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story.lead_photo.caption Turk’s cap thrives in Arkansas and is loved by pollinators, making it a good pass-along plant. - Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette / JANET B. CARSON

THIS MONTH

Summer finally caught up to us in Arkansas and the heat is on. Humidity and high temperatures do not make for pleasant gardening, so work smart and work early in the day.

• Water containers daily and if possible, do so early in the day to make sure they are well irrigated before the heat climbs.

• Use caution when fertilizing or using any pesticides. Plants are struggling in the heat and can burn easily. Water well before and after treatments, avoid spraying in the heat of the day and when pollinators are active. Apply fertilizers at a lower rate.

• First it was too much rain and now not enough. Some parts of the state have seen sudden downpours even during these dry spells, and when this happens, tomatoes crack. Large-fruited varieties are most susceptible, but we have had reports of the small cherry tomatoes cracking, too. They are still usable; just use them before decay sets in. Tomatoes also will slow down in production when temperatures are high day and night. Keep your plants alive and when temperatures even out, production should kick back in.

• Annual weeds that are everywhere now include crabgrass, chamber bitters, spurge, mulberry weed and pigweed. These annuals grow from seed in the spring, thrive all summer, bloom and set seeds to attack next year, and then die with cold weather. The key is to get to them before they bloom. The problem is they tend to grow back quickly and go into bloom in record time. So be diligent with the hoe, string trimmer or mower.

• Perennial weeds can be even tougher, because they come back from the root system as well as from seed. Perennial weeds include nutgrass (or nutsedge), poison ivy, greenbrier and Virginia buttonweed. When you think you have them under control, they're

back, so keep after them.Mulching and vigilance with a hoe will help.

• Even though the weather feels nothing like fall, it is time to begin to plant the fall vegetable garden. Replant summer vegetables now for a fall harvest and we can begin to plant greens, cabbage, carrots, broccoli and more. As your summer vegetables play out, replant in the open spaces to get the most production you can. Mulching and water will help new plants get established.

• Deadhead perennial flowers, including black-eyed Susan, gaillardia, purple coneflower and others that are setting seeds, to help them put on more flowers. If your crape myrtles are low enough to prune, you can deadhead their spent flowers, and more will appear. If you allow the flowers to set seeds, energy goes into seed production, and you have fewer flowers. Other summer-blooming shrubs, like althea, summer spirea and butterfly bushes, can also be deadheaded to extend bloom season.

• Tropical flowering plants are in their element with this heat and humidity, but they do like a little water and some fertilizer. Care will keep them blooming for another two to three months. You can also find some good bargains on summer tropical plants at area nurseries, so if you need a boost in color, go shopping. They do well in containers or planted in the ground. If you want to grow them in containers, the bigger the better to help you keep them watered. Small pots dry out very quickly, especially in full sun.

• No more pruning should be done to any spring-blooming plants. For now, all that you do is monitor water needs. No more fertilization or pruning is needed. They have set flower buds or are in the process of setting them for next spring. If they get too stressed or dry, they won't set as many buds. Encore or repeat-blooming azaleas are beginning to have some more blooms and should continue through fall.

PLANT OF THE MONTH

Malvaviscus, aka Turk's cap, is a member of the mallow family, kin to okra, cotton, hibiscus and rose of Sharon.

It is a reliable perennial in central and southern Arkansas but would need a protected spot in the northern tier.

The orange-red, small, hibiscuslike blooms look like a small Turkish turban -- thus the common name. These plants are covered in showy blooms midsummer through fall. While the most common color is red, there are white and pink flowered forms and even one with variegated foliage.

Hummingbirds and butterflies love Turk's cap.

It grows well in full sun to partial shade and is quite drought tolerant. If it is happy, the plant can easily grow 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It is a great pass-along plant.

Janet B. Carson is a horticulture specialist for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

HomeStyle on 08/01/2015

Print Headline: BREAKING GROUND

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