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Georgia Department of Agriculture

Consumer Qs July 2016

Question: Can pesto be frozen?
Answer: Yes. Pesto can be frozen for use in the winter when fresh basil is not available. A good idea is to put pesto into ice cube trays, freeze it and then place the cubes in freezer bags and put them back in the freezer until you need them. Pesto cubes are much easier to use than a large block of frozen pesto.

Q: What do the three numbers like 5-10-15 or 8-8-8 mean on a bag of fertilizer?
A: The three main plant nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). The numbers indicate the percentage by weight of nitrogen, phosphate (a form of phosphorus) and potash (a form of potassium). A 100-pound bag of 5-10-15 fertilizer has five pounds of nitrogen, 10 pounds of phosphate and 15 pounds of potash. Other nutrients may be in the fertilizer, but they are listed separately.

Q: The leaves on my cilantro have gotten thin and threadlike. What is wrong?
A: Nothing is wrong. Your cilantro is going to seed. The leaves change from broad to thin as the plant undergoes this process, which is triggered by hot weather. After it flowers and sets seed, the plant will die. There is nothing you can do about it but enjoy the lacy white flowers when they appear and collect the seeds to start a new crop in the fall or next spring. You can also use the seeds in the kitchen. They are called coriander and are used as a spice.  

Q: Why are my tomatoes not producing? They were fine until recently.
A: Perhaps it is the high temperatures. Temperatures above 90 degrees (or below 60 degrees) can keep tomatoes, eggplants and peppers from setting fruit.

Q: Can I cut off a limb from one side of my Japanese maple and graft it to the other side of the tree trunk where a limb is needed?

A: While broken limbs can sometimes be repaired, the venture you are describing would not be successful; the limb sounds too large. Contact your county Cooperative Extension office for more detailed information about grafting procedures and limitations.

Q: I sowed carrots but never got around to harvesting them. Anyway, now they are blooming and look like Queen Anne’s lace. Did someone give me the wrong seeds?
A: The familiar root vegetable we eat and Queen Anne’s lace, the naturalized plant that is named and well-known for its doily-like flowers, are both carrots. Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) is also known as “wild carrot.” Cultivated carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativa) are a subspecies of wild carrot. The flowers of both are basically the same in appearance.  

Q: I saw a bed of a plant with colorful leaves growing in full blazing sun. I was told it was a coleus. I thought coleuses only grew in the shade. Am I wrong?
A: At one time there were only a few varieties of coleus available, and those were only suitable for shady gardens. Now, thanks to breeding and selection, there are dozens and dozens of coleus varieties on the market, some of which will thrive in full sun.

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 an ornamental plant grown for its yellow flowers and silvery, sea green leaves. It is also drought tolerant and deer resistant and deserves to be more widely used in landscaping.

Q: My blueberries are too tall.  I am having a difficult time reaching some of the berries. When should I prune them back to a manageable height?
A: Excessively tall canes can be pruned back in late winter. For more detailed information about pruning and growing blueberries, pick up a copy of “Home Garden Blueberries” at your county Cooperative Extension office or find it online at
    Generally, home blueberries require little pruning other than removal of dead branches and basic maintenance. Some people prune established blueberry bushes (those more than five years old) a little each year, removing one to three of the largest canes (or about 20 percent of the canopy) in late winter at ground level to 24 inches from ground level. In areas where stem borers are a problem, make the pruning cuts at 24 inches. Over a period of five years, the bush will be totally renewed with new canes.

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. For example, 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 the difference between a spider lily, a spider flower and a spider plant?
A: There are several plants with spidery common names that may confuse people. Here are a few you may encounter:
Spider flower is another name for cleome (Cleome hassleriana), a heat-tolerant and durable annual with purple, pink or white blooms. Its spideriness is due to its long stamens and pistils and widely spaced petals that also give the flower an airy quality.
     Spider plant is a common name for Chlorophytum comosum, a popular houseplant for hanging baskets because it produces pendulous stems with plantlets on the end like spiderlings attached to a silk thread. It is also known as airplane plant. Its leaves may be solid green or variegated.
     There are several plants called spider lilies. Perhaps the most familiar is the red spider lily (Lycoris radiata) that blooms in the fall with curved pistils and stamens that radiate out from the flower clusters like enormous false eyelashes or the legs of an enormous spider. It also goes by numerous other common names.
     Numerous species of hymenocallis (Hymenocallis spp.) are also called spider lilies and other names. These amaryllis-like plants have white flowers, some of which could be comically described as looking like a combination of a daffodil and a daddy longlegs.

