All over the map – We had a minor hailstorm Monday evening, a frigid rain Monday night, and snow Tuesday night, before what I think was the final turn toward spring. I had to go out and stand in the snow Tuesday night, first of all because you don’t always get to see snow on green grass and budding-out hydrangeas, and also because you don’t always know when the final snow of the season will be, but I was pretty sure this time. And after a nice stretch of spring blooms on the shrubs and trees, snow felt kind of novel again, and I was oddly sad to see it go. But I’m mostly very happy that we got some rain this week.
Planting tomatoes – The soil temperatures took a tumble with the recent cold weather but should be rebounding. On Thursday the low soil temperature had fallen to 45, after being in the mid-50s a few weeks ago.
As the weather warms again, we’re eager to get out there and make up for lost time by planting things such as tomatoes. But tomatoes don’t do well until the soil temperature reaches a fairly consistent 55 degrees, Ward Upham of K-State says. You can monitor the soil temperature with a soil thermometer, available at garden centers, or by checking The Eagle’s daily weather page in the Local & State section. The soil temperature is given under the heading Farm & Garden. If using your own soil thermometer, check the temperature 2 inches deep during the late morning to get an average temperature, Upham says.
Placing plastic mulch over soil will warm it, he says.
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When bringing plants from indoors to outdoors, protect them from wind and full sun for a few days before planting, Upham says. Or plant them and protect them for two to three days with a tent of cardboard or a wooden shingle. An overcast, still day is the best type for transplanting, he says.
Hopefully we won’t have any more frosts, but if we do, place a floating row cover or light sheet over the tomatoes. “Actually a floating row cover can be left on the plants for two to three weeks to increase the rate of growth and establishment,” Upham says.
He gives these other tips:
• Buy small, stocky, dark green plants, which become established quicker than tall, spindly plants.
• Do not bury a tomato plant deeply or lay the stem sideways unless the plant is very leggy. “Though roots will form on the stems of tomatoes, this requires energy that would be better used for establishment and growth,” Upham says.
• Use a transplant/starter solution at planting time.
• Wait to mulch until the soil warms up and the plant is growing well.
Planting calendar – Happy to take the cool soil temps are collards, chard, carrots, lettuce, beets.
A crescendo of tulips – finally – Some of Bartlett Arboretum’s tulips were in bloom two weeks ago during Belle Plaine’s annual Tulip Time. But because of the prolonged cold spell, most of the 30,000 tulips planted by volunteers at the arboretum waited until now to bloom. So the arboretum in Belle Plaine will be open Saturday and Sunday so you can see them.
Gates will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and live jazz will be performed from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday. A $5 donation is suggested.
FloraKansas this weekend – The Spring FloraKansas Plant Sale continues Saturday through Monday at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains, 177 W. Hickory St. in Hesston. Native and adaptable plants including wildflowers, perennials and grasses are for sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday. There will also be local food for sale, and a Prairiestock Music Festival from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. The cost for it is $5, free for children 16 and under.
For more information, including a plant list, go to the website www.dyckarboretum.org or call 620-327-8127.
First iris show of the season – The Wichita Area Iris Club organizes three shows of iris every spring, one to correspond with each type that is blooming at the time: early-blooming, bearded and late-blooming iris. The first show, featuring early iris, especially smaller iris and aril iris, will be Sunday at Botanica. Hours will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Viewing the show is free; admission to Botanica will be charged if you want to visit the gardens.
Talk on growing herbs for a cooking garden – Kay Neff of Neff Family Farms will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about growing herbs for a cooking garden. She’ll have free samples and recipes. The lunchtime lecture, at 12:15, is included in Botanica admission. Syl’s will have lunch for sale for $7 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.