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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

 

June 17, 2017

Question

Do you know what kind of tree this is?

 

Picture of yellow wood tree

Answer

It is a beautiful mid-sized tree called yellowwood - Cladrastis kentukea.  It typically blooms in late May with fragrant white flowers and it has good yellow fall color.  It grows to 40-50 feet tall with a nice rounded canopy


Question

We live in West Little Rock and the gnats have been terrible this year...so bad that at times we cannot sit outside. Is this a bad (good) year for gnats? Is there anything we can do? We've sprayed many times and nothing works. We don't have low wet areas, no piled up yard waist, and we keep the garbage secured.

 

 Answer

It has been a bad year for these pesky gnats.  They are a species of gnat sized black fly commonly called buffalo gnats or turkey gnats.   They breed during periods of cool weather with plenty of running water.  Conditions were perfect for their breeding this spring.  These small gnats do bite and are blood feeders which are pests of man and animals in many areas of the state. Like eye gnats, they fly around people’s heads, occasionally getting into eyes and ears as well as crawling in the hair.  When they are bad, you can wear light-colored long sleeves, use repellants and carry a hand-fan to keep them at bay.  Now that the temperatures are heating up, our gnat problem is declining and we shouldn’t see them again until next spring.


Question

We spread wild flowers in the back of our house a few years ago.  We had one year that was good but until this year very few.  The three that came back are sparse.  We need to cut the back yard but would like to do it at the best time to spread the seeds.  Can you help?  Attached is a photo of the three we have.

 

Answer

You still have flowers on your coreopsis, verbena and daisy fleabane, so it is too early to mow.  You need the flowers to be totally gone and the seed heads totally mature if you are planning for them to self-sow.  Usually we would not recommend mowing a wildflower field until the flowers have been gone for weeks, giving the plants time to have mature seed heads.  Deadheading can keep them blooming longer into the season, but that will not help reseed.  Some gardeners only allow seed set to mature in the fall. Overseeding with new wildflower seed annually will help get your wildflowers more numerous until you have an established wildflower meadow.   Adding in a few annuals like larkspur and Shirley poppy will also help give added color.  They too can reseed themselves.


Question

I bought a piece of property a few years ago that had a pear tree on it. About 3 years ago a part of the tree died & I cut it out. Since then there has not been any pears on it. In the spring it blooms & produces what looks like clusters of pear looking fruit, but they never get over about a nickel in size. Could this have been a grafted tree & would I be better just replacing it.

 

Answer

Most commercial pears are grafted trees, with the rootstock being a callery pear, which is what all of the ornamental pears that are taking over our roadsides are.  They do set fruit but it rarely gets larger than a quarter in size.  If you want edible pears, either buy a new tree or graft a desirable variety onto this one.


 QuestionHow can I control aphids on okra plants when temperatures reach 90 degrees F or higher?

 

Answer

Luckily for us, aphids are poor swimmers so a strong spray of water can knock them down. Insecticidal soap also works.  If the temperatures are above 90 degrees, make sure you water the plants well before spraying anything, and then spray later in the day when the temperatures have cooled off.  If the plants are too dry they can take up too much of the pesticide (or fertilizer) and get burned.  


 

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