Keep watering – We’ve had some warm weather and we’ve had lots of wind. And only a smidge – if that – of rain lately. Perennials, shrubs and trees should all go into winter moist. “It is especially important for evergreens, because moisture is easily lost from the foliage,” Ward Upham of K-State says. “Newly planted trees and shrubs also are more at risk due to limited root systems. Even trees and shrubs planted the last two to three years are more sensitive to drought than a well-established plant.
“A good, deep watering with moisture reaching at least a foot down into the soil is much better than several light sprinklings that just wet the top portions of the soil. A deep watering will ensure that the majority of roots have access to water. Roots that actually absorb water are killed when the soil temperature reaches 28 degrees F. Those near the surface do not last long in our Kansas winters. We must rely on roots that are deeper, and provide moisture for them to absorb. Watering depth can be checked with a metal rod or wooden dowel. Either instrument will easily penetrate moist soil but will stop when dry soil is reached.”
Compost moisture – The compost pile also should be watered. “This is the time of year when there are lots of materials available to compost,” Upham says. “Remember that the compost needs to be kept moist so that the bacteria and fungi can break down the raw materials. Use a sprinkler to soak through the pile to the center. Allow the pile to drain. The goal is for the pile to remain moist, not waterlogged. Edges will dry out the quickest and may need a light sprinkling from time to time.”
Working garden soil – It’s not too late to prepare soil for a garden in the spring, Upham says. You can work the soil (and continue to plant trees, perennials and shrubs) as long as the ground is not frozen. But if the soil is dry, it should to be watered first, then allowed to dry for several days until it’s just moist, not wet, Upham says.
“There is a limit to how much organic material such as leaves can be added in one application,” he says. “Normally, a layer 2 inches deep is adequate with 5 to 6 inches being the maximum that can be added at one time. 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.”
Winterizing roses – If you have hybrid tea roses, they should be protected for the winter. This happens in stages. At this point, mound soil or compost about 8 to 10 inches high around each plant, Upham says.
“After the ground has frozen, add a 4-inch mulch of straw, leaves or hay for further protection,” he says. “More soil may be spread on top of the mulch to keep it in place. Do not add the mulch before the ground freezes, or mice may invade and feed on the roses over the winter. The purpose of these coverings is not only to moderate the cold, but also to prevent warm days during the winter or early spring from stimulating growth that is tender to returning cold weather.
“Excessively tall canes should be pruned to a height of 36 inches and tied together to prevent them from being whipped by strong winter winds. Wind can damage the crown of the plant or loosen the surrounding soil. Next spring, remove coverings before new growth starts. Wait until after the ground thaws, or the tops may begin growing before the roots can provide water.”
Digging horseradish – Here’s a warm thought in the cold: Horseradish is ready to dig after a hard freeze kills the foliage (usually November or December), Upham says. “The large roots can be harvested, while smaller, pencil-sized roots can be cut in 6- to 8-inch long sections as seed or sets for next year’s crop which are then immediately re-planted. Another option is to leave the horseradish in the ground and dig as needed. If you choose the latter option, be sure to heavily mulch the area so that the ground doesn’t freeze.
“To use horseradish, peel the large, fleshy roots and cut into sections. Use a blender or food processor to chop the roots along with a small amount of water and a couple of ice cubes. Vinegar or lemon juice is added to stop the process that produces the ‘bite’ of horseradish. Add immediately after blending for a mild flavor or wait up to three minutes to give the horseradish more kick. Use 2 to 3 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice per cup of horseradish sauce along with ½ teaspoon of salt for flavor.
“Horseradish has an extremely strong odor and so you may wish to open the blender or food processor outdoors and to keep your face away from the container when opening. Store ground horseradish in a tightly sealed jar in a refrigerator until ready for use.”
Talk on poinsettias and other Christmas plants – Rachel Westmoreland of Dutch’s Greenhouse will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about poinsettias, including some new varieties, and other Christmas plants. Her lunchtime lecture, at 12:15 p.m., is included in Botanica admission.
Illuminations – Illuminations is Botanica’s holiday-lights event that runs seven nights a week from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. through Dec. 30 (excluding Dec. 24 and 25). Tickets are $7 for adults, $6 for Botanica members, and $5 for children ages 3 to 12. Tickets are available at the door or in advance at area QuikTrips and Botanica, online at botanica.org, or by calling Kathy Osler at 316-264-0448, ext. 107, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winter Luminary Walk – Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston will be alight with candles and electric lights Saturday and again Friday and Dec. 1. A living nativity will be part of the event Saturday and will feature the newly constructed leaf house as the stable. Throughout the evening, the Christmas story will be read every half hour.
On both weekends there will be s’mores over bonfires and other refreshments.
Next weekend, the Hesston College Bel Canto Singers will perform at 7 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1, and the handbell-ringing duo of Kendra Flory and Janelle Flory Schrock will perform at 7 p.m. Friday and 5:30 p.m. Dec. 1.
The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for students and $2 for children ages 4 to 15. Proceeds help to maintain the 28-acre arboretum. For more information, call 620-327-8127.