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Zooming and answering questions

January 30, 2018

While we have been doing a lot of zoom sessions lately, that doesn’t mean there are no problems and that everyone embraces or understands all parts of zoom.  Whenever we use new technology, we face obstacles and challenges, but also opportunities.  I do not proclaim to be an expert, but I did get answers from our zoom guru Mary Poling.

The two formats we have been using are the zoom meeting and the zoom webinar.  Today we did a webinar.  Julie emailed out a link that you had to click on to register.  Pre-registration is required. Once you register you will receive an email telling you how to join.  Your picture is not posted, you are just attending a web-based seminar, where you can see us and hear us (if everything is working properly).    There is no chat, you have a button at the bottom that says Q/A and you can type in your questions.  We are now holding the questions until the end of the presentation and then we answer them live via zoom.

The zoom meeting, which is what we did for MG Mondays  does not require pre-registration.  You are sent a link and you can click on the link and join the meeting.  If your computer has a camera and microphone we can see and hear you.  We ask that all participants mute their microphones so we don’t get feedback or 100 people talking at once.  For questions here, there is a chat option.    While they both work similarly, they are different.  Each session has its own link, you don’t save one and use it over and over again.  You can attend via your desktop computer, laptop, tablet or iPad, or by phone.  Here is a link to tips for success in zooming:  . Read through this before attending a session and even print it out to use as a cheat sheet.  If you have questions, please let us know.

Since I have been posting pictures of MG training events, I am also getting questions on how we can do basic MG training.  Every county has three options. One is to do the standard face-to-face training where you bring in speakers each week to conduct the 40 hour training.  A minimum of 20 new volunteers is mandatory to conduct this type of training.  The second option is to train via zoom.  The specialists are in the zoom studio presenting their presentation in person but broadcasting it via zoom to counties across the state.  There are no minimum or maximum number of volunteers required by county, but it is done as a county group in a county setting, not individually at home.  The dates are set for this training for 2018.  We begin October 17 and end November 14.  The third option is online training where individuals train in the comfort of their home via computer.  They work at their own pace and do it whenever they have the time.  This year it started Jan 16 and will end April 30.  Next year, I suspect it will open January 1 and end March 31, but that is yet to be determined.  Counties may choose to do all three options or one or two.  The choice is a COUNTY decision, and must be advertised at the county level and volunteers must be interviewed and accepted at the county level and pay all applicable fees.

The last round of questions concerns the tulips that were being planted yesterday and are sprouting at Garvan Gardens.     Garvan Gardens gets their tulip bulbs in sometime in the early fall and they put them in a special refrigerator to pre-chill them.  Spring bulbs need a minimum of 12-16 weeks of temperatures below 50 degrees to satisfy their chilling requirement allowing the bulbs to stretch and elongate stems.  Because they are pre-chilled, they can still be planted this late.  If you just found a bag of bulbs you bought and didn’t get planted, you can still plant, but they may not ever reach the height they could have due to lack of chilling hours.  You could also stick them in a refrigerator for 10-12 weeks and pot them up and enjoy some forced bulbs indoors.  You cannot save the bulbs from now until next year–they would totally dry out and be dead, so use them however you can.  In the future, try to get them planted between mid October and mid January.

I am glad the blog is generating questions and comments.  Keep them coming and we will try to answer them as we can.  This is a busy weekend coming up. The Ag Expo will be at the Black River Technical College in Pocahontas on Friday.  There are many different topics, but horticulture will be in room 106 beginning at 9 with me.  Here is the full schedule:

