Home & Garden

Gardener's almanac

Work off that turkey fat _ I love the idea of improving garden soil this time of year. The soil isn't frozen yet, the air is brisk, and gardening gives an ideal post-Thanksgiving workout. Most of all, you can go through the winter knowing that the soil is improving all the while and is going to be ready for planting right out of the gate in the spring.

Ward Upham of K-State gives these pointers:

* The soil is sometimes too dry for working this time of year. You may need to water it so it can be more easily tilled. But wait several days after watering to let soil moisture levels moderate. You want the soil moist, not wet nor dry.

* There is a limit to how much organic matter such as leaves can be added in one application. Normally, a layer 2 inches deep is adequate, and 5 to 6 inches is the maximum that can be added at one time.

* Shredding the material before application increases the surface area and encourages faster and more complete decomposition.

Indoor plant temperatures _ Some houseplants have been brought indoors for the winter, and some new ones may be coming in for Christmas. So it's a good time to check the location of the plants to be sure they don't get too cold this winter, Upham says. "Plants next to windows or in entryways near outside doors are at the greatest risk," he says.

Plants sensitive to low temperatures include Chinese evergreen (Algaonema), flamingo flower (Anthurium), croton (Codiaeum), false aralia (Dizygotheca), and ming and balfour aralia (Polyscias).

Monitor and maintain temperatures above 65 for the false aralia and above 60 degrees for the rest of the plants, Upham says. You may need to move plants away from windows or door entrances, and to pull shades and drapes at windows where plants are, especially in the evening.

Chestnut tasting — For $2, a "chestnut taster's ticket" will provide a sample of roasted chestnuts, chestnut hummus, soup and other chestnutty dishes tonight during the Luminary Walk at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston.

More than 1,000 candles will light the arboretum's paths, and thousands of electric lights also will be aglow this evening and on Dec. 11 and 12. Hours are 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Tonight's theme is "Chestnuts Roasting Over an Open Fire." Visitors can have s'mores by bonfires, and cookies and hot almond tea will be served. The chestnut recipes will be available along with bags of chestnuts for sale. Call ahead today at 620-327-8127 to be sure you have a ticket.

Displays of nativity scenes from various collectors will be showcased in the visitor center the second weekend of the event.

The cost of the luminary walk is $5 for adults, $3 for students and $2.50 for children 5 and over (ages 4 and under are free). A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Harvey County Homeless Shelter.

African violet discussion — The public is invited to a meeting of the Wichita African Violet Study Club at 1 p.m. Friday at Botanica. The discussion will be on African violet plants.

Food drive for roses — Donate six pantry food items or $6 to the Kansas Food Bank and receive six free roses during the annual Rio Roses food drive through Nov. 30 at the gift shops at Via Christi Regional Medical Center-St. Francis and -St. Joseph.