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Momma said never show up empty-handed! We can help you pick out a beautiful poinsettia gift to take to your host or hostess this holiday. Come see us Monday through Saturday 8 to 4! ...

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Need a foliage basket to dress up your home for the holidays? How about a pansy basket for the outside porch instead? We also still have a selection of muscadines, grapes, and raspberries for your fall planting. Think jams and jellies... ...

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Come Visit Us

Buy your spring flowers and summer vegetables directly from Parks Brothers Greenhouses, Arkansas's largest greenhouse grower!

Parks Brothers Greenhouses grows top quality annual bedding plants, garden vegetables, perennials, hanging baskets and patio containers in the spring. In fall and winter, our greenhouses are full of mums, pansies, kale, snapdragons and poinsettias.

Parks Brothers Retail
6733 Parks Road
Van Buren, AR 72956
(479) 410-2217

Please call us at 479-410-2217 for our hours which change during the season.

Memories in the Poinsettias

family picCan you believe it’s less than 6 weeks until Christmas???  I’m almost positive yesterday it was just July!  This year has just flown by.  And it’s that time of year when we start pondering things like Christmas cards and Christmas pictures.

Well this year, let us take the guess work out of picking the perfect Christmas card picture.  We’re teaming up with Golden Moments Photos to help you out.  On Saturday, December 3rd, Golden will have a scene like this one all set up for your family photo.  You will get a 15 minute session with at least 4 shots on a copyright free CD for just $10.  Your CD will be ready for pickup on Tuesday, December 6th, leaving you with plenty of time to make Christmas cards or other Holiday photo gifts.  And the pictures are all copyright free, meaning you own them.  No worries over having to buy an expensive portrait package.  Plus you can post them online to your heart’s content.

Session times will be limited, so book early by emailing Golden at goldenmomentsphotos@yahoo.com.  And visit her on facebook at www.facebook.com/GoldenMomentsPhotos.

 

So mark your calendars, practice those smiles, and bring on the Holiday Cheer!  See you at the Greenhouses!

Recycling Your Pool Water??? Yeah, we can do that!

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This morning when I woke up, I realized Summer might actually be coming to end when that 50 degree temp had me jumping up to grab another blanket before I froze to death.  Hard to believe we were in triple digits just last week.  But that’s Arkansas for you. 

And with these cooler temps moving in, I finally admitted it was time to put the pool away.  We don’t have a fancy pool, just one of those quick set pools with the inflatable ring.  Not only was it convenient and budget friendly, but it gave the kids many long summer days of fun and memories.  But as we considered putting it away, we were faced with our first dilemma since we purchased the pool.  What do you do with all that water?

Our pool holds roughly 5,000 gallons of water.  Which amounts to about an $80 water bill at my house.  And we’re just going to drain it and let it all go to waste?  Not at my house.  We are all about getting the most for our buck, so we were bound and determined not to waste all that water. 

And with a little research, we’ve found some options for you to recycle your pool water too. 

Here’s what you need to know.

First of all, your current pool water isn’t good for your garden or landscape.  It needs to age a bit first, or more specifically it needs to be a little less chlorinated.  You can do this 1 of 2 ways. 

1. Turn your pump off, remove your skimmer with the chlorine tablets in it and quit adding any chemicals to your pool.  Let your pool go untreated for a few days.  Then test it.  The pH levels needs to fall between 7 and 8, with the chlorine level at 1 part per million or less.  Larger pools may take longer to reach the desired pH level.  Then you can either use a siphon or a water pump to water your garden, landscape or yard.

2. Remove a bucket full or more of water and let it stand in the sun for a few days.  Again test the water like above.  Then use the bucket to water your garden, landscape or yard.  (This is a great idea if you want to hold on to those Summer days just a few weeks longer and let the kids swim after school while the afternoon temps still allow it.)

Now, remember that plants, trees, shrubs, and vegetable plants don’t actually enjoy swimming, so water as if you are watering with a regular hose.  I know the idea is to drain the pool, but if your garden doesn’t normally hold 5,000 gallons of water at one time, you might want to stretch the process out and give your plants time to soak up the water.  And keep in mind that your pool water needs to be algae free before you water your plants or yard.

