IN THE GARDEN
Posted: August 2, 2014 at 1:59 a.m.
Q I grew canta-loupes for the first time in my garden, and have been getting quite a few ripe fruits, but they aren't very sweet. Is there something I can do to the soil to make them sweeter, or did I pick the wrong variety?
A Many melons are less sweet this season due to all the rain. For melons, we often get a sweeter fruit if the plant gets a bit drier before harvest. This helps the sugars concentrate in the fruit. Melons have a high water content on their own, and when kept as wet as they have been this season, it dilutes the sugar. For future crops, also make sure fertility levels are where they need to be in your soil, but I don't think you have done anything incorrectly this year.
Q Years ago I planted a trumpet vine near a large pine tree because I knew that hummingbirds liked this plant. Now this vine has grown almost to the top of the tree. Will this vine eventually kill the pine, and if so, should I cut it down and hit the roots with Roundup?
A It is growing to the top of the tree to find sunlight, since it blooms best in full sun. Rarely does trumpet creeper form a woody enough stalk to girdle a tree, but if the vine is getting thicker and thicker, it can begin to compete with the tree for sunlight. The added weight can also become a problem during storms, increasing the risk of storm damage. Try cutting it back at the base every time it resprouts, and eventually it should wear out.
Q I have a problem with bagworms eating my evergreen trees and bushes. We sprayed two trees but it has spread. What do I do to save my trees? I have lost some shrubs and trees in the past and don't want to lose any more. We are new to the area and had no idea what a bagworm was until we lost a beautiful blue spruce. I would appreciate any help you can give me.
A This late in the season, much of the damage by bagworms has been done. The key is to physically remove as many of the bags as possible. The sack that the insects are in, which they made by feeding on the host plant, camouflages them at a young age and protects them from predators and insecticides. They overwinter in this sac or bag and will come back to haunt you even more next year. Hand pick and destroy them now.
Q I have a big-leaf hydrangea that I only got two blooms on this year. I cut it to the ground before winter last year. I fertilize often and keep it watered, although this year, not much need. What am I doing wrong?
A Big-leaf hydrangeas set flower buds for the next season at the end of the growing year, so flower buds are set on the dormant branches in the fall. The Annabelle and panicle hydrangeas bloom on their new growth and can be pruned in late February before new growth begins, but the big pink or blue big leaf types and the oak leaf hydrangeas set flower buds on old wood. Never cut them back in the fall. If they ever need pruning, do so immediately after bloom. Mother Nature pruned many of them back with winter kill this past winter, so many had few blooms this year. Leave them alone now, hoping for a milder winter and better blooming next summer.
Q We would like your help identifying a flower/plant [the reader sent in a photo]. We have lots it in front of our courthouse, and several have asked the name; so far no one is able to give them an answer.
A The photo shows the seed pods left behind by the Italian arum (Arum italicum). The foliage comes up in late fall, grows and blooms until warm weather hits, then the foliage disappears and the green seed pod is left behind. The seeds age to a beautiful red or orange.
Janet B. Carson is a horticulture specialist for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. Write to her at 2301 S. University Ave., Little Rock, Ark. 72204 or email her at
HomeStyle on 08/02/2014