Annie Calovich

August 22, 2014

‘Wonderfully odd’ summer suddenly turns into real summer

I was going to write this week about how nice the summer has been — but then it became real summer.

I was going to write this week about how nice the summer has been — but then it became real summer.

I’m not complaining — about the weather, anyway — because true, hot summer is my favorite season. But I do enjoy the occasional dip in temperature as an opportunity to open the windows, and we always need summer rain, so I was happy along with everybody else about how the weather was going.

Even with the heat wave, the chance of an early fall is still in the forecast, so we always have to take it a day at a time while also preparing for the unknown future. You know, like everything else in life.

“It has been wonderfully odd,” extension agent Bob Neier said last week of our summer. I’m pretty sure I included the word “odd” in the question that I put to him. Whenever I’m not sweating 24/7 in the summer, I consider it odd. But more than 3 inches of rain in August so far is wonderful.

“This is the best summer I can remember in Kansas,” Bob went on. My favorite was 2009, when it rained regularly and we all forgot how to water. That was before the drought hit, and we had to get advanced degrees in irrigation.

“I think things are looking good, and soil moisture is deep,” Bob said. He said he was talking about Wichita, because rainfall has not necessarily been as plentiful outside of town. He said that September and October should be great for planting.

Plenty of trees finally went ahead and bit the dust in Wichita this year, and we need to keep working on beefing up our canopy. Sawtooth oaks are suffering from mysterious bark splitting near the base. And Bob pointed out that an ornamental Callery pear in the Extension’s arboretum had split even though it was cabled, and it had to be removed. He noted that the Callery pears seem to have a lifespan of only about 20 years. Then it’s time to try something new.

On the grass front, “most lawns aren’t as stressed this year, which keeps people happier with how things are looking,” extension agent Rebecca McMahon said last week.

“Weeds have been a theme. They usually are a theme,” she said. If weeds are growing in areas of the lawn where there is no grass, this fall will be the time to seed so that grass can “thicken up and compete,” Rebecca said. “This fall” means early September through Oct. 15 for fescue seeding.

The summer has been good to Botanica’s roses, landscape supervisor Pat McKernan said. Sparkling right now are the water lilies, which, being in water, always get to beat the heat. Their pristine, porcelain beauty is worth a trip into the gardens on a summer day. Some are even variegated. Also thriving in the pond are big round lotus leaves, their blossoms in perfect bud, their seedheads reminding me of some sort of comical musical instrument riding on a tall stem.

It’s interesting that the water lilies will start to flag once the temperature starts to cool, usually around mid-September, Pat said. Enjoy them while they’re hot.

Speaking of tall, summer is not summer without successful sunflower reports. The first one has come from Bobby Oates, who tried giant heirloom Titan seeds this year and has two sunflowers that have reached at least 9 feet tall so far. The heads are about 9 inches across. “I like the tall ones,” Bobby said. Titan is a winner for him.

Crape myrtles also are strong this summer, some of them not having frozen back at all last winter. Richard Nelsen points to those outside his church, West Douglas Church of Christ at 1924 W. Douglas. They’re about 23 feet tall, he figures. We usually don’t get Texas-tall crape myrtles in our cooler climate.

However, now that the weather has turned hot and dry, Bob said he would turn the drip irrigation on soon to replenish moisture if it doesn’t rain. As usual, the only way to tell how much moisture is in the soil is to dig. Dig down deep — while it’s still summer.

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or Follow her on Twitter: @anniecalovich.

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