We turned our pump off for a full week before we used our pool water.  Then we used our water on our beloved blackberry bushes and the surrounding yard.  The grass looks especially happy 3 days later, and I’m pretty sure the blackberry bushes love us more than ever right now.

I tried to find some information on how to recycle the salt water from salt water pools, but unfortunately couldn’t find any information.  If you know of any tips for reusing salt water, share it with us here.  We’d love to learn how.

One quick idea before you head off to recycle your pool water.  Allowing the chlorine to evaporate from your pool will essentially turn your pool water into gray water, which is perfect for watering your garden.  But if you’re unsure about how your plants might react to this gray water, do a test strip.  Just like you would test carpet or fabric when you are using a new cleanser, pick a small patch of your garden or landscape and water just that area.  Wait a day or two.  If the plants still look healthy, you’re good to go.

For more information about recycling your pool water, check out this link.  Happy Watering!!!

Gardening Without the Sizzle

41126_454896303209_557608209_6271043_5461263_n I’m hot.  Are you hot?  I think it might be hot outside.

Once upon a time, I remember praying that the sun would come out again.  Now I’m frowning at the sun for being my mortal enemy.  And my vegetable plants are talking about staging a revolt against Mother Nature.

Ask any gardener right now in the South and they will tell you the biggest threat they are fighting in their gardens right now is the heat.  With record temps becoming almost the norm in our area, our plants are withering before our eyes.  But there are some things you can do to keep your garden going through this heat wave and a few tips you can follow to help you get through the these high temps too.

Step One: Plan to garden in the morning and in the evening. Not only is this better for your plants, it’s better for you.  It’s cooler outside during those hours of the day.  Stepping out to garden in the middle of the day with temps above 100 just isn’t a good idea.

Step Two:  Mulch. Mulching adds a layer of protection to your plants.  It keeps them cooler during the day and helps to trap moisture in the ground instead of evaporating into an oblivion.

Step Three:  Water the base of your plants not the top or the leaves. The water droplets left behind from watering can heat up so much during the course of the day they can actually burn your plants and cause significant damage.  A plant pulls its moisture from the roots anyway, so watering the bottom is better for your plants.

Step Four:  Water deeply. A little splash of water in this kind of weather just isn’t going to cut it.  Soak the ground.  I know we always say don’t send your plants swimming, but the ground is drier right now and will require more water than normal.  Just make sure your garden area has adequate drainage.

Step Five:  Water in triplicate for containers. Containers dry out much quicker than plants planted in the ground.  And when you do water them, excess water runs out through the drainage holes before the super dry soil has time to soak up enough water to keep the plant alive.  So water your container 3 times.  Again, you need to soak the container.  Give it a few minutes for the excess water to drain out and soak it again.  Repeat the process at least 3 times to make sure the soil has soaked up plenty of water.  To check if your container plant has enough water, use Ron’s Second Knuckle Method.  Stick your finger into the dirt of the container all the way down to your second knuckle.  If your finger is dry and free of dirt when you pull your finger back out, it doesn’t have enough water.

Step Six:  Break up the soil around your plant using a small tiller or a hand rake or cultivator.  This will allow the water to penetrate the ground quicker and get more water to the roots of your plant.

Step Seven:  Throw on a little more soil. The more you water, the more the soil tends to move around and can expose the roots of your plants.  So toss in a little more soil around the base of your plants to keep the roots cool and protected.

Step Eight:  Water Twice. Plan on watering your plants in the morning and at night.  I, personally, have been watering my vegetable garden in the morning before work and at night just after dinner.  And so far, even the plants in direct sunlight have been doing great and all the plants are still producing plenty of veggies for the whole family.

Step Nine:  Stay safe. Your garden isn’t the only thing that can struggle in the heat.  Heat Stress can be very serious if not treated.  Drink lots of fluids.  Avoid sodas, teas, and coffee as the caffeine can actually cause you to dehydrate.  Wear a wide brim hat and sunscreen.  And rest when you need to.  Remember if you quit sweating, you’re dehydrated.  Signs of heat stress include nausea, weakness, headache, muscle cramps, confusion, and extreme thirst.  If you feel any of the symptoms of heat stress, stop what you are doing and go to a cool place.  Call for help and drink lots of fluids until help arrives.

