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Wednesday, September 17, 2014, 4:46 a.m.
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BREAKING GROUND

Still time left for planting

By Janet Carson

This article was published May 31, 2014 at 3:24 a.m.

THIS MONTH

• There is still time to plant a vegetable garden or summer color.

• Cool-season vegetables started to bolt earlier than normal with the recent fluctuating temperatures, but they are also coming into harvest later than normal, due to a slow start. If you see flower stalks forming, it is time to harvest, regardless of the fruit size. As you harvest cool-season vegetables, replant that space with summer vegetables. From tomatoes, peppers and eggplants to Southern peas, okra, melons and more, there are many choices.

• Nurseries and garden centers receive new shipments of plants weekly, and there are a lot of color choices. Heat-loving annuals include lantana, penta, zinnias, periwinkle and Angelonia. Colorful foliage with elephant ears, coleus, alternanthera (Joseph's coat), iresine and caladiums abound.

• Caladium bulbs can be planted and up and growing in less than a week in warm soil.

• Don't overlook flowering tropicals when adding annual color. They thrive in heat and humidity and are just now coming into their own. From the familiar tropical hibiscus to many new varieties of mandevilla in shades of red, pink or white, to orange ixora and colorful bananas, there are many choices.

• As summer heats up and rainfall becomes scarcer, water is critical. Containers dry out more quickly than plants in the ground, but learn the needs of your plants and the conditions in your yard -- don't soak everything every day unless required to keep things alive.

• Frequent watering leaches fertilizer from soil more quickly, so to keep annuals and tropicals at their peak, regular fertilizer is needed.

• If you didn't get around to pruning your spring-blooming shrubs, you need to move quickly. Even though they don't set flower buds until late summer, you need to give them time to

regrow after pruning. Mid-June is the absolute latest you can prune and still expect blooms next year. If you haven't fertilized yet, do so after pruning. One application of fertilizer should suffice for most spring-blooming shrubs.

• Lawns are fully green now and we are mowing. Some lawns did take a hit from the winter. St. Augustine in particular is patchy with dead spots. Even a few zoysia lawns are thinner than normal. Use a slow-release, high-nitrogen fertilizer and try to thicken them. Thin lawns are a haven for weeds.

• If you have large dead patches in the lawn, you can buy a few pieces of sod and cut them into plugs to help the lawn fill back in. Water well this summer and they should begin to fill back in.

• St. Augustine is sensitive to herbicides, so be careful if you choose to use them; it can set recovery time back.

• Monitor your plants regularly. We are seeing flea beetle damage, aphids, spider mites and scale. Rose rosette virus is showing its ugly head, and we also have leaf spots on some plants. The sooner you can spot a problem and identify it, the sooner you can control it.

JUNE LESSON

Many plants arrive at the garden center in plantable peat pots, especially vegetables and herbs, but even some flowers.

This packing can reduce transplant shock, but you should remove or cut part of the peat pot before planting.

Always remove the plastic ring that binds the pot, and cut off the top inch or so of the peat pot. If the pot extends above the soil surface, it will dry out, causing the plant's roots to dry out.

I also crumble the container a bit to help the roots escape and get established in the ground.

If you are planting transplants held in plastic containers, they must be removed. Don't try to plant plastic.

If the plant is extremely root-bound, be sure to cut the confined roots to aid in their establishment. A sharp knife or shovel can do the trick. Plant the crown of the plant at the soil line and mulch after planting. Water is the most critical factor for success after planting.

DEADLINE

If you are interested in becoming an Arkansas Master Gardener and would like to take your required instruction on Saturdays, the deadline to apply for July classes is Friday.

The course will be taught each Saturday for five weeks at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Office, 2301 S. University Ave. in Little Rock, beginning July 12. Preregistration is required. Please email me at jcarson@uaex.edu for an application, or call my office at (501) 671-2174.

HomeStyle on 05/31/2014

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