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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New map, garden grants announced

By Annie Calovich
The Wichita Eagle

I can’t remember a newsier January in the garden world, with headlines being made on the global, national and state level. Here are a few of them:

•  The international requirement that Latin be used in the naming of new plants is dropped.

•  The U.S. plant-hardiness-zone map is updated, making most locales half a zone warmer.

•  The Kansas Health Foundation announces $300,000 in grants to get 60 new community gardens going in Kansas in the next three years.

Zoning in

Wichita is among many areas of the United States that became a zone warmer on the new plant hardiness map released by the USDA this week.

The map reflects the average low temperatures measured at 8,000 weather stations during the 30 years between 1976 and 2005. It replaces a 1990 map that had averaged low temperatures for the 13 years between 1974 and 1986. The new map is much more sophisticated than the old map, factoring in land masses such as mountains and bodies of water that affect temperatures, so it can’t be compared exactly to the old map, the USDA says. It also includes many more islands of heat or cold within broader zones.

Gardeners most often see the zone designations when buying plants. Plants at garden centers generally are marked with tags that give the range of zones in which they are hardy. Wichita stays in Zone 6 but moves from Zone 6a (average lows of 10 below zero to 5 below zero) to Zone 6b (average lows of 5 below zero to zero).

The map is interactive and can be found at the website planthardiness.ars.usda.gov.

Pertinent points to remember about the hardiness-zone map: Plants that did well in your yard yesterday will still do well today; the map is only a guide and does not mean that temperatures will not drop lower than the zone’s average low (Wichita has only to remember the 17 below of last February); the map does not take into account high temperatures, rainfall or other meteorological characteristics of a particular region.

Given all that, do you think you may branch out to more warmer-winter plants since our zone has changed, or are you gun-shy given the temperature extremes we’ve experienced lately?

Let’s garden together

The Kansas Health Foundation is hoping to encourage the development of community gardens in Kansas by offering $300,000 in start-up grants to 60 gardens in the next three years, it was announced this week.

Organizers of new gardens or ones that are less than 3 years old will be able to apply for grants of as much as $5,000 each under the Kansas Community Gardens Project, to be administered by K-State Research and Extension. Twenty grants will be given each year for three years.

The project’s aim is to increase public interest in community gardening and to encourage the growing of fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables, said Evelyn Neier of Wichita, who will be the project’s coordinator.

“Some parts of the state don’t have the availability of grocery stores or ones that carry fresh fruits and vegetables,” Evelyn said. The health foundation wants people to have access to such food wherever possible, she said.

Community gardens can take different forms, she said. The most familiar is a person renting a plot in a garden to grow food for his own household. But “we’re seeing more interest in communal gardens where people garden together and share the produce, or charity gardens where people garden together for a soup kitchen or a food pantry,” Evelyn said.

She said the grants are “a great opportunity for organizations that have wanted to start a garden but haven’t been able to get over the hump of not having funds to do projects such as run a water line or even dig a well or that need equipment or tools or seeds and plants.”

Sixty new gardens would make “a huge impact on Kansas,” she said. Older gardens will be able to apply for grants of as much as $2,500 if money is available.

Evelyn offered three workshops on community gardens last year and says the interest is increasing not just in them but in gardening in general. People like to eat food that’s grown closer to home and that they know is safe, she said, and gardening stretches the food budget. Plus “a lot of people have been inspired by the Food Network and foodies and want to be able to grow what they can’t get in the grocery store” and that has that unbeatable fresh taste, Evelyn said

Gardens for which grants are requested must be nonprofit and on land accessible to the public, among other requirements. Grant recipients will be required to keep records and submit an annual report. The project also is encouraging gardens to collaborate with programs that help feed the needy.

Grant applications are due by March 1 for this year’s grants. Grant winners will be notified by April 1. For more information or to apply, go to the website www.kansascommunitygardens.org or contact Evelyn at 785-410-3760 or eneier@ksu.edu.

The Sedgwick County Extension Master Gardeners also are sponsoring a Community Garden Grant for a second year for new or established community gardens in the county. The grant will provide tools, seeds, plants, irrigation equipment, raised beds or soil improvement materials worth $100 to $250 per garden. The application for those grants is 5 p.m. March 9. The application is available at the Extension Center at 21st and Ridge Road or online at sedgwick.ksu.edu.

You say lilac, I say syringa

I have to admit to being a little sad about the loss of botanical Latin. Plants that already have Latin names will keep them, but botanists will not be required to use Latin in the naming of new plants. Their only other option, English, will probably be used by most, according to a story last week in the Washington Post.

I hope to write more about this soon, unless other garden news breaks. What a great winter.

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com.

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