Step Ten:  Do a rain dance. A really fancy rain dance, with costumes and make-up.  I’m not sure if it will actually work, but we’d love to see some videos of your best rain dance.  And who knows, your rendition of the rain dance could be just the trick to save us all from this heat wave.

Vegetable Field Day

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Snake-B-Gone

54370_478213618979_556628979_6712599_5440730_o My mom taught me a long time ago to share.  And believe it or not, I like to share.  It’s fun.  But when it comes to my yard and my house, I refuse to share…with snakes.  Because unlike my young friend Clara here, I’m not real comfortable sharing my personal space with snakes.  I know that they serve a useful purpose in the cosmic order and the whole circle of life thing, but I prefer that they serve their useful purpose on the other side of my fence.  And every year it seems like I’m trying to come up with a new and more effective way to teach those snakes that my ‘no trespassing’ sign actually applies to them too.  This year I’m even more determined and have been scouring the internet and asking all my friends for some useful tips and hints to try.

Now before I share my newly found knowledge with all of you, let me just say a few things first.  There is NO SUCH THING as Snake-B-Gone.  No amount of preparation, no chemical, no repellent, no poison, no magic spell, no supernatural charm, not even Harry Potter’s wand is going to guarantee your yard as the new Snake-Free zone.  Snakes are kind of like death and taxes…we all face them sooner or later.  And like it or not, there is actually a law in Arkansas that you can’t go on a wild snake hunt and kill every snake you see.  No really, I didn’t make that up.  According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, it is illegal to kill a snake unless it “pose(s) reasonable threat or endangerment to persons or property”.  In fact, some of the snakes indigenous to Arkansas are actually endangered.  

So now that I’ve made the adequate disclaimer paragraph, let’s move on to creating our Snake-Free-Safety-Zone.

1.  Get rid of the debris.  Snakes like rocks, sticks, logs, leaves, boards, and any other debris they can hide in.  So your first strike in the war against slithering nuisances is to get rid of all these things, or at the very least move them to the farthest corners of your property lines. 

2.  Close down the diner!  If you have a rodent problem, you will probably have a snake problem too.  Eliminating their food source is a sure-fire way to get rid of snakes.

3.  Seal any openings into your house.  Snakes are master contortionists and can easily fit through an opening as small as a dime.  Remember to check the clearance of door bottoms and any openings where pipes for plumbing come into your house, like under your sinks.

4. Let your dog roam.  Snakes don’t like dogs and can actually smell them.  So give your favorite furry friend lots of room to run.

5.  Mow.  Snakes eat the bugs that hang out in weeds and tall grass.  Mowing can eliminate that food source and make the snakes less likely to stop by for dinner.

6.  Use Natural Deterrents.  Snakes are sensitive to smell and seem to stay away from Marigolds, Mint, Sulfur and Moth Balls.  Should you choose to use Sulfur remember it is a dust that shouldn’t be inhaled while applying.  Moth Balls are toxic to snakes, but are also toxic to animals and children and should only be used in areas where animals and children won’t be.  Moth Balls and Sulfur will lose their smell over time and will need to be reapplied.  Marigolds come with the added benefit of keeping other common garden pests away too such as insects, bunnies and dogs that like to dig in your garden.

7.  Use Commercial Deterrents.  You can find commercial deterrents for purchase at your local hardware and/or garden stores. 

These tips and tricks will hopefully help to decrease your chances of encountering too many snakes as the hotter months approach us, but remember, should you come into contact with a snake, the best course of action is to leave it alone.  And if that snake happens to be in your home and you aren’t sure if it’s poisonous or not, call Animal Control and let them remove it for you. 

