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Holiday weekend approaching

September 4, 2015
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Yesterdays post prompted several comments and questions via email concerning bitter melon. There are two members of the cucurbita family with the same common name. The one I had yesterday was Citrullus colocynthis bitter melon.sept15.1–which is Citrullus colocynthis. The other one is bitter gourd momordica.15

bitter_melon_istock_LRG

MOMORDICA_CHARANTIA FRUIT Momordica charantia, also known as bitter melon, as well as bitter gourd, bitter squash or balsam-pear. I have actually seen it sold at some of the local farmers markets. It is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, widely grown in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean for its edible fruit, which is extremely bitter. Its many varieties differ substantially in the shape and bitterness of the fruit, but it is commonly used in some dishes.

Look what arrived in the mail yesterday evening: garlic bulbs sept.15.2 I will wait until it cools off before planting, and I am sharing some with a friend. I do love garlic! Right now I can substitute some garlic chives, which I have in abundance. garlic chives sept.4.152

I am back to watering like crazy, since my beds are all dry when I get home. I do have some purple berries finally on my young beautyberry beautyberry turning sept4.15. and my vanilla strawberry hydrangeas have a little pink color. hydrangea paniculata aug.31.15. With water, the garden is looking pretty good.

Jefferson County

September 3, 2015
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What a great day in Jefferson County. They had a good class of new trainees who had more questions than I have ever had from a group. To say they are interested is an understatement. mg training jefferson county.15.2 One of the new trainees is a very interested young man who is 14 years old and already has a garden! He came to the Jefferson county teaching garden as an elementary student–what goes around,comes around. Now he can help teach!jefferson county teaching garden.sept.15.1

jefferson county teaching garden.sept.15.3 They already have 4 schools signed up to come plant this fall, and they have been busy getting the gardens ready for planting. The teaching garden is a HUGE vegetable, herb, fruit garden planted and maintained by Jefferson County Master Gardeners. They have an outstanding crop of sweet potatoes coming on, sweet potatoes jeff.co.15.and their herb garden is impressive. herb garden jeff county.15.1 Their two-year old muscadine planting is loaded with fruit muscadines jeff.co.sept.15.1

muscadines jeff.co.sept.15.3and they had a bumper crop of blackberries earlier in the year. blackberries jeff. co.15. This is a great project and they always have great support from their county. In addition, they have some ornamentals and their buckeyes are absolutely loaded with buckeye seeds, if you need some good luck!buckeyes jeff.co.15.2

buckeyes jeff.co.15.3

One of the Master Gardeners brought this in to be identified
Citrullus colocynthis bitter melon.sept15.1

Citrullus colocynthis bitter melon.sept15.2

Any ideas? The plant volunteered in his garden a few years ago and has come back stronger and stronger each season. The fruits start off looking like miniature watermelons, but they turn solid yellow as they ripen, and they are quite bitter.

The answer is Citrullus colocynthis, commonly called bitter apple, bitter melon (cucumber) or desert gourd. It is native to the Mediterranean basin and widely found in Asia & Turkey. Imagine a watermelon vine bearing a small, hard fruit which turns yellow as it ages with a bitter pulp, and you will have a very close idea of the plant. Colocynth or bitter melon has been used medicinally since ancient times. It is believed to be the wild gourd (pakkuoth) of the Old Testament. Too bad it isn’t good to eat!

After a wonderful feast prepared by MG Linda, I went to look at some trees in a local church lot. tree damage jeff co.15.4

tree damage jeff co.15.2

tree damage jeff co.15.1 Many unfortunately may be doomed. When you have this much damage on the trunk of a young tree, it weakens it for life. They also left the guy wires on for too long. Some of them are already girdling some branches or growing into the wood. If you need to use these to stabilize a newly planted tree, they really shouldn’t be on the tree for more than one season. I told him to remove a few, but they also need to mulch around all the trees, as weed eaters are damaging the other trees as well. Trying to maintain a commercial lawn with trees, can be quite damaging to the trees if they aren’t protected.

School’s back in session!

