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3 out of 4

May 25, 2018

We are now at three days out of four for a mid-day down pour.  I was at lunch in Hillcrest and the skies opened up and it poured, just like the other two days.  It rained hard and it lasted for over 30 minutes.  It finally abated enough for us to leave and as I drove towards my house, there was not a drop of rain.   It poured at the office.  I finally did get some rain, and it rained hard but didn’t last. I ended up with less than a half-inch.  The amount of rain varied from each location and they are less than 3 miles apart–which is the reason every gardener needs a rain gauge to tell you what is happening in YOUR yard.  I walked outside about 15 minutes after the rain ended, and it was quite cool outside–close to 65 degrees and low humidity, but that did not last.  In a flash it had heated up and the humidity rose with the temperatures.  It was like a sauna outside.  I decided to try to get some plants in the ground this evening, and the soil was moist, but not wet, and the mosquitoes were everywhere.  I did get some impatiens planted and some weeds pulled, and I was soaked in a relatively short time.  I decided to wait and finish things in the morning.  

This has been a busy week wrapping up all the last-minute details.  We had a lot of frantic emails and phone calls all week, but I think we have our ducks in a row.   We have handouts and programs printed, signs and awards ready to go and all our stuff is stacked and ready.  With the thanks of my talented husband, we got a presentation video ready to show at the state conference on the 2019 efforts.  I will load up on Tuesday morning and head to Fort Smith for the duration.  Julie will join me the next day along with 478 Master Gardeners from across the state.

I also have to give a shout out of praise to my son and his girlfriend.  Kyle bought his first house a couple of years ago and got into gardening fast and furious.  Then he saw how much work it was and with his schedule, weeds and grass were quickly encroaching, and he had some drainage issues, but he still harvested some fruits and vegetables.  This year he has gotten reinvigorated, plus he has help.  I forgot to get pictures of the pots on his deck, but they are even more impressive than the front yard.  Maybe the gardening gene has passed on to another generation!  

Also got a picture of our Greene County Master Gardeners taking measurements and collecting data for our first annual plant trial.  Can’t wait to see the results.

Daily Rain

May 23, 2018

Last week we were extremely hot and dry and gardeners were hoping for rain.  Now we seem to be in a pattern with a gully washer each afternoon. They haven’t been nice, easy showers; it is more like someone has upended a large bucket of water all at once. Flash-flooding has been seen across central Arkansas, and today we got an emergency alert from UALR that anyone parking near the creek line should move their cars to higher ground.  Even though the weather forecast predicted a chance of rain each day this week, we are lulled into forgetting umbrellas with the bright sunshine of the early part of the day.  Yesterday we were made hostage at Home Depot.   I made a run on my lunch hour to pick up the other half of my pre-order of stuff at Home Depot–this time in NLR (don’t ask why NLR and why two orders), and the minute we drove into the parking lot, the skies opened up and poured buckets of rain.  We thought it would pass in a few minutes, so we waited five minutes and decided to make a run for it. I did have an umbrella and rain jacket in the car, so I was good.  We could not get more mulch or look at plants because the rain did not abate.  Finally after strolling every aisle a couple of times, and buying stuff we may need some day, I couldn’t wait any longer–I had too much to do at work. I checked out and got my son to get his car and pick me up in the covered area, load our stuff and then he took me to my car.  I got soaked just transferring myself from one car to another.   I called the office and not a drop of rain in LR.  As I drove back to the office, I think the rain followed me. I saw bright, clear skies as I exited at University, but it was pouring by the time I parked at the office.  I looked like a drowned rat by the time I made it inside.  It rained for a good 45 minutes to an hour.  I got a sprinkling of rain at my house (about 1/4 of an inch and my son got no rain –we live within 3-4 miles of the office.)  This time of year, rain can be spotty, so make sure you have a rain gauge.

Today was a repeat.  It was bright and sunny all day and then about 3 p.m. the clouds started rolling in, the wind picked up and lightning and thunder rumbled through.  Then the bottom opened up and it poured.       It rained for a solid hour.  Luckily I found an umbrella in the office and the rain was slowing down before I left for the day.  I got almost 2 inches of rain at my house.   If you didn’t walk outside this evening, you missed some fine weather. It was cool and brisk.   There is something cleansing about a hard rain.  Flowers and leaves seem brighter somehow.     My vegetables seem to be growing exponentially daily.  My tomatoes are loaded with flowers and fruit, and I was amazed to see the okra seeds I planted Sunday already trying to germinate.    The tomatoes have only been in the ground for 10 days!  Plants are happy in spite of the weather.  Let’s hope this type of growth continues and we see no insects or diseases.  Wet foliage on plants overnight is not great for plants, and can lead to diseases, so start scouting for issues.   I do want to warn you to look for any standing water, because mosquitoes will be awful if given a chance.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just order a nice light, steady rain for about 30 minutes to an hour daily all summer?




