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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.

Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Ozark Beauty Strawberries

Our Ozark Beauty Strawberries are ready now. They even have small strawberries on them. Ozark Beauty Strawberries are ever bearing strawberries which means that they produce strawberries consistently through the spring. They will produce some off and on in the summer and then again some in the fall.

The strawberries are small but sweet. You need a good sized patch of them if you are looking to harvest a large amount.

Charley’s Vegetables Ozark Beauty Strawberries will be available in Garden Centers across the south over the next few weeks as the Garden Centers open up and stock up. You can see the list of Garden Centers here.

If you don’t live near us or one of the Garden Centers, you can buy direct from Becky’s Bloomers at www.buygardenvegetables.com.

Click for more information on How To Grow Strawberries.

strawberry ozark beauty 4in

strawberry ozark beauty

Sonnet Snapdragons

Help is in the Medicine Cabinet

aspirin I love finding new, exciting and EASY ways to help an ailing plant or garden.  Easy ‘medicine’ for my plants is a big thing for me.  If it takes a lot of work, I’m probably just going to let that plant die and buy a new one.  (Shhh…don’t tell Jason that.  As far as he’s concerned, I have a green thumb got it?)  But I never dreamed that my plants might actually benefit from real medicine, like say Aspirin.

Yes, that little white pill we all know so well that’s been curing headaches for as long as any of us can remember, helps keep heart attacks at bay, and is rumored to reduce your risk of cancer is actually good for healing your plant’s ailments too.  Who knew?  According to Avant Gardener mixing 1.5 uncoated Aspirin tablets with 2 Gallons of water can bring your sick little plant back to life.  Here’s how it works.

Aspirin is Salicylic Acid derived from the Willow Family.  Stressed plants naturally produce Salicylic Acid in an attempt to heal themselves.  Unfortunately, sometimes their efforts are too slow to save them in time.  Adding Aspirin to the plant can help to speed up the healing process and save the plant.  In various studies, treated plants grew faster and were able to fight off pests and diseases better than untreated plants.  Aspirin treated plants also showed an increase of production in fruits, herbs, and veggies.  Martha McBurney, the master gardener that first tested the effects of Aspirin Water on plants at The University of Rhode Island even treated their seeds with Aspirin and reported 100% germination.  You can even add an Aspirin to your vase of fresh cut flowers to keep your flowers fresher longer.  I don’t think I will ever look at Aspirin quite the same way again.

I haven’t read any studies yet on whether eating fruits and vegetables treated with Aspirin Water can help deter headaches, but I figure it probably couldn’t hurt to try. 

For more info on how Aspirin can help your garden, visit PlanTea.

An Ounce of Preparation is Worth a Pound of Tomatoes…or Something Like That…

0622001739 If you’re like me, when you saw the first hint of Spring, the first thing you thought of was how much you really want a tomato.  But not just any tomato, a homegrown tomato from your very own garden.  Which of course can only mean it’s time to start getting your garden spot ready for tomato plants.  This is a yearly tradition for me.  Craving a tomato and preparing the garden.

It’s a lot of work.  You have to dig.  You have to weed.  You have to break up big clumps of dirt.  You have to remove all the rocks that mysteriously showed up over the winter.  And then you have to re-remove all the rocks after your faithful dog retrieves said rocks and returns them to your garden.  Oh and you have to replenish your soil to replace the nutrients your veggies borrowed from the ground last year.  Wait, what?

That’s right.  Every year the vegetables you plant borrow essential nutrients from your soil to grow and produce those wonderful fruits and veggies you love so much.  And it’s up to you to put those nutrients back so the vegetable plants you plant this year can produce quality veggies again.  Failure to do so can leave you with a less than bountiful harvest this growing season.

There are several ways to replenish your soil’s nutrients.  Our best recommendation is to take a sample of your soil to your County Extension Office to be tested.  They can tell you EXACTLY what your soil needs and what you should add for optimum growing results.  But if you’re like me, you won’t go that route.  I’m the type that always asks for directions, and then goes in a completely different route.  So if you are like me, here are some alternatives.

1.  Use Osomocote or a Time Released Fertilizer.  Be sure to work the fertilizer into your soil and follow the instructions on the label exactly.

2.  Add Compost, Manure, or Worm Castings.  Compost and manure work better when added in the Fall and allowed to winter over, but you can add it now as long as you work it into your soil very well and they are well decomposed.  If it is not decomposed enough, it will actually rob your plants of nitrogen to finish the decomposing process.  And your plants NEED that nitrogen, so make sure it’s well decomposed.

3.  Add Miracle Grow or a Water Soluble Fertilizer.  Again, be sure to work it into the soil and don’t over fertilize.  Follow the instructions on the label and only fertilize once every week or every two weeks.

4.  Pray for Snow.  According to Jason Parks and a few websites online, Snow is the ‘Poor Man’s Fertilizer’.  Not only does Snow saturate your garden with lots of life giving water, it also saturates your garden with a ton of nitrogen which is an essential nutrient for your plant’s growth.  (Personally, I’m putting my foot down at praying for Snow.  But Jason swears it works.  I’m skipping manure too, because it’s gross and it smells bad.  But that’s just me.)

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. 

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.

image

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!!!

Growing Lettuce

lettuce7 While lettuce is not an item in our Charley’s Vegetables line, it has an honorary position as an easy-to-grow early season vegetable.

Lettuce is a hardy annual that can tolerate light frosts and can be easily grown from seed or transplants. Lettuce need sunny locations early but can tolerate some shade and as the days get warmer, more shade is better. Sunlight combined with warm summer temperatures usually make the lettuce bitter. Lettuce grow best when the day temperatures are between 60-70 degrees F and when planted in well-drained soil that is kept evening moist with light watering.

Leaf lettuce is the most popular type of lettuce grown by gardeners, but you can also grow iceberg, butterhead, and romaine lettuce.

Sow leaf lettuce in rows with 10-20 seeds per foot and space rows about 12” apart. Thin out seedlings after sprouting to a spacing of 6” apart. If transplanting, plant individual plants 6” apart. For head lettuce plant 12-18” apart. Lettuce can be planted in between other crops that shade the lettuce during the heat of the day.

Lettuce has shallow roots so cultivate or hoe shallow to keep the weeds down. Overwatering can cause disease problems, and any overhead watering should be done in the morning to allow the foliage time to dry. Mulching is also beneficial since it keeps the leaves off the ground and the soil cool.

Generally, lettuce should be planted and enjoyed in the spring then abandoned when the it gets hot and the taste gets bitter.

Lettuce mature between 40-80 days depending on the variety.

Harvest leaf lettuce when the plants reach 5-6” tall. Harvest the older outer leaves first.  Harvest bibb lettuce when the leaves begin to cup inward. Harvest romaine lettuce when when the leaves have overlapped and formed a tight head that is about 4” wide and 6” tall. Crisphead lettuce is ready to harvest when a head is formed that looks like head lettuce in the grocery store.

Click here for more information on growing lettuce from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Office.

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