Lots of Veggies in a Little Space

Fresh veggies are in.  Look around.  It seems like everyone everywhere is growing some sort of veggie garden this year.  I dream of a giant garden, with rows upon rows of flourishing vegetables and herbs.  In my mind, I’m a superior gardener with acres of land waiting to be cultivated into growing prize winning produce.  In reality, I have a deck with limited space and I still have to ask Jason what to do when my tomatoes get spots on them.  Good thing I work at Parks, so I can get tips from the best in the business and share them all with you.

So, how do you have lots of fresh veggies and herbs when the only land you own is a patio or deck?  You accessorize….with containers. Container gardening is all the rage this year.  You get all the great produce you want without moving to the country or buying a tractor.  And smaller ground space means less weeds, less bugs, and if the sun is being super elusive on any given day, you can just pick up your container and move it to a sunnier spot.  Try that with a regular old garden.  Here’s the scoop on starting your very own container veggie garden.

Project Time: Who can put a time limit on decorating?

Experience Level: Beginner Gardener

Tools Needed: No Special Tools Required, but if you want to look the part, you can grab some garden gloves and a floppy hat.

Materials Needed: An assortment of containers in various sizes.  Potting Soil, store bought.  Fertilizer, your choice, just make sure it’s veggie friendly.

Sweat Factor: Moderate – You might want to keep a water bottle close by just in case.

Satisfaction Meter: Oo la la – It’s Salad Time Baby!

How to Accessorize with Veggies and Herbs:

1.  Go Shopping.  You are looking for veggies and herbs.  Some tried and true easy to grow veggies you might want to consider are cucumbers, peas, peppers, eggplant, summer or zucchini squash, patio tomatoes or even the garden variety of tomatoes (tho you will need a larger container and stake for these).  You can purchase any herb you like, they all grow great in containers.

2.  Keep Shopping.  You need containers for all of your newly purchased plants.  Containers for veggies need to be at least 12” tall by 12” wide.   The larger the veggie grows, the larger the pot you will need.  And remember larger varieties of tomatoes will not only require a larger container, they will also need some sort of stake or wire cage to tie the tomatoes up as they grow.  5 Gallon Buckets work well for this and I’ve seen them in a variety of colors this year at the local stores so you won’t have to give up beauty just to harvest tomatoes.  Herbs can be grown in smaller pots or window boxes.  Just make sure the container you purchase is slightly larger than the pot the herb is sold in.  Double check all the containers you purchase for drainage holes.  Poor drainage can lead to root rot and ruin your container garden.  If the containers you like best don’t have drainage holes, drill some before you plant.  Word to the wise, terracotta containers will soak up all the moisture from your plant.  If you choose a terracotta container, put a plastic tray under it and water the tray instead of the plant.  The plant will draw up the moisture it needs.

3.  Stay in the store just a few minutes longer.   Now you need fertilizer and potting soil.  Potting Soil is important for container gardening.  Regular old fashioned dirt from your yard might look tempting, but when you put it in a pot it can clump, resulting in poor drainage.  And you run the risk of importing weeds into your brand new container.  The better the potting soil, the better your vegetables will produce.  Some potting soil already has fertilizer mixed in, but it’s a good idea to purchase a separate fertilizer to add to your containers every few weeks to keep your vegetable in mass production mode.  You can also opt for a time released fertilizer like Osmocote.

4.  Plant to your heart’s content.  One plant per container please.  And position your containers where they get at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.  Veggies and Herbs are full sun plants.  Don’t forget, you can move your container as needed to get more sun during the day.

5.  Water your new plants.  Vegetables need lots of water.  Remember when you’re watering, you’re aiming for moist not soggy.  In the heat of summer, you may have to water your veggies and herbs twice a day if the soil begins to dry out too quickly during the course of the day.  Use Ron’s 2nd knuckle rule.  Stick your finger down into your container to your second knuckle.  If you pull your finger out and it’s dry with no soil, you need to water.

And just like that, you have a veggie and herb garden that doubles as patio/deck accessories.

Bonus Tip: Remember when I said I had to ask Jason when my tomatoes get spots on them?  Well should your tomato plants get black spots on the bottom, add a little lime to your soil.  This is usually blossom end rot and the lime will clear it right up for you.

Got Milk….Jugs???