Row Crop
Dr. Jason Kelly – Extension Agronomist, Wheat & Feed Grains
Dr. Jeremy Ross – Extension Agronomist, Soybeans
Dr. Bob Scott – Professor, Weed Science
Dr. Gus Lorenz – Extension Entomologist
Dr. Jarrod Hardke – Extension Agronomist, Rice
Dr. John Jennings – Professor, Forage
Dr. Shane Gadberry – Professor, Ruminant Nutrition
Dr. Roger Helms – Veterinarian, Gateway Animal Clinic
Dr. Darren McVay – Veterinarian, Gateway Animal Clinic
Janet Carson – Extension Horticulture Specialist
Rachel Tucker – Arkansas Agriculture Department
Dr. Kim Pitticock – Arkansas State University Professor
Jon Zawislak – University of Arkansas Extension Specialist-Apiary
Dr. Bud Kennedy – Arkansas State University
Gary Davis – University of Arkansas
Jenine Meyers – Black River Technical College
Kerry Roemer – PECO
Blaine Huddleston – Randolph County 4-H

All sessions begin at 9 and end with lunch at noon. The exhibits stay open until 2, and they have a load of door prizes too.  This is a free event which includes a free lunch.  Then I will drive on to Jonesboro for the weekend, with MG training on Saturday and the Jonesboro Garden Club program which is open to the public at 2 p.m. Sunday at the auditorium in the AG building at ASU.   The topic is Welcome Spring! and aren’t we ready?!  Another free event.   If you are near NE Arkansas, come see me!


Much colder, TV and friends and family

January 29, 2018

I think we have all been lulled by a false sense of security with the recent sunshine and milder temperatures. I did watch the forecast but obviously did not pay close enough attention to it. I wore a light jacket with thin clothing underneath and froze taping TV at Garvan Gardens today. To add insult to injury, both my producer and cameraman were feeling under the weather, so I am hoping I don’t catch anything. Everytime you hear the news the tales of the flu are worse, but I also know a slew of people who have had all manors of illness this year already.

The Garland County MGs were busy planting a gift of tulip bulbs in the Southern Inspiration Garden.

Hilde’s husband made a cardboard planting grid to make spacing easier.

The gardens close for the month of January to allow staff time to put away holiday lights. They seem to be ahead of schedule this year. In addition to taking down decorations they also are planting thousands of tulips. Some that were planted earlier are already sprouting in spite of the cold.

There was some visible winter damage on some evergreen shrubs but time will tell whether it is permanent or superficial.

The message is leave them alone for at least another month ot two and allow them to sprout out on their own.

Last night I had a girls game night where I cooked dinner. Tonight I had the kids for lamb burgers. The kitchen is paying off!

I also have a fire going. It is a nice night to enjoy one.

Magnolia, planning and awards

January 27, 2018

Yesterday, Julie and I zoomed with Mimi Cox in Jonesboro to put the final touches on the upcoming statewide mentoring training on Tuesday. Julie has sent out a link to MG’s via Constant Contact so I hope counties will join us.  We all have really gotten used to this new technology, but I would guess Mimi is the most enamored with it, since she can sit in her dining room and do her presentations and misses out on the drives to and from LR.  Once we made all our changes on mentoring, we signed off with Mimi and immediately went into a meeting to discuss our online class.  We are planning a live chat session this coming week, but learning all the ins and outs of Moodle (our online platform) is a learning experience for us all.   Randy is a farmer in addition to being a staff chair in Pulaski County and it is lambing season.  He had Baby Boo with him.  One of his sheep had twins but only enough milk for one, so Randy is the surrogate mother.   Everyone wants to help with taking care of him, at least during the day! Randy is up every 2 hours feeding him now.  No thanks.

We finally made it into the office and met to recap our week ahead and plan what needs to be accomplished.  I had hoped to be on the road by 1:30 to head down to Magnolia but it was 3:30 before I left the office.  I made it to Magnolia in time to check in to my hotel and then meet up with my Tennessee counterpart and friend Natalie Bumgardner.  We went to dinner and then continued to meet and discuss programs until late in the evening back at our hotel.  She is three years into her position and I am 38 years into mine, so it was a great sharing of experiences.  I learned some things from her program that I want to use in our program and will share with our board.  I am so impressed with her enthusiasm and energy and how much of a difference she has made in the Tennessee program in such a short time.

