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Garden Reference Desk

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

 

September 16, 2017

Question

Can you tell me what is wrong with this ligustrum?  I have 6 of these in different locations and they all have it.

 

Answer

Your ligustrum has a great case of a leaf-spotting disease called cercospera.  This late in the year I don’t think a spray program will be very effective. If foliage falls this late in the year rake it up and dispose of it. Next spring, you may want to lightly prune and then spray with a general fungicide such as Daconil. 


Question

I have five blue berry plants that have four to five feet canes. When do I prune them?

  
Answer

Blueberry plants should be pruned in the winter while they are dormant. After the second growing season, remove a portion of the canes and fruiting twigs to shape the plant and reduce the excess flower buds. Remove any low sprawling or weak branches and cut back any excessively tall canes. Old canes or shoots lose fruitfulness over time. Thus, starting about the fifth year, remove one of the largest, oldest canes for every six canes present on the plant, in addition to the other required pruning. Older blueberry plantings should contain about equal numbers of one-, two-, three-, four- and five-year-old canes to keep them producing at a peak rate.

 


Question

My bell peppers (in pots) have had a large brown spot on the bottom.  The tops are fine to eat and okay.  What is causing this?  

 

Answer

Peppers can suffer from blossom end rot, just like tomatoes, although we don't see it as often.  Blossom end rot is a calcium deficiency caused by fluctuating water levels--which we have seen. Try to keep the pots evenly watered and just cut off the damage until it clears up.


Question

I have watched mysterious flowers appear randomly in yards every summer.  They are usually orange, but this year I saw pink ones in a neighbor’s yard.  I would like to have some and wonder if they can be purchased somewhere.  They resemble a lily.  

Answer

Without a picture, I think you are talking about Lycoris- common names are surprise lilies and naked lady.  While we do not have a common orange variety, the pink ones (Lycoris squamigera) are quite common and look just like a lily without foliage. The foliage emerges in late winter/early spring and lives for a couple of months, then dies back.  The naked flower stem appears with the blooms weeks later.  The red variety Lycoris radiata has foliage in the fall and winter which dies back in the spring. It remains dormant until the naked flower stem surprises you with red flowers in the fall. They are available at some MG plant sales in the spring or via catalogs.

 


Question

My mom says that you are the gardening guru, and I was hoping you might be able to help me with an okra plant. The plant's doing very well, large and with big leaves, but when the flowers fall off of the emerging pods, the pods inevitably dry out and die within a few days. I'm watering it about every day to two days depending on how hot it gets and it gets sun from 8 to 7 or so. I live in Massachusetts, but I've grown okra without trouble up here before. Any ideas? 

Answer

Typically when the blooms fall off and the pods don't form it is a pollination problem.  How cool is it where you live this summer, or how hot?  Temperatures below 55 degrees or above 95 can limit pollination, as can too much nitrogen fertilizer.


 Great tip from a reader:

Recently a reader said the issue of your column had gotten tossed out and they wanted to know how to get a copy.  Anyone else that needs a past issue should go to their local public library because they keep past issues.


Question

I am a dedicated reader of your column but did not know you had written a book until someone mentioned it in a question.  What is the title?  I'm sure it must be available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, right?

 

Answer

I now have 2 books—In the Garden, a compilation of my columns with tips of what to do each month in your garden came out in 2010. In December of 2016 my second book, Field to Feast was released which had a similar format but geared to edible crops only. Some independent book stores carry them, some state parks, and then the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sells them online, since they are who produced them.


 

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