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Gardener’s almanac (May 4)

  • Published Saturday, May 4, 2013, at 7:29 a.m.
  • Updated Saturday, May 4, 2013, at 7:34 a.m.

Keep on rolling – Gardeners are starting to ask whether there’s ever been a crazier spring. Considering the crazy springs (and summers and falls and winters) we’ve had, that’s saying something. But I think after sweating one April afternoon and witnessing snow one May afternoon, both in the same week, we may be there.

Plant – Collards, chard, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, pumpkins, sweet corn, beets.

More Swiss chard advice – After I wrote about Swiss chard last week, Judy Young e-mailed with more tips for growing and preparing it:

• Use office scissors kept only for food use (much sharper) to cut chard – stem and leaf, all at once. “Roll the leaves, start with the stem and simply snip away directly into your skillet or saucepan with butter or olive oil,” Judy emailed. She and others have said they have grown or will grow their chard in pots and window boxes.

• “As my friend says, leave the large outer leaves attached to the plant to gather nutrients from the sun and soil,” Judy writes. “... Leaving the outer leaves attached allows the plant to thrive and continue to produce more ... Leave the small center leaves for the next harvest and remove only the middle layer of leaves (8 to 12 inches). You can harvest every few days, as it grows quickly. Be sure to share with family and friends. Three plants will produce a paper grocery bag full every couple of days.”

• “Place the harvested leaves in the sink with cold water. Swish around like delicate laundry. Gently shake off excess water and place in a glass or vase to form a pretty centerpiece for your table or countertop. The leaves will naturally drip-dry and will soak up the water from the stems up, giving you a gloriously beautiful fresh living arrangement.

“You can use off this bouquet for one to two days. Change the water and trim 1/2 inch off the stem ends each day. When they begin to wane, place in a zip bag with paper towels between both sides of the bag and the highly nutritious leaves.” Change the paper towels every day or every other day.

Rhubarb seedstalks – Large, hollow-stemmed seedstalks will in some years arise from the center of rhubarb plants, Ward Upham of K-State says. They should be removed by breaking them or cutting them out so they don’t sap energy from the plant. “It will take several weeks for all the seedstalks to appear, so be vigilant in removing them,” Upham says. “Newer varieties of rhubarb are selected for vigor, bright red-colored stalks and less of a tendency to produce seedstalks than the older types.”

Fruit sprays – One to two inches of rain will reduce by half the residue of fungicides and insecticides on fruit trees, Upham says. So you should reduce the number of days until the next spray half, he instructs. More than two inches of rain will remove most of the spray residue, he says, meaning that you should re-spray as soon as you can. A spreader sticker should be used when using fruit-tree sprays, but even then, these calculations apply, Upham says.

Garden events

Beekeeping talk – Local beekeper Richard Abel will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about the hobby of beekeeping. His lunchtime lecture, at 12:15, is included in Botanica admission.

Fairy-tale exhibit at Botanica – An interactive exhibit based on fairy tales will start a two-month run at Botanica on May 11. Once Upon a Time will be adjacent to the Downing Children’s Garden and feature displays depicting six fairy tales. The exhibit will cost $5 for ages 3 and up in addition to admission to Botanica, which is $7 for adults and $5 for children ages 3 to 12.

There will be an opening night event Thursday. The cost will be $10 and include admission to the exhibit, an outdoor viewing of “The Princess Bride,” a scavenger hunt for children based on the movie, and pizza, frozen custard and popcorn. Reservations are required; call 316-264-0448.

The exhibit will run through July 7. On Saturdays during its run, activities such as live performances, storytelling, puppet shows and art projects will take place in the children’s garden from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

African violet meeting and orchid tour – The Wichita African Violet Study Club will meet at Patty’s Plants & Antiques at 920 Millington in Winfield at 11:30 a.m. Friday. The club will eat lunch at Patty’s, and then Max Thompson will give a tour of the orchid greenhouses at Southwestern College in Winfield at 1 p.m. Visitors are welcome.

May luncheon – Wayne Bryan of Music Theatre of Wichita will speak at Project Beauty’s luncheon on May 16 at Double Tree Airport Hilton, 2098 Airport Road. The program will also include beautification awards and installation of officers for 2013-14. The luncheon, Project Beauty’s last event until September, will start at 12:30 p.m., and the cost of lunch is $17. Make a reservation by calling June at 316-744-0792 by May 11.

Tulip bulb sale – Botanica is selling its tulip bulbs as they stop blooming and are dug out of the garden. They’ll be for sale every Friday starting at 8 a.m. until they’re gone. Bulbs are 15 cents each.

Fundamental Learning Center’s Garden Party and plant sale – The Fundamental Learning Center will raise money for scholarships for those struggling with dyslexia at its annual garden party and plant sale at Botanica. The garden party will be from 6 to 10:30 p.m. May 10 and will include dinner, entertainment by the Fabulous Shirtheads, a silent auction, a sale of pots painted by the center’s students, and a sale of a variety of plants. Tickets are $75. Call 316-684-7323; tickets also will be available at the door.

A plant sale of hanging baskets from Neosho Gardens will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Mother’s Day, May 12, at Botanica.

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