Break­ing ground

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - Pretty blooms STORY AND PHO­TOS BY JANET B. CAR­SON

JULY

Our weird weather con­tin­ues. While we have had a taste of heat and hu­mid­ity, for the most part we are skat­ing through nicely with mild weather, and even with fairly fre­quent rain. But who knows how long our luck will last?

■ Pay at­ten­tion to the weather. A rain gauge in your yard can save your plants as sum­mer rain­fall can be spotty, and you need to know when to wa­ter.

■ For those with au­to­matic sprin­klers, use com­mon sense about how of­ten to wa­ter and how long. Daily ir­ri­ga­tion is not needed for most plants un­less you are grow­ing them in con­tain­ers in full sun.

■ Fer­til­iza­tion is im­por­tant to keep flow­er­ing plants bloom­ing and to help fruit­ing plants set fruits or veg­eta­bles. Make sure there is am­ple mois­ture in the soil be­fore you ap­ply, and use a lower dose. High doses of fer­til­izer on a dry plant that is heat stressed leads to burned fo­liage. You can al­ways add more fer­til­izer, but you can’t un-dam­age fo­liage. Fer­til­izer is im­por­tant for an­nu­als and veg­eta­bles that are planted in the ground as well as those in con­tain­ers.

■ It has been one of the best years for hy­drangeas that we have had in a long time. Not only were our big-leaf hy­drangeas cov­ered in blooms rang­ing from blue and pur­ple to pink, but now the pan­i­cle and smooth va­ri­eties are bloom­ing. Most hy­drangeas love wa­ter and shade in the af­ter­noon, but the pan­i­cle forms will tol­er­ate full sun. Some va­ri­eties are sus­cep­ti­ble to cer­cospora leaf spot, and many plants suc­cumb late in the year. We have started see­ing this dis­ease ear­lier than nor­mal. If your hy­drangeas had it in the past but you don’t see it now, you can head it off with sys­temic Im­munox or Bayer Ad­vanced Dis­ease Con­trol for Roses, Flow­ers and Shrubs. Da­conil will also work. ■ Tomato dis­eases are ram­pant. The sep­to­ria leaf spot fun­gus is most ac­tive when tem­per­a­tures are from 68 to 77 de­grees, with

high hu­mid­ity and rain­fall. So we’re see­ing it. In­fec­tion usu­ally starts on leaves near the ground, after plants be­gin to set fruit. Many small spots ap­pear on the leaves, and heavy in­fes­ta­tion causes them to yel­low, die and fall off. Fungi­cide with chlorothalonil or a cop­per fungi­cide can help man­age the dis­ease.

■ We’re also see­ing some bac­te­rial tomato dis­eases, in­clud­ing bac­te­rial wilt. It be­gins with wilt­ing of younger leaves, fol­lowed by a rapid wilt­ing of the en­tire plant. There will be a dark dis­col­oration and soft rot of the pith (in­side of the stem). If you sus­pect wilt, cut the stem and put it in a glass of wa­ter. In 3 to 5 min­utes, a milky ex­u­date will be­gin stream­ing from the cut end. There is no cure for this dis­ease, so if you find it, de­stroy the plants and prac­tice crop ro­ta­tion. Do not use pep­per, egg­plant or potato plants in the same plot in the ro­ta­tion, as they are sus­cep­ti­ble as well.

■ If you have an­nu­als and peren­ni­als that set seeds, dead­head them fre­quently. Dead­head­ing is re­mov­ing the spent flow­ers to pre­vent them from set­ting seeds. Plants that bloom all sea­son will have more flow­ers if you remove the spent blooms, since the en­ergy they would ex­pend form­ing seeds goes back into the plant to set more buds. Many new va­ri­eties are self-clean­ing, mean­ing they drop the spent flow­ers on their own without set­ting seed heads.

■ If you need color in your gar­den, there is plenty at lo­cal nurs­eries and gar­den cen­ters. Trop­i­cal flow­er­ing plants are still ar­riv­ing, and this is their sea­son — they love it hot and hu­mid. Wa­ter and fer­til­ize weekly and they will bloom non­stop.

■ Many sum­mer-bloom­ing peren­ni­als are in their prime, from the din­ner-plate size blooms on hardy hi­bis­cus, to cone­flow­ers, Shasta daisy, core­op­sis, li­a­tris and rud­beckia. Many of th­ese flow­ers ben­e­fit from dead­head­ing.

PEACHES

When a home gar­dener be­gins to think about plant­ing a fruit tree, the first thing that comes to mind is a peach tree. Peaches, how­ever, are one of the most dif­fi­cult fruit trees to grow in Ar­kan­sas.

Prone to many dis­eases that thrive in hu­mid con­di­tions, they re­quire the most in­ten­sive spray pro­gram of all the fruit­ing trees to pro­duce good-qual­ity fruits.

Rainy sum­mers are worse for dis­eases than dry sum­mers. Brown rot, a com­mon fun­gal dis­ease, can turn pretty fruit into brown mush seem­ingly overnight if proper spray­ing is not per­formed.

All of that be­ing said, peaches

are in sea­son now.

There are two dis­tinct types of peaches — free­stone and cling. In cling peaches, the fruit ad­heres to the seed, while in free­stone va­ri­eties, the seed pops out fairly eas­ily. Both re­quire reg­u­lar spray­ing.

Peaches are self-fruit­ful, which means you can have peaches with only one tree, as they don’t need an­other va­ri­ety to aid in pol­li­na­tion. There are early va­ri­eties that ripen in late May to early June and late va­ri­eties that ripen in late July through early Au­gust. Many peo­ple feel that the later va­ri­eties are of higher qual­ity, but you also have to con­tend with spray sched­ules for a much longer time.

If you or­der a sapling on­line, make sure the va­ri­ety you are con­sid­er­ing re­quires more than 750 “chill­ing hours.” Chill­ing hours are the num­ber of hours a tree ex­pe­ri­ences be­tween 35 and 55 de­grees. If a tree has a low re­quire­ment for low chill­ing hours it can be grown far­ther south, but it also means it can achieve those chill­ing hours too early in cooler cli­mates, which re­sults in break­ing dor­mancy and bloom­ing too early to es­cape dam­age from a late freeze.

Some good va­ri­eties for Ar­kan­sas in­clude: early — “Gold­crest” and “Sure­crop,” fol­lowed by “Red­haven,” then “Lor­ing,” then “Cresthaven” and end­ing with “White River” and “Sum­mer Pearl.”

Peaches need well-drained soil in full sun. Even without high-qual­ity fruit, they are pretty trees when bloom­ing in the spring.

In my opin­ion, peach trees take too much ef­fort for the home gar­den, so I let the grow­ers grow my peaches, which I buy from the farm­ers mar­kets or a pick-them-your­self farm. But they sure are good.

tempt many gar­den­ers to plant high-main­te­nance peach trees.

De­li­cious fresh peaches such as this bar­rel full from Howard County aren’t achieved without a rou­tine spray pro­gram.

Fast-act­ing dis­eases can trans­form a fruit-laden peach tree into an ooz­ing stinker al­most overnight un­less the trees are sprayed rou­tinely.

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