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Gardener’s almanac (Oct. 5)

  • Published Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes — We’re experiencing a cooling trend this week as October and fall unfold. The chilly weather forecast for tonight should be perfect for the campfire, music and refreshments at Scenic Landscapes’ twilight tour (see details under Garden Events below).

Last farmers markets of the season — Get it while you still can. The Old Town Farmers Market will be open for two more Saturdays, ending on Oct. 12. Hours are 8 a.m. to noon. Kansas Grown will have its last markets the week of Oct. 21, with the last Saturday market on Oct. 26.

Late-season tomatoes — Now that it’s getting colder, Ward Upham of K-State has instructions on when to pick your remaining tomatoes. They can stay on the vine until they either mature or a frost is forecast. As long as tomatoes have a white, star-shaped zone on the bottom end of the green fruit, they will ripen off the vine. It’s always worth picking them ahead of a frost anyway.

When you pick the last of the crop, separate the tomatoes into three groups for storage: those that are mostly red, those that are just starting to turn, and those that are still green, Upham says. Don’t keep tomatoes that have defects such as rot or breaks in the skin. Place the tomatoes on cardboard trays or cartons, using newspaper to separate fruit if you stack them. The paper helps contain any juice that may ooze out. Store groups of tomatoes at as close to 55 degrees as possible until you need them, Upham says.

Plant — Fescue grass seed (Oct. 15 is the usual deadline), garlic, pansies, trees and shrubs.

Garden events

African violet meeting — The Wichita African Violet Study Club will meet at 1 p.m. Friday at Botanica to discuss the club’s leaf project. Members will receive leaves from which to grow African violet plants. The meeting is free and open to the public. Memberships are $10 a year for those who want to join the club.

Twilight tour — Scenic Landscapes Water Garden Nursery will have its annual twilight tour from dusk to midnight Saturday. Scenic’s 25 gardens and water features on five acres will be illuminated with night lighting, candles and torches. Hot apple cider, hot dogs, roasted marshmallows and popcorn will be available. Clif Major and the Fabulous Jukes will perform from 8 to 10 p.m. The event is free. Donations will be accepted for Challenge Farm Orphanage. Scenic is at 5911 W. Maple.

Prairie Pumpkin Festival — Hayrack rides, a hedge-apple launcher, a pumpkin-decorating contest, harvest activities and food vendors will be part of the Prairie Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 12 at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston. The arboretum calls it a combination of “a family-friendly pumpkin patch atmosphere with hands-on learning experiences around an old-time harvest celebration theme.” Hours are from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and admission is $4 for adults and $2 for children ages 3 to 15, with a $1 discount for arboretum members, college students and senior citizens. Admission covers a variety of the activities, but extra fees will be charged for the barrel train and the hedge-apple launcher. Pumpkins and food will be available for sale.

BOOtanica — Botanica will celebrate Halloween on Oct. 12. Costumes are optional. Activities will include spooky stories, a scarecrow trail, a spider’s lair, face painting, making a trick-or-treat bag and games. Admission is $7, or $5 for members; children under 3 are free. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bartlett Arboretum concert and depot dedication — The last Treehouse concert of the season will take place Oct. 13 at Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine. Pianist Phil Aaberg will perform on the occasion of the dedication of the old Oxford train depot, which will serve as a gallery and meeting space. The choice of Aaberg to perform is especially apt because his compositions are about trains and plains. Gates open at 3 p.m. and the concert is at 4. Picnics are welcome, and food will also be for sale. Tickets are $10.

Wichita rails talk — Naturalist and historian Jim Mason of the Great Plains Nature Center will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about the railroads and street car lines of pre-1940 Wichita as well as the electric-powered line that connected Wichita with Newton and Hutchinson. His lunchtime lecture, at 12:15, is included in Botanica admission.

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