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Master Gardener Janet B. Carson

Janet B Carson

Listen to Learn:

  • How to become a Master Gardner
  • The changes in horticulture education and industry
  • About the different types of gardens

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Janet B. Carson began and ended her career as a University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension horticulture specialist and the coordinator of the Arkansas Master Gardener program. She wrote a weekly gardening column that ran in newspapers and magazines, hosted radio talk shows and appeared in multiple TV guest shots. Carson is well known and loved by gardeners all across Arkansas for her knowledge and her encouragement to gardeners of all skill levels.

The Master Gardener program is a 40 hour class the requires 40 hours of volunteer work the first year, and 20 hours a year thereafter. The most visible contributions of the MG programs are the landscape projects maintained by the volunteers on public property. Many of the gardens around public buildings, the State Capital, the Governor’s Mansion and county courthouses are maintained by Master Gardeners.

Carson retired at the end of 2018. 

Podcast Links

 Janet Carson and Kerry McCoy

Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com



[0:00:08.8] G: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners an insiders’ view into starting and running a business, the ups and downs of risk-taking and the commonalities of successful people.

Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.


[0:00:30.0] KM: Thank you, Gray. This show Up In your Business with Kerry McCoy began as a calling for me. After four decades of running a small business, I felt I had something to share. I wanted to create a platform for not just me, but other business owners and successful people to pay forward their experiential knowledge in a conversational way.

My guest today is Arkansas's well-known and beloved Master Gardener, Miss Janet Carson. Since the year of her graduation from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1980, she has been working at a breakneck pace to educate and inform the public about agriculture and horticulture in Arkansas.

In 2018, Janet retired from her day job at the Cooperative Extension Services, but not from her passion for gardening. She still writes her weekly column for the Democrat-Gazette and other publications, has radio and TV appearances and today has founded a company, Plan It Janet, where she takes vacationers on garden tours around the world and blogs about it.

She recently took a group to Europe. This fall, she will be chaperoning a trip to Canada. I think she said she has a few slots left. She has some great trips already planned for next year, we're going to talk about. If you have been through, or heard about the Master Gardener program of Arkansas, you can thank Janet, who founded it in 1988 and has grown it from four counties to a statewide educational offering.

It is a pleasure and a privilege to welcome to the table the hard-working, gifted gardener, author, or writer, educator, visionary and now entrepreneur, Miss Janet Carson.

[0:02:15.7] JC: Hey, Kerry. Thanks for having me.

[0:02:18.0] KM: Let's start at the beginning. It sounds like you always knew you wanted to grow up to be a gardener, because your first job out of college was at the co-operative extensions office, where you worked for 33 years and never changed jobs. That’s unusual.

[0:02:32.4] JC: 38 and a half.

[0:02:34.0] KM: Oh, pardon me. 38 and a half years. That's unusual.

[0:02:38.5] JC: Well, when you start college they say that very few people start and end in the program they start with, and I did that as well. I guess, I don't like change. I started, majored in horticulture. When I got ready to graduate, I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. I knew I wanted to stay in Little Rock, and so I started putting feelers out. One of my professors said, “Janet, Extension needs you.” I said, “But I don't want to live anywhere but Little Rock and I don't want to do anything but horticulture.”

I was hired as the first female agricultural agent in Arkansas and I was the first horticultural-only agent in Arkansas. They hired me for Little Rock. I had a dream job. I did my own thing. I answered a lot of questions, started doing radio shows, started doing TV, started doing newspaper. I did that for about 12 years and then I got my master's degree and I moved over to the state level and then I started covering the whole state. I did that for the rest of my career and I retired January the 3rd of this year, so a few days into 2019.

[0:03:41.9] KM: I thought 2018. It was actually 2019.

[0:03:44.0] JC: Well, I left work at the end of 2018. My official date was January 3rd.

[0:03:49.9] KM: You thought if you took a job at the Cooperative Extension Offices that you wouldn't be able to be in Little Rock, because it's usually an agricultural position. You thought you’d be out in farm country.

[0:03:58.4] JC: Usually when you apply, you don't say, “I only want to go to Little Rock.” There's 75 counties, so there's positions all over the state. You apply for extension and they put you where they think the best fit is. I put on my application, I only want to go in Little Rock. I figured that was a no-no. I got hired and the rest is history.

[0:04:18.5] KM: Were you a great student?

[0:04:20.2] JC: I was a fairly good student. I wouldn't say great. I mean, I made all A's and B's. I had fun too.

[0:04:27.9] KM: Why did they break the mold for you? Why did they, this 22-year-old baby, student and only wants to live in Little Rock, that comes with a set of rules and wants to work in horticulture go, “Okay, let's hire the first woman and put in the first department.” What was there special about you?

[0:04:44.8] JC: Well, I got to think that I was in the right place at the right time and somebody was looking out for me. I've been blessed. As far as jobs go, I've only had two interviews my whole career. That first one and I got the job and then when I decided to go to the state level, I went over and talked with the director and that's it. I mean, it was a pretty easy ride for me.

I think part of it was I did have very good references with the horticulture department at Fayetteville. In fact, Teddy Morlock who's passed away, he was the one who said, “Janet, you need to do this. They need this position.” If you think back to the 80s, when I majored in horticulture at Fayetteville, it was a huge department. My degree was an urban horticulture and landscape design. Today, there's I don't know how many students in horticulture. I'm going to guess and say maybe a 100 in the whole department. That may be high.

[0:05:39.1] KM: You mean there's less today?

[0:05:39.9] JC: Oh, way less. That was the heyday. I mean, we had hundreds in horticulture then. I mean, our classes were 80 to a 100 people.

