Houseplant care — As winter stretches on, take a quick check of your houseplants:
• Have you dusted the leaves? They gather dust just as our furniture does. Give them a swipe occasionally with a damp cloth to be sure they’re taking in light.
• Have you seen any insects flying around, or damage they may be causing? Fungus gnats, for example, look like mosquitoes and are common in soil that is kept moist and that is high in organic matter, Ward Upham of K-State says. The adults don’t bother humans or pets, he said, but in the larval state they can harm plants by feeding on the roots. Signs of this are sudden wilting, loss of vigor, poor growth or yellowing leaves. Bacillus thuringiensis v. israelensis (Gnatrol) can be used to control an infestation. Planting in a sterile medium and not overwatering can help prevent the gnats, Upham says.
• Salt levels can build up in potted plants and eventually scorch leaves. To wash out excess salts, place the pot in a bathtub or sink (or outside when the weather is nice), and slowly add twice as much water as the volume of the pot, Upham says. You don’t want the water to overflow the rim of the pot.
If there is a salty crust on the surface of the soil, remove it without taking more than 1/4 inch of the underlying media, Upham says. “This may also be a good time to repot the plant,” he writes in the Horticulture 2014 newsletter.
Dormant oil sprays — If your trees, including fruit trees, have a problem with scale, start to look for an opportunity to spray them with dormant oil, Upham says. The spray normally should go on by March 1, especially on peaches and nectarines, Upham says.
Because apple trees are tougher, the application can be delayed up to the green-tip stage, he says. Temperatures must be at least 40 degrees so the spray has a chance to dry before freezing, and spraying in the morning also helps ensure proper drying. If the spray does freeze before it dries, it can injure the plant.
Limbs, branches and twigs must be covered thoroughly for good control, and that is more easily done if the tree is pruned first, Upham says.
Color combos — After I wrote about new calibrachoa mixes and wondering about the merits of solid masses of one flower color vs. mixes of contrasting colors, Janet Perez responded: “I love solid masses in the deep, darker colors and multis in the brighter, lighters colors! They are all lovely!”
Talk on soil — Master gardener Kevin Holloway will give a talk about soil at a combined meeting of the Wichita Area Iris Club and the Wichita Hosta Society on Tuesday at Botanica. A social will start at 6:30 p.m., and the meeting at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
African violet club – The Wichita African Violet Study Club will not be having a sale this year; it’s normally in March at Botanica. And the club has decided to move its monthly meeting from the second Friday of the month to the third Friday at 1 p.m. at Botanica. So the next meeting, which is free and open to the public, will be Feb. 21.
Birding at Botanica — The monthly bird-watching walk through Botanica will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday. It is included in Botanica admission.
Purple-martin talk — Nick Clausen of the Backyard Nature Center will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about the approaching return of purple martins to their nesting sites. He’ll talk about what to do with a current house or how to establish a new one. His lunchtime lecture, at 12:15, is included in Botanica admission.
Succulent wreath workshop — Rita Arnold of Arnold’s Greenhouse in LeRoy will offer a workshop on making a living wreath with succulents on Feb. 27 at Botanica. All materials, including succulents from Arnold’s, will be included in the cost of $55, or $45 for Botanica members. The class will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Register by calling Karla Jahn at 316-264-0448, ext. 115.
“The Flying Flowers of Kansas” — Jim Mason, author of “A Pocket Guide to Common Kansas Butterflies,” will present a program on the “flying flowers” on Feb. 25 at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston. Free copies of the pocket guide will be available, and Mason, who is a naturalist at the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, will talk about the 61 species common to Kansas – their life history, plant associations and unique features. Supper, at 6 p.m., plus the talk costs $7; the talk only, at 6:30 p.m., costs $2. Call 620-327-8127 by noon on Monday before the Tuesday lecture for supper reservations.
Arboretum concert — Guitar player, bluesman and storyteller Guy Davis and renowned harmonica player Fabrizio Poggi will perform at 4 p.m. Feb. 23 at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children, and food will be for sale at intermission. Make reservations by calling 620-327-8127.