Today, both Natalie and I were speakers at the Columbia County Master Gardener educational event called Garden Thyme. When they opened the doors, people were streaming in waiting to pay.  They had great attendance, and as always paid so much attention to the small details. They had food galore preceding the meeting, during the breaks and even at the end. Door prizes were everywhere, and they had such a welcoming attitude.  They had vendors along the back of the break area 

I saw folks from all over the southern half of the state. One of the largest groups in attendance was Union County, who took a group photo to commemorate the event. I spoke on gardening trends while Natalie spoke on tomatoes.  There were  a lot of questions.  Someone commented to me about it being my last year, which got me to thinking about something I saw this morning as I was watching the news  in the hotel.  They talked about Elton John and Neil Diamond doing their last tours, so I have decided I will join them, and this will be my gardening farewell tour–2018!  I will travel the state and instead of singing (which I do in the car) I will speak and talk gardening with all my gardening friends.  Fare thee well gardening friends.  Eleven more months to go.  I enjoy seeing old friends each year, speaking to the crowd and talking one-on-one, so it will definitely be a transition for me.  It was also heartening to me to visit with Natalie who is beginning her career and seeing her enthusiasm for not only the Master Gardener program but consumer horticulture.  She is also stepping into leadership roles in the national Master Gardener program which will help all states.  I am happy to call her friend.

Kudos to Pulaski County Master Gardeners as well.  In the contest in USA Today Readers Choice Award, voters selected The Old Mill as second choice for the top 10 Attractions in Arkansas.  The North Little Rock attraction  has long been a Pulaski County Master Gardener project.  In the contest it ranked second, with the Buffalo National River ranked as number 1.  Here is the final top 10:

  1. Buffalo National River
    2.Old Mill At T.R. Pugh Memorial Park – North Little Rock
    3.Mount Magazine State Park – Paris
    4.Museum of Native American History – Bentonville
    5.Garvan Woodland Gardens – Hot Springs
    6.Little Rock Central High School – Little Rock
    7.Petit Jean State Park – Morrilton
    8.Downtown Eureka Springs – Eureka Springs
    9.Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art – Bentonville
    10.Blanchard Springs Caverns – Mountain View

    On-line voting took place over several weeks, and I am so happy that our Master Gardener site and Central Arkansas attraction is so valued by Arkansans.

MG training, AFGS planning and what about this weather!

January 25, 2018

I had to be in Hot Springs fairly early this morning, so it was quick drive to the office to switch cars. Since I am so used to parking in a garage, I forgot about having to defrost windows.  Luckily I had a scraper in the car which between the defrosters and that made quick work.  It was nippy this morning –only 30 at my house but 27 as I drove out-of-town, but with the bright sunshine it quickly warmed up. It was a delightful 63 this afternoon.  Beautiful day.

Today was the first day of MG training for Garland/Grant/Hot Spring/Saline County group and they had a fantastic crowd.  They also had a good group of seasoned MG’s who were there to support the new class.  They always do something that I think is so clever. They have the Garland Co. rookie of the year for the previous year present a brief welcome and overview for the new class. Who better to share what they will be experiencing in the year to come.   As I was finishing up at noon, agent Allen Bates told the class that a few years from now this class could say they were the last group to hear Janet Carson speak at a MG training in Garland County.  It kind of makes things retirement seem a bit more real!  Whew!

I did not get to stay and eat their wonderful food, since I had a meeting at the fairgrounds with the AFGS  board to do a walk-through for our upcoming 2018 Arkansas Flower & Garden Show.  The Big Buck Classic was setting up, so we got to see what it will look like for us in the Hall of Industry.    The Extension Display will be in the back corner of the Hall of Industry along with several gardens and many booths.  We will also have larger gardens and booths in the Coliseum.   with the How-to sessions and the Federation of Garden Clubs Flower Show in the Arts and Crafts Building,    and speakers in the Farm and Ranch Building. 

