist heat methods, such as braising (simmered with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan.) For thin-sliced bison, use quick cooking methods such as broiling or pan-frying. Cook bison roasts, steaks and chops to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F. and ground bison meat to a minimum internal temperature of 160 °F.

Q: If I give a gardener friend some packets of vegetable seed for Christmas, will the seeds still be viable for sowing in the spring?
A: Yes. The seeds will be fine. To help maintain freshness, your friend can put the packets of seed in a sealed container (such as a freezer bag) and keep them in the refrigerator.

Q: Are Norfolk Island pines rapid growers? I see a lot of these sold around Christmas.
A: The Norfolk Island pine is considered a slow-growing houseplant. This is considered an asset, as most people do not want it to get too large. Under average home conditions, it generally grows three to six inches a year.

                                                                                                                                  -- Arty G. Schronce