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September 1, 2018


After traveling for nine weeks during the worst heat of the Arkansas summer, we returned home to much damage in our garden. I am penitent and dreaming of a sprinkler system, BUT how may I best salvage these plants? Should I try?  There is green foliage at the base, but the top 2/3’s are crispy.


Miraculously the plants are not totally dead.  I think they died back at some point and have been making a comeback, thus the green growth at the base.  Cut out all the deadwood, lightly fertilize and water.  Big leaf hydrangeas have never been classified as a drought-tolerant plant and do need supplemental water in the summer.  They set their flower buds in late summer to early fall, so see if you can’t get enough growth on them to set flower buds before our first frost. 


October 24, 2015

QuestionI live in Rogers and have a zoysia grass lawn. We have a sprinkler system but turned it off about October 1 when the grass stopped growing and it hasn't been mowed since then. My question is: Since we've had no rain in the last 6 weeks, should we turn the system back on? I know my sister in Little Rock is still watering 4 days a week. Even if we continue watering, I don't think it would induce the grass to start growing again. Your opinion is greatly appreciated. 



I am watering weekly as well and praying for rain. I would assume you have shrubs in addition to a zoysia lawn, and while we may not have much growth now, they still need water. We were at 92 degrees this week, and I am mowing every 2-3 weeks. I turn off my sprinkler after a killing frost.


September 2012

QuestionI have a screen of seven mature arborvitae that are scorched on their south sides; the north sides are lush and green. I have used soaker hoses about once a month letting them run for a total of 8-9 hours moving the hoses every 2 to 3 hours to cover the entire root zone. The next day this is repeated on the north sides. They were faithfully sprayed for bag worms this spring and I see no infestation. On the south sides the needles are brown from the tops of the trees to the bottoms and from side to side and fall off when gently brushed. Some of the needle bearing twigs are still pliable but most are dry and brittle. Should I keep watering or are they unsaveable?.

AnswerOnce a month in a summer like we had was probably not enough to keep them healthy and thriving. If an evergreen goes brown from the tip of the branch to the trunk, it usually means that particular branch is dead. I would say you have a tree that is half dead and half living. Could something have been sprayed on the south side? Needle-type evergreens like arborvitae don’t rebound well. As I see it, you have three options. You can continue to enjoy the screening from the healthy north side of the plant, replant entirely, or plant something on the south side to mask the dead branches.

July 2012

QuestionCan 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.

Answer 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.

July 2012

QuestionI was recently on vacation and thought my sprinkler system was set, but when I came home my Japanese maple looked pretty crispy. Do you think it is dead, or if I water it light crazy now, it might come back? .

AnswerThe drought, coupled with high temperatures has really taken its toll on many plants, but trees in particular. If the leaves on your tree are falling off, that is a better sign than if they are brown and shriveled, but still attached to the tree. Water and keep your fingers crossed. I am appalled at how many trees are dying along the roadsides and in yards that are not watered. Two years in a row is tough on plants.

May 2012

QuestionWe have four large (20 feet tall) Japanese maple trees in our front bed. They are 15-20 years old and have seemed very healthy. Last week, my across the street neighbor cut down one of his Japanese maple trees in his front yard because it had died. Seemed like it died fairly quickly, just a year or two and it was gone. He has another one also in his front yard that is has some dead major branches. Then, I took a closer look at my trees and discovered that they all have many dead branches, although they are small branches, no major ones. I am concerned that there may be some kind of disease. What should I do?

AnswerJapanese maples were hit hard by last summer’s extreme heat and drought. If they weren't watered, they may have died or had some major damage. My neighbor had a large old Japanese maple that is totally dead this year. Plants that were stressed would be more susceptible to insect and disease attacks. Check out the trees, looking for any holes or splits in the stems or leaf spots on the foliage. Remove any dead branches. A little thinning never hurt a Japanese maple. Water when dry and hope for the best. If you do see signs of insects or diseases, take a sample in to your local extension office.

March 2012

QuestionWater Conservation and the 40 gallon challenge article.

