Plant selection: The key to success
If it’s fruit trees or vegetables for the garden, choosing cultivars that have been developed for local adaptation and pest resistance will save both time and money.
Springtime is always a busy time for planting, whether it’s a vegetable garden or fruit trees, and one of the best practices we can utilize is to spend time selecting a plant that grows well in our zone and has good resistance to disease.
For example, hundreds of cultivars of tomatoes are now available for the home gardener. They range widely in size, shape, color, plant type, disease resistance and seasons of maturity. The FSA 6017 fact sheet on the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension website, http://www.uaex.uada.edu, lists many of these varieties, along with information on best planting practices. Many other crop fact sheets are available, so go to the site and utilize the search engine for all other vegetable crops.
Growing fruit trees can be a challenge. Some fruits require lots of time and effort to reap a reasonable harvest, especially stone fruits such as peaches, nectarines, and plums. The best quality fruit is produced when diseases and insects are controlled. Unless an efficient spray program is maintained, it is not advisable to plant stone fruit trees. The most serious diseases are brown rot, scab and leaf curl; insect problems include scale, plum curculio and peach tree borer. Apple and pear are popular fruits and can be grown successfully in most of Arkansas. Fire blight is the most serious disease in Arkansas to pear and can be a problem in apples, so select varieties that have high resistance to fire blight. Other things to check when preparing to plant fruit trees are site selection, pollination requirements and fertilization. These fact sheets are also available on our website. Another fruit tree that does well in central Arkansas with very little disease and insect problems is fig. Our winters can sometimes be hard on fig, but it recovers very well.
Small fruits, such as blueberries, blackberries, muscadines and table grapes, can be a good choice for the homeowner to grow. Muscadine grapes have been grown successfully in Arkansas gardens for many years. This fruit is an excellent addition to home fruit gardens due to its low susceptibility to diseases and insects. Muscadine grapes are native to Arkansas and grow in all parts of the state except the most northern counties. Table grapes can be more of a challenge due to their higher susceptibility to disease than muscadines. Blueberries are successfully grown in all parts of Arkansas. There are three types of blueberries to consider, depending upon the part of the state where you live. The northern highbush type is better adapted to the northern part of the state, requiring cooler nights during maturation to produce the flavorful fruit. In southern Arkansas, southern highbush or rabbiteye varieties should be grown. Blackberries are adapted to all regions of Arkansas. They are a good addition to the home fruit garden and can be grown with fewer inputs than most other fruit crops. Furthermore, the fruit is flavorful and nutritious. Varieties developed by the University of Arkansas fruit breeding program are recommended for use in the state, and there are many to choose from, including thornless and primocane fruiting cultivars.
So do your homework and select plants that are adapted for your area that have the best disease resistance and resist the urge to purchase plants you haven’t checked on first. Go to our website and be prepared.
There are several 4-H clubs for Garland County young people who are 5 to 19 years old. For more information on all the fun 4-H activities that are available, call Carol Ann McAfee at the Extension Office at 501-623-6841 or email her at email@example.com.
Master Gardener information
Master Gardener meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month at the Elks Lodge. They’re open to the public and guests are welcome. For more information call Luke Duffle at 623-6841 or email him at lduffle@uada. edu.
Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information about EHC, call Alison Crane at 501-623-6841 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.