[0:05:47.5] KM: Why the shift?

[0:05:48.6] JC: Well, I think part of it was horticulture was really popular back then. It is now, but it was nurseries were growing, landscaping. Think about landscaping back in the 60s and 70s. You had a few shrubs, you had a few bushes. Think about the number of perennials today. If you think back to the 50s and 60s, you could find peonies and hostas and day lilies, some irises.

[0:06:12.6] KM: Azaleas.

[0:06:13.4] JC: Now there's thousands of choices. The industry is booming. In fact, the big trend now in horticulture is grow your own vegetables, everything about eating locally and farmers markets and community gardens. That trend, in fact, I've been saying now for four, or five, or six years that we have more vegetable gardens today than we did since the Victory Gardens of World War II, because people are growing their own.

[0:06:43.3] KM: I would have guessed that that would mean that we have more horticultural majors, because of just what you said.

[0:06:49.0] JC: Part of it probably goes back to money as well. You're not going to get rich overnight in horticulture. A lot of students today major in careers that they think they can make a lot of money at doing not a whole lot. I mean, and that's a tacky statement maybe. I mean, horticulture, I didn't start off – in fact, the first job I got with Extension, I made $13,000 a year and my dad worked for the telephone company. He said, “Janet, are there men with families that have that salary?” He had secretaries making more money than I was and I had a degree. He was stunned.

If you stick with something you love – in fact, I've told my children, it's not about the money, because you're going to spend an awful lot of your time in your job and you better find something you love. I did. I was blessed. I got rewarded in the long run. It was a great run for me. I loved Extension. I still love Extension.

[0:07:45.0] KM: You can you can get paid and be successful and get paid well at anything if you work hard and you enjoy it. You won't work hard if you don't enjoy it.

[0:07:53.7] JC: Well and for me, it wasn't work. It wasn't like I had to get up and go – I know people that were in business that dreaded getting up and they loved the minute they could get off work. That was never me. For me, that's why I traveled so much because I never said no.

[0:08:10.2] KM: Well, we're Americans. We have choices. We don't have to do that if we don't want to. I think that's great advice for everybody. What's the difference between agriculture and horticulture?

[0:08:17.5] JC: Horticulture is division of agriculture. I would always say that in Arkansas probably, horticulture is the stepchild to agriculture, because if you think, we're a very agricultural state. We’re rice, soybeans and cotton and then wheat, then you've got livestock and poultry. Horticulture was the fluff, the ornamentals, which is more my major, and vegetables. We don't have huge commercial production of fruits and vegetables in Arkansas.

We used to have more commercial production. Now, I would say when you look at commercial production of the fruits and vegetables, you're looking still smaller acreage, you're doing things for local markets, you've got the farmers markets, that type of thing. I do think the sustainable divisions of horticulture are still more popular. There's a lot of young people today that want to save the world. That's a great way to go into that – for that very reason.

[0:09:13.3] KM: It is a great way. When you were young, did you garden when you were young?

[0:09:16.4] JC: We always had to go – I had a vegetable garden. I grew up in St. Louis. I was a city girl.

[0:09:20.5] KM: You’re not from Arkansas?

[0:09:21.3] JC: No. I lived here.

[0:09:22.0] KM: Well, then how come you want to live in Little Rock.

[0:09:23.5] JC: I moved here when I was in high school and absolutely hated it. I came from St. Louis, I was in 10th grade. All my friends were getting cars. I had a boyfriend back there and I moved here to where I didn't know anybody. I mean, we moved my entire childhood. My dad was the telephone company. We moved every two to three years. It never bothered me, because I'm somewhat outgoing. I can talk to a wall.

When you got in high school, that's a little bit – I hated it. All I said to my dad was, “As soon as I'm out of high school, I'm going back to Missouri and I'm going to Mizzou and I'm never staying here.” Then by the junior year, senior year of high school, things started clicking. I visited colleges all over. My sister went to Baylor and I looked at that, but they didn't have a horticulture. They had botany, but they didn't have horticulture.

I looked at southwestern and they didn't have horticulture and I went to Fayette and I loved it. Now, I am the biggest proponent of Little Rock that there is. I think Arkansas is one of the best-kept secrets and Little Rock even more. I wouldn't live anywhere else.

[0:10:26.2] KM: Ned Perme was one last week and he said the exact same thing.

[0:10:30.8] JC: Oh, it's wonderful. My husband is native, born and raised. When we first got married he said, “Well, Janet. I think we ought to move.” I said, “Well, I don't think so. I've moved enough in my lifetime. I love it here.”

[0:10:42.3] KM: Hearing that your dad traveled a lot and you were uprooted and moved around and had to make friends over and over and over, I think that's why you're so likable. You see that all the time and people that are extremely likeable have learned how to make friends and get along with people, because they moved and moved and moved and moved, because everybody likes you.

[0:10:58.1] JC: Oh, thank you.

[0:10:59.1] KM: You're welcome. You're listening Up In your Business with me, Kerry McCoy and I'm speaking today with Master Gardener and retired Cooperative Extension specialist, Janet Carson, founder of Planit Janet, TripAdvisor is what I like to call it. Garden guide agency with a blog. You've retired.

[0:11:14.7] JC: I have.

[0:11:15.2] KM: What's it like after – life after that?

[0:11:16.9] JC: You know, I would like it. I didn't know I would love it. I really do. It's fun. My daughter said, “You know, mom. I thought retired people stayed home.” I don't. I said, “No, you get to do what you want to do.” You're not tied to a schedule. I used to live by a calendar. If I lost that calendar, we were in trouble. Now I can get up – I mean, I still get up at 6:00 every morning, but I have time to spend in my own garden. I've done a lot of trips just for myself.

