We were on a pretty mild gardening streak for a while, but now the temperatures have risen and rainfall is very spotty. Some areas are still getting regular showers, while others are bone dry. Watering is one of the most important tasks in the garden right now. Make sure you have a rain gauge so you will know how much water your yard is receiving. High water bills may seem unbearable, but have you looked at the cost of having a large dead tree removed? Water is critical to healthy plant growth.
Continue to deadhead perennials and even some shrubs. Deadheading is the process where you prune off the flowers as they finish looking good, preventing them from producing seed. The reason for a flower is seed production, but in our gardens we want flower production. Many new varieties of perennials and shrubs are self-cleaning, meaning the flowers finish, drop and don’t produce seeds. If you have varieties that do set seeds, including butterfly bush (Buddleia), summer spirea and crape myrtles, cutting off the spent blooms will help the plants continue to bloom. The same rule applies to perennials, black-eyed Susans (rudbeckia), coneflowers (Echinacea) and gaillardia. They will all set seeds and stop blooming if you don’t deadhead them. Once a week or two prune the old flowers off. In the herb world, the more you prune basil, the bushier it grows. If you allow it to bloom and set seeds, you get less basil for your tomato caprese.
We have been having a really good garden year, with a wealth of tomatoes, peppers and more. The hotter it gets, the more toll it can take on some plants. Others, like okra, eggplant, Southern peas and sweet potatoes thrive in the heat. Tomatoes slow down production when daytime temperatures exceed 95 degrees or nights stay warm and humid too. But, with proper care, they will begin to bear again when it cools off.
Believe it or not, August is the
time to start planting the fall garden. Peppers, eggplant and tomatoes can be replanted for a bountiful fall harvest. Broccoli, cabbage, greens and green beans can also be planted now. It is not the easiest time to get a new garden established, so water well and mulch. With a little extra effort now, you can have a great harvest this fall. Usually by fall, the insects are really attacking, so monitor for pests regularly. Grasshoppers are also around and can devastate young seedlings, so check them frequently. Planting can continue into fall as well.
If you have plants in containers, daily watering is a
must. The more frequently you water, the more you leach nutrition. Fertilization is important for many tropical flowers and annuals to continue blooming. Make sure your plants have ample water before fertilizing. You typically want to apply at a lower rate to avoid burning your plants. Light, frequent applications would be better than a heavy dose. Fertilizer is a salt, and it can burn plants that are already dry and heat stressed. If your summer annuals are surviving — but looking a little peaked — give them a light haircut and a light dose of fertilizer and they can rebound. Keep in mind that we have several more warm months, and most annuals can give you color up through October or November.
All plants that bloom in the spring, including azaleas, dogwoods and forsythia, along with camellias, tulip magnolias, Loropetalum and kerria, set their flower buds in late summer to early fall. Fruit trees, blueberry bushes and strawberries all have their flower and fruit buds set when they go dormant in the fall as well. Because we had a particularly early spring, many of these plants have set or are setting their flower buds for next spring. A few summer flowering plants are also setting flowers now. They include the big leaf hydrangeas, oak leaf hydrangeas and gardenias. For this reason, they don’t need to get too stressed or they may set fewer (or no) flower buds. They also should not be fertilized or pruned now. For the most part, watering and mulching is the only care they need.
It is fig season and fig trees are loaded with fruit again in central and southern Arkansas, but may have had some winter damage in the northern tier. The common fig (Ficus carica) can be grown throughout Arkansas, but hardiness does vary within cultivars. Figs are considered a deciduous tree, but in colder climates they are often relegated to large bushes, as they can be killed back with temperatures below 15 degrees.
Figs are a member of the mulberry family (Moracae) and are related to many familiar houseplants including weeping fig, rubber tree and the fiddleleaf fig. The fig is one of the oldest fruit crops known to man, and it has long been grown in the South. If they sustain no winter damage, figs can reach a height of
25 or 30 feet and grow equally as wide. If space is limited they can be pruned to maintain a more reasonable size. Even if they do get frozen back to the soil line, they will typically resprout from the root system and can bear some fruit that year, since they bear figs on the current-season growth. There are four distinct horticultural types of figs, but in our climate only the common fig can be grown.
Figs will produce best when planted in a welldrained soil in full sun. They have a fibrous, shallow root system that makes them sensitive to drought stress. If your fig tree gets too dry, it can drop fruit. Fruit drop can also be caused by storms, cool weather soon after fruit sets and weak trees. Birds, squirrels and other animals like figs as much as we do, so bird netting or protective devices can help deter critters.
The fruit is highly perishable so eat it quickly or make preserves.
The common fig is having a good year in southern and central Arkansas.