There is a lot of space at the Arkansas Fairgrounds, and once we all get our bearings and figure things out, I think it is going to be a great move for the show.  Free parking and easy access to pick up large items.  So mark your calendars now for the first weekend in March, March 2-4.  You don’t want to miss out!

Julie and I met afterwards to go over what needs to get done in the coming week.  When I made it home tonight I worked on a Power Point for our mentoring zoom meeting next week, since we are practicing in the morning.  I also reviewed my talk for this weekend. Don’t forget we will be in Magnolia for Garden Thyme this Saturday.  Come join us

1823 North St.

County 76 kick off meeting of 2018

January 23, 2018

We had over 70 Master Gardeners from across the state at our first County 76 quarterly meeting of the year.  There was so much enthusiasm in the committee meetings and a lot of work was accomplished in a small amount of time.   Our development officer Brian Helms kicked it off with a discussion on giving.  Then we broke into committee groups.   While I can’t say any one group works harder than any other, the communications team is small but mighty!   I was very touched that County 76 hosted a bridal shower for my daughter during the lunch break.  They really did it up well with decorations and cake, plus a load of gifts.    The Master Gardener volunteers are one of the reasons it will be hard for me to retire this year. It is not just a casual thing. They work hard and are dedicated to our program.  They are so thoughtful as well.  I truly appreciate their support, as does Katie and Ben.

After lunch,    We were back in the auditorium for an excellent presentation from Julie on the website.     I did a brief update on events across the state, and then the committee chairmen updated us on their progress.  We have a lot of information to share in the coming week.  It was an excellent meeting chaired by president Linda Soffer and an excellent board of officers and committee chairs.  Thanks to all who were a part of it.

MG Monday, planning, & winter damage

January 22, 2018

We had a very successful first Master Gardener Monday via zoom today.   Over 63 people from more than 20 counties participated.  Was it flawless, NO, but it went great for our first time.  For many of the attendees it was their first time attending a zoom meeting.  There is a learning curve to figure out the cameras, audio, etc.  For me the challenge was sharing my screen to show my powerpoing, which worked great before we went live then my computer froze for a bit, but all’s well that ends well.  We did record the session and a link will go out via Constant Contact to Master Gardeners later this week. It will only stay live for about two weeks.  We plan to host this event every 4th Monday so if you missed it today, you can participate in the future.

We also spent part of the day preparing for our first quarterly meeting of County 76, our statewide MG advisory board.   We have almost 70 registered for tomorrow’s meeting.

Thankfully, the weather has gotten warmer this past weekend and even today so folks won’t have to worry about driving in weather.  I think we were all ready for a break. During the night strong winds came through, and predicted severe weather, luckily didn’t happen. I had several loud claps of thunder and a little rain, but it came and went quickly. It was more dramatic since the windows were open! It was hot inside our house last night.

I did make it out into my yard to look at damage and there was good news and some bad news.  I have pansies already rebounding, but some that were in pots are not as happy.  But even those in the pots are making a comeback.   On one of these warmer days, a light dose of fertilizer would definitely help.  I have flowering kale that made it pretty well,  and cabbage plants in the vegetable garden that don’t look bad.    The same cannot be said for the giant mustard or Swiss chard, but I don’t think they are dead either. I think there is life left in them at the base and they should begin to grow if we don’t get more winter weather. 

