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Still no rain!

August 31, 2014
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I think we have missed the rain in Little Rock.  I haven’t had a drop of the promised inch or more.  Several of you have emailed to say you had rain in south and south central Arkansas, but nary a drop for me! I have watered all afternoon, and the yard could really stand a nice, steady rain.  I will not complain about the temperatures, which are definitely nicer than last week, with lower humidity too.

I did get some work done in the garden. Yesterday, when I was picking tomatoes I noticed that something had been eating the plants. I suspected a hornworm, but didn’t have my glasses with me, and couldn’t find any. I did today!! I could have found this one without my glasses–he was huge.

tomato hornworm aug31.14.1 tomato hornworm aug31.14.3 tomato hornworm aug31.14.4He had obviously been feeding for several days. I cut the stem and put him out as a treat for the birds.  I really don’t like to squish them.

I also worked in the herb bed, cutting back all the flower heads on the basil and mint.  I also harvested all the mushrooms I could find.  I filled up a box full–too bad they weren’t edible ones. I had all sizes and shapes with a multitude of new ones sprouting. I do think they were competing with water for the plants.

mushrooms aug31.14As I worked in the herb planter, I noticed a small tree frog attached to a basil leaf in full sun.  I am sure he was a tad warm, but didn’t try to jump even as I got close for a photo.

tree frog on basil.aug31.143In addition to working in the yard, we also had a chance to go bowling today. We used to try to go every week or two, but it had been a full year since we had been. Needless to say our first game was abysmal–Katie and I both had an 81, and Clay a 99.  I did end with a high of 149, so things picked up, but I also broke my bowling ball.  I didn’t think that was possible, but it chipped on one of my throws. I had that ball for many years, and I will now use it as yard art. I am in the market for an 11 pound orange ball!

We also had to buy a new microwave, as ours died this morning.  While we were at Home Depot, I ran through the garden center.  The vegetable transplants have arrived, but were pretty picked over–I think we may have been a day late. I did get one pack of broccoli, and thought I was getting some Brussels sprouts, but ended up with cauliflower–not my favorite, but we will get it planted and see how it does.

cole crop transplantsTomorrow is a bonus day as we celebrate Labor Day.  No telling what I might do.

Where is the rain?

August 30, 2014
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Because of the forecast,  I decided today was a day of errands and in-house tasks.  There was supposedly an 80% chance of rain–that has yet to materialize, and was a reason I put off yard work for the day.  The temperatures were delightful, and I did get a lot done in other venues, but the yard does need some attention–and I would like some rain!

I did stop in at a friends football party and the mood was positive, even though the Razorbacks started losing.  But good food and conversation made that more bearable.

I am thankful for the break in the temperatures, but would like to see some rain!

Here are your mystery plant answers for the week:

Mystery plant A – mystery plant a.aug2514This summer annual is one of my favorite plants. It is Pentas, (Pentas lanceolata)  PEN-tuss lan-see-oh-LAY-tuh  commonly called Egyptian star flower. While red is my favorite one, it does come in pink, white, purple and even variegated forms.  It thrives in heat and humidity.  Full sun will give you the most blooms.  It is a favorite plant of butterflies and the red one is loved by hummingbirds.
 
Mystery plant B – mystery plant baug25.14This perennial plant is commonly called Russian sage or Perovskia atriplicifolia.  This was the perennial plant of the year in 1995.  A member of the mint family,  Russian Sage loves hot, sunny sites and bees and butterflies love it.  It blooms for a long period of time in the summer.  If it gets a bit leggy, or floppy, cut it back.
 
Mystery plant c
mystery plant c.aug 5.14is a common persimmon-Diospyrosvirginiana.

Diospyros translates from the Greek as “food of the Gods”.  Our native persimmon has two separately sexed plants–a male plant and a female plant–with the latter producing the fruits. Many believe the seed inside the fruit is a prognosticator of the weather:

  • If the kernel is spoon-shaped, lots of heavy, wet snow will fall. Spoon = shovel!
  • If it is fork-shaped, you can expect powdery, light snow and a mild winter.
  • If the kernel is knife-shaped, expect to be “cut” by icy, cutting winds.

Not the best yard tree, since it is messy and often the leaves have spots and are not the most attractive late in the season.  If you like to eat the fruit, you also need to wait for a frost, or the astringency of the fruit gives new definition to “pucker power”.