It was funny, we went – a friend and I, we’re going to go where it was warm in February, our first girls trip. We chose Phoenix. It was freezing and it rained the whole time we were there. Then I went to the beach, same thing, cold in March. We hit a home run with England. We had great weather over there.

[0:12:06.9] KM: Yes. Let's tell our listeners what you're doing now. You planned a trip, your first trip after being retired. You've been on a lot of trips with the Cooperative Extensions offices.

[0:12:16.0] JC: Well, we started when the Master Gardener program started back in 1988. In 1989, we started our first trip. We went on a long weekend to St. Louis.

[0:12:24.3] KM: For the master gardeners?

[0:12:25.3] JC: For the master gardeners. We tried to do at least one trip a year. As soon as we graduated the first class, I had my daughter. 10 days after the first class graduated, Katie was born. Some of the people in that first class were like, “Okay, so when are we going to England and the Chelsea Flower Show?” I said, “I just had a baby. We have to wait 10 years.” They held me to it. In 10 years, so in 1998 I took 40 master gardeners to the Chelsea Flower Show in England. We would do an international trip about every three or four years, but we did a trip in the United States on the other years.

These trips are not just vacations. You go. I mean, we do a lot of walking. In fact, this last one we averaged 5 to 6 miles a day. We covered 14 gardens, the Chelsea Flower Show, Windsor Castle, Oxford and Kew Gardens in 11 days. It was a jam-packed trip. We do a lot with gardens and especially when I was working for Extension, they were a 100% educational and a 100% horticulture. Now that I'm retired, maybe not so much. I mean, we'll try to still do a lot of gardening things, because that's my people, but we’ll also do anything that's food-related. We're doing this Canada trip. We're going to a maple syrup place where they actually tap the trees and make maple syrup. I a syrup, not syrup like everybody down here. That's Missourism. We're going to a place where they do Cassie's.

[0:13:55.8] KM: What’s that?

[0:13:57.3] JC: It’s a liqueur. We're doing – going to a winery. Anything that's food-related. I love to cook those ingredients, anything nature-related. I'm looking at maybe Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons down the road. Nature outside, going and doing. We're going to try to do two or three trips a year. I've done a lot of group travel in the past. When I retired, somebody said, “Are you going to still do it?” I said, “Well, I'm really good at telling people where to go and what to do.” My husband said, “Yes, you are.”

[0:14:27.0] KM: Does he go on the trips with you?

[0:14:28.4] JC: He does sometimes. It depends on his schedule, but he is not retired. He's got to pick and choose what he can do.

[0:14:35.4] KM: If people wanted to join you and find out about your trips, how would they do it?

[0:14:41.1] JC: Well, there's a several ways. For this coming one, I'm doing with PO Travel. They can call PO Travel, or go to their website and it's on that site. They can also e-mail me. My e-mail address is in the Democrat-Gazette every Saturday. It's jcarson@arkansasonline.com. They can e-mail me and say, “Add me to your trip list.”

I've started an e-mail group list for travel, so when things come up I can send an e-blast. We're trying to advertise it in the newspaper as well in my column. When a new trip is coming up, I'll try to put it there. The England trip, we advertised of course last fall when I was still working. It went out to the Master Gardener Network. We have 3,500 master gardeners in Arkansas now. That was an easy way. Now people can sign up and –

[0:15:29.8] KM: I would imagine they'd still let you send it out to the Master Gardener list if you asked.

[0:15:34.2] JC: Well, I can't decide whether that's kosher or not, so I haven't decided whether I should do it.

[0:15:37.8] KM: Who’s going to do the trips now that you're gone for the master gardeners?

[0:15:39.7] JC: Well, I don’t know that they're going to actually do them.

[0:15:42.5] KM: They'd be grateful if you would do that for them, probably.

[0:15:46.7] JC: Maybe they'll still send it out.

[0:15:47.8] KM: I'm sure they'd be grateful since they're no longer offering another – Let’s talk about the Master Gardener program that you started. You were had only been at the Cooperative Extension offices for five years when you went to Tulsa.

[0:16:01.2] JC: Right. Actually, the program, the Master Gardener program started back in 1972 in Washington State. The gentleman who founded it is still living and he still travels around and talks to groups. He was in a County Extension Office and they were getting a ton of consumer horticulture calls. He said, “We need some help.” He said, “I think we can train some good volunteers to help us out.” His boss was saying, “It will never –”

[0:16:26.7] KM: Help us do what? Answer the phone?

[0:16:27.5] JC: Answer the phones and help do community service and outreach. His boss has said, “Oh, it'll never work.” Here we are this many years later and now it's in every state in the United States. There's one state that it's not through the land grant college, but every other state is through the land grant college. Massachusetts, it's through a Botanical Garden, but it's also in provinces in Canada and now South Korea as well. Tulsa had a program. I mean, Oklahoma did not have a program, but Tulsa had a program. Four of us went over to visit, to see if it was something that would be feasible.

[0:17:01.0] KM: When you were in your 20s.

[0:17:02.7] JC: I was actually 28, I guess when we went over there and looked. I was 30 when we started it. We went over there and we decided that it would work. We came back and we put together the book, borrowed bits and pieces from other states. We offered the class in 1988 for four counties. It was Pulaski, Saline, Jefferson and Garland County.

[0:17:25.8] KM: You put together a book, like an educational book?

