Gardener’s almanac (Oct. 13)

10/13/2012 7:23 AM

10/13/2012 7:36 AM

Post-frost beauty – I think I lost only a coleus in the alleged first frost of last week. That’s about all that Botanica lost, said landscape supervisor Pat McKernan. The gardens there are looking beautiful, with the best of summer and fall intermingling in the sweet fall weather. The meadow still smells of summer, and the mums are massed beautifully, including my favorite, Jacqueline Pearl, at the entrance.

Storing peppers – People picked a lot of peppers ahead of last weekend’s forecasted frost. Peppers can usually keep in a crisper drawer of a refrigerator for several weeks if kept moist but not wet, Ward Upham of K-State says. "For longer storage, freezing works well. Though mushy when thawed, the flavor still comes through in cooked foods. Try dicing them into small pieces and then freezing on a cookie sheet. The frozen pieces can then be poured into a plastic bag for later use."

Storing tomatoes – When storing the last of the tomatoes, separate them into three groups, Upham says: those that are mostly red, those that are just starting to turn, and those that are still green. “Discard tomatoes with defects such as rots or breaks in the skin. Place the tomatoes on cardboard trays or cartons but use layers of newspaper to separate fruit if stacked. Occasionally a tomato may start to rot and leak juice. The newspaper will keep the juice from contacting nearby or underlying fruit. Store groups of tomatoes at as close to 55 degrees as possible until needed.” The green ones that have a white, star-shaped zone at the bottom end of the fruit will ripen off the vine.

Fall soil prep – Till in old plant material and, if possible, add a couple of inches of fresh organic matter to the soil, Upham says. “Working the debris into the soil is easier if you mow the old vegetable plants several times to reduce the size of the debris,” he says. Don’t overtill, and be sure the soil is not too dry when tilling. It should be the consistency of Grape-Nuts, not dust, when you’re done, Upham says.

Plant – Spring-flowering bulbs, garlic, trees and shrubs.

Moving asparagus and rhubarb – Asparagus and rhubarb traditionally are transplanted in the spring (mid-March to mid-April), but a fall move can be successful, Upham says. “Wait until the top has been browned by frost and then cut back to the ground. Prepare the soil and fertilize as you would in the spring. Water well after planting to insure good root/soil contact. Mulching would be helpful on the rhubarb to prevent the plant from heaving out of the soil during the winter, but asparagus requires no such treatment as it is planted much deeper.”

Garden events

Rain barrel demonstration – You can observe how to set up a double rain-barrel system and how to prepare a rain barrel for winter from 9 to 10 a.m. Oct. 20 in the demonstration garden at the Extension Center, 21st and Ridge Road. Peter Daniels of Wichita Rain Barrels and master gardener Diane Dorsch will be setting up what will become a permanent display in the garden. Free.

BOOtanica – Botanica’s Halloween event is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Activities include walking through the spider’s lair, making a trick-or-treat bag, seeing live owls and getting your face painted. Admission is $7. Costumes are optional.

Birding at Botanica – Take a guided walk through Botanica looking at birds at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Included in Botanica admission.

Arkansas River talk – Hoyt Hillman, a volunteer who organizes Arkansas River restoration efforts in Wichita, will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about efforts for cleaner water, improved fish habitat, better fishing points, goose control and walking, biking and boating opportunities in an attractive green space. The lunchtime lecture, at 12:15, is included in Botanica admission.

Global horticulture conference at OSU – Oklahoma State University will host the third Global Horticulture Conference on Nov. 7 on campus. “The goal is to expose participants to horticultural practices and crops from around the world,” said Mike Schnelle, OSU Cooperative Extension ornamental floriculture specialist. Among the areas to be discussed are East Africa, Egypt, Libya, Italy, Democratic Republic of Congo and Argentina. Breakout session topics will include agricultural development in war-torn countries, food security in East Africa and Italian Renaissance gardens, and there will be a cooking demo on “Potato Pate: What the Potato Is Doing in Italy.”

Registration is $80, includes lunch, and must be postmarked by Oct. 29. Contact Stephanie Larimer at 405-744-5404 or e-mail

Project Beauty luncheon – Project Beauty will have a luncheon at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at the Wichita Country Club, 8501 E. 13th St. Wichita City Councilwoman LaVonta Williams will be the speaker. Guests are welcome and can make reservations by calling June at 316-744-0792 by Monday. The cost is $17.

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