Countdown week, zoom and gardening

May 21, 2018

It stormed a bit and rained a bit off and on overnight and until almost noon.  It was a slow rain, which was good for the gardens. I got slightly more than an inch of rain total, which is a good thing.  More rain is predicted this week.  I am glad I got all the vegetables planted and fertilized.  Things are coming along nicely.

This is my last week in the office before state MG conference, so it is a frenzy of activity.  In spite of that, we didn’t do much in the way of work on 2018, but instead we worked on 2019. It started with a zoom meeting for MG Monday. We had excellent participation from across the state and covered a lot of information.  For those who couldn’t watch live, Julie will get the recorded session out later in the week.  I went straight from the zoom session to an endowment meeting, and from that to a meeting on the 2019 MG conference.  We have to nail down the logo and create a presentation for the end of the 2018 conference. Lot’s of good ideas were flowing and look for some surprises in the presentation.

I got inspired to try some new annuals this summer when I was out at the California pack trials.  I am loving the big orange hybrid begonia, and so far, so good.  It gets filtered sun and I am trying to let it dry out in between watering.    Another begonia which I am really enjoying is the Begonia boliviensis.  The flower has long, strap-like petals on small angel-wing like foliage  The plants are supposed to stand up to humidity and be more heat tolerant than other begonias.    So far, so good!  I am also enjoying the orange thunbergia.  This summer annual vine is also commonly called black-eyed Susan vine.   Traditionally they were yellow or orange, but today there are a wide array of color choices.  Do you see a color pattern going here?

When we were in California, the talk was that callibrachoa were not good choices for in-ground planting.  They told us to limit them to containers.  I have used them in both situations, and I have to admit I am somewhat amazed that one survived this past winter and is already blooming—in-ground planting.    In a mild winter they often overwinter, but after the hard winter we had, I am really surprised to see this.

I mentioned yesterday my love for fragrance, and today I had even more blooms on the sweetbay magnolia and gardenias.  This single flowered form is covered in blooms, but one negative I have is that it peaks in a short while–absolutely loaded with blooms and then poof, they are gone.  I much prefer my double-flowered forms which bloom over a much extended period of time. Today I got my first bloom on the Jubilation, my all-time favorite gardenia. This one is in full sun, and had no winter damage at all.  It has open blooms today with loads of buds, and I had blooms off and on through fall last year.  Luckily I have room for both in my garden.   My pineapple guava plant did take a bit of a hit this winter and was half-defoliated.  I did not expect to see blooms this spring, but I do have a few.  Both the flowers and the resulting fruit are edible. 

So far it has been a pretty year in the garden.  We had a late, cold spring, but our overly warm May, has us caught up on growing conditions.  Lucinda sent me a picture of a fall blooming sweet-autumn clematis blooming already in Mountain Home.  This sure looks like Clematis terniflora, which is quite invasive, but usually not in bloom until late summer or early fall.   I think we are all confused!

A busy Sunday

May 20, 2018

While it did not get as hot today as yesterday, it was still pretty darn hot, and the humidity was up there.  I discovered a new favorite thing today.  I could order my mulch and soil online and then just go pick it up, without having to deal with all the crowds and stand in line.  An added benefit, is my husband went and picked it up for me, and to top it off, both he and Katie scattered them across the yard and spread the mulch!  I can only hope this happens again!

That left me free to do the planting, weeding, pruning, fertilizing and watering.  Even though rain is predicted every day, with newly planted annuals, vegetables and perennials, newly planted plants dry out quickly. I have to make sure it gets a root system established.  I have had a few gardeners in the past few weeks tell me their landscapes are doing too well–everything is growing too much. As I pruned and weed-eated, I would have to agree in my own yard. My shrubs and trees need to slow down.  I don’t fertilize them, but I do fertilize annuals nearby, so maybe they are reaping some of the benefits. 

I also planted my okra today.  I love the look of the red okra, so I planted two different varieties of seeds I got at Baker Creek Farm – Burgundy and Bowling Red.  It cooks up green and tastes the same as green okra, but since my garden is in the front yard, I like the added color.  

Thankfully, I had an excuse to quit by 12:30–not just because I was hot and tired, but because I had to get ready to go to book club.  I have thoroughly enjoyed reading with a group again, and discussing a book from different perspectives.  Our book this month was  A Single Drop of Ink.   The author graduated from Deer, Arkansas and currently lives in Sherwood.  It is a well-written book that we thoroughly enjoyed. 