If you have winter vegetables or winter annuals that have damage, by all means start cleaning them up.  Cut back the dead and or damaged leaves, fertilize and water (if dry) and wait for their comeback.  However, if the damage extends to permanent trees and shrubs, leave them be until spring officially arrives. This damaged foliage can buffer the plants should any future weather arise.  I have about 5 different varieties of loropetalum in the yard and only one has damage, but is seems pretty severe.   I have 10 or 12 encore azaleas of different varieties and again only a few show some tip burn.    Whether flower buds are damaged or not will be determined this spring.  Some gardeners are concerned because their azaleas have turned a deep red color.    This is really the natural winter color for the darker blooming varieties.  They will green back up in the spring.  There is a difference between brown and burgundy.  I also have some burned leaves on the pineapple guava which bloomed beautifully the past 2 years, but may not be as pretty this spring.     When I planted it 4 years ago I was testing to see if it would live in central Arkansas, and it has done pretty well.  The year after I planted it, it totally defoliated but still came back.  I still have leaves left, so I think I am in good shape for this year.  Again not sure how many blooms I will get, but time will tell.  This was last spring. I think these are some of the prettiest blooms.

While some plants have damage, my gardenias in full sun and in partial shade are still doing fine without a burned leaf on them,    and the sasanqua camellia has plenty of brown damaged blooms, but more buds are opening up.  It started blooming in November and still is providing color. I think all gardens need some sasanqua camellias.    So far, limited damage appears to be happening in my yard, but gardeners won’t know the extent of the damage or lack of damage until the plants really start growing in the spring.  That is when you should assess and start pruning.

Many of us have  been expecting some winter damage on plants in the landscape–not just due to cold weather, but also how dry it was and in some cases still is.  Many folks are hopeful that this taste of winter is over for us, but who knows what is yet to come.  We can all keep our fingers crossed that the worst is behind us.  It was nice to be back in the garden again, even if I didn’t do too much. I have plenty of clean-up activities if time permits.

Fayetteville and MG training, then Supper Club

January 20, 2018

Yesterday Julie and I met at the storage building we rent for the MG program to load up the myriad of signs we use for each state MG conference. I was going to drop them off in Fort Smith on my way up to Fayetteville.  We really didn’t give any consideration to the fact that their might be any ice or snow to contend with, but we were wrong. At first we both parked on one side where the ice seemed to have melted, but I realized we would have to cross the icy mess to get the stuff in our cars so I moved to the other side.  I opened my door to a sheet of black ice.   I backed up my car enough to find enough footing to get in and out plus load the car. Julie was on the other side and when she opened her door, she dropped her car key. To get to it she had to sit down and scoot to get it without falling.     It was so slick!  She moved her car where we had enough leverage to move signs into my car.   It was pretty slick  everywhere else.    The next row over was even worse than ours, but we made it and got everything into our car. I was glad I was not renting a unit and had to move that week!

I made it to Fort Smith and dropped off all the signs and picked up things they had for me before heading to Fayetteville.

This morning we had a great class for the Washington County MG program.  They are rotating their classes each week to different MG projects. This week was the Shiloh Museum.   They have a very nice meeting facility and we had a really nice class.  As always, the hosting group went above and beyond to make the new class feel welcome with loads of food and door prizes.  Lot’s of good questions as well.    As I was teaching houseplants, I mentioned aloe vera.  I said it was a cactus, and one new trainee said isn’t it a succulent. I was not positive, but said I would check. She was correct. Aloe vero is a succulenet and surprisingly enough to me, is a member of the lily family.  There are over 350 different species of aloe vera.  When we were in New Zealand we found many interesting forms that were hardy there.  

It was a nice drive back home.  The temperatures really warmed up today and tomorrow is supposed to be in the mid 60’s!

Everyone is talking about the winter weather and the effect on plants.  Their dianthus looks a bit burned but will rebound.    Some spring bulbs had sprouted and showed some damage, but the bulbs are not showing flower spikes yet, so should be ok.   Let’s not be too quick to assume extreme damage. There isn’t anything you can to change things, so let’s wait and see what spring brings.

Tonight was our monthly supper club dinner party. This month was at the Feild’s and as they had recently been to Williamsburg, we had a colonial theme.   Special accouterments were included–and we tried to be serious but it was hard!   We had a great meal and of course, great fellowship as well.  Fun times. 

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