[0:17:27.8] JC: They get a huge notebook, but we borrowed from other states and put it together to get it done as quickly as we did. We had him out of the 4H Center. We charged them only $25 to take the class. Each of our four counties was supposed to take 10 people. Well, I put something in the newspaper in my column, 78 people applied for that first class for Pulaski County. They let me take 20 people, instead of 10. Everybody else – some of them didn't even get their 10.

We had about 45 people that took that original class back in 1988. Then after that, we started having our program in Pulaski County by itself. The second year, I had 150 apply. I mean, it was really, really rockin. I mean, people would send in resumes with their application and references of who I could call that let me know they're a great gardener.

I didn't care if they were a great gardener. You can teach people horticulture. What was most important for me when I interviewed people to see if they understood what they were getting into was the volunteer commitment, because that was what I was building was a volunteer base. I didn't want them to just come in. The carrot was the education. If all they wanted was the education and they weren't planning to pay back any volunteer service, that really wasn't a good investment for me.

[0:18:46.8] KM: The volunteer piece that you wanted and that the original man who started the program wanted, was because you need people to go out into the field and look at stuff. You need people to answer the phones. You need people to go out in the field.

[0:18:58.5] JC: Well, each county actually bases it on their needs. We have 75 counties in Arkansas. 67 have the program. Each county is going to be different based on their population, the calls that come in. When I started in Pulaski County in 1980, there were five AG agents. Each of us had a phone day. Even though I was the horticulture agent, we had another gentleman who was a commercial horticulture agent, but I was all any horticulture.

We each had a day on the phone. Well, over time people started retiring, but Extension started downsizing. From 1980 to 1992, we went from five AG agents to two. Phone calls did not stop. I couldn't get anything done if I was in the office. My record was a 158 calls in one day. People brought plant samples in for identification, for diseases, or insects and it was just overwhelming. In Pulaski County and we were the only county that may and dated this. To begin with, you have to pay back 40 hours of volunteer service in a year, which is not hard.

[0:20:01.2] KM: That’s mostly phone work.

[0:20:03.1] JC: Well, for us 20 of those 40 had to be answering the phone. Wo we had a horticultural hotline on Thursdays and Fridays. We only had 20 people. We only did it during the gardening season, so late March to early September, or mid-October. We would cut it off. Now, they have people in the office every day helping.

[0:20:24.5] KM: How long does it take to become a master gardener? How long is the course?

[0:20:26.7] JC: It's a 40-hour class. It's usually five weeks. Now we didn't offer and we started something new two years ago, so this coming January will be the third year, is an online class, so that people who work, or can't take off during the day to come to a 40-hour class can actually do it at their own pace and they have three months to do it. It starts January 1st or January 2nd and then it ends March 31st.

[0:20:49.2] KM: People that work would be hard to command the phone and do volunteer hours along.

[0:20:52.4] JC: Well, it's not mandated to do the phone anymore. They have so many projects. Pulaski County alone has over 500 master gardener volunteers now. They have 25 projects across the county.

[0:21:07.8] KM: Some of them are taking care of public gardens?

[0:21:11.0] JC: Well, there's things like, there's plant therapy programs at Baptist Rehab Hospital. There are school gardens. There's a community garden out at the 4H Center that's a demonstration garden that they're going to use it with the 4H kids. They're teaching them how to – They have beehives. They have compost bins. They have vegetables and flowers and fruit. The old Statehouse was the original project in Little Rock and it's still a Master Gardener project today. We also used to have a vegetable garden at the zoo. That was our second project in Arkansas. When we had some interesting pest problems, we had Wallabies that would get loose and come eat our vegetables. The produce that we grew actually was used to feed the animals at the zoo.

[0:21:52.5] KM: Then the governor's mansion.

[0:21:53.8] JC: The governor's mansion, they'd have the herb garden, vegetable garden there as well. There's lots of the old mill in North Little Rock, the community center in Jacksonville. They try to have a project in all parts of the counties that they're in.

[0:22:09.5] KM: What do you get the most asked about in Arkansas? Pests? Fertilizers?

[0:22:15.7] JC: I would say the number one question is pruning. The number one plant pruning is pruning crape myrtles. The funny thing, I did the radio show for 28 years at the Collins Show on Saturdays. This lady called in and a lot of the calls were the same every week. It would be something similar, or very seasonal or cyclic. This lady called in and she said, “I've been listening to you since you were Janet Biermann,” so before I got married. She said, “But I have never heard this question.”

We were thinking, here comes a doozy. She said, “When do you prune crape myrtles?” Which was the number one question. Russ felt – we all fell out, because everybody knew the answer to that. My husband who is not a gardener could tell you how to prune a great myrtle. It really made me realize that until it's your question, you don't listen to the answer. You may be listening to the radio show and listening to those things and reading my columns, but you just read it until it pertains to you.

[0:23:13.5] KM: You can be as repetitious as you want to be.

[0:23:15.6] JC: Well, they say you have to repeat things three times before it really sinks in. Again, if you don't have a crape myrtle, why are you paying attention? It’s in general information. Once you have one, then all of a sudden, oh, it's important.

[0:23:28.9] KM: What about pesticides? They are always in the news.

[0:23:31.5] JC: Well, and I think there's a lot of bad information out there. I think there's some very good pesticides. Now, I don't use a lot of pesticides in my garden, but I do use them occasionally. I don't use anything in the vegetable garden. I think that you've got to feel comfortable. I think if you use the right product for the right pest, but at the right time and at the right amount, you're going to be fine.

