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October 13, 2018
What do I need to do to half of my garden to lay it by for a full season and not plant
it? My garden is about the size of a football field. I only want to plant about
half of it.
Wow, that is a large garden. If you plan to leave it fallow for a season, whatever
area you don't plan to plant in vegetables, plant in a cover crop or green manure
crop. There are choices for fall/winter and spring/summer. This keeps the ground
covered to prevent weeds, but will also enrich your soil. Here is a link to a fact
sheet which explains more about them: https://www.uaex.uada.edu/publications/pdf/FSA-2156.pdf
December 2, 2017
Saw this plant in Kentucky last week was really pretty for this late in the year,
any idea what it might be?
Believe it or not, it is an ornamental pepper plant. I would guess the variety to
be ‘Black Pearl’. Peppers will tolerate some light freezes, but will be gone once
we have a killing frost
April 1, 2017
I have a raised bed garden. Last year all my tomatoes, cucumbers, and okra, got what
I think is blight and by the end of the season were completely browned out. Started
at the bottom row of limbs and worked itself to the top. Do you know any treatment
for this disease? I have some antibiotics I could use or do I have to replace my
dirt. I added a lot of mushroom compost last year and kind of suspect that the blight
may have come from it.
It is quite unusual that plants that are unrelated got hit by the same disease issues.
I wonder if the compost was thoroughly cooked. If it was still breaking down it may
have been “hot” and burned your plants. I do recommend rotating plants in the garden,
which includes a raised bed to where you don’t plant the same thing in the same spot
for three years. I would also suggest getting a soil sample and see what the pH and
salt contents are before you begin planting. If you have similar problems this year,
I would take a plant sample in to your local county extension office for diagnosis.
If you do have soil borne diseases you can replace the soil or solarize the beds by
covering them with clear plastic in July-Sept period.
March 25, 2017
Last year I grew tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers in plastic containers. They looked
very healthy and green, but not much fruit. We have sprinklers on a timer to water
them every day. The area does get sun most of the day. Could you please advise on
what I might be doing wrong and what is the best way to grow them healthy and fruitful
please? I bought a tomato plant in a plastic container and it was full of tomatoes,
but it did not grow anymore tomatoes after that. I must be doing something wrong.
What size are these containers? I think the minimum size a container should be for
vegetable production is a 5 gallon pot and bigger can sometimes be better. Small
containers limit root growth, which in turn will limit top-growth and production.
Also, how often did you fertilize? Daily watering leaches nutrition out quickly.
Using a slow release granular fertilizer or a water-soluble one will also differ on
how long they last in the soil, but you will need to increase frequency in pots.
It sounds like you have the needed 6-8 hours of sunlight, so I would think container
size and/or fertilizer will alter your results.
February 4, 2017
What are the differences between long day onions and short day onions? Which type
grows best in our area and how soon can I plant some?
Onions are classified as either short day or long day onions by the amount of time
or day length required to trigger bulb formation. Long day cultivars need 14 to 16
hours of sunlight per day to initiate bulb formation, while short day onions trigger
at about 12 hours. Usually long day onions are relegated to the north, since temperatures
start getting hot when the day length is long in the south. They will grow in the
south but they won’t bulb as well. Short day onions are a better bet for the south
giving them time to produce a bulb before it gets too hot. If you are growing for
green onions either would work, but if you want large onion bulbs opt for the short
day varieties. Transplants are purchased in bundles (usually 60 to 80 plants) from
garden centers. It is the most common way to plant short-day onions. Onion transplants
should start arriving in nurseries and garden centers soon. As soon as you find them,
you can start planting.
May 14, 2016
I moved to Van Buren, AR 366 days ago. I started tilling my garden in January, due
to the unusually mild temperatures. I was able to start planting potatoes in March
and in the first week of April I planted 70 tomato plants, 56 pepper, 16 yellow squash,
4 zucchini, and the list goes on. Everything was looking great until yesterday. We
were hit with a hail storm, the likes of which, I have never experienced. My 40x75
garden looks like a weed eater came through and cut some in half and others the stem
may be all that is left. Will the plants possibly survive? Can I do anything to try
and save what is left? What are your recommendations? My thoughts were to wait a week
to 10 days and see what plants look like. If they don’t make it I will replace them.
Hail can create havoc, and some plants will rebound, while others won’t. The key
is to clean up as much as you can. Broken or jagged branches or stems can be a site
for diseases to hit. Once you have it clean, see what continues to grow, and what
doesn’t. Replanting some things will be inevitable, but some plants are more resilient
than others. We missed a late freeze this year, and then you got hail. Gardening
isn’t for sissies!
February 13, 2016
When is the best time to plant cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts? I have
my garden tilled up and need to know when to plant these.
