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State coordinator speaks at local Master Gardener meeting

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Janet Carson talks about different types of gardens while visiting with members of the Montgomery County Master Gardeners last Wednesday. Photo by Dewayne Holloway

DEWAYNE HOLLOWAY

montcnews2@windstream.net

MOUNT IDA – Janet Carson discussed several horticultural related topics with the Montgomery County Master Gardeners last Wednesday.

Montgomery County Judge Sammy Jones was also on hand to present a resolution recognizing the Master Gardeners and their years of service to the county and state.

The Arkansas Master Gardeners Program is celebrating 29 years of service to the state, while the Montgomery County Master Gardener Program has served the county since 1995. Joan Hopkins and Kelli Hiaumet accepted the resolution on behalf of the county program.

Montgomery County Judge Sammy Jones (center) presented a proclamation to the Montgomery County Master Gardeners in honor of the years of service they have provided on a state and county level. Pictured left to right: Joan Hopkins, County Judge Sammy Jones and Kelli Hiaumet.
Photo by Dewayne Holloway

Carson, who is the coordinator and ambassador for the Arkansas Master Gardener Program, was the guest speaker for the local Master Gardeners’ monthly meeting.

She is well known among Master Gardener circles. She is a horticulture specialist with the UofA Division of Agriculture Extension Service. She also has a widely read weekly blog and is a fixture in the garden section of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Carson spoke for around an hour on several topics, many related to ornamental/edible gardens and fall gardening.

People garden for a variety of reasons, but Carson shared how one doesn’t necessarily have to choose between ornamental gardens and functional edible gardens. She shared several photos of gardens filled with colorful plants that are edible and quite beautiful at different times of the year.

She discussed using greens such as bok choy, squash, mustard greens and chard as a way to fill out a garden. Many of these plants have colorful varieties that can be used to accentuate existing plants in an ornamental garden, or walkway.

She discussed the importance of tending to a garden throughout the year. Carson reminded those in attendance that while Arkansas is home to a massive variety of plants, cold spells in the winter can be problematic for some plants. She shared some tips on covering plants when temperatures drop below 25 degrees. She also pointed out the importance of mulch and watering habits when dealing with lower temperatures.

Watering was another thing she talked about. She stressed how important it is to be aware of how much rain your yard and gardens are getting. This will affect how much you need to water, or not water at different times of the year.

Fertilizer is also an important part of the gardening process. She suggested using a granular, slow release fertilizer that is water soluble. Carson also warned against falling for marketing tips that encouraged gardeners to use “specialty” fertilizers.

Mulch is also a familiar friend of any gardener and Carson shared some ideas on what to use. She suggested used newspapers as a base. Traditional mulch can be used as many do, but she suggested using rice hulls as they are lighter and easier to handle in bulk.

When it comes to weed control Carson promotes the “Santa Claus Method”, hoe, hoe, hoe. She explained that although tillers have their uses they can bring week seeds to the surface which will actually make your week problem worse. She also mentioned that one has to be mindful of root systems when using a tiller.

Carson also reminded everyone that the garden rows aren’t the only thing that needs tending. Overgrowth around the boundary of a garden provides excellent habitat for animals who might eat your plants.

Soil solarization can also be used to kill weeds during the right time of the year.

She also discussed growing herbs, fruit trees and unusual trees such as pawpaws, bananas and olive.

She discussed treating for fall pests of both the insect and animal varieties.

Carson spent the final minutes taking questions from the audience regarding their gardening issues.

If you have any questions about the Montgomery County Master Gardeners please call the local Cooperative Extension Office at (870) 867-2311.

To read Janet Carson’s blog, or to find out more about gardening visit uaex.edu/yard-garden/in-the-garden.