They say, especially farmers, they're really using the least amount of pesticides they can, because pesticides is money and that's it in the bottom line. Homeowners actually probably overdo, because you hear if a little bits good, a lot is going to be better. You may look at that rate and say, “Well, if it says to use a teaspoon, I want to use a tablespoon.” When you use products in the wrong way, you're doing damage. I think that happens all the time.

I also think that if you're out there spraying like right now, everybody's worried about mosquitoes, because we've had all this water and it's standing and we've got a lot of mosquitoes. Those mosquito companies are really coming in and they're spraying the whole yard. Well, it's not just killing the mosquitoes. We're going to hit our beneficials as well, our bees and butterflies.

I think we have to find what we're comfortable with. I don't think one person can say this is the only way to garden, because gardening is not an exact science. I think you have to do what's comfortable for you, but good for the environment as well.

[0:24:58.2] KM: Number one mistake home gardeners make?

[0:25:00.9] JC: Probably overdoing.

[0:25:02.5] KM: Just what you said.

[0:25:03.8] JC: Yeah. Too much of anything is not good.

[0:25:04.9] KM: I absolutely am guilty of that.

[0:25:07.2] JC: Well and fertilizer. One of my favorite stories, some good friends of my parents, they're long gone, but he retired before his wife did and she had always fertilized the yard. He thought he would surprise her and he found these bags of ammonium nitrate, which no home gardener should ever, ever use. He saw them in the garage and he thought, “I'm going to surprise her.” He took all those bags fertilizer and dumped them on the yard. It looked like it had snowed. Everything died. Plants don't get fat. They burn up. I think, common sense should come in a little bit too. Make sure you have separate sprayers for insecticides and fungicides and herbicides, if you're going to use them.

[0:25:46.6] KM: This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Mrs. Janet Carson, horticulture specialist, Master Gardener, writer of the travel, food, lifestyle and gardening blog, Planit Janet, and now travel guide to beautiful gardens around the world.


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[0:27:18.1] KM: You are listening to Up In your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with Master Gardener and retired Cooperative Extension specialist, Janet Carson, Founder of Planit Janet, TripAdvisor and garden guide agency and blog.

Before the break, we talked about Janet's career. We talked about well, she's a teacher and how good she does educating all of us, how she's retired, but she's not really retired, how she's taking trips, taking people on trips and we gave the information on if you want to contact her to find out about her trip in this fall coming up, or her trips next year. You can look at her, where'd you say? On the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s –

[0:27:55.0] JC: Every week, my e-mail is there. It's jcarson@arkansasonline.com.

[0:27:58.4] KM: You can go to flagandbanner.com and we'll have all her contact info there also. We've got a caller? Oh, hey Nancy. You're on the air. You got a question for Janet?

[0:28:07.6] N: Oh, yes. Thank you so much.

[0:28:09.0] KM: You're welcome.

[0:28:10.1] N: We are working on our garden and I'd read about a plan, maybe it's a tree, I don't know. I'm not a gardener. Called lignum vitae. I just wonder if you know if that will grow. We're actually in South Carolina.

[0:28:27.1] JC: Oh, my goodness. Spell the first part of it.

[0:28:31.0] N: Lignum, L-I-G-N-U-M as in Mary. I've seen it grows in the Caribbean and maybe in the keys down in South Florida, but I know the wood has – was used for centuries in shipbuilding and it's a very strong hearty wood, but the flowering plants are just really, really pretty.

[0:28:55.6] JC: Well, I do not know that plant. I'm trying to think of the Latin. I mean, and I would assume that's the Latin name. They're trying to look it up here to see if they can find it.

[0:29:04.0] N: Tree of life. I think it’s tree of life, which I thought was special. Anyway, just wondered if you know anything about it. I guess I stumped you.

[0:29:12.5] JC: You did. You did.

[0:29:14.4] KM: It’s that pretty purple flowers.

[0:29:15.8] JC: That would not live here.

[0:29:16.2] G: Oh, it’s beautiful.

[0:29:17.2] JC: It is beautiful. Now there's one – it says it's related, Polonia on here. Lignum, it says Florida nursery market. That's not going to work for us.

[0:29:27.5] N: Okay. Okay.

[0:29:29.7] JC: Do you do you have any idea what your zone is where you're living?

[0:29:33.0] N: I should find out. We just recently moved to Charleston.

[0:29:35.9] JC: Well, Charleston is probably going to be an 8 or a 9. We have 8 down in South Arkansas, but the central part of our state is 7. Those plants that are tropical, like Florida, for us they're tropical plants. We can grow them for the summer, but they're not going to over winter. In Charleston, it's going to be a little bit warmer, but it's still not going to be tropical. I would talk with a local nurse in there and see if they even sell the plant.

[0:30:03.4] N: I will do it. I've enjoyed yourself while I'm driving around. Thank you.

[0:30:07.6] JC: Okay.

[0:30:08.9] KM: Thanks for calling, Nancy.

[0:30:09.0] N: Good luck.

[0:30:10.2] KM: You’ve done your stint in your career for 38 years, really solid background. You told me before the show that you didn't get paid extra for any of that stuff that you did. Let's just list some of the stuff you did. You were a KARN radio, ask the expert for 28 years.

[0:30:26.7] JC: Mm-hmm.

[0:30:27.6] KM: You were on channel 4 in the garden. You're on AETN today's garden. You have a weekly column at the Democrat-Gazette and you travel the state doing public speaking and you took people on trips. I thought this was fascinating. I getting ready for the show thought, “Oh, she's making a lot of side money.” You made no side money for that.

