Gardener’s almanac (Feb. 16)

02/16/2013 10:19 AM

02/21/2013 12:57 PM

Fertilizing spring-flowering bulbs – We tend to want to fertilize spring-flowering bulbs when they flower, but the roots are starting to die at that point, so fertilizing then is wasted, Ward Upham of K-State says. Roots are active when the foliage first pushes up through the ground, so that’s the time to fertilize. But even then, the food is for next year’s flowering, not this year’s, Upham says. If you’ve fertilized in the past, the bulbs may not need any more. The only way to know for sure is with a soil test.

And if you plant tulips that don’t come back, there’s no need to fertilize, because there won’t be a next year for them.

If the soil needs phosphorus and potassium, use a complete fertilizer (such as 10-10-10, 9-9-6) at the rate of 2.5 pounds per 100 square feet, or 1 rounded teaspoon per square foot, Upham says. “If phosphorus and potassium are not needed,” he says, “blood meal makes an excellent fertilizer. It should be applied at the rate of 2 pounds per 100 square feet or 1 teaspoon per square foot.”

And of course be sure to leave the foliage alone until it dies naturally, because it sends energy to the bulb to also help next year’s bloom.

Gnats around houseplants – If you’re like me, there have been times when little gnats have congregated around a damp houseplant. They are fungus gnats, Upham says, and they’re common in high-organic-matter houseplant soils that are kept moist. The flying adults don’t do any harm, Upham says, but the larvae or maggots can injure plants by feeding on the roots. “Symptoms include sudden wilting, loss of vigor, poor growth or yellowing leaves. Use of sterile media and avoiding overwatering can help prevent infestations. Existing infestations can be controlled with Bacillus thuringiensis v. israelensis (Gnatrol).”

Leaching houseplants – When salts build up in houseplants, the salts can burn roots, causing leaves to scorch and otherwise harming the health of the plants, Upham says. Excess salts can be leached out with water. Use the amount of water that would equal twice the volume of the pot, and add it slowly while the plant is in a sink or bathtub or outside. The water should be added so that it doesn’t overflow the rim of the pot.

If salt has formed a crust on the surface of the soil, remove it, Upham says, not removing any more than 1/4 inch of the potting soil. You also may want to repot the plant at that point.

Garden events

Botanica hours – Botanica will be closed Monday for Presidents’ Day.

Birding at Botanica – The monthly bird walk through Botanica will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday. It’s included in Botanica admission.

Climate talk – Retired meteorologist and master gardener Dick Elder will give a talk about climate at the meeting of the Wichita Hosta Club at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Botanica. The meeting begins with refreshments at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

Iris meeting – The Wichita Area Iris Club will have its first meeting of the year at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Botanica. The program will focus on the American Iris Society regional convention that the club is hosting May 5 and 6. The meeting is free and open to the public; attendees are asked to bring a snack to share.

Purple-martin talk – Nick Clausen of the Backyard Nature Center will be at Botanica at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday to talk about how to establish and care for a purple-martin house. His lecture is included in Botanica admission.

“Trees You Should Plant in Kansas” – Community forester Tim McDonnell will be at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston on Feb. 26 to give a talk on trees to plant in Kansas. This installment in the Winter Lecture Series will be at 6:30 p.m., with an optional soup supper preceding at 6. The cost is $2 for the lecture or $7 for both soup and lecture. Call 620-327-8127 by noon Monday before the Tuesday lecture for supper reservations.

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