September 2, 2015
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Although public school started weeks ago, today was the first day of MG school! MG training for the fall session began today in Pulaski County and I head to Jefferson County tomorrow. 60% of our counties train in the January April time period, but another 30% train in the fall, and they started up today in Pulaski Countymg training pulaski county sept.15 (2)– The Master Gardener program is a volunteer program of the UA Cooperative Extension Service. We currently have the program in 67 counties in Arkansas, training roughly 500 new volunteers every year. Each volunteer is given a MG notebook and 40 hours of horticultural instruction in a multi-county setting. In return they must pay back 40 hours of volunteer service to their local county. It is a win/win scenario. Volunteers get great horticultural instruction from experts across the state and get to connect with other interested gardeners. Extension gets some well-trained and dedicated volunteers to help spread the word and beautify the counties. UA_MG_color_vertical I have never met a better group of volunteers than Arkansas Master Gardeners. They always are willing to help and perform their tasks efficiently and expertly. Today the host county volunteers moderated the sessions, helped with registration, and layed out snacks and drinks; and they didn’t just put them on the table–they were artfully arranged! mg training pulaski county sept.15 (1)

mg training pulaski county sept.15 (3)

mg training pulaski county sept.15 (4)
I do think Master Gardeners cook as well as they garden!

If you are interested in learning more about how you can become a Master Gardener, contact your local county extension office. Applications are also always on-line at http://www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/master-gardeners/resources.aspx

Landscaping & Mystery Challenge

September 1, 2015
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Another full day was spent at the office. It is amazing what you can get done if you have time. This afternoon Randy and I met to discuss the landscape renovations at the state office. state office landscaping aug.15 (2) The landscape has done well in some areas, and struggled in others. state office landscaping aug.15 (11)

state office landscaping aug.15 (12)Drainage issues coupled with weeds is a big challenge. state office landscaping aug.15 (4)

state office landscaping aug.15 (9) We are trying to remove some plants that don’t fit where they are, and add some low maintenance plants with some color. state office landscaping aug.15 (13)

state office landscaping aug.15 (5)

state office landscaping aug.15 (3)

state office landscaping aug.15 (1) so stay tuned!

Here are the answers to last weeks mystery plants and your new challenge:
Mystery plant A – mystery plant a.aug.24.152

mystery plant a.aug.24.151 is Lobelia cardinalis (low-BEE-lee-a kar-dih-NAL-iss) commonly called Cardinal flower or cardinal lobelia. This native plant likes a consistently moist area in sun to partial shade. Each year the clump will grow larger. The showy flowers are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds, but rarely bothered by deer, since it is poisonous.

Mystery plant B – mystery plant aug24.15 is a noxious weed in my book called pigweed– Amaranthus species. The shapes and sizes of amaranth species vary, but they all have medium to large-sized alternating simple oval-shaped leaves and stems with some red coloration. Some grow upright up to 10 feet tall, but there are dwarf and creeping forms. While all parts of pigweed plants are edible, some parts have more popular uses than others. For example the young plants and growing tips of older plants make nutritious vegetables that can be boiled like spinach or eaten raw as salad. The seeds of pigweed are also very nutritious, and can be collected by shaking the tops of the older plants. These seeds may be eaten raw, cooked as hot cereal or mush, ground into flour, popped like popcorn, or used in any number of ways. So if you can’t beat them, eat them!

Mystery plant C – mystery plant c.aug.15.2

mystery plant c.aug.15.1 stumped many of you. I took this picture at the Pulaski County MG project at Witt Stephens Nature Center. It is Manfreda virginica (MAN-fred-ah vir-JIN-ih-kuh) , called Agave virginica before that. American Aloe or False aloe are two common names. This native plant produces 1 inch long flowers with a fragrance like Easter lilies which bloom between June and August in a loose spike on top of a 4 to 6 foot stalk. These are the resulting seed pods. Plant in the flower garden or rock garden in average to good soil and give it average moisture.

New challenge:
Mystery plant A – mystery plant sept.15. is an annual, often mistaken as a perennial since it reseeds itself.

Mystery plant Bmystery plant B aug31.15. is an annual/short-lived perennial.

Mystery plant C – mystery seed pod.aug28.15. is a deciduous shrubs seed pod.

Good Luck!

A new week and a new project!

August 31, 2015
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Yesterday I did get some gardening in, but it warmed up considerably. I was thankful I didn’t find more plants to plant! I did plant carrot and lettuce seeds thinking it was supposed to rain, but it didn’t so I watered. We are getting dry again and it is hot, so I hope they come up. I am still getting a few Cherokee purple tomatoes each week and these plants look the best. tomato cherokee purple. aug31.15.

tomato plant aug31.15. I had a lot of pollinators bees roses.aug31.in the garden and I saw several monarch butterflies hovering around the milkweed. I also saw more wasps hovering too–so I hope they don’t get my caterpillars. I will keep watching. I tried to get pictures, but to no avail. The garlic chives is about to pop and I will have loads if anyone wants any. garlic chives blooms aug31.15.

