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Rain!

July 18, 2018
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Hallelujah, Rain!  I came home Monday to a yard that had gotten about a half-inch of rain, so I did not have to water.  Then yesterday I got slightly over 2 inches of rain and today .38 inches of rain.  Wow!  It was much-needed.  The rain that fell yesterday came down fast and hard. Some of my mulch has washed away, but I can live with that.  More rain is a possibility later this week, but tomorrow is predicted to be a scorcher!  Some weather has been a bit intense.  In NW Arkansas they have had to cancel the upcoming turf grass field day due to storm damage. Their high tunnels and many of their research plots took some damage.   Normally the turf grass field event is held every two years, but since they are cancelling it this year, they will hold one next summer.

I had two days at the office with a rash of meetings.  We zoomed today with our county agents, met with several committees today and yesterday and ended with an Arkansas Flower & Garden Show meeting.  In addition we are wrapping up our plans for this weekends Annual to Perennial events. Our first will be in Batesville on Saturday, followed by Little Rock on Sunday.  We have had great registration at all events, but LR is particularly large.  The final two will be Fayetteville, on Friday July 27 and our last is at Hope on Monday, July 30.

This coming Monday is our MG Monday zoom meeting  and Tuesday is our quarterly County 76 meeting.  It is a busy time in July!  Master Gardeners, be looking for the zoom link Monday morning so you can join us.  We have a lot of information to share.  I have to wrap up 4 more power points before the week is out and get some stories written.  Time flies when you are having fun.

San Antonio

July 16, 2018
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I returned tonight from a short but jam-packed trip to San Antonio.  It was not a dry  heat, but a hot, humid heat while we were there, but that did not stop us from going dawn to dark each day.  We got in some great side trips, with shopping, a visit to the historic city of Gruene, walking the river walk, looking at local art (more shopping) and of course some good food.   We were able to visit with friends who lived in town and those that were friends from home visiting San Antonio.   We took a local friend grocery shopping and saw a much wider array of local fruits.  We saw a lot of the city and some great plants.  The Pride of Barbados Caesalpinia pulcherrima was in full glory all over the city, along with some spectacular agave, plumbago and other tropicals. 

We left San Antonio this morning at 9 and I pulled into my driveway by 6:30 p.m., so a full day of driving, but it was an easy drive with plenty of talking time.  It is always great to explore other cities, and as always it is also great to come home.   My family did an amazing job taking care of the yard and garden and they actually got rain. Driving into Arkansas and especially LR, it was greener than when we left.  Tomorrow it is back to work.

San Antonio

July 13, 2018
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I am taking a few days of r and r with a friend. We had an uneventful but longer than we had planned drive from Nacogdoches to San Antonio today. In San Antonio, there is a lot of construction and closed roads which our gps didn’t have a clue about. We made it to our hotel and then we drove to a friends house. Again closed roads and as we were trying to navigate, we were studying the gps near a train track and obviously worried the train conductor who blew his horn quite vigorously and we responded in kind by moving as far away as possible. We did find our destination and had a nice visit. We knew what to expect on our returnto the hotel and it was much easier.

We are staying on the river walk and went outside tonight to explore.

There is a lot of activity and it was definitely more hot and humid down low than up high. Lots to see.

After an excellent meal, we walked back. The temperature was better.

More adventures tomorrow.

Nacogdoches

July 12, 2018
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It was another easy drive south to Stephen F. Austin University to speak at their Theresa and Les Reeves lecture series. We had a great crowd in a beautiful setting. Afterwards there were a host of new plant introductions given away.

I got to campus early enough for the grand tour with the heart and brains behind their campus arboretum and trial gardens, Dr. David Creech.

The gardens are extensive with unique and rare plants from all over the world. I got to see a Franklinia “in bloom and a gordonia. Loved the variegated illicium and I want some of the unusual evergreen magnolias which are about to bloom in July!

If you are ever in this part of Texas, this is a must see garden. And they have a huge plant sale in October–we might need another road trip.

So many plants and too little time. It also rained with some good lightning and thunder. We were actually surprised at how green everything was from Texarkana south. Wish we could send some of this rain home! The gardens are not just ornamentals. There were kiwi trials, pomegranate, figs and blueberries.

Great day!

Roses and heat

July 11, 2018
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Today was a scorching day outside. I was happy to spend a good portion of it in the office.    The first activity of the day was doing a meet and greet with some high school students who were in a program sponsored by Farm Bureau.  Junior and senior students got to round robin with a variety of folks to learn about what we do and what courses or preparation they would need to do something similar.  They asked some good questions and did take notes.  One even asked me a personal gardening question.

Then I wrote columns, worked on upcoming activities and tried to get organized for the rest of the month.  This afternoon, in spite of the hot weather, I went to the state capitol to visit with their facilities supervisor to advise them on the roses.  You may remember that the Arkansas State Capitol used to be of a handful of national rose testing gardens.  This was a program of the All American Rose Society, but the program ended years ago.  Trying to keep the tradition alive, there are still several large rose gardens on the state capitol grounds, but unfortunately they are in major decline.  Driving by I didn’t really pay too much attention but up close and personal it is pretty bad.  They are willing to renovate and try to make things better, and I am very impressed by their dedication to making it happen.  But they do need help.    We are going to work on a plan and see what we can make happen.

Driving out of the office later I took some pictures of our rain garden at the state office. It isn’t too moist, but the plants are still thriving from the Joe pye weed to the huge Texas red star hardy hibiscus.  Rain gardens are designed with plants that can take both extremes.

