Check houseplants — Make sure you check your houseplants for proximity to cold window panes on these cold nights we've been having. Also check light levels; plants that are losing their leaves are acting naturally and may need more light. Also be sure to water only when plants need it. For many this is when the top inch of the soil is dry. And don't fertilize during December and January, Ward Upham of K-State says. You can fertilize sparingly — about a quarter the normal rate — in November and February, he says.
Winter soil prep — Winter can still be a good time to work in organic materials as long as the soil isn't frozen, Upham says. "It is far wiser to till now than to wait until spring when cold, wet conditions can limit your ability to work soils easily," Upham says. Be sure soil is not wet, but also not bone-dry, when you till. You may need to water first, then wait several days.
Normally, a layer of organic matter 2 inches deep is adequate with 5 to 6 inches being the maximum that can be added at one time, Upham says. "Shredding the material before application encourages faster and more complete decomposition due to increased surface area. Remember, soil preparation is an important key to a successful garden."
Iris clean-up — Be sure to remove all leaves and other debris on and around iris. Then put fresh mulch down once the ground freezes, Upham says. This will help limit iris leaf spot disease and the onset of iris borers.
Digging horseradish — How wonderful that as it gets cold, hot horseradish is ready to be dug. Horseradish is ready to harvest after a hard freeze kills the foliage, usually November or December, Upham says. You can also leave the horseradish in the ground to dig as needed. Be sure to heavily mulch the area so that the ground doesn't freeze, Upham says.
Urban trees workshop _ The Kansas Forest Service and Butler County Extension are among the sponsors of an Urban Trees seminar Dec. 2 in El Dorado. The seminar is for professionals and the general public and will cover types of trees to plant in the urban landscape, their care and planting sites. Presenters will include Mike Schnelle of Oklahoma State University; Steve Beiberich, owner of Sunshine Nursery in Clinton, Okla.; and landscape architect Robert Whitsman of Gould Evans in Kansas City, Mo. The cost is $15. Register by Tuesday. For more information, call Tim McDonnell, Community Forestry coordinator, at 316-788-0492.
Spaghetti With Santa — Botanica is having a new event this year, Spaghetti With Santa. It will include dinner with Santa and Mrs. Claus, festive stories of the season, decorating a sugar cookie for dessert and seeing the lights of Illuminations. The cost is $12 for adults ($10 for Botanica members) and $7 for youth ($5 for Botanica members). The event will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16. To reserve a spot, call Botanica at 316-264-0448.
Illuminations at Botanica _ Illuminations has started at Botanica, where the gardens are alight with luminarias and Christmas lights. Hours are 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. today, Dec. 3 and 4, Dec. 10 and 11, and Dec. 17 and 18.
More than 4,000 luminarias will the pathways, and lights move to music in the Meadow. Garden trains circle the Pinetum, and local groups sing carols. Santa is there too.
The cost is $7 for adults ($6 for Botanica members) and $3 for children ages 2 to 12. Children under 2 get in free. Tickets can be purchased at area QuikTrip stores or at the gate.
Luminary Walk at the arboretum _ "Remembering, at Christmas" is the theme of the 2010 Luminary Walk at the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston. It is from 5:30 to 8 p.m. today and Dec. 10 and 11.
The event features thousands of electrical lights and real candles lighting the paths, s'mores around the bonfire and refreshments inside, and activities to make free take-home gifts from nature for children and adults.
The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for students, $2.50 for children, and free for children 4 and under.