Q: Are bales of pine straw classified as agriculture products in Georgia?
A: They are forest products. In 1989, the Georgia General Assembly granted limited authority to the Director of the Georgia Forestry Commission to regulate the sale of pine straw under Section 12-6-200 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (or O.C.G.A). You may view a list of Georgia pine straw producers by visiting the Georgia Forestry Commission’s website at www.gfc.state.ga.us/ForestMarketing/TreePRoducts.cfm.
Q: I heard that microwaving water and using it on plants is harmful to the plants. Is this true?
A: Extremely hot water can kill a plant, but water that has been heated or boiled in a microwave and then cooled will cause no problems. The rumor of microwaves being dangerous to plant water has been around for years, but tests show that there is no structural difference between water that has been microwaved and water that has not.
Q: What is the difference between the “Animal Friend” license plate with the profile of a dog and cat inside a peach, the license plate of a black and white cat and the license plate of the big yellow dog?
A: Proceeds from the sale of all three of these plates help fund Georgia’s Dog and Cat Sterilization Program. The program helps pay for spaying and neutering of cats and dogs to cut down on overpopulation and the subsequent burden it places on city and county animal shelters and rescue groups. All three plates are for sale at county tag offices. To see the license plates and to learn more about the program visit www.agr.georgia.gov or call 404-656-3667. Contributions to this program may be sent to Dog and Cat Sterilization Program, 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Room 102 - Agriculture Building, Atlanta, GA 30334.
Q: Can Jerusalem sage be used for cooking?
A: Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa) looks like a large version of cooking sage (Salvia officinalis), but it is not edible. It is strictly grown for its attractive yellow flowers and ornamental silvery leaves.
Q: What is the difference between a mushmelon, a muskmelon and a cantaloupe?
A: Here in the United States these words are used interchangeably to refer to the same type of orange-fleshed melon with a netted skin. The true cantaloupe has a hard rind with a warty or scaly surface that is not netted. True cantaloupes are not commonly grown in the U.S.
Q: I have fallen in love with daylilies. I see them along the interstate and saw some beautiful ones for sale at the garden center. Can they be planted now or do I need to wait for fall?
A: They can be planted now. By visiting a your local garden center or nursery, a botanical garden or the garden of a daylily fancier, you can get a good idea of the colors you like. There are also numerous mail-order sources you may want to consider. Visit the website of the American Hemerocallis (Daylily) Society at www.daylilies.org/AHSsource.html. Mail order sources may not be shipping in the summer, however, but they have a wide selection to choose from including some that the growers hybridized themselves.
Q: Is it safe to use warm or hot water on plants? For example, using water from a watering can that has been left out in the sun?
A: Extremely hot water can kill or injure plants, but it is unlikely that water would get hot enough in a watering can to do any damage. Water in a black hosepipe that has been in the broiling sun all day could get hot enough to injure or kill young or sensitive plants if they are doused with it. Drain the hose after you use it and test the temperature of the water coming out before using it on your plants.
Q: I saw cactus plants for sale that had straw-like flowers in numerous colors. Are these the actual cactus flowers?
A: No. It is a merchandising trick. The flowers you describe are strawflowers or other dried flowers stuck into the flesh of the cactus.
Q: What is the definition of a weed?
A: A weed is a plant growing where you don’t want it. It is only when a plant interferes with human activities or desires that it is classified as a weed. An oak tree growing in the middle of your yard may be welcomed for its shade and beauty. An oak tree sprouting in a crack in the sidewalk is a weed because it will further damage the sidewalk and eventually hinder or block pedestrians. A tomato plant in your vegetable garden is welcomed for the juicy tomatoes it produces. A tomato plant in the middle of a cotton field is a weed because it interferes with the growing and harvesting of the cotton. The notorious weeds, however, are not the stray oak or tomato plant that sprouted in the wrong place. The plants we usually think of as weeds are those which sprout, spread and thrive in lots of places where lots of people don’t want them. Besides the ability to reproduce readily and grow in lots of settings, the plants that qualify as the worst weedy offenders are also tenacious and difficult to eradicate.
Q: Is one variety of peach better than another for making cobblers?
A: All varieties and types (yellow, white, cling, freestone) of peaches are suitable for cobblers and other pies.
Q: What are the red spots and the white spots in egg yolks and are the eggs edible?
A: The red spots are blood spots and the white spots also can be blood spots diluted with water the yolk takes from the albumen as the egg ages. White spots also can be from the chalaza, the ropey strands of egg white that anchor the yolk in place in the center of the white. Blood spots are ruptured blood vessels on the surface of the yolk. The eggs are edible. The spots do not indicate a fertilized egg.
Q: Now that Georgia blueberries are in season, what are some ways to use them besides in pies and in muffins?
A: Consider blueberry cheesecake, blueberry pound cake or blueberry breakfast bars. Sprinkle some fresh or frozen blueberries into pancake batter. Try fresh blueberries on cold cereal. Put some frozen blueberries and a frozen banana in a blender with some plain or vanilla yogurt to create a delicious smoothie. Experiment and create your own smoothie recipes combining blueberries with other frozen fruits such as strawberries and peaches. Add fresh blueberries to fruit salads with cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon. Blueberries can even be added to green salads. Try a salad of spinach or mixed greens with blueberries, roasted pecans, mandarin orange slices and gorgonzola or blue cheese. Blueberries can also be made into preserves and syrups. Fresh blueberries are easy to freeze for later use. Make sure they are dry, put them in a freezer bag or another container and place them in the freezer. Frozen blueberries do not have to be thawed before using them in baked goods. Frozen blueberries can be used on cold cereal by thawing them for a few minutes in warm water.
Q: Are pickling cucumbers just for pickling?
A: No. In fact, some people prefer them for fresh eating to those sold as “salad” or “slicing” cucumbers. Pickling cucumbers hold up better during the canning and pickling process than the salad/slicing types. That is why they are called pickling types. However, that does not mean they must be used exclusively to make pickles.
Q: How many varieties of peaches are grown in Georgia?
A: Approximately 40 varieties. Some are white-fleshed. Some are yellow-fleshed. Some are cling peaches and some are freestone. Some are low-chill varieties that do not require as many hours of cold temperatures in the winter and can be grown in extreme southern Georgia. Some are varieties that require more hours of cold temperatures and perform best in north Georgia. All are delicious.
Q: What is pamplemousse? I saw the word on a soft drink.
A: It is the French word for grapefruit.
Q: I have been seeing chocolate-brown terra cotta pots at garden centers in addition to the traditional orange-brown terra cotta pots. Both come from Italy. Are these chocolate-brown pots just as durable as the ones I have been using for years?
A: The chocolate-brown ones are identical to the familiar orange-brown terra cotta (clay) pots in everything but color. From our experience with these chocolate-brown pots for the past three years, they are identical to the more familiar shade of terra cotta pots in durability and in how plants perform in them. More time is needed to determine their long-term performance.
-- Arty G. Schronce