Q: Why do some tomatoes have green shoulders? They are ripe except for areas at the top of the tomato.
A: Some tomato varieties naturally have green shoulders when they are ripe. You can just cut the green area away when you eat them. In some varieties, too much heat and sunlight can increase the chance of these green areas developing at the top of the fruit. You can decrease the chance of this happening by covering exposed fruits with a handful of straw or making sure the plant’s foliage is covering the fruit.
     While some people may consider green shoulders a flaw, many of the juiciest and best-tasting varieties naturally have green shoulders. We may be trained by the marketplace to think that uniformly ripe tomatoes are the norm or even the ideal, but just because a tomato is red all over doesn’t mean it always tastes the best.

Q: How long can I leave a raw, unshelled egg out of the refrigerator before I cook it?
A: Eggs should not be left out of the refrigerator more than two hours; one hour if the air temperature is 90 degrees F or above. After eggs are refrigerated, they need to remain in the refrigerator. A cold egg left out at room temperature can “sweat” (become wet on the outside), facilitating the growth of bacteria.

Q: Is it too early to plant daffodils? I received a bulb catalog and it is not even August.
A: It is too early to plant spring-flowering bulbs in Georgia, but it is not too early to select the ones you want or to place your order. Ordering early will help ensure you get the varieties you desire as some are available only in limited quantities. Bulb companies generally send bulbs at the appropriate planting time for your area. Spring-flowering bulbs can be planted from October through late December in most areas of Georgia. 

Q: It is possible to smell salmonella on foods?
A: Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can lead to sickness or even death. You cannot see, smell or taste whether a food is contaminated with salmonella. That applies for other pathogens in general, not just salmonella. That is why it is important to always follow food safety guidelines when handling and preparing foods.

Q: Someone gave me a potted shrub. He said it has been outdoors all summer. I am wondering about whether I should plant it now with the temperatures reaching the upper 90s. I was thinking of setting it on top of my fridge in the kitchen which gets a lot of daylight and just keeping it watered inside until the temperatures start to cool off at least down into the 80s. What do you think?
A: Go ahead and plant it outside; just keep it watered.  It has been outside in the pot all summer and should be able to take the heat and will do much better in the ground than in a container. Whether you can take the heat when planting it is another story! However, keeping the shrub inside in a cooler and much darker (few spots indoors get as much light as those outdoors) would probably be more disruptive than the continuing high temperatures.

Q: I recently harvested two watermelons from my garden and was told to cool them as quickly as possible. Why? I was only planning to chill them right before eating.
A: Think of a watermelon and other melons as water balloons with a thicker skin. It is easy to understand how hot a melon-balloon gets when it has been in the sun all day when temperatures are very high. The heat it absorbs and that builds up in it is called “field heat.” Depending on their crop and marketing plan, farmers will work to improve the shelf life of their melons and other produce and prevent deterioration caused by high temperatures by removing this field heat after harvest, especially before the melons are packaged together in large cartons or crates. Removing field heat is not critical for a home gardener, but it can extend the storage life of your melons if you don’t eat them immediately.

Q: What are some late-blooming daylilies?
A: A few later varieties to consider are August Flame, August Pioneer, Autumn Daffodil, Autumn King, Autumn Minaret, Carol Sing, Challenger, Clementella, Late Cream, Late Adagio, Olallie Mack, Princess Irene and Scentual Sundance. Two popular re-blooming varieties are Stella de Oro and Black-eyed Stella. Re-blooming varieties will bloom over several months.



If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce ( or visit the department’s website at

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