As soon as you can find vegetable transplants, you can plant. They usually don’t start
hitting the garden centers and nurseries until the end of February. All of the vegetables
you names, are usually grown from small transplants, versus seeds. Right now you
can plant seeds for carrots, English peas, snow peas, spinach, and greens. Just pay
attention to the weather just in case we do get any more winter.
December 5, 2015
With the freeze forecast last weekend, I harvested the remaining peppers on my one
Jalapeno plant. They were all dark green. Overnight, they all turned red. Why? Can
we still use them?
Jalapenos often turn red if you leave them on the plant long enough. It is just like
picking the green tomatoes and bringing them inside. They continue to age and turn
red. They should be perfectly safe to eat. I found some of my last ones were much
hotter than they were earlier in the season, so beware.
We have been gardening at our home for the seven years we have lived in Arkansas.
Last year we planted broccoli for the first time and had great success. This year,
we planted three times as much. The plants are much larger and vigorous, easily 25
to 30 inches tall with large foliage, than last year. However, there is no sign of
flower heads. My question: Will they eventuality produce flower heads for us to eat?
With the lack of winter last year, those who planted a fall garden actually harvested
all winter long. Broccoli is cold tolerant and can survive light freezes. It all depends
when our first killing frost occurs, how cold it gets, and how long it lasts. There
should still be time for the flower heads to form, but it all depends on the weather.
Living in Hot Springs Village, I was wondering if a cold frame set up along a south
facing wall, in full sun, would be warm enough to germinate seeds in late winter/early
spring here, for a summer vegetable garden.
A cold frame on the south wall will definitely generate enough heat to start seeds,
and even grow cool season vegetables all winter. The challenge will be to keep it
from getting too hot. We have spells of warm weather all winter, and it will get really
hot inside. You will need to pay attention to the weather and vent the frame on warm,
sunny days. A new trend in gardening is high tunnels, or what used to be called a
hoop house. You can build a small structure and cover it with visqueen and cover an
existing vegetable garden to grow year-round.
Can you tell from these pictures why I am not getting any squash? I keep getting these
gorgeous male blossoms; but the lower female blossoms appear to be rotting off the
stems? Am I watering too much or perhaps not enough or what is the problem? I have
seen and killed several squash bugs and/or stink bugs; but I have not seen them for
awhile. In the meantime, I continue to see these healthy-looking plants with new beautiful
blossoms; but no squash or zucchini.
You aren't alone. Summer squash seems to be much more affected by the heat than other
members of the cucurbits. Folks are getting cucumbers and melons, but no squash. Even
those with beehives in their backyard are having an issue. For some, a lack of pollinators
can affect the fruit set. Squash has separate male and female flowers and to get squash,
something needs to transfer pollen from the male bloom to the female bloom. If you
don’t have bees, you can do it yourself with a paint brush or q-tip. But from the
pictures, it looks like your female flowers aren't even opening up, so there is no
chance of fruit set. I would not blame it on a damaging insect or lack of bees, but
I would blame it on the weather. I am pulling my squash and going to use that space
for okra and more peppers, which can take the heat.
Can I use store bought new potatoes to use as seed potatoes to plant in my vegetable
No, you should use certified seed potatoes which you can get from a nursery or farm
supply store in the early spring. It is too late to plant potatoes now. They are best
planted in March or early April. Potatoes bought at the grocery store are typically
treated to prevent sprouting. I have had some gardeners who planted some potatoes
they had begun to sprout in their kitchen, and they had decent results, but usually struggle with disease issues. You can save some spring
garden potatoes to use in a fall planting. Keep in mind that newly harvested potatoes
have a natural dormancy which prevents them from sprouting, so you may want to make
sure they are stored in a cool, dry place for a month or two before planting.
Since spring is so early this year and the temperatures are above normal, is it okay
to plant small tomato plants in pots to be replanted in the garden when they area
reasonable size? We live in Russellville.
I wish I had a crystal ball and could predict that we will have no more cold snaps!
Everyone has the spring planting bug early this year, but keep in mind it is still
March. While tomato plants are arriving at nurseries and garden centers statewide,
if you plant now, be prepared to either replant or protect them, should a cold snap
ensue. I would prefer you continue to plant cool season vegetables and hold off on
tomatoes until April. Since you plan to have yours in pots, they could be moved into
a garage or home if it gets cold.
I have had a small backyard garden (20x50 foot) for many years. I put compost and
fertilizer(10-20-10) on it every year. This last spring I put on some well composted
chicken manure and tilled it into the soil. I rotate the crops around in this space,
so as not to plant the same crop in the same space 2 years in a row. BUT, In the last
2 years, I have not been able to grow any radishes, turnips or similar root crops,
all they produce is green tops. What can I put into the soil to cure this problem?
