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Gardener’s almanac (Aug. 31)

  • Published Friday, August 30, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Browning lawns — You may notice that your lawn has browned a bit from drought stress if you haven’t been watering, or from brown patch if you have.

“We are in the ideal brown patch conditions if you’re irrigating especially excessively,” extension agent Rebecca McMahon says of fescue.

On the other hand, if you haven’t watered since the rains stopped, the heat and dry conditions may have browned the lawn.

In warm-season lawns, “I’ve noticed Bermuda has really slowed down on the growth ... so they’re going to be starting their natural dormancy process fairly shortly if they haven’t already,” McMahon says. “From that standpoint, let them go dormant; that’s normally what we do this time of year.”

But with fescue lawns, we’re going into the time of the year when they’re most actively growing. If you plan to overseed, fertilize or core-aerate fescue, don’t let the lawn go dormant, McMahon says. The most important time of year to fertilize fescue is September, followed by November.

Plant — Lettuce, radishes, spinach, turnips.

Spots on ash leaves — A wet summer often produces an outbreak of Mycosphaerella leaf spot on ash trees, Ward Upham of K-State says. It displays itself in small brown spots that can grow to blotches and can cause a tree to drop its leaves early, Upham says. It may look bad, but it does not hurt a tree, he says. Leaf drop this late in the season is not harmful.

Picking pears — Pears are one fruit that should not be left on the tree to ripen, Upham says. He gives these ways for telling when you should pick them:

• The fruit background color changes from dark green to light green or yellowish green.

• The fruit parts easily from the branch when it is lifted up and twisted.

• The lenticels or breathing pores of the fruit, which start out white to greenish white, appear as brown specks on the fruit as it nears maturity.

• A pear aroma develops, along with pear taste of sampled fruit.

Pears ripen one to three weeks if stored at 60 to 65 degrees and can then be canned or preserved. If you want to store pears for ripening later, place fresh-picked fruit in cold storage at 29 to 31 degrees and 90 percent humidity. Ripen small amounts as needed by moving them to a place where it’s 60 to 65 degrees. Storing at 75 degrees and higher will cause the fruit to break down without ripening, Upham says.

Fertilize strawberries — Fertilize strawberries now with nitrogen. Then sprinkle with at least half an inch of water, Upham says.

Harlequin bugs — Harlequin bugs, orange and black insects in the shape of a shield, are out in force and can be harming vegetable gardens, entomologist Raymond Cloyd of K-State says. They prefer cole crops such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kohlrabi but will move on to asparagus, beans, eggplant, okra, radishes, potatoes, and tomatoes if necessary. They can stunt plants, distort leaves and cause yellow to brown spots on leaves, Cloyd says. Adults and nymphs can be picked off by hand (wear gloves) and then placed in a container of soapy water, he says. Removing weeds will also help. You can trap harlequin bugs by placing old turnip or cabbage leaves on the ground; the bugs will congregate underneath, and you can then destroy leaves and bugs the next day, Cloyd says. Insecticides labeled for both type of bug and vegetable can be used, but are more effective on the nymphs than on the adults, he says.

Garden events

Project Beauty membership tea — If you’re interested in helping beautify Wichita, you might be interested in Project Beauty. The non-profit organization will have a tea for potential members at 1 p.m. Sept. 19 at Botanica. There will be music, a fashion show and light refreshments. Admission is free, and no reservation is required.

Vincas and vodka sours — That’s the theme of Tuesdays on the Terrace from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Botanica. Nikki Moddelmog will provide the live music, and drinks and dinner will be for sale. The gardens are open until 8 p.m. Admission is $7, or $3 for Botanica members.

“Famous Fossil Insects of Kansas and Oklahoma” — Roy Beckmeyer of the University of Kansas Natural History Museum will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about ancient insects whose remains have been found in a rock deposit that stretches from Dickinson County in Kansas through Noble County in Oklahoma. His lunchtime lecture, at 12:15, is included in Botanica admission.

Rose trip to Tulsa — The Wichita Rose Society has a few spots available for a day trip it’s taking to Tulsa on Sept. 15. The group will visit a trial garden of David Austin roses that was visited by David Austin Jr. in the spring and the Tulsa Municipal Rose Garden, whose 3,000 roses have been pruned and fertilized to bloom in September. The cost is for $46. Reserve a spot by Thursday by contacting Diana Jones at 316-644-6029.

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