Home & Garden

Gardener's almanac

Deep freeze — I don't know what to say, except the forecast starting Sunday calls for highs above freezing, reaching all the way to 46 on Wednesday. Let the flooding thaw begin.

Start some onions — If you want to try a specific variety of onion that might not be available later in sets or transplants, you want to start onion from seed in mid- to late January, Ward Upham of K-State says. It takes six to eight weeks for onion transplants to be ready for the garden, and they can go into the ground fairly early — usually in late March, Upham says.

Onion seed should be placed 1/2- to 3/4-inch apart in a pot or flat filled with a seed starting mix, Upham instructs. Place the container in a warm (75- to 80-degree) location until seedlings emerge. Move to a cooler location (60 to 65) when the seedlings are 1 to 2 inches tall.

"Make sure they have plenty of light, using fluorescent lights if needed," Upham says. "Start fertilizing when the seedlings reach 2 to 3 inches tall using a soluble fertilizer with each or every other watering.

"Onion seedlings tend to be spindly, with the remains of the seed sticking to the end of a leaf for several weeks. Encourage stockiness by trimming the ends of the leaves when the plants reach 4 to 5 inches tall. Start hardening off the onions in early March by moving the plants to a protected outdoor location. You may have to move them inside temporarily to protect them from extreme cold snaps."

Let's hope we'll be over those by then.

Checking seed viability — I usually have seed left over from year to year, but when I think about where it is round about now, I realize it sat in the back of my car all summer. Seed stores best if kept in a cold, dark, dry location, Upham says. "We normally consider seed will stay viable for about three years under these conditions, though there are exceptions. For example, members of the carrot family (carrots, parsnips and parsley) are short-lived and are usually good for only one to two years.

"If you are unsure of viability and have plenty of seed, there is an easy method of determining how good your seed is. Place 10 seeds on a paper towel moistened with warm water and cover with a second moistened towel.

"Roll up the towels and place inside a plastic bag with enough holes for air exchange but not so many that the towels dry quickly. Place the bag in a warm place such as the top of the refrigerator. Remoisten the towels with warm water as needed. After the first week, check for germination.

"Remove sprouted seed and check again after another week. Add these numbers together to determine the percent germination."

Tropical plant care talk — Mary Wacker of Tropical Designs, an interior plant service, will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about indoor plant care. Mary has worked for Tropical Designs for 25 years and is now in charge of training and overseeing plant care technicians. Her lunchtime lecture, at 12:15, is included in Botanica admission.

Rose presentation — The Wichita Rose Society will briefly discuss the dos and don'ts of buying roses by mail order when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Botanica. There will also be a slide show of the rose gardens of Dallas and the municipal rose garden in Tyler, Texas (which claims to be the rose capital of the United States). The photos were taken last year by the president of the society. The public is invited to the meeting, which includes light refreshments. Doors open at 6:30.

Treecycling — We are now past the 12 days of Christmas, and I am entertaining thoughts of taking the Christmas tree outside to add to the winter landscape. Another way to recycle a real tree is at one of the 10 locations in Wichita and nine elsewhere in Sedgwick County that are accepting real Christmas trees for recycling through Jan. 23. They're sponsored by Sedgwick County government.

Be sure to remove all decorations from the tree before taking it to one of the sites. The trees will periodically be chipped, and the resulting mulch will be available for free on a first-come, first-served basis.

Here are the locations:

In Wichita:

* Boston Park, 6655 E. Zimmerly

* Buffalo Park, 10209 Hardtner

* College Hill United Methodist Church, First and Erie streets

* Earhart Environmental Magnet School, 4401 N. Arkansas

* Edgemoor Park, 5815 E. Ninth St.

* Extension Education Center, 7001 W. 21st St.

* Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th St. North

* Old Cowtown Museum, 1865 Museum Blvd.

* Osage Park, 2121 W. 31st St. South

* South Linwood Park, Hydraulic and Mount Vernon

In Sedgwick County:

* Cheney, East South Avenue and Garfield

* Clearwater, Aquatic Center parking lot

* Colwich, 115 S. Third St.

* Garden Plain, water tower

* Kechi, 107 Sioux St.

* Mount Hope, 400 S. St. Thomas

* Mulvane, 117 E. Main St.

* Park City, 6801 N. Hydraulic

* Valley Center, City Park near railroad tracks.