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Summer Vegetable Garden Coming to an End

November 7, 2019
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This summers vegetable garden was not typical for Arkansas. Heavy rains delayed plantings and then the rains never quit. Rains did quit mid summer and gardens dried up, all except NW Arkansas which has had non stop rain all year. An early frost hit NW Arkansas the first week of October and central Arkansas early November. The next few days will bring frost to Southern Arkansas as well.

These cucumbers in my garden at Lonoke, did not survive the November 1st frost. I did cover this tower of cucumbers with floating row cover but they were too far off the ground to keep the frost out. I did pick 8 nice size slicers right before I covered them.
The second crop of figs were just starting to ripen. Green figs will not ripen once hit by frost.
Floating row covers worked wonderful on my green beans. Plants such as these that are lower to the ground, the covers were able to hold the warmth that the soil released over night. I harvested 5 gallons before the frost a week ago. I will cover them again with hopes to harvest the remaining beans as you see in the picture, the plants are loaded.
My fall broccoli is coming along nice. Although they can take light frost, I did cover them as well and will cover again the next few nights. They are about 7 days out from being ready to harvest.
Fall potatoes were slow to start growing. The hot dry temperature of September delayed them. Potatoes grow best in cool mild weather but they are frost sensitive. You can see some damage on these plants even though they were covered with floating row covers as well. This coming weeks low temperature is expected to be in the teens and with those temperatures, floating row covers will not prevent frost under the blankets. I will strip the remaining beans in a day or two, harvest the broccoli and dig the potatoes.

Master Gardeners Working Hard Across Arkansas

September 13, 2019
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As horticultural trained volunteers by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, Master Gardeners extend research-based information through demonstration and educational programs using horticulture best practices, strengthening communities and families throughout Arkansas. In Arkansas over 3,000 Master Gardeners can be found in 67 of our 75 counties working on various community projects volunteering nearly 170,000 hours for the betterment of Arkansans in 2018. This current year, as the volunteer hours are being reported, it appears that we will exceed last years efforts by several thousand hours.

I (Berni Kurz) was in Texarkana yesterday and visited a couple of Miller County Red Dirt Master Gardener projects. Pictured is of the Courthouse flowerbed project which has several beds on all fours sides of the Miller County Courthouse.
As I drove from the Miller County Courthouse to the REA Building where I was due to give a talk to the Miller County Red Dirt Master Gardeners, I saw this project by the local group. The Keyhole garden project, on the grounds of the Farmers Market, is showcasing how to construct a Keyhole garden. I learned later that the Red Dirt MG’s are present on Market Days to answer questions to anyone interested and they have hosted and have plans to host special events teaching local residents about this gardening method.
My week started off in Pine Bluff where I followed John Pennington (pictured) on the Jefferson County Master Gardener monthly meeting. I discussed the roles of Master Gardeners as well as roles of County Agents in the Master Gardener program. Tuesday I headed off to Marion AR, to present a program to the Crittenden County Master Gardeners on plant propagation. On Wednesday I headed to Monticello where I met with the Drew County Master Gardeners and presented a program on how to maintain a healthy garden soil. Besides gardening project work, it is a busy time of year for Master Gardeners with County Fairs, new training classes, and planning budgets and programs for next year. Contact your local County Extension office https://www.uaex.edu/counties/default.aspx to learn more about Master Gardener programs near you.

Good Year for Figs

August 16, 2019
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Its been since 2016 that our fig trees (bushes) have produced a bountiful harvest. The common fig (Ficus carica) can be grown throughout Arkansas, but hardiness does vary within cultivars. The fig trees in the northern tier counties of Arkansas, typically die back to the ground and therefore fig trees are bushes in this colder region. Winter damage generally occurs with temperature below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Figs are a member of the mulberry family (Moracae) and are related to many familiar houseplants including weeping fig (Ficus benjamina), rubber tree (Ficus elastica) and the fiddleleaf fig (Ficus lyrata).
While there are over 700 fig cultivars, only about 50 are offered in the nursery trade in the United States. There is quite a bit of name confusion amongst fig cultivars so don’t be surprised to see the same plant grown with several names. The two most commonly grown varieties of figs in Arkansas are Celeste and Brown Turkey. Others may perform well and through testing, I hope to be able to add additional varieties to the recommended list.
The fig in the picture is Celeste, which is the most cold hardy of the two. This Celeste fig has been growing on my family farm for over 60 years. I have been picking a gallon or more per day from 3 plants for the past 2 weeks. My mom has been busy making fig preserves as well as freezing them for later use.
In Central and Southern Arkansas, its not uncommon to have 2 crops of figs in a single year. Two of the three fig trees on the farm are loaded with green figs which will begin ripening mid to late September. In Northern Arkansas, the second crop seldom matures in time before the first frost.
Figs will produce best when planted in a well-drained soil in full sun. They have a fibrous, shallow root system which makes them sensitive to drought stress. If your fig tree gets too dry, it can drop fruit. Fruit drop can be caused by several things, including dry conditions, but also storms, cool weather soon after fruit set and weak trees.
Figs are easily propagated by cuttings or layering branches of an existing fig tree down into the soil. If you want to purchase and plant some new fig trees, plant them in late winter through late spring to allow time to get them established before they have to contend with winter weather.

Master Gardeners “Plant, Nurture, & Grow”

July 26, 2019
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Yes, Master Gardeners do plant, nurture, and grow beautiful gardens, vegetables and flowers alike. Master Gardeners as well “Plant, Nurture, & Grow” individual county organizations across our beautiful state. The strength and vibrancy of the Master Gardener organization in Arkansas is that each county program is allowed to be different yet all function under statewide policies which guide and support the local programs. In order for the continuance of growth and vitality, it is important that Master Gardeners across the state convene to discuss and learn what makes this the great organization it is. The “Plant, Nurture, Grow Leadership Conference” also known as PNG Leadership Conference, is scheduled for August 23 & 24 near Little Rock at the Arkansas 4-H Center in Ferndale. Your participation is vital to your county program and I hope to see you there.