I assume you have ample sunlight, because all vegetables need a minimum of 6-8 hours
of sunlight to produce. I think possibly the soil is too rich, putting loads of nitrogen
into the foliage, and not forming the roots. Try mixing some coarse sand into the
planting area, and using a 10-20-10 fertilizer. Make sure you plant in the cool season
(before April 15) and thin the seedlings to give them ample room to grow, and see
what happens this year.
You had a recent article about how to prepare dormant veggie garden and what kind
of plastic covering to use. I cannot find the article. My garden has been tilled,
fertilized and weeded and now I want to cover it for winter. What kind of covering
Earlier in the year I discussed solarizing soil with clear plastic to kill weeds,
diseases and insects. That only works when it is hot outside—during the months of
July, August and September. You can still use plastic to smother out winter weeds
and prevent them from growing this winter, but you would want to use black plastic
to prevent light from getting through. Black plastic also warms up the soil earlier
in the spring which can allow for earlier planting. Clear plastic used in the winter
acts as a mini greenhouse and allows weeds to continue to grow.
When I plant my tomatoes in the ground they start out pretty good for the first two
weeks. Then when they start coming up, during the next two weeks they just start drying
out. After blooming and producing the tomato the same problem is occurring. As the
blooms come out they will dry and fall off. Needless to say the tomatoes plants have
a short life span. They will totally stop producing around the middle of the summer. I was told by the agriculture dept. that I was probably
splashing water up on the plants too much when watering. This last year I only had
a soaker hose on them. The agent said to put straw down around the bottom of the plants,
but to no avail. Maybe there is a better method that you can help me with. Are there
other solutions that you might know?
First, get your soil tested. Take a pint of soil to your local county extension office
and see what the pH is and the levels of N, P and K. I always want to start with the
foundation of the plants, which is the soil. If your soil is pitiful and rocky, you
can enrich it with compost. How is the drainage? If they are sitting in waterlogged
soil, they will die quickly. We recommend that you rotate where you plant your tomatoes
every year because many tomato diseases are soil borne, and attack the plants earlier
each season, but problems beginning within two weeks of planting is pretty amazing.
I think we might have something else going on. Mulching the plants to keep soil from
splashing on the stems can slow down the disease spread, but again, it doesn't usually
occur within two weeks of planting, nor does it cause the flowers to dry. Most tomato
diseases either start with the leaves dying from the bottom and it progresses up the
stem, or we have a dramatic wilting and dying from one of the vascular wilts. It sounds
like your problem is more about fruit set than plants dying. How much sunlight do
the plants get? They need at least 6 hours a day. Some varieties quit setting fruit
when the temperatures get above 90 degrees during the day or stay above 75 degrees
at night, but if the plants look good, they can kick back in and produce well into
fall. I think we need to investigate further
Can you identify the attached picture? The bean it produces is over 12 inches in length.
Is it edible?
It is a Jack bean, Canavalia ensiformis. It does produce large beans which are edible, but if you were to compare it to other
beans, the quality is not very good. It is an old plant that often self-seeds around
old home sites. It is related to kudzu and was often used as an ornamental because
of it’s pretty purple flowers and fast growth. It is not invasive like kudzu, but
is a tough plant.
I am planning my summer vegetable garden and trying to figure out what type of irrigation
system I want to use. It seems that I remember in one of your past writings you said
not to get the plant itself wet when watering tomato plants. Is this true, if so,
why? Therefore, would drip irrigation be better than overhead?
Tomatoes are plagued with a whole range of plant diseases. Many of these diseases
are soil borne and water splashing from the ground to the stems can help increase
their spread. Also, wet foliage, especially late in the day can be a precursor to
many disease issues. If you have ever taken a plant pathology course, there are three
things in the disease triangle that must be present for a disease to take over—1:
a susceptible host plant 2: the disease pathogen and 3: climatic conditions necessary
for the disease. Keeping the foliage dry can reduce disease spread if there are pathogens
present, and if you are using any type of pesticide sprays, you don’t wash them off
as quickly. Drip irrigation is better for several reasons—one is keeping the foliage
drier, but secondly, they are much more water efficient than overhead watering—directing
water to the root zone where you need it.
I'm looking for organic ways to control weeds around tomato plants. Is it okay to
put mulch (i.e., cypress, hardwood, pine bark) around these plants? If so, is one
type of mulch better than another?
I think all gardens should have mulch in them. Not only does it keep weeds down, mulch
also maintains soil moisture levels, moderates soil temperature and prevents erosion.
When using mulch in a vegetable garden it is preferable to use something that can
break down readily. The bark mulches can be used, but you would not want to till them
into the soil at the end of the season. Shredded leaves, newspaper or shredded paper,
or straw would be a better choice to work in. Some gardeners do use plastic as a mulch
in the vegetable garden, laying it down early to help warm the soil in the spring
as well. Plastic is ok, but make sure you have a way to get water underneath it and
possibly add some organic mulch on top to cool things down in the heat of summer.