I received an email today from an agent asking about fruit on a potato plant that looks like tomatoes.  Potatoes are in the same family as tomatoes and can produce a tomato-looking fruit if the conditions are right. It is not common, but not unheard of.  The fruits are not edible, in fact they are poisonous, so should not be eaten.  They do contain seeds which could produce potatoes, but they would not breed true and it would take a long time to produce an edible potato.

Then I made it home to wilted gardens.  In spite of my frequent irrigation, my gardens are way too dry.  I spent the rest of the evening watering.  I am ready for a break in the weather, and I think my family will be too, since I am leaving town and they are now in charge for the next 5 days.   I gave lessons tonight.

County 76 board meeting

July 10, 2018
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Today was the 3rd quarterly County 76 board meeting.   Thanks to Linda for a wonderful lunch as well.  This is a hard-working group of individuals who are leading the way to promote MG’s and planning to make the program even better.  We had so much to discuss, since we have so many upcoming events.

First up are the four Annual to Perennial events (A to P) which will be held in Fayetteville, Batesville, Little Rock and Hope.  These events are just open to new MG trainees and their mentors and the deadline to register is this Friday. I hope you can come.  

In the midst of the 4 A to P events we have our 3rd quarterly County 76 meeting at the state extension office on Tuesday, July 24.  While there is no cost, we do need you to let us know you are coming so we can have enough food.

Next up is the PNG Leadership Conference which will be at the Arkansas 4-H Center September 18 & 19.  I strongly encourage as much county participation as possible. This program truly does strengthen a county program. I encourage all MGs plus County Agents to attend.  

And lastly is the MG Birthday Event, Saturday, October 13.  Registration has been coming in at a furious pace.  We do have plenty of room to handle a large crowd.  We have been getting a lot of questions if you can bring a spouse or a guest.  We discussed this today.  The cost of the 30 year birthday to MGs is $30.  The only thing the registration fee  actually covers is the fees we pay to Moss Mountain and most of the lunch cost.  I am covering everything else for the event–rental fees for tents, tables, chairs, cake and golf carts, portfolios, etc.  This is a payback to all the volunteers who give so freely to our program, but I can’t see my way to underwriting guests.  We have decided that if there is room, we will open up a separate registration for 1 GUEST PER MG beginning August 15.  Some have asked if they could bring a group of their friends, and no, it is one guest per MG.   The cost for a guest will be $75 which will include all activities and lunch.  We will be cross-referencing the list of attendees to make sure people are actually Master Gardeners.  This is truly a celebration of the volunteers and agents who give so tirelessly of themselves.  It is going to be a fantastic event, and I do hope you are planning to attend.  The t-shirt design and colors are great as well.  If you have questions, please let me know.

All of the above events are listed on the MG only site on the MG web pages.  Many of you have tried to get into this site using your user name and password for the online reporting. These are two separate things.  MG only has one user name and password for all MGs, while online reporting is specific to each MG.  Let me know if you need help getting in.

Exciting times in the MG world!  Hope to see you at some events in the near future.

Weather and stuff

July 9, 2018
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I had a great weekend and spent more of it out of the garden rather than in it except for watering.  Watering is my main task most days. I have been fooled into thinking a rain was coming more days than I care to admit.  Today hearing from fellow gardeners across the state, I have heard everything from my 0.0 inches of rain up to 2.4 inches of rain yesterday, and even within the same city those numbers vary.  A rain gauge is a very good thing, and I have them all over the yard. However, I can also look at my wilting, bedraggled plants when I drive in and know I don’t have to look at the rain gauge to know I need to water.  I don’t even want to look at the water bill this month.

Having said that, I am still harvesting a lot of vegetables.  I am getting a boat load of cherry/grape tomatoes daily.   That is my Sunday harvest!  If you ask any gardener what their favorite tomato is, you will get a wide group of answers.  I am really loving my pink grape tomatoes and the orange pear tomatoes.  The half and half black and red cherry tomatoes are beautiful but I like the pink grapes better.  I also am harvesting some of my favorite larger Traveler tomatoes.  The prettiest tomato I have grown is called Carolina yellow.  It is pretty to look at, but not much in the way of flavor.  Since I am the only person in my immediate family who likes fresh tomatoes, the small ones work best for me, and I eat them breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am also getting peppers, but the majority are hot, so a little goes a long way.   My yellow summer squash is still producing well, with some eggplants and cucumbers in the mix. My red okra is coming along, but slowly.

While I cook most days when I am home, we have tried a few new eateries in Little Rock this week.  TAE (Eat backwards) in the old Sam Peck hotel is a small restaurant with tasty food. We just had lunch but we liked what we had, and then we went for brunch at the new Cathead’s Diner for brunch yesterday. The food was very good but the acoustics in both locations could be better. Really loud at Cathead’s but it was also packed.  Excellent service though.   In addition to two restaurant meals, we also were invited to a young people’s party this weekend.  Fun to see the camaraderie, love of cooking and gardening with the next generation.  A great meal and one of the largest pineapples I have seen growing in a pot.   Once the mother pineapple bears fruit, she dies but produces pups or new vegetative parts to keep the plant growing.  There are four general types: slips that arise from the stalk below the fruit, suckers that originate at the axils or leaves,  and ratoons that come out from the under-ground portions of the stems.  The fourth type is using the crowns that grow from the top of the fruits.  This one is producing some really nice suckers which can be rooted and start new plants.  Impressive.

Today, we spent time working on a lot of upcoming events, but I also went to a meeting at the fairgrounds to try to make some improvements and get some new ideas to improve the 2019 Arkansas Flower & Garden Show. We know the food choices were not great last year, so we are working to change that for 2019.  Stay tuned, but I think you will like the new choices.  Nothing is set in stone, but there was a lot of “food for thought” both in food choices and venues!

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