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Gardener’s almanac (Sept. 15)

  • Published Saturday, Sep. 15, 2012, at 8:10 a.m.

Get perennials in the ground – It is finally mid-September, a goal for getting potted perennials, including roses and mums, in the ground so they can get their roots established before the cold weather sets in. Forecasted rain could set us back, but once the soil dries sufficiently, it’s time to do this task.

In a similar vein, don’t do heavy pruning now, to avoid stimulating new growth that may freeze in the cold. Don’t deadhead roses or other perennial flowers, to let the plants know it’s time to stop growing for the season.

Also plant – Shrubs, trees, fescue grass seed, lettuce, spinach, turnips.

Rain can equal tree problems – No matter which way the weather goes, it seems that trees can’t win. In heavy rains where the water does not drain quickly enough, stressed trees can die for lack of oxygen, Ward Upham of K-State says.

The return of moisture can also lead to a growth spurt that can cause bark to crack on trunks and branches, he says. Maples have been particularly susceptible. What helps to speed closure is not paint but removal of bark no longer attached to the tree, Upham says. “Use a sharp knife to trace ½ to 1 inch back from the edge of the split bark all the way around the wound (if possible). Remove the ½- to 1-inch-wide bark strip from the edge of the wound.” Sterilize the knife with a 10 percent bleach/water solution or with a 70 percent alcohol solution between cuts. Leave the underlying wood bare, Upham says. “Fertilization in the spring or in the fall after leaf drop and watering during dry weather may speed healing.”

Sweet potato harvest – Here are words from Upham that inspire thoughts of fall: “Sweet potatoes should be harvested no later than the first fall freeze because cold temperatures can damage the sensitive roots.” But the sweet potatoes can be harvested earlier; you’ll just have smaller potatoes. Dig a hill to see if they’re the size you want, Upham says.

Once they’re dug, the sweet potatoes should be cured to heal any wounds in the tender skin. “Place the roots in a warm, humid location for five to 10 days immediately after digging,” Upham says. “A location with a temperature around 85 to 90 degrees is ideal. A space heater can be used to heat a small room or other area. Raise the humidity by placing moist towels in the room. The curing process not only heals wounds but also helps convert starches to sugars. This process improves the texture and flavor of the roots. Sweet potatoes should be stored above 55 degrees. Storage at temperatures below that injures the roots, shortens storage life and gives them an off flavor.”

Garden events

Tuesdays on the Terrace winding down – The season is winding down for these summer Tuesday events at Botanica, so get them while you can. This Tuesday, there will be Mums and Merlot, and music by Nikki Moddelmog. Drinks and barbecue will be for sale at the event, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Botanica’s terrace. Included in Botanica admission.

Plants for Wacky Weather talk – Extension agent Bob Neier will be at Botanica on Wednesday Sept. 19 to talk about choosing plants adapted to wacky weather. The lunchtime lecture, at 12:15, is included in Botanica admission.

Bird and butterfly walks at Botanica – You can walk Botanica looking for birds at 9 a.m. Tuesday and butterflies at 9 a.m. Thursday. The hourlong walks are included in admission.

Monarch public tagging days – Botanica will offer the public the opportunity to tag monarch butterflies at 6 p.m. Tuesday and Sept. 25. Included in Botanica admission.

Iris club meeting – The Wichita Area Iris club will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Botanica for a covered-dish dinner. Members and guests are asked to bring a dish to share. This will be the last meeting of the year, and the program will be a presentation of show awards and elections.

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