I have 14 eggplants and they were all planted at the same time. They are now fairly
large and have bushed out, but only two of the plants have had any blooms—one bloom
each, and right now I have two beautiful little eggplants. There are no other blooms
in sight. Flea beetles and aphids were a real problem early on, but I have killed
all of those and now leaf hoppers are attacking. Many of the older leaves have large
holes, like a caterpillar or slug has attacked, but I have seen neither, nor the silvery
lines from slugs. I love eggplants, and this is the first year I have attempted to
grow them. To have such big plants and no blooms is disappointing. As of now, I have
used no fertilizer or manure. I have a pasture full of all ages of cow manures. The
rest of my garden has had the same conditions, but seem to be faring well. I have
peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, onions, beans, watermelon and cantaloupe. Please
I think you should be patient. Eggplants like heat and unlike other vegetables, don’t
slow down when the temperatures heat up so there is still plenty of time to harvest
huge quantities of them this season. Water when dry, and fertilize. You could top-dress
with some well rotted manure, and use a complete fertilizer. Mulch the plants to conserve
moisture. Do monitor for pest problems, and control as needed. Flea beetles are a
common problem with eggplants and can leave the plants looking like they were shot
through with tiny holes.
Each year I have tiny, black pests on the leaves of vegetables in my garden. They
cause damage to my plants and are difficult and expensive to try to control. They
are so tiny, they are almost invisible to the naked eye. You almost need a magnifying
glass. I can only see them if I cut off some leaves and shake the leaves on a piece
of white paper. Then I can see the tiny black dots move around. What are they and
how do I control them?
The most common insect in the garden is aphids. They can range in color from black,
red, green or yellow. They are small and tend to congregate near new growth or in
the joints of leaves. Flea beetles are also small, but tend to jump with vigor when
disturbed. Spider mites are really tiny but tend to be reddish in color. If aphids
are the culprit, they can be controlled with a strong spray of water, insecticidal
soap or Malathion. Be sure to follow label directions as to timing and harvesting.
For a definitive diagnosis of the insect, take some into your local county extension
This is the first year that I grew asparagus with two year old crowns. I did not harvest
any this year as directed. What or how do I take care of them this winter? When I
harvest next year how much and how often; I have 10 plants? How do I take care of
my garden spot for the winter as I have never had a designated garden spot before?
Asparagus is a great perennial vegetable. You can begin a small harvest next spring,
but don’t overdo it. Harvest until the size of the spears is smaller than a pencil
in diameter. If you continue to harvest really small spears, you can wear the plant
out, which will impact your harvest for years to come. By the following year, you
should be in full production. As to winter care, simply let the ferny fronds grow
until a killing frost and then cut them back. Some folks leave the fronds out for
the bulk of the winter to cut down on weed issues, but you should remove the spent
tops by mid January at the latest, to get the spot ready for spring harvest. For the
general garden, fall sanitation—removing spent debris and either mulching or planting
a fall cover crop can help keep weeds at bay and start your season cleaner. Some choices
for fall cover crops include clovers, vetches, rye, and field peas.
What is the safest way to control weeds and grass growing in a vegetable garden? The
garden is approximately 30' x 40' - therefore, not easy to apply mulch to all. We
till, but weeds and grass will return.
The Santa Clause method—hoe, hoe, hoe is actually the safest and most effective way
to control weeds in the vegetable garden. While there are some herbicides that are
labeled for gardens, they are usually not recommended for all vegetables, and the
waiting period may be too long for you to use. Hoeing is actually preferable to the
tiller. Tilling is easier, but actually brings up more weed seeds from down below,
which leads to more weeds. Cutting the weeds off at the surface and then mulching
is the best thing you can do for your garden. There are lots of mulch options. Spread
down newspaper, shred your junk mail and lay that down. It doesn't have to be as aesthetically
pleasing in the vegetable garden as it does in ornamental beds. Mulching that large
of a garden may seem like a lot of work on the front end, but the amount of weeds
it will cut down will make it worth the effort.
We are thinking about creating raised beds for our vegetables this year. Does using
treated timber create any unwanted chemical leaching into our vegetables? If so, what
would you suggest is the best material for this project.
This is a topic that has been hotly debated for awhile now. Studies have shown that
chemicals from treated lumber don't leach into the plants, but many are skeptical.
One way to build permanent raised beds would be to use the products that are made
from recycled materials. There are several brands of this plastic wood, but they look
great and last forever. It may cost more on the front end, but it is basically maintenance
free. At the Peoples Garden in Washington DC the Urban Forestry Administration provided
logs from locust trees, which decay more slowly in soil than most trees, and red oaks.
They were not treated.