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September  2016 ARK Gardener

Question I have decided to throw in the towel as far as grass is concerned under my large oak tree.  I have put in mulch and am considering planting something for seasonal color.  Do you think spring bulbs will survive and actually bloom under this tree, or do I need to just leave it alone?

AnswerWise decision, since grass does not grow well in the shade, and shade is an excellent thing during an Arkansas summer.  Early blooming spring bulbs should do great under deciduous trees. Deciduous trees will allow enough sunlight through until the foliage matures later in the season.  Early daffodils, crocus and hyacinths should work well.  Later blooming varieties may not get enough sunlight to produce energy for new flowers, but there are some bulbs that like shade.  Scillas (or wood hyacinths), Virginia blue bells, snowdrops and crested wood iris love shade.  Any time you can add color, go for it.


August 13, 2016

 I yourQuestion other column July 30th you mentioned that we could start planting for fall. My problem is where do you find live plants in Little Rock to plant for fall?    


Answer It is true that fall vegetable plants can be a bit hard to find right now, but some places still have a few.  Most of our garden centers will start getting in their fall vegetable transplants in late August through mid-September, which is still a great time to plant. I have been growing year-round the past few years and last year barely had to cover anything with extra protection since our winter was so mild.  You can readily find seeds now, and you can start kale and other greens from seed as well as carrots, fall squash, cucumbers, etc.  The vegetables that do best as transplants are tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.      

 September 19, 2015

 QuestionWhat is this flowers name & origination?


AnswerThe plant in question is an annual native impatiens, commonly called jewelweed - Impatiens capensis.  It is found statewide in shady, moist locations. This one is the spotted jewelweed or touch-me-not. There are also solid yellow varieties.  Legend has it you can rub the sap of this plant on you to prevent and/or stop the spread of a poison ivy break-out


 September 2012

QuestionWhat do you mean by a light application of fertilizer and would that be water soluble or granular?


AnswerWhen I say a light application it would be to use a rate that is half of what is recommended on the package. It can be either granular or water soluble. When plants are stressed by heat or drought, it is always better to err on the side of applying less and reapplying in a couple of weeks, then burning them with too much.

April 2012

QuestionI am sorry to find that your Saturday show is not on KARN or KZNG in Hot Springs. Please advise which station you may still be on. We live in Hot Springs Village. We really missed it again today.


AnswerI am sorry to say that the garden show ended March 10 after 28 years. Cumulus radio station moved the show from KARN January 2 to KAAY and we had no advertising letting folks know of the move nor did we have many listeners. I gave it two months but decided it wasn't working. We just weren't getting calls and listeners couldn’t pick up the station.

March 2012

QuestionWhen is the right time to put out my feeder for hummingbirds?


AnswerHummingbird feeders can be put outside as long as there is no chance of freezing. I have already put mine out, and can easily move it indoors should a frost be predicted—lets truly hope that doesn’t occur. Even though the hummingbirds that hang out here all summer probably haven’t arrived yet, putting out early feeders, and leaving them up after your main flock has fled, can give food to travelers that are passing through.

March 2012

QuestionUSDA Hardiness Zone Map changes for 2012.


AnswerThe USDA Hardiness zone map has been around for many years, and is a planting guide giving the average low winter temperature in regions across the United States. Recently it was updated to reflect the more moderate winter temperatures. Arkansas still has three different hardiness zones (6-8), but they have shifted. Zone 8a, with an average winter low temperature of 10-15 degrees now encompasses almost half of the southern part of our state, leaving only a fringe of zone 6b in a few northern locations with an average winter low of -5 – 0 degrees F. The remainder of the state is in zones 7a and 7b with a range of 0-10 degrees F. This zone map should be used as another reference tool when choosing plants, but do keep in mind that it only gives you one piece of the puzzle—average low temperature. It does not compare summer high temperatures, rainfall, humidity, or other weather patterns. It would be helpful when looking at a catalog of plants, for example, if it tells you the plant is hardy from zone 2-7, you would know that the plant was very cold tolerant—zone 2 can get as cold as 50 degrees below zero. Zone 7 would be the warmest it could tolerate, so it might struggle in the heat and humidity of the south. On the flip side, if it was hardy from zone 7 – zone 10, you would be the coldest zone it could survive in. But try new plants. You aren’t a gardener, if you have never lost a plant—experimentation may give you some new favorites.