Katie and I found short ribs at Sam’s this weekend, so after I got home last night from dinner with friends, we started cooking. My recipe calls for them being seared the night before and that the vegetable medley be sautéed and then red wine poured over the whole thing and they bathe in that all night. katie short ribs.aug15 (1) Then you roast them in the oven for a couple of hours. Katie took care of the final cooking phases and they were divine, but we were so busy getting dinner on the table and eating, that I forgot to take a picture of the final product.

I also want to share with you a new project the White county Master Gardeners started this morning. Their new project of a Butterfly Garden at Daniel Park began. They are building 8 raised beds in an undeveloped area of the park. The City and Chamber of Commerce are helping them with the needed funding. Thought you’d like to see their work as it develops. butterflly garden 006 white county

butterflly garden 011

butterflly garden 012

butterflly garden 015

butterfly garden 020 white county Thanks to county agent Sherri for sharing the pictures with me! Great job White County!

A productive Saturday

August 29, 2015
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I ran errands for a good part of the day, and did do a little scouting for vegetable transplants. I have found broccoli and cabbage, Swiss chard and some repeat summer vegetables, including tomatoes and peppers, but I only bought one tomato plant and one cucumber. I am ready to move on to fall veggies. I did order on-line this morning garlic xian garlic–I purchased early Chinatown Xian Early and French Grey Shallots,shallots so I will hopefully plant those next weekend if they come in. I bought another 15 bags of mulch and got most of them distributed. I did have a few raindrops this afternoon, but it stopped almost as fast as it started.

I keep looking for signs of caterpillars, but so far, I haven’t found any. I did hear from Mike and Jodie today and they found 8 monarch caterpillars in their garden on the milkweed in Fayetteville, so there is still hope!monarch cat fay.1ug29.

monarch caterpillars fay.aug29.15

Then this afternoon a group of us went to Ferndale for a Pampered Chef party. To say I don’t need any more kitchen gadgets is an understatement, but when has that stopped me! I do love Pampered Chef stuff. This party was different than most. Instead of watching a demonstration, we all got to use the tools and help prepare the meal. pampered chef.aug15 (3)

pampered chef.aug15 (4)It was fun and tasty. One in particular was quite clever. You put your grapes, tomatoes, olives, etc in side, and then slice through, so you cut them all at once! Some of us were better than others at this!pampered chef.aug15 (7)pampered chef.aug15 (1)

We had a fun time and a good visit with plenty of laughter! Tomorrow I plan to seed some fall veggies. I have carrots and lettuce to try. I bought some funky radishes last spring, and I need to see if I can find those to plant as well. They say we are supposed to have some rain, so let’s hope.

The end of the week

August 28, 2015
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It was a busy day at the office. We had a very productive meeting discussing the 2016 Statewide Saturday training with good participation from surrounding counties. We also worked on getting ready to send out information on the 2017 Vietnam and 2018 Rhine trips. We should have the link up and ready to go on Monday.

Although temperatures heated up a bit, the low humidity made it seem much cooler. Everyone seems to be commenting on the lack of butterflies, and there has been little damage to pollinator friendly milkweed, fennel, and parsley. I have had several folks comment this week, that in addition to no caterpillars they had no aphids or milkweed bugs on their milkweed either. I had to agree, but my answer changed tonight as I walked the garden. I have both aphids and milkweed bugs on the milkweed–but no signs of caterpillars. aphids on milkweed.aug28.15 (1)milkweed bugs aug.28.15.
In my travels I have seen some dramatic displays of sweet autumn clematis sweet autumn clematis.aug.15and purple fruits on beautyberrybeautyberry aug.15. and blooms on pineapple sage pineapple sage aug5.garvan but in my garden I have no sweet autumn clematis and the berries are green on the beautyberry beautyberry aug28.15 (2)and there are no signs of flowers on my pineapple sagepineapple sage. aug28.15.–and I have been watering and keeping things healthy. They look good but they are behind their friends! But I do have loads of blooms on my Erythrina and it is a showy plant! erythrina aug28.15 (1)

erythrina aug28.15 (3)

Enjoy the weekend!

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