 
 

A great start to the holiday weekend

August 29, 2014
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Driving to work this morning the skies looked ominous and I actually had a few sprinkles but that was it.  Tonight driving home from an evening out, there is quite a bit of lightening, but alas no rain yet.  But they say it is coming and the temperatures are definitely better.  We got quite a bit done at the office today. We had a meeting with County 76 treasurers and talked money management and new policies.  (I forgot to take a picture!)  Worked on handouts and talks for the coming week and left feeling pretty organized.

I did water in spite of the forecast, because I had wilting plants. I have loads of monarchs flying around the butterfly weed, and the Jubilation gardenias are blooming nicely. Their scent coupled with the Harlequin glory bower is quite nice in the garden.

gardenia blooms aug29.14I also harvested the first fig (of 2) on my tiny little newly planted fig tree.

fig first one.aug29.14I did pick a few more tomatoes and peppers and hope to do some gardening this weekend.

Then tonight Clay, Katie and I had dinner in Argenta.  Afterwards we walked along Main street and enjoyed the Pulaski County MG project plantings all along Main Street.

argenta downtown aug.144 argenta downtown aug.145

We then walked to meet our friends Harry and Ann at The Joint to see Just Shut Up and Drive.  It was our second time to go to The Joint and we are just so impressed with the quality of the performance.  They have three performers who perform every Friday and Saturday with musical sketch comedy.  On Tuesday nights they have stand up comics, Wednesdays is comedy improv and Thursdays they have live music. If you haven’t been, you really need to go.  Tonight they had a packed house and we laughed all night long!  A great beginning to the holiday weekend.

the joint aug.20143 the joint aug.20144 the joint aug.20147

Pest Problems

August 28, 2014
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This has been a somewhat amazing week in that I have been at the office for the bulk of it. I have gotten a lot of work done and have been busy writing columns.  I continue to get questions and pictures of new cases of crape myrtle scale.  There is a lot of discussion going on about control measures, and recent studies are showing great promise with the systemic insecticide called imidacloprid–commonly called Merit or Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub insecticide.  If you have crape myrtle in your landscape, I would suggest checking them for symptoms.  So far they have not been spotted north of central Arkansas, but time will tell.

Crapemyrtle A scale  8-25-14 Crapemyrtle C 8-25-14These sucking insects are the white specks you can see in these pictures on the stems, leaves and trunk.  The problem with a contact insecticide is that the scale insects creep under the peeling bark protecting themselves from the insecticide.

In addition to this pest, we have also discovered the emerald ash borer in Arkansas and the reports are not good.  More information continues to come out about this pest, and spread is assumed to have come from the movement of firewood from out of state to a camping or hunting site.

As if we don’t have enough insect problems!

Yesterday I also sent out information to all the counties to help participate in nematode research.  Nematodes are microscopic worms in the soil.  There are good and bad nematodes, but the bad ones infest the roots of healthy plants and cut off the supply of food and water to the plants.  Dr. Robert Robbins on the Fayetteville campus is trying to find more samples to find out what species we have in the state. As you are cleaning up your gardens or pulling up spent plants, if you notice that the roots are stunted or have nodules on them, take a sample in to your local extension office so they can send them up to the UA.  Here is an example
nematode root knowWhile the weather has continued to be hot and dry, predictions are that rain is headed our way and the intense heat is going to break.  Let us hope that is the case! One more day until a holiday weekend and three full days with nothing planned!  That will be the last respite for awhile, as programs are heating up statewide.

 

Red Apple Inn – planning

August 26, 2014
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Today, Julie and I had a pleasant trip to Heber Springs (Eden Isle to be precise) with the County 76 planning committee for the PNG Leadership training.  We are always looking for good locations to host events so we can spread the travel across the state.  Our goal is to try to keep leadership as centrally located as possible to try to get as many counties represented as we can.  If your county has not attended a PNG leadership event, I would strongly encourage you to do so.  Usually once a county comes, they know what the value is and come back.  Attending a training does not mean you want to be an officer, but we want officers too.  This is for all Master Gardeners who want to know more about managing people, whether projects or programs, it really doesn’t matter.

