Lilies on steroids – Cheryl Nordstedt of Valley Center this week sent me photos of lilies in her yard coming close to reaching her 5-foot-8 height. “These were just regular-sized lilies in the beginning,” Cheryl e-mailed me. “Two years ago I noted that they were getting very tall. This year they are extraordinarily tall. Other lilies a few feet away in the same bed have stayed their regular lily-size. I think someone must be slipping steroids to these.” I asked if they’d planted atop an old compost pile, but she said, “The lilies are planted on nothing but gunky old clay – and whatever I’ve done in the last few years to amend it.” Steroids it must be.
Send us your garden photos – We’d love to see photos of your garden this spring and summer (and summer officially starts Wednesday). Do you have a favorite combination of flowers in a pot, a cute fence for your vegetable garden, a new way to trellis the cucumbers? Upload your photos at www.kansas.com/upload along with a brief description of what is pictured. See photos in a gallery on Kansas.com.
Tomato fertilizing – I’ve always heard that tomatoes are to be fertilized only until the first tomatoes reach the size of walnuts. But Ward Upham of K-State says this week that the plants should be fertilized before planting and then sidedressed with nitrogen fertilizer three times during the season.
The first sidedressing should go down one to two weeks before the first tomato ripens, he says. The second should be applied two weeks after the first tomato ripens. Then plants should be fertilized one month later.
A plant that is all lush leafy growth and no tomatoes is getting too much nitrogen, however. We don’t want that.
Nitrogen-only fertilizers include nitrate of soda, urea and ammonium sulfate. Blood meal is an organic fertilizer that contains primarily, but not exclusively, nitrogen, Upham says.
You can also use instead a lawn fertilizer that is about 30 percent nitrogen (nitrogen is the first number in the set of three) and apply it at the rate of 1/3 pound (3/4 cup) per 30 feet of row, Upham says. Do not use a fertilizer that contains a weed killer or weed preventer.
Rapid onions – Onions grow and develop rapidly this time of year, Upham says. Regular watering as needed and a light fertilization will maximize growth, he says. As onions develop, it’s normal to see as much as 2/3 of the bulb out of the soil, he says. Onions are close to harvest time when the tops start to fall over. “You may wish to break over the tops that haven’t fallen to encourage drying of the neck,” Upham says. “Allow a few days to pass and then dig the onions to insure they don’t sunburn. Temporarily store them in a dry, well-ventilated area for a week or two before cutting the tops to insure the necks are completely dry. Remove the foliage (or braid the leaves) and store in a cool, dry location.”
Blister beetles can blister – Blister beetles not only can quickly strip vegetables, especially tomatoes, of their foliage, they can also blister people who try to pick them off, Upham says. Blister beetles can be of various sizes (usually 1/2 to 3/4 inch long) and color (such as black, gray or brown-striped), but most are recognized by their elongated, narrow, cylindrical, soft bodies with middle body part (thorax) narrower than the head or wingcovers, Upham says.
Use caution when picking them off, because these beetles contain a chemical that can cause large, watery blisters. If you want to go the route of chemically removing them, you can use cyfluthrin (PowerForce Multi-Insect Killer) or gamma- or lambda-cyhalothrin (Spectracide Triazicide, Bonide Beetle Killer, Bonide Caterpillar Killer), Upham says. Cyfluthrin requires no waiting period between application and harvest, and lambda-cyhalothrin has a five-day waiting period.
Plant – Pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tomatoes.
Get your blackberries too – Blackberries as well as blueberries are ripe for the picking at Chautauqua Hills Farm, 1 1/2 hours southeast of Wichita near Sedan, and they will be through late June. You can arrange to pick your own by online reservation, or arrange to pick them up at Food for Thought in Wichita. Do both at the website at www.chautauquahillsfarm.com.
Floral design classes – All Things Floral at Clifton Square is offering eight basic floral-design workshops this summer. The workshops will be Tuesdays and Thursdays from June 26 to July 26, at 2 p.m. or 6 p.m. The cost of each session is $25, and all sessions are required. After the first eight weeks, another workshop will be offered for those interested in becoming florists. To reserve a spot call 316-683-7673 by Friday.
Iris meeting – The Wichita Area Iris Club will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at Botanica. The program will be about iris blooms, the sale on July 28 and 29, and a schedule for the regional meeting next year. The public is invited, and the meeting is free.
Birding at Botanica – Take a one-hour walk through Botanica looking at the birds at 9 a.m. Tuesday; included in Botanica admission.
Landscape design talk – Dennis Strole of Johnson’s Legacy Landscapes will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about landscape design for your home. The lunchtime lecture, at 12:15, is included in Botanica admission.