[0:30:45.6] JC: We worked for the state. You couldn't. In fact, when I started the radio show back I guess it was 1984 or something, we couldn't take money for anything. I mean, it was for – we couldn't take money for a workshop, for a fact sheet, for anything. Now that changed over time. When I started writing for – I wrote for the Arkansas Times for a while too and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and they paid me. Again, it wasn't a ton of money. It was good money for part of it, but they paid extension the money. It went into programmatic funds.

[0:31:16.5] KM: They didn’t pay you.

[0:31:17.8] JC: They didn't pay me directly. I could use it to support my program.

[0:31:22.2] KM: It went into your funds that you could use to do teaching. Well, I could buy equipment. I could buy things. You could pay for a meal for volunteers. I had a lot of volunteers. When we were starting the Master Gardener program, we didn't have statewide advisory group like they do now. You asked people to give up their time and they're having to travel, so I would try to pay for their hotel rooms and their meals if they were helping me out as an advisory group. The money came in handy and it wasn't lost.

[0:31:50.9] KM: Any advice to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps of teaching and sharing their horticulture knowledge? How would you start today?

[0:31:57.5] JC: Well, I think one of the big – get a degree, first of all. You have to have a degree with Extension.

[0:32:01.8] KM: You have to.

[0:32:02.8] JC: You have to have a bachelor's and they prefer a master's. If you're going to go on to the state level, which is my – they really want a PhD now. I think the main thing is people skills. I think sometimes we get so hung up on them, the teaching of the content manner, which is important of course, but you got to be able to communicate that to all different levels. You're not out there just talking to PhD. We've had speakers that have come on and they've said, “Well, you really need a Cornus Florida.” Well, everybody here knows what a Cornus Florida, right?

[0:32:35.0] KM: No, I have no idea.

[0:32:35.7] JC: It’s a dogwood. That's a very common – in the United States, we do not talk in terms of Latin names. Now you go to England and they do. They don't talk about common names in – I mean, we're talking not a horticulturalist either, just a home gardener they talk about the Latin name. In the United States, they don't. If you have a speaker and they're talking just in Latin words, then it's over the top. You're not teaching anybody anything because they don't understand what you're talking about.

I think you have to be able to write. I think you have to be able to speak and you have to have communication skills. I think that's probably the most important thing to have success in Extension.

[0:33:15.1] KM: I think that's something you have to have for almost a success in anything is to be able to communicate. I think that's why so many of my guests that come on are teachers. Not trained teachers that went to school, but they're able to communicate and tell people what they are doing and build off of that and train people to do stuff around them.

[0:33:30.9] JC: Well, my motto is kindness matters. I think we've lost that today.

[0:33:34.5] KM: Oh, really?

[0:33:36.9] JC: I really think, it doesn't cost you anything to be nice. I think that –

[0:33:41.5] KM: I wish people would read their e-mails before they send them out. If you want to be frustrated and write a dirty e-mail, that's fine, but erase it before you send it.

[0:33:48.8] JC: Well, for years we talked about this in my Sunday School class. When I get mad, which doesn't happen very often, but when I get mad, I write a letter to that person. I don't send it, but I write it. As soon as I get it out, it's like it’s cathartic. Now there are times when I do send something a day or two later, but I have rewritten that letter to a much kinder, gentler tone.

[0:34:13.1] KM: Speaking of that, you’re an author and a prolific writer. You write for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. You said since you've retired, you started writing for AY Magazine?

[0:34:20.5] JC: My first one is coming out, I think this month, July. I've been writing for Arkansas Electric Co-ops Magazine, called Arkansas Living .I think that's a huge readership. Arkansas Gardener Magazine, I still write for – it’s in turmoil right now, I think. I think the owners have some health issues, so I'm not sure what's going on with that.

[0:34:40.2] KM: You have your weekly column at the Democrat-Gazette. Then you have your blog also, but you also have written a book called In the Garden.

[0:34:48.2] JC: I’ve actually written two books.

[0:34:50.2] KM: Oh, okay.

[0:34:50.9] JC: The first book was I think 2010. My second one was 2016 or 17. The first was In the Garden, and it's just a compilation of some of the columns. We tried to pick some of the more common Q&As. Then I used to write every month what to do in the garden. That stopped for a while, but we're doing it again, but a smaller version. I do a Q&A every week for the Democrat-Gazette. Then I also do – the first of the month, we do what's called Breaking Ground. It's what do you do this month in the garden?

[0:35:23.0] KM: Everybody needs that.

[0:35:23.9] JC: Then I do a feature story once a month.

[0:35:25.9] KM: It's hard to keep up with when to prune what and what to do and when to do it. You have a way for people to follow your guide in Arkansas?

[0:35:32.4] JC: Well, you can get the book and it's got every month –

[0:35:34.7] KM: Month-to-month.

[0:35:35.6] JC: It’s month-to-month what to do in the garden. Then the most common question and answers for that one.

[0:35:40.2] KM: Is that the In the Garden 2010, or the 2016 book?

[0:35:42.4] JC: That's the 2010, In the Garden. The 2016 book is similar, but it's geared just to fruits and vegetables.

[0:35:49.0] KM: In the Garden. I need to tell you this, if you go on amazon.com you can buy it for a $176.

[0:35:56.7] JC: You can get it a whole lot cheaper at the Democrat-Gazette.

[0:35:59.9] KM: Is it that typo on amazon.com?

[0:36:01.9] JC: I think it's somebody trying to sell their copy of their book, I guess. I don't know.

[0:36:05.7] KM: No. $176 for a paperback?

[0:36:10.3] JC: That's pretty funny. No, but you can them from the Democrat-Gazette.

[0:36:13.6] KM: Thank you.