I love the idea of having a giant garden.  The very aspect of being overwhelmed with fresh veggies or stunning flowers just makes me grin.  I don’t, however, like the idea of spending countless hours holding a garden hose while I painstakingly go from plant to plant to make sure it has an ample amount of water to thrive and flourish.  So how do I have the garden of my dreams and avoid holding a garden hose all day?  I stock up on milk….jugs to be specific.

Drip irrigation is a great solution for watering your garden and with a little help from items you would normally discard anyway, it can be easy and cheap.  Here’s all you need to know to get started.

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Project Time: Varies depending on Garden Size

Experience Level: Beginner Gardener

Tools Needed: 1 Large Nail, 1 Garden Spade

Materials Needed: Lots of Milk Jugs or Other Plastic Containers Such as Large Water Bottles, 2 Liters or Buckets

Sweat Factor: Low (Especially if it stays this cold!!!)

Satisfaction Meter: Moderate – You probably won’t be doing cart wheels or dancing in the rain with an umbrella while singing a song (although if you do we would really like you to video it and send us a copy), but you will feel a sense of accomplishment for being both environmentally friendly and a pure champion to your plants for giving them the gift of water.

How to Make Milk Work for You:

1. After consuming all the contents of your milk jug, water bottle, or 2 Liter, rinse the container out thoroughly with soap and water.  Don’t discard the container’s cap.  You will need it later on.

2. Using a large nail, poke a hole in the bottom of each container.  You can poke one or more holes depending on how much water you want to flow through.  Remember the more holes, the faster the water will flow out.

3. Survey your garden area for the best places to put your jugs or containers.  You want to choose places where the water will reach the root zones of several plants.  Once you have strategically eyeballed your target zones, use a garden spade to loosen the soil or dig a small divot in the area you want to place each of your jugs or containers.

4. Add water and put the cap back on your container.

5. Verify that the jug is working by lifting the jug and checking to see if the ground underneath is wet.  If it’s dry, you need a bigger hole or more holes in the bottom of your container.

BONUS TIP: If you see rain clouds rolling in, remove the caps of each container.   Rainwater is a garden’s best friend!

Composting for Beginners

image We all like to fertilize our gardens. It sort of makes us feel good, like in some small way we helped our budding plants become the bountiful harvest we always knew they could be if they just set their minds to it.  And we also like to do things we think are good for the environment.  Composting lets us do both.

Not only is composting a great way to dispose of yard clippings, leaves, and food waste in an environmentally friendly way, it also provides your plants with a virtual buffet of beneficial nutrients and increases your soil’s water-holding capacity.  It can even enhance your plant’s ability to ward off insects and disease.  Plus if you have children or grandchildren, it makes for a fun and interesting at-home science project.  And it’s not nearly as hard to start a simple compost pile as what you might think.

First you need to make a house for your compost.  Now compost isn’t finicky about its surroundings.  It’s just as happy in a store bought bin as it is in a homemade bin.  You can make a simple, inexpensive bin from welded wire, chicken wire, or even plastic garden fencing.  Just make a circle or square of 3 to 4 feet in diameter with the building material of your choice and make sure the ‘walls’ of your compost’s new home are at least 3 to 4 feet high.

Next, add some ingredients.  You can start with something easy like brown leaves, sticks, or plants that have passed their prime.  Then throw in kitchen scraps, grass clippings, chopped leaves, or other dead plants as they become available.  Every so often, add some water.  Not enough to make a swimming pool mind you, just enough to keep your compost pile moist, like a wet sponge.

Some people like to mix their compost piles every so often.  This is optional.  Compost piles will naturally break down on their own, but mixing them does help to move things along.  If you are the mixing type, invest in a pitchfork to help you shake things up.

Your compost is ready when you can no longer tell what the original ingredients are.  If your compost matures before you’re actually ready to use it, make sure you cover it to keep any rain from stealing away those nutrients you worked so hard to obtain.

And it’s that easy!  A treat for your garden and a good deed for the environment all in one!