Master Gardeners–don’t forget tomorrow morning is MG Monday.  Be checking your email in the morning for a link. It starts at 9:30.  Hope you can join us.


A royal wedding and then back to reality

May 19, 2018

I was up at 4 a.m. to go to a friends house to watch the royal wedding.  It was particularly special for me since our MG study trip to Cornwall/Wales toured Windsor Castle two years ago.    Watching the wedding and the castle and the grounds brought back good memories.  Maybe I will photoshop some royals in my pics and pretend I was there?! Not really.

Since I was up before the cows, I had an early start to the day so I had to time to accomplish a lot.  We have been plagued by ants the past few weeks, and despite spraying and putting up everything we can, we still have them.  Today, Clay and I got serious and caulked, and filled in every hole we could see, plus I pruned all the branches that were touching the roof or house.   I do love my pole chain saw!  I sprayed out side and now we will see.  I have heard many folks are struggling with the same problem this year.

I also planted a few more vegetables, staked my tomato plants, and fertilized.  I could not believe how hot and humid it got today.  95 on the thermometer, and it is still May!  I am hoping we are getting summer out of the way quickly.  Wishful thinking maybe.  I then watered.  In my raised salad table I found some cup mushrooms growing in the mulch so cleaned those out.  

In spite of the heat, or maybe because of it, the plants are growing well.  My garden is also amazingly fragrant right now.  I have single gardenias in bloom, with the doubles budding nicely, roses are blooming, my confederate jasmine is sweet-smelling, and I have a few blooms left on itea.

Itea ‘Little Henry’

The sweetbay magnolias have a few flowers and my Little Gem magnolia is also covered in sweet-smelling blooms.  Fragrance is important in a garden, and mine smells wonderful right now.

While not fragrant, but colorful, I also have blooms coming on my coreopsis, gaillardia and butterfly weed.  My hydrangeas are beginning to bloom and I still have blooms on my late-blooming gumpo azalea. 

I got pretty darn hot in the garden today, so I came inside tonight to cook dinner.  I decided to use some of my CSA vegetables.  I have been getting a box full for three weeks now, and when you travel, they can start to build up.  We have been eating a whole lot healthier when I am at home.  Tonight I redid the collard green recipe I made last week, but we added a little Sirachi and remembered to squeeze the lime on top.  We also grilled carrots and baby turnips.  They were all so tasty and healthy!  That plus some grilled chicken with my homemade teriyaki sauce and we had a feast.    Krogers may be wondering where I am these days!

Getting down to the wire

May 18, 2018

Today Julie, Holly and I had a whole day in the office together. Our goal was to map out the last minute details for what needed to get done before the 2018 State MG conference in Fort Smith happens.  We are getting invoices set up to be paid, cross-referencing meal counts–including special diets; tours and buses, speakers needs, special events, looking over floor plans and set-up,  and much more.  In addition to working on 2018, we are also putting together programs for 2019, reserving hotel rooms, trying to finalize a theme and logo, and putting together a presentation to show at this years meeting to preview what is planned.  I also have columns to write, programs to put together, phone calls and emails to answer plus I together our program for MG Monday which is this upcoming Monday.   I hope you will join us live at 9:30 a.m.  We have a lot to cover. The link will go out Monday morning. If you can’t join us live, we will have it taped and up for you to view soon after.

They say that time flies when you are having fun, but I think time just flies!  It was after 5 p.m. before we left the office.


Hope Field Day and evening event

May 17, 2018

Last nights storms in Hope turned steamy, hot weather into something much more mild for today.  We had over 45 minutes of a hard rain in Hempstead County, so there were a few mud puddles, but for the most part, the rain helped a great deal.  Today was the annual Hope Research Field Day at the UA SW Research Station.  There was a nice turn out.  We started indoors with some seminars and then moved outside to tour different stations.  We picked up some watermelon seeds to pass out at the state conference to entice folks to come to Hope.    We learned about tomatoes, IPM and vegetable insects, cover crops,   blueberry and blackberry production,   weed control in strawberries, fungicides for tomatoes , nectarine and peach trials and primocane blackberries in high tunnels.  We learned a lot in a short period of time.  After a good lunch we were on our way. We stopped in to check out one of the local hotels before heading back. 

We made it back in time to pick up my vegetables from my CSA– I need to cook some vegetables soon!  I made it home with some time to spare before heading out with Randy to Clark and Henrik’s wine tasting party.  For the third night in a row there was a light rain shower.  Some nights have had more rain than others but luckily this one was short-lived since much of the party was outdoors.     As always it was an excellent event with great food and wine and even better fellowship.

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