Annie Calovich

May 23, 2014

Memorial Day weekend a balance of active, restful gardening

You know how you wake up on Memorial Day weekend and something just feels different?

You know how you wake up on Memorial Day weekend and something just feels different?

This year especially it feels like summer for the first time, after last week’s cold, and I did a flurry of planting Wednesday night ahead of rain chances. Of course, that caused it not to rain Thursday. I have higher hopes for the rest of the weekend.

Memorial Day has always been a gardening time for me. The busyness of May slows down over the three-day weekend to show me that tons of obnoxious little weeds have moved in, that the soil is finally warm enough to mulch, that some recently planted vegetables and flowers need to be in different spots and transplanted before they get any bigger, that houseplants can now safely go outside.

And that I’m likely to buy more plants this weekend that will need homes in the ground or in pots. And because I planted evergreen trees in three pots last fall, two of my big pots are taken this spring (one of the evergreens didn’t make it). So I need more pots, even though the real estate is not growing. But what’s a porch for if not to hold pots? They can always be squeezed in between shrubs as well.

All of that is a fullness – even an over-fullness – but Memorial Day weekend also brings an emptiness in the gut, a sense of transition. Places that were hives of activity – most notably schools – are now silent for summer. Some businesses are closed for the holiday. And, of course, we remember the brave souls who gave their lives for our country, the reason we stop in our tracks for Memorial Day.

Gardens seem a natural place to be, along with pastoral cemeteries. And there are garden events going on and gardens to visit this weekend.

• Hostapalooza is at the Extension Center at 21st and Ridge Road from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, mainly overlapping with the farmers market, which is from 7 a.m. to noon. Admission is free. How I need to get my pruners over there to be sharpened – tool sharpening is available during the event for a small fee – and I would love to hear the talks, especially the one about Japanese maples, at 11 a.m. And there will be hosta shopping, of course. See more details in the Gardener’s Almanac on Page 2C.
• The Old Town Farmers Market also will be open from 7 a.m. to noon Saturday, downtown at First and Mosley. There’s free Spice Merchant coffee at the Information Booth in the center of the Farm & Art Plaza, the chef’s table at 9 a.m. with Travis Joy of the Hyatt’s Harvest Kitchen & Bar, the Shiners performing from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., and a make-it-take-it craft for kids from 9 to 11 a.m.
• Botanica is open all weekend, including Memorial Day. Active-duty military personnel and their families get in free to Botanica from Memorial Day through Labor Day as part of Blue Star Museums. Nearly 1,000 people take advantage of the program each year, Botanica director Marty Miller says.

Five other museums also are part of the Blue Star program – the Wichita Art Museum, Old Cowtown Museum, the Mid-America All-Indian Center, the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University, and the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum. See the national list at

Botanica’s hours over the weekend are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Monday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

• Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine will be open on Sunday afternoon for a concert by Wichita band Split Lip Rayfield. Gates will open at 3 p.m., and the concert will be at 4. Tickets are $10. Picnics are welcome, and there will be Lyon’s Den barbecue and Luciano’s Italian cuisine for sale.

Back home in the garden – the weekend will be ideal if it has a balance of work, rest and travel – I’ll be following the Washington Post’s advice for mulching:

Mulch should be applied as a thin layer – no more than 2 inches deep – to conserve moisture and minimize weeds. It should not be used to smother the garden. Thick layers become a growing medium for plant roots, with disastrous results as the mulch rots away. Mulch must not be mounded against the trunk of a tree, because it damages vital bark.

Master gardener Everett Price of Haysville, while recovering from being on the garden tour last weekend, was contemplating planting sweet corn. If you are planting some, stagger your plantings so that all the ears will not be ready for harvest at the same time, because they’re only good for a few days, Ward Upham of K-State advises. Wait for one block of sweet corn to reach 1/2 inch to 1 inch tall and then plant your next block, he says. Corn can be planted through the third week of June.

I’ll be trying to figure out why I always fall for blue-flowering plumbago at the garden center but it never blooms for me. Where do you need to go this summer, little plant?

It’s also a good weekend to take stock of plant damage. By mid-May, for example, new growth should have developed on blue spruces, according to K-State’s Horticulture 2014 newsletter. Happily, the blue spruce that I potted up last fall not only survived winter’s north gales but has thick new growth.

If you aren’t sure about your blue spruce, you can pull off a few buds and see if they’re green or brown inside. If there is green, there is hope. Boxwoods that look bad at this point also may be goners. Be sure to water regularly if it’s not raining, K-State reminds.

And if it is raining, Memorial Day will have even another layer of a different feeling.

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