March 2012

QuestionI got mulch from the city this past week. It's beautiful this year but evidently toxic. I spent many hours today mulching. Later I walked around and looked at my beds and my tender perennials, lettuce and herbs, in addition to some flowering plants look like the leaves have burned. The mulch has a slight chemical smell. I can't imagine what that might be. Perhaps there is a chemical in the mulch or perhaps the mulch is very green and what I am smelling, and what is burning the plants, is excess nitrogen. What do you think would cause this problem and do you have any ideas what I can do? Should I water my beds excessively or put something on my beds to neutralize the nitrogen. Please let me know your thoughts. I'm frazzled, frustrated and worried about my plants.


AnswerThere sometimes can be a problem with what is called "Sour" mulch. What basically happens is that if the mulch pile is large and we get a heavy rain, the oxygen levels sort of bottom out in the pile when it gets waterlogged. Toxic gasses can begin to build up inside this anaerobic environment and if applied in this state, the mulch can burn or damage tender plants. If you are applying mulch and it has a rotten egg odor or ammonia smell, stop applying it. Turn the mulch pile, or spread it out to allow oxygen in. The condition in the mulch pile is quickly remedied, but if it has already damaged your plants, you may have to replace some of the more damaged plants. For more information on sour mulch look at our fact sheet at:

March 2012

QuestionIn a recent column you talked about oleander, but you didn’t mention anything about the known toxicity of this plant. I’m talking about Nerium oleander, as I suppose you are. It is indeed an attractive plant. However, what I read tells me its greatest danger comes when the leaves are eaten, and it is more poisonous to humans and dogs (and some grazing animals including horses) than to some other species. I personally would forego it as a yard plant. But I recognize that someone else might decide differently, and so I feel strongly that anyone who chooses oleander ought to do so in full knowledge of its riskiness to children and pets.      


AnswerYou are correct that oleander is poisonous and I should have mentioned its toxicity. There are quite a few plants in our landscapes that fit this bill. The popular brugmansia and datura perennials are highly toxic, as is foxglove (Digitalis), hellebores (Lenten rose) and all members of the milkweed family. Even our common boxwoods and daffodils are toxic.

February 2012

QuestionWhere did you go? I have noticed that you are no longer on KARN every Saturday morning. I have been a long time listener and understand you may want your Saturday’s back, but just wanted you to know we miss you!


AnswerThe radio show came to an end on March 10, 2012. I've done the show for 28 years.

January 2012

QuestionSo much comes out of hoses when they are not used for a while, and I recall you saying to let the water run clear before watering either plants or animals. Am I correct in this?


AnswerI really don't think it is that important when watering plants. I wouldn't want to drink dirty water, nor give it to the animals, but if dirt collects in the hoses, I don't think the plants will mind. I do let the water run in the summer when watering, so that I don't scald plants with hot water that may have collected in the hose.

October 2011

QuestionI just got a new car and I park under a neighbors oak tree. The tree seems to rain a fine mist of sap during the day, seems more so when it is sunny. Is this possible, and if so, how long does this happen? I guess I have never noticed on other cars I have owned. When I have searched online I see info about honeydew aphid infestation? If so how is this treated?

AnswerIt is honeydew from aphids. They build up quickly, especially when it is dry. It doesn’t really hurt the tree, but it can be a nuisance on car windshields and patio furniture. The honeydew is the droppings form the aphids as they feed. It is extremely sticky, and if allowed to stay on the surface of leaves, cars, etc. it can eventually form a black sooty mold. Try spraying the lower limbs of the tree with a strong spray of water periodically. Aphids are poor swimmers and you can control the insects at the base of the tree. Unfortunately, they multiply prolifically, so it must be repeated. There are insecticides as well, but for a large tree, they too would need to be repeated, so the water works almost as well.

February 2011

QuestionI don't know if you can answer this one for me, but I have been wondering if, during the winter months, the birds can get the water they need from the snow, ice, etc., or do they still need water?


AnswerRegardless of the weather, birds do need water to survive. There are some heaters that you can put in a bird bath to keep the water from freezing, but they aren’t commonly used in the south. This year, we sure could have used them. They can get some water from snow and berries and even insects that they eat, but fresh unfrozen water is preferred and should invite more birds to your yard. So try to add fresh water to your birdbath and break the surface of ice to provide some water for the birds.


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