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Welcome to the "Ask Janet Carson" portion of our website. Here you will find Janet Carson's current "In the Garden" Questions and Answers found weekly in "The Arkansas Democrat/Gazette" Saturday edition. Have fun reading these pages and check back with us weekly. This page is constantly updated and new questions are added on Monday following their appearance in the paper. So stay tuned...

All of the Questions & Answers that Janet writes for all publications are archived.

In the Garden with Janet B. Carson


February 11, 2017


When we were clearing the lot to build our house several years ago I noticed that a tree that was blooming very early in the year appeared to be a "Pear" tree so we left it.  It was a Pear tree and almost every year it has literally thousands of pears. The problem: The pears never get any larger than a "golf" ball.  I have tried several things to include thinning the pears, really reducing the number, hoping the ones remaining would grow to normal size. Do you have any suggestions?  Is there some type of fertilizer, mineral or some kind of magical dance that can make a difference or should I just admit defeat and remove the tree?



Unfortunately for you, I believe you have a Callery pear tree which is an ornamental pear.  Pyrus calleryana is the parent of all of the ornamental pear varieties, of which Bradford is the most well-known.  These ornamental pear trees have re-seeded and become quite invasive across Arkansas. While they do have beautiful white blooms in the spring followed by stunning red fall foliage, the resulting fruits are eaten by the birds, seeds are dropped and we have an inordinate number of pear trees blanketing the landscape. The fruit on these trees range in size from a bb size up to a golf ball size.  There is nothing you can do to alter the size of the fruit.


My daughter-in-law, who is a master gardener in El Paso, told me about key gardening.  I was wondering if I could adapt the idea in my raised kitchen garden.  I have four 5-gallon buckets. I plan to drill holes in a spiral manner top to bottom,  place in  ground 10 inches deep, add new materials for compost, and this summer use the buckets for dispersing the  water with nutrients from the compost



I believe you are referring to keyhole gardening.  Keyhole gardening began in Africa, but is becoming popular across the south.  Typically keyhole gardening uses a circular raised bed design with the center hollowed out where water and compost is added.  They can be totally round or if larger, a wedge shaped area can be cut out to one side giving easy access to the center "keyhole".  Kitchen and garden waste, along with water are added to the center basket.  A keyhole garden holds moisture and nutrients due to the active compost pile placed in the center. The soil bed layers are slightly sloped away from the center to aid water and compost tea distribution. As the materials decompose, soil, composting materials, and amendments are added to the keyhole.  I think what you are proposing could work, but your space is somewhat limited in a 5 gallon bucket.


I read somewhere recently climate change has caused the agricultural powers that be to reclassify certain plants and where they may or may not flourish in the US. One such plant was the poisonous but hardy Oleander and it said the Oleander might now thrive in Arkansas. In California where I hail from, Oleander is used extensively as a plant barrier, particularly along freeways. Would Oleander do well here as a noise barrier if planted out front of my house by a busy road?



While it is true that are winters have gotten milder and we are able to grow plants that 20 years ago were not considered winter hardy.  Oleander is one of those plants. It has always been winter-hardy in southern Arkansas but now can survive through over half of the state.  While it will survive, it will not thrive in Arkansas like it did in California.  It will make a lovely shrub but it doesn't grow as fast or large here as it does in a warmer climate.  For a noise or sound barrier there would be better options.  Hollies, magnolias, eleagnus, loropetalum, or cherry laurels or other evergreen hedges would buffer sound much better.  You could throw in a few oleanders to add some extra color

QuestionI brought my tropical plants indoors after being outside for the summer. Now the ends of the leaves or parts of the leaves are turning brown and drying up. This is happening with only some of the plants I brought indoors. What do I need to do?



Brown tips on houseplants is a common occurrence even in a commercial greenhouse. Over or under-watering or too much fertilization can cause the tips of leaves to turn brown. Some plants just seem to be more sensitive to the problem than others.  Dracenas are often commonly affected.  Make sure you are not overwatering and don't fertilize your houseplants when they are inside for the winter.  If you see brown edges trim them off, but follow the natural shape of the leaf, don't make a blunt end cut or the cut will look obvious. If you trim off the damage following the leaf shape, it will blend in and look natural.



The Arkansas Master Gardener year-round gardening calendars for 2017 are now available. The calendars give you monthly gardening tips, plus outstanding garden photos taken by Arkansas Master Gardeners in Arkansas.  To order a calendar, stop by the Little Rock State Extension Office (2301 S. University Avenue).  Or you may choose to have the calendar mailed to you.  Calendars for pickup are $1.00 each or $3.50 per calendar if mailed.  Please contact Holly Beason at 501-671-2237 to order calendars.

Picture of the 2017 Arkansas Master Gardener Calendar 


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