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Gardener’s almanac (Dec. 7)

  • Published Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, at 7:49 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, at 7:19 a.m.

Christmas tree shopping and care — If you plan to buy a cut Christmas tree at a garden center or a tree lot, there’s no need to wait, even if you don’t want to put it up yet.

Because the trees are already cut, they will not be getting any fresher. So bring the tree home and put it in a bucket of water on the north side of the house. (Brady Nursery keeps its cut trees in water.) When you're ready to bring the tree in and decorate it, cut an inch off the trunk and immediately put the tree in water in the tree stand. Never let it be out of water after this point.

Here’s how to select a fresh tree: Gently hold a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh. Or shake or bounce the tree on its stump. You should not see a lot of green needles fall to the ground, though interior brown ones probably will.

When you bring a tree into the house, put it in as cool a spot as possible. Avoid areas near fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, heat ducts and television sets.

Make sure the tree stand’s reservoir stays filled with water. If it ever does lose enough water that the bottom of the trunk is exposed, the trunk will need to be recut. No additives are needed.

Dormant seeding — Some people didn’t get their lawn overseeded this fall. It happens. But you can actually put down fescue seed from now until February to help fill in bare spots, Ward Upham of K-State says. “One method is to seed when there has been a light snowfall of up to an inch,” he writes in the Horticulture 2013 newsletter. “This is shallow enough that bare spots can still be seen. Spread seed by hand on areas that need thickening up. As the snow melts, it brings the seed into good contact with the soil where it will germinate in the spring.

“Another method is dependent on the surface of the soil being moist followed by some freezing weather. As moist soil freezes and thaws, small pockets are formed on the wet, bare soil that is perfect for catching and holding seed. As the soil dries, the pockets collapse and cover the seed.

“A third method involves core aerating, verticutting or hand raking and broadcasting seed immediately after. Of course, the soil must be dry enough and unfrozen for this to be practical.

“With any of the above methods, seed germinates in the spring as early as possible. There will be limitations on what herbicides can be used for weed control. Tupersan (siduron) can be used as a crabgrass preventer on new seedings even before they have come up. Also dithiopyr, found in Hi-Yield Turf and Ornamental Weed and Grass Stopper, can be used on tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass two weeks after germination. Dithiopyr is longer lasting and more effective than siduron. Other pre-emergence herbicides require that the turf be well established before application.”

Garden events

Illuminations — Illuminations continues at Botanica from 5:30 to 8:30 nightly through Dec. 31 (except for Christmas Eve and Christmas). Tickets are $7, $6 for members, $5 for children ages 3 to 12. Tickets can be bought at the door or in advance at QuikTrip stores or online at botanica.org.

One more night for the Luminary Walk – Saturday is the last night for the Luminary Walk at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston.

The walk features a half-mile walking trail lined with 900 candles in jars, and Christmas lights on some areas, including the island. Bonfires will give people a place to warm up and have roasted marshmallows and s’mores, which are included in admission, as are hot almond tea and cookies indoors.

The luminaria walk is open from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday. The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for students, and $2 for ages 3 to 15. Children under 3 years are admitted for free. The arboretum gift shop will include the work of local artisans.

The entertainment schedule: Friendly Baptist Deaf Church Bell Choir performs on Kristal Bells from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., and Hesston College Bel Canto Singers at 7 and 7:30 p.m.

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