[0:36:14.5] JC: They have a Democrat-Gazette bookstore that you can go on and they have them there. I know that some bookstores in town do carry them. I know that historic Arkansas Museum, the gift store down there, they have the book, both of them. Wordsworth used to, I'm not sure if they still do. That the crown shop in Little Rock used to have it. You can get it. In fact, they can tell you where they do have them.

[0:36:38.3] KM: Okay, good. I will put a link. We will do the research and we'll put a link on Arkansas Flag and Banner’s page too, so that people can find out where to get them. Now you're an entrepreneur. Oh, before we move on to your entrepreneurship, which is your blog and your traveling, which we've been really talking about all day, are you doing a mystery plant of the day on your blog?

[0:36:59.2] JC: No. I used to. I did that for about two years.

[0:37:03.2] KM: I thought that was a clever idea.

[0:37:05.2] JC: I could start it back up again. I'll do it on Facebook though. See, the blog has changed. I started blogging I think back in 2003 or 4. I started blogging with WordPress through Extension. We did it, because we went on these trips. People would like to know what's happening. I would take a laptop with me and I would send pictures and I would try to take pictures of as many different people that were with us, so their families could follow along and feel they were on the trip.

Then I just got into it. When I retired, they're still doing that blog, Extension, because it's about anything that's happening in the state with horticulture. I decided I didn't want to quit blogging. My new blog, which is Planit Janet, and I tried the planet, but that was already taken. Then plan –

[0:37:50.8] KM: Like the moon.

[0:37:52.0] JC: - it Janet. I mean, they were very taken. Anyway, so that's what it is. It's not just gardening. I do a lot of gardening obviously, but I talk about I'm in a book club, I read a lot, we talk about what books I like and we talk about I cook a lot, what foods I like to cook and I'll share a recipe. Then we have etcetera on there. Then we entertain a lot. Travel, all of that's on the blog.

[0:38:16.7] KM: There are three great horticulture – this word is messes me up.

[0:38:22.4] JC: It hurts a lot of people.

[0:38:24.1] KM: It’s horticulturists in the state of Arkansas. There's Peone Smith, there's Janet Carson, you, and then there's Olsen.

[0:38:31.6] JC: Chris Olsen.

[0:38:32.2] KM: Chris Olsen.

[0:38:32.7] JC: There's a lot of – there's not just the three of us. There's a lot of great horticulturists.

[0:38:36.3] KM: Those are three pretty famous nationally famous people right here in Arkansas. Are you competitive?

[0:38:42.3] JC: I'm competitive in a lot of things, but I don't compete with Chris or Alan, either one, as far as everybody has their own thing. I was government. I was Extension and I wasn't trying to go national. I'm still not trying to go national. I mean, I was on national committees and national boards. I think, Arkansas Master Gardeners are known nationally, because we've held two international events. I would say they were two very successful Master Gardener events. They have their own venue.

In fact, my least favorite thing which both of them love is TV. I hate TV. I mean, I've done it for a long, long time, but you spend a lot of time doing even a 30-minute segment. Then if you're not watching it at that minute – now today it's a whole lot different than it was when I started TV. My very first TV gig was Four Your Garden. Do you remember all the four years for channel 4? There was Four Your Money, Four Your Health. I was Janet Carson, Janet Biermann Carson Four Your Garden. I mean, it was a 30-minute – I mean, a 30-second segment every Saturday at the 6:00 news. We spent a half a day. I'd have to find the location, do the spot, go back and do the voice-over. Then they would edit it. Back then, if you didn't see it, you didn't see it.

[0:39:57.2] KM: You missed it.

[0:39:57.8] JC: Now, they can at least capture them and you can go back to the site and you could re-watch it. Back then, you couldn't. It was a lot of work for a small segment, I thought.

[0:40:09.8] KM: How far do you want your entrepreneurship with Planit – let me spell that for everybody. P-L-A-N, Planit, I-T Janet, and condense it. Planit Janet. Is it .com?

[0:40:20.9] JC: Well, if you do Planit – I just found this out last night. If you do planitjanet.com on the internet, it directs you to the Democrat-Gazette site for Planit Janet, and then you can see the headings of about and you can sign up to get the e-mails. Now it's not my old blog where if you sign up, every time I do a blog post it e-mails you immediately. This comes out once a week. On Mondays, that a newsletter comes out from me and it'll have all the blog posts from that week. It'll also have my column for that week that was in the Saturday paper if I did a feature story.

Now if you're not a subscriber to the Democrat-Gazette, you can't read the columns. I mean, you can just see the headlines. It doesn't matter if you're a subscriber or not for the blogs; you can read them in their entirety. There are ads in them, so it's not like my old WordPress blog. It's different.

[0:41:11.3] KM: What should everybody be doing right now? We should all be – it's just rain like crazy.

[0:41:17.2] JC: Well, but I had to water. I found out, I had my sprinkler system redone this spring before I was leaving town, but we didn't have to use it. Well, I had my son help me till a new bed. I turned the sprinkler on and we must have hit the line underneath there. One section is not working, but I have a few plants in full sun and my pots, of course I'm having to water. Watch for pests. Insects are starting to come in. Harvest your vegetables as they ripen. If you have not pruned anything that blooms in the spring, so we're talking azalea’s –

[0:41:49.5] KM: It’s too late, isn’t it?

[0:41:51.1] JC: No, you can still do it, but you got to do it this week. I say the cutoff is about the 15th or the middle of June, because all of those plants set their flower buds in August, September and October.

[0:42:01.7] KM: I think everybody prunes wrong.

[0:42:03.5] JC: Oh, and pruning is – if you said, I would I have a talk on pruning, or I'm going to have a talk on flowers, everybody's going to go to the flowers, but everybody needs the pruning.

