Hail wail – I knew I should have done more to protect my plants before the onslaught Wednesday night. But I wanted the poor thirsties to get some nice rainwater on them. I went out with an umbrella to shove some pots under the eaves when the hail started, and dragged some more to relative cover between storms, but I share the overall depression of gardeners who had downed limbs, holey leaves, dropped apples and smashed blossoms as a result of the storms.
Give plants a little time to show how much they plan to perk back up and then assess the damage. Leaving damaged leaves on a plant is best for its health because the leaves conduct photosynthesis that helps the plant recover. But ripped leaves are also counterproductive if the plant’s purpose is beauty. New leaves will grow back. If stems are damaged, that will be more of a problem. Watch plants for a while, and if they don’t bounce back as they should, replace them.
As leaves dry up in the lawn, you can mow them as in the fall – after, of course, picking up all the little twigs that are probably there too.
Fertilize flowers – Four to six weeks after annuals have been set out, fertilize them with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, Ward Upham of K-State recommends. You can keep repeating this every four to six weeks in irrigated beds or in rainy periods, he says.
Plant a Row for the Hungry – and in memory of Kae – The Wichita gardening community lost a gem this week with the death of Kae Bowles. She was the horticulture secretary at the Extension office and she coordinated the local Plant a Row for the Hungry program. You may have taken a garden or composting class from her over the years.
Plant a Row for the Hungry continues this year, though without Kae. You can leave fresh vegetables and fruits at any of the following locations during business hours for the Kansas Food Bank: Kansas Food Bank, 1919 E. Douglas; Augusta Ace Home Center, 316 W. 7th Ave., Augusta; Brady Nursery, 11200 W. Kellogg; Hillside Nursery, 2200 S. Hillside; Hillside Feed and Seed, 1805 S. Hillside; Johnson’s Garden Centers, 802 N. Ridge Road, 21st and Woodlawn, and 2707 W. 13th St.; and Valley Feed & Seed, 1903 S. Meridian.
Dethatch – Plan to dethatch Bermuda or zoysia lawns that need it in June or July. If thatch is less than 1/2 inch thick, don’t worry about it. Buffalo grass usually doesn’t need to be dethatched.
“Thatch is best kept in check by power-raking and/or core-aerating,” Upham of K-State says. “If thatch is more than 3/4 inch thick, the lawn should be power-raked. Set the blades just deep enough to pull out the thatch. The lawn can be severely damaged by power-raking too deeply. In some cases, it may be easier to use a sod cutter to remove the existing sod and start over with seed, sprigs or plugs.
“If thatch is between 1/2 and 3/4 inch thick, core-aeration is a better choice. The soil-moisture level is important to do a good job of core-aerating. It should be neither too wet nor too dry, and the soil should crumble fairly easily when worked between your fingers. Go over the lawn enough times so that the aeration holes are about 2 inches apart.
“Excessive thatch accumulation can be prevented by not over-fertilizing with nitrogen. Frequent, light watering also encourages thatch.
"Water only when needed, and attempt to wet the entire root zone of the turf with each irrigation.
“Finally, where thatch is excessive, control should be viewed as a long-term, integrated process (i.e., to include proper mowing, watering, and fertilizing) rather than a one-shot cure. One power-raking or core-aeration will seldom solve the problem.”
Grasshoppers abroad – Keep an eye out for hatching grasshoppers and go after them while they’re small. K-State lists these insecticides that are labeled for the greatest variety of crops: permethrin (numerous trade names), carbaryl (Sevin), lambda-cyhalothrin (Bonide Beetle Killer) and gamma-cyhalothrin (Spectracide Triazicide).
Get your blueberries – The crop is early at Chautauqua Hills Farm, 1 1/2 hours southeast of Wichita near Sedan. You can arrange to pick your own or pick them up in Wichita.
Button discount at Botanica – Botanica doesn’t have the garden party that it used to during the River Festival, but admission to the gardens is discounted $2 during the festival, June 1 to 9, if you have a festival button. Tuesdays on the Terrace also starts for the season next Tuesday at Botanica, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays.
Local-foods talk – Natalie Fullerton of Our Local Food will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about the region’s local food network. The lunchtime lecture, at 12:15 p.m., is included in Botanica admission.