At this two day conference, you will be able to select from 24 different breakout sessions to attend as well as the general session with keynote speaker. Click on this link to go to the MG Only web page to review the conference outline, schedule and individual session descriptions.
The host and lodging site is the Arkansas 4-H Center which is nestled on 228 acres of land a few miles west of Little Rock in Ferndale. Take a virtual tour of the 4-H Center by clicking this link.
While attending the conference, you will be able to see the newly establish Demonstration Garden which is a Pulaski County Master Gardener project. You will have an opportunity to visit with MG coordinators of this garden.
The Arkansas 4-H Center is Arkansas Cooperative Extension’s premiere stage for Leadership and Life Skill development for both youth and adults. This conference is open to any active Master Gardeners in Arkansas. Register to attend this conference by the August 2nd deadline. You can register online by clicking this link.

Native Ground Cover & Vine

July 19, 2019
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I, along with a half dozen Master Gardeners from Craighead County toured some areas in NE Arkansas to finalize plans for our 2020 State Meeting in Jonesboro next May. I ran across a few native plants that I want to share with you.

I found this native ground cover growing at The Delta School in Wilson Arkansas. Commonly called Aaron’s beard or creeping St. John’s wort. Hypericum calycinum is a stoloniferous subshrub or shrublet, typically growing 12″ high.  This groundcover would have been in full bloom starting around mid June. This native ground cover will grow under trees where it competes well with shallow roots.
Also at The Delta School, growing on a fence, I found the first signs of Autumn. Clematis terniflora, commonly called sweet autumn clematis is a fragrant fall-bloomer. It is a vigorous, deciduous, twining vine with an extremely rampant growth habit. If given support, it will climb rapidly with the aid of tendrilous leaf petioles to 20-25′ in length. Without support, it will sprawl along the ground as a dense, tangled ground cover. Some gardeners consider this vine as a “native invasive” because of its aggressive nature.
We found this plant growing on the square in Wilson near the Hampson Archeological Museum State Park. Equisetum hyemale, commonly called scouring rush or rough horsetail. It is a non-flowering, rush-like, rhizomatous, evergreen perennial which typically grows 3-5’ tall. This native plant will need some sort of barrier like a sidewalk to keep it in the area you would want it to stay. This is another native plant that has invasive tendencies.

Rain and More Rain

July 16, 2019
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It is July and it is raining. We should feel fortunate but many gardeners and farmers are having to deal with flooding and disease issues.

Most of our gardens have flourished with the frequency of rain events this summer. Powdery mildew is being seen on dogwood trees, crape-myrtle, euonymous shrubs,  and on some azaleas and roses. Some annuals and perennials are affected as well.
Powdery mildew seldom warrants chemical control in the home landscape. However, in those instances where control in desired, materials with low environmental impact, such as horticultural oils, neem oil, or antitranspirants (like Vapor Gard® or Wilt Pruf®) can prevent infection when applied to uninfected green tissue on the plant. Such applications can remain effective up to 30 days in the home landscape. Do not apply these products when it is above 85°F and for this reason, I never spray to control powdery mildew. Always read and follow product labels to make sure the plant you want to spray is listed on the label.
The native Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan, front) and Callicarpa (Beautyberry, back) have done well with the abundance of rain. Many of our native plants can tolerate the extremes of soil moisture. These two natives receive minimal care on the Kurz farm in Lonoke and perform well year after year.
The landscaping at the main entrance at Extension Headquarters in Little Rock has undergone a total makeover. The addition of the 2 large containers updated this entrance to the twenty-first century. These containers each have nine different flowering annuals in them including: tropical pink hibiscus, ‘Wasabi’ coleus, ‘ColorBlast Mango Mojito’ and ‘ColorBlast Double Magenta’ portulaca, ‘Bloomify Rose’ lantana, ‘Cora Cascade Cherry’ vinca,Tropical Rose Sun Patiens Impatien, Purple Fountain Grass, ‘Cannova Bronze Scarlet’ canna, and Blue Wave petunia.
Keeping containers moist enough to prevent wilt is most often troublesome. If not raining, these containers require daily and on extreme hot days, twice daily watering. These two containers are on an automatic drip system which makes daily watering not so daunting. The irrigation tubes were fed through the drain holes in the bottom before they were filled.

Master Gardener Annuals to Perennials Program is a Wrapup

July 15, 2019
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First year Master Gardeners and their mentors were invited to participate in one of the four Annuals to Perennial program sites across the State. A total of 327 registered to attend programs in Hope, Fayetteville, Batesville, or Little Rock. I presented a program entitled “Gardening with Bees in Mind” along with a different guest speaker and topic at each site. Those attending were inspired, energized and motivated to continue their involvement in their home county educational projects.

Leslie Patrick, with the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, spoke to the group in Batesville on Saturday July 13. Her program was entitled “Gardening For Pollinators”. Attendees learned a great deal of how native plants support a regional eco system.
Michelle Wisdom, U of A Horticulture Department Student Recruiter, spoke to the group in Little Rock on Sunday July 14. Her program was entitled “Pollinator Plants in Lawns”. Her presentation stemmed from her Masters Thesis work and illustrated how we can have a great looking lawn as well as planting ephemeral bulbs to support pollinators in lawns.
Besides being great gardeners, Master Gardeners are good cooks. At each of the 4 training sites, I enjoyed grazing on the variety of homemade cookies and snacks. Kudos to the “County 76” MG’s for making this year’s A to P program a success.
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