Lacey created a compost pile last year that was a huge success.  The compost pile picture featured above is hers.  She says layering your compost pile with ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ makes all the difference in the world.  Browns are dry materials like dead plants, brown leaves, pine needles and small sticks.  Greens are your wetter materials like fresh grass clippings and kitchen scraps.

Now, I know you’re just as ready as I am to start your very own compost pile this year, but before you go, keep these dos and don’ts in mind….

Do Add
– leaves hay and other dead plant material
– fruit and veggie trimmings
– herbicide-free grass clippings
– paper or cardboard (torn in small palm sized pieces)

Don’t Add
– meat scraps
– fatty, salty, or sugary foods
– chips and/or sawdust from treated wood
– manure from omnivores (humans, dogs, cats, etc.)

Ok, I think you’re ready!  Happy Composting!!!

The Planting Itch

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You saw the sun didn’t you?  Dug out a pair of shorts and a comfortable t-shirt and even contemplated wearing flip-flops too huh?  And then you went outside to enjoy that wonderful warm weather only to catch a disappointing glimpse of your withered flower garden.  And the planting itch set in.

It happens every year.  We see that first glimpse of Spring after a long, bitter Winter and we just can’t help ourselves.  We want to plant…something….anything…as if to signify our hibernation is finally over and welcome Spring with wide blooming arms.  And then we remember, we live in Arkansas.  And this glimpse of Spring is just a glimpse.  Somewhere out there is another frost, just waiting to surprise us and ruin our planting dreams.  Still, the itch is hard to resist.  So what do you do?

Well, don’t fret.  We have a solution for you.  Though the colorful annuals we want so badly to plant a little too early each year might perish under an unexpected freeze, a perennial will merely laugh at that cold snap. 

Here’s the beautiful thing about perennials and Spring.  They actually prefer to be planted in the Spring.  The rule of thumb is the earlier you plant them, the better the root system will be when Winter rolls back around.  And perennials come back year after year after year.  It’s a win/win.  Plus, by opting for a perennial when that planting itch sets in, you don’t have to worry about replacing the plant when that unexpected frost does rear its unwelcomed head.

Now here’s where perennials and annuals are alike.  They both have specific planting requirements that you simply must not ignore when choosing your plants.  So let the plant’s tag be your guide.  Take note of light requirements and make sure you choose plants that will grow best in your flower bed.  Then consider height and width of each plant, which can also be found on the plant’s tag.  Place your taller plants in the back of your flower bed so they don’t hide your shorter plants.  And don’t ignore the spacing requirements.  The plant may be small in width now, but just like your children, they grow up very fast and always seem to demand their own space.  Lastly, leave some room for those annuals you love for when the fear of frost has subsided.

And here’s a quick tip for planting perennials from containers.  Plant them the same depth they were grown in the container.  If you plant them too high, the plant could dry out.  Plant them too low and you might be fighting crown rot.  And water the plant just before you plant them.

Here’s a list of perennials we carry at Parks Brothers to help you satisfy your Planting Itch.

Ok that’s it.  You can quit scratching now and get to planting!  Come on, say it with me – Bring on the Spring!!!

Fall Flower Bed Roundup

Every year we plant pansies, violas and other fall plants in the flower beds in front of our office. I wanted to do a post about how they performed.

First all you need to know that we had an exceptionally cold winter with several weeks at or below freezing. Among the Pansies, Panolas and Violas, I think that the Panolas and Violas recovered quicker and have more color than the Pansies.

flowerbed2 flowerbed3

flowerbed5 flowerbed6

These are the Stepables we planted last fall.

overwintered-stepables-flowerbed1 overwintered-stepables-flowerbed3

overwintered-stepables-flowerbed2 We planted some tulips in all the flowerbeds and here is one sprouting through Wooly Thyme in front of Archer’s Gold Thyme.

This is what’s left of one of the Plentifall Pansies we planted in our planters. I do need to say that these were regularly neglected and went through some very hard freezes very dry. The fact that that made it through with the neglect is a testament to their toughness. Properly watered before freezes and they would probably look much better. As it is, they look rough but are still alive. Some pruning and sunshine and they will be looking good again in a few weeks.

overwintered-plentifall-pansy4

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