AnswerAlthough water covers approximately 75 percent of the Earth’s surface, only 3 percent is fresh water that can be consumed and used. Of that, two-thirds is frozen in glaciers, polar ice caps and icebergs. The remaining 1 percent of the total world water supply is available as surface water or groundwater. The water we use today is the same water that has been used for millions of years. It is continuously circulating and being recycled through a process called the hydrologic cycle. There are five processes at work in the cycle: • Evaporation from the Earth’s surface and evapotranspiration from plants that introduce water into the atmosphere • Condensation of water vapor • Precipitation • Infiltration – water that seeps into the ground and • Runoff – water that ends up in waterbodies, including streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. Population increases, rising living standards and industrial and economic growth are contributing to an imbalance in the hydrologic cycle. Not only is the world using more water, it is discharging more wastewater. Urbanization and poor irrigation practices are also factors that influence the availability of usable water. All of these variables plus many more are negatively affecting the amount of usable surface and groundwater. Arkansas is the fourth-largest user of groundwater in the U.S., behind only California, Texas and Nebraska in total groundwater withdrawal, according to 2000 U.S. Geological Survey data. This is a significant statistic considering Texas and California are the country’s two most populous states. Surface water is the largest source of fresh water. Streams and reservoirs supply approximately 50 percent of the nation’s drinking water, primarily in urban areas. Streams, reservoirs, lakes and downstream estuaries are also vital aquatic ecosystems that provide important environmental and economic benefits. Approximately half a million acres of the state are covered by natural and man-made surface lakes. Thermoelectric power generation and irrigation of agricultural crops consume the largest amounts of Arkansas’ surface water. Almost four billion gallons of surface water are used in Arkansas daily. In Arkansas, a surprising amount of water is used daily in home landscapes. Water authorities have reported that as much as 70 percent of water from municipal water systems can be attributed to residential use. Of all the water used in one house¬hold during the summer months, almost 50 percent is used to maintain landscape plantings. The 40-Gallon Challenge is an event geared toward raising awareness of water use and encouraging water conservation on an individual level. How many gallons of water do you use every day? Will you take the pledge to reduce that amount by at least 40 gallons?

January 2012

QuestionSo much comes out of hoses when they are not used for a while, and I recall you
saying to let the water run clear before watering either plants or animals. Am I correct in this?

AnswerI really don't think it is that important when watering plants. I wouldn't want to drink dirty water, nor give it to the animals, but if dirt collects in the hoses, I don't think the plants will mind. I do let the water run in the summer when watering, so that I don't scald plants with hot water that may have collected in the hose.

December 2011

QuestionPlease check the attached picture of topiary (maybe holly). We think this may be caused by the heavy rains...the pots are large and have no drainage holes. There are spots on the leaves and overall they don’t look good.

AnswerThe picture wasn't very clear, but it appears to be a boxwood. I also think the problem lies with the container having no drainage hole. It doesn't matter how large the pot is, if it gets natural rainfall, it is swimming. And we have had a lot of rain lately. Try to drill some holes in the pot and see if it doesn't improve. I wouldn't expect much change this winter—the damaged leaves won't re-green, but hopefully further damage can be avoided. I bet if you tilt the pot on its side water will pour out.

November 2010

QuestionI have a beautiful variegated sansevieria that grew on my front porch all season. Our porch gets bright/diffused light and I was careful not to over water and the plant has thrived. Now it is indoors, however the information that I have read indicates to water only once per month. Does this sound correct to you?

AnswerSansevieria or ‘Mother-in-law's tongue’ or ‘snake plant’, is a tough houseplant. Watering it once a month should suffice. It has a very tough, leathery leaf and prefers it on the dry side. Indoors, your plant is growing slowly, so the key is not to overwater.

October 2010

Question I live in Lonoke County and it is bone dry. I have expensively watered lawn, shrubbery and flowers all summer just to keep them alive. Now we are almost through October and I can’t tell if things are turning brown because of the time of year or the drought. How long should I keep watering?

AnswerAlthough some parts of the state have gotten some showers, they were not universal across the state, and even where they did fall, it wasn't enough to make up for the deficits we are experiencing. Just because the weather has turned cool does not mean we can stop watering. I have had so many gardeners tell me they are giving up, and now is NOT the time to do so. If you have watered all summer, why stop now? Many plants have set flower buds, some are shutting down early, but there still needs to be ample moisture in the plant for it to survive the winter, and to protect the flower buds. We may not have to water daily now, but you still want to apply at least an inch of water per week unless we have rain. Once a killing frost occurs, weekly watering may not be necessary, but if the drought continues into the winter, you will need to water occasionally even when it is cold. Pay particular attention to containerized plants, and when temperatures are going to plummet. Moisture in the ground and thus in the plants acts as a barrier for the foliage and can help protect them. When plants are too dry, they will experience more winter burn.