This October is our 2014 PNG Leadership training at the airport Holiday Inn, October 6 & 7.  We have a large facility so we are not cutting off registration until September 22, so you still have time to register.  Today we looked  at the Red Apple Inn as a potential site for the 2015 training.  I had lunch there many years ago, but really didn’t know much about it.  We were all quite impressed. It is not huge, so we will have to limit our size to probably 125-150, but the rooms are very nice and the facilities have a lot to offer.

red apple inn.aug201401 red apple inn.aug201403 red apple inn.aug201406 red apple inn.aug201417 red apple inn.aug201418

The sleeping rooms have either been remodeled or will be after the first of the year.  Some had fireplaces in them and were very nice with patios or combined balconies.

red apple inn.aug201411 red apple inn.aug201414 red apple inn.aug201415 red apple inn.aug201416

We continued our meeting through a very nice lunch–so the food has been tested and is very good.  Then we saw a bit more of the facility and drove around to see the townhouses and condos that could also be used.  Let me just say signage is not high on their list, but we did find everything. I had no idea it was as large as it was.  They had a huge marina, which I am sure will be hopping this weekend.

red apple inn.aug201419

Stay tuned for more information on leadership opportunities, and if your county is not registered for this year, please try to send someone!

I will email more information to counties tomorrow.

It was another hot, dry day, and we keep hearing reports of rain in different parts of the state, but not in my yard.  It is spotty, limited showers at best.  Don’t forget to water.  Today we saw crape myrtle trees wilting in Greenbrier.  You know it is dry when crape myrtles wilt.

Dr. Vic Ford has identified my mushrooms as Lepiota rachodes, which I will not eat. I plan to try to get rid of them this weekend, as they are continuing to grow, and I think hogging the water in the herb garden. Unbelievably they were larger this morning!

mushrooms aug26.1401

 

Another Hot One

August 25, 2014
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Although the thermometer said only 98, the heat index said 112.  Regardless, it was HOT!  To add insult to injury, I got an email saying the 2015 Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a colder winter than LAST winter, which was one of our coldest in years.  I do hope they are wrong.  In late spring, the National Weather Service said we were in El Nino meaning a milder winter.  I hope they are right, but for sure, ONE of them is wrong.

I came home to find wilting plants in spite of my deep watering yesterday.  I watered the pots and the vegetable garden.  To prove I am watering, the raised bed herb garden has a healthy crop of mushrooms growing.  I had some small ones for the past week, but these massive ones grew virtually overnight.  They are bigger than Katie’s hand

mushrooms aug25.142 mushrooms aug25.144 mushrooms aug25.143They are shaded by the basil plants. Anyone have a clue what they are?  I am not a mushroom expert.

I do have two volunteer tomato plants growing in the yard. One is quite healthy and producing nicely in the back yard, where I would not have thought I had enough sunlight.  The other is in the midst of my caryopteris plant.

tomato plant sprout aug25.14The cardinal creeper is finally blooming nicely. It has spent the rest of the season twining through the bushes.  It has slightly larger leaves than the cypress vine, but both are annual members of the morning glory family with bright red flowers.  They are blooming next to the garlic chives, so the red/white combination is just in time for Razorback football.

garlic chives aug25.14 cardinal creeper aug25.14 I went in search of the caterpillars on my milkweed plant, and thanks to Gloria, they are monarchs, not swallowtails, although I did see mature butterflies of both this evening, neither one of which landed long enough for a picture.  I did see signs of the caterpillars feeding, but no caterpillars–they are probably trying to escape the heat!  I also have one seed pod opened, with the small helicopter seed about to float in the wind.

milkweed seeds aug25.14

The sky is clouding up, but I think it is just teasing us.  Stay cool–so that means, stay inside!

A free weekend

August 24, 2014
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This was the first time in 7 weeks I have been home for an entire weekend. Unfortunately the weather kept me housebound versus out in the garden. About all I could do was water.  But I did do laundry, cook and clean and read two books and get additional things done inside. Hard to imagine a totally open schedule!!

Although the highest my thermometer read was 99, the heat index was 109 and regardless of a sprinkler schedule, my pots were wilting.  I moved hoses and watered my deck plants and pots all weekend.

They say the weather is supposed to stay hot all week, so please don’t forget to get to water.  It is amazing how dry some yards are looking.

Here are your mystery plants for the week. We have an annual, a perennial and a tree

Mystery plant A – is an annual.mystery plant a.aug2514

 

Mystery plant B – is a perennial

mystery plant baug25.14and mystery plant C is a tree

mystery plant c.aug 5.14Good luck, but  I think the fruit on the last one should be a big hint.  Good luck.

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