Gardener’s almanac (Sept. 1)

09/01/2012 5:00 AM

09/01/2012 7:51 AM

Rain energy – I was so energized by the rain last Saturday that I rearranged the living room and cleaned the entire house that day. As the week wore on, I noticed how much better my containers seemed to stay moist. I didn’t water until Thursday. Rain is always better than “fake water” – the term used by Nathaniel Barton, the native-plant grower you read about on Page 1C.

Lawn fertilizing – September is the most important time to fertilize a fescue lawn. “The stress of summer depletes the turf of the nutrients needed for proper growth under the more ideal temperatures and moisture levels in the fall,” Johnson County extension agent Dennis Patton says.

Apply 1 to 1.5 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, preferably quick-release nitrogen (the most common type sold in garden centers). The settings recommended on lawn fertilizer bags usually result in about 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, Ward Upham of K-State says.

The second most important fertilization of cool-season grasses is in November fertilizer, to help the grass green up earlier next spring and provide the nutrients needed until summer. It also should be quick-release applied at the rate of 1 pound actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, Upham says. (Spring fertilization often causes grass to grow too fast, Patton points out; it’s best to wait until around early May before putting on any fertilizer next year.)

Overseeding – If your lawn needs renovation, plan to overseed or sod this month into October. If using seed, be sure to buy premium seed with no weed seed. Here are some other recommendations from Upham:

•  Good seed/soil contact: Seed lying on top of the ground rarely germinates and grows. A leaf rake can be used to lightly mix the seed into the soil if you’re not using a core aerator or slit seeder or verticutter. Some seed will still be visible after mixing.
•  Fertilization: Use soil test recommendations or a starter fertilizer at the rate suggested on the bag. The fertilizer should be applied before tilling if you are tilling or after slit seeding or core aerating.

Core aeration requires the least amount of water, because germination occurs in aeration holes that stay moister than a traditional seedbed. The holes also give new-lawn fertilizer a place to go. If you use a core aerator, go over the area at least three times in different directions with the aerator, then broadcast the seed.

Other machines that can be used for seeding are slit seeders and verticutters.

•  Watering: Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. During a hot spell, that may mean a light watering three times a day. As weather cools, cut down to once a day. After grass starts growing, gradually back off on watering.
•  Mowing: Mow when the seedlings reach 3 to 4 inches tall.

Peony care – Cut back peonies in September. Cut leaves off close to the ground and compost or discard, Upham says. You can also divide peonies now.

A salad garden – Plant kale, lettuce, radishes, spinach and turnips for a fall garden.

Garden events

Talk on protecting pollinators – Deborah McSweeney of Partners for Sustainable Pollination will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about why bees and other wild pollinators are disappearing and how to build a pollinator-friendly yard. The lunchtime lecture is at 12:15 p.m. and is included in Botanica admission. Sweet Basil will have lunch for sale from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for $7.

FloraKansas native plant sale – Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 8, and noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 9.

Guys Night Out at Botanica – Beer, cigars, Nu-Way and a showing of "Caddyshack," Sept. 12; $20 (member discounts available); register at 316-264-0448.

Wichita Area Garden Railway Tour – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 15. Free maps will be available after Labor Day at many locations including Engine House Hobbies, Garden Railway Gizmos and other hobby stores as well as garden centers.

Cancer society tulip fundraiser – The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network is offering memberships that include 10 Pink Impression tulip bulbs again this fall. The Plant It Pink campaign helps celebrate breast cancer survivors, honors those who have died of the disease and works to preserve financing of cancer research. If you join the network for $20, you will receive a membership plus the 10 tulip bulbs. The bulbs will be available for pickup or shipping and then planting in October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Go to the website or call 800-359-1025.

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