[0:42:11.8] KM: Because they prune the flowers away.

[0:42:13.4] JC: Well, if you prune it the wrong time, you're usually not going to kill the plant, but you might lose the reason you planted it, the flowers.

[0:42:19.5] KM: You might lose the reason you planted it. Husband, Grady, are you listening now? Because he always wants to prune when it's starting to really grow and get really big. He goes to gut them and pruning it. I’m like, “It's doing its thing right now. You can't prune now.”

[0:42:33.1] JC: Well, he could have been one of my callers. Years ago, this gentleman called on the radio show and he said, “Janet, my wife’s favorite flowers are hydrangeas.” He said, “For her birthday, or anniversary, or something years ago, I planted a whole row of them.” He said, “They have never bloomed.” He said, “All the neighbors bloom, but ours don’t.” He said, “If you can’t tell me how to make them bloom, I'm taking them out.” I said, “When do you prune them?” He said, “I cut those dead sticks to the ground every winter.” “Well, they have the flowers already in them.” I said, “Don't prune them this year and you'll have flowers.”

[0:43:06.0] KM: When do you prune them?

[0:43:07.3] JC: Well, if they need it, you do it as the flowers start to fade. Right now, my pink and blue ones are blooming. As they start to fade, if they're too large, you take out older canes at the soil line. You don't give them a haircut, because they have multiple stems coming from the ground. It's not one trunk that supports the whole thing.

[0:43:26.3] KM: Don't you think that's a good rule for everything that blooms? Trim it as they start to fade. If you always do that, won't you be safe? If you turn the Azalea, that would be safe?

[0:43:36.0] JC: Well no, because hydrangeas and gardenias are the exception to the rule. Even in the realm of hydrangeas, we're talking about only the big leaf hydrangeas, which are the pink and blue ones, or the oak leaf hydrangeas. Oak leaf hydrangeas, big leaf and gardenias bloom in the summer, but they turn around and set flower buds in the fall. Crape myrtles, roses, Rose of Sharon, all those summer bloomers, they typically bloom on the new growth. We can prune all of those in February before they start growing.

[0:44:06.2] KM: You could safely prune everything.

[0:44:09.7] JC: I wouldn't recommend pruning crape myrtles and roses and all of that in the fall as their flowers are fading at the end of the season. The reason for that is they can have winter damage. If you prune them as much as you need to –

[0:44:23.9] KM: You might shock them.

[0:44:24.3] JC: Well, not that, but you've exposed them. Let's say we have a really cold winter, you've taken their buffer off. There's nothing to protect them. You could lose the plants to the ground.

[0:44:34.8] KM: Should you rake your leaves in the winter? In the fall? Or they protect everything?

[0:44:39.2] JC: Now it depends. If you have a lot of oak trees and they're big leaves and you don't rake, it's going to smother what's underneath it. It actually forms such a dense mat that it doesn't allow oxygen in well, keeps water out. That's not good for it. Now I tend to use my mower and rake to just mow and crush them up. As long as you can still see grass, or you can still see through them, it's fine.

[0:45:04.6] KM: Mulch your leaves is the best option.

[0:45:06.1] JC: Yes. If you have huge, heavy old leaves and you put them out there over your perennials, or – you're going to kill them.

[0:45:12.3] KM: Then in the summer, you have to go and rake those out, right?

[0:45:16.0] JC: Well, what I do is I have a leaf sucker upper thing. It sucks the leaves up and it turns it into mulch. Then I can put that right back as mulch.

[0:45:23.3] KM: In the summer, when it's time for your grass and everything to start growing –

[0:45:27.5] JC: Now not on grass. I don't mulch my lawn, but I do mulch my vegetables, I mulch my flowers, my shrubs. That's one of the best things you can do in Arkansas. It cuts down on how often you have to water, because it retains moisture, it modifies that soil temperature and it helps to keep the weeds at bay.

[0:45:45.2] KM: Don't let your oak leaves bunch up around your bushes necessarily, which is what I do.

[0:45:51.0] JC: Well, big trees and shrubs, it's not going to be a huge issue. If you have a heavy layer, it's going to be tougher to get water through. I have a fig tree in a pot and it's got a layer of leaves in there. I'm having a hard time getting the water through. I mean, so I'm pulling them back up and shred them up.

[0:46:05.9] KM: Everybody has got to get on and read In the Garden 2010, Janet, so that they can figure out exactly when to do everything, because we could talk forever about this. I have enjoyed having you so much.

[0:46:16.1] JC: It's been fun. It's going live. Best.

[0:46:18.3] KM: I know. I hope you'll come back. Look, a garden banner. With the state of Arkansas on it.

[0:46:22.3] JC: Oh, wonderful. I love it. Thank you so very much.

[0:46:26.6] KM: You are so very welcome.

[0:46:28.0] JC: I keep a flag out in my garden all the time. I'll change it today.

[0:46:30.5] KM: There you go. It's got the state of Arkansas on it. I want to say thank you to all of our listeners for spending time with us. Thank you again, Janet.

[0:46:37.2] JC: It was fun.

[0:46:37.7] KM: I really enjoyed it. Thank you. We hope our listeners have heard or learned something that's been inspiring, or that it's been – or enlightening. That it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence, or your life. I'm Kerry McCoy and I'll see you next time on Up In your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.


[0:46:56.1] G: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today’s show, go to flagandbanner.com, select Radio Show and choose today’s guest.

All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Subscribe to podcasts wherever you like to listen. Kerry’s goal, to help you live the American dream.


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