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Gardener's almanac

Seed orders — Every year brings some disappointments in seed orders because of losses to crop failures. But this year there are reports that losses could be more widespread because of unusually bad weather last year. While extension agent Rebecca McMahon says she doesn't expect shortages of anything more than of a variety here or there, she does recommend not waiting until the last minute to buy the seed you want.

Asparagus from seed — If you want to be timely about starting asparagus from seed, order the seed now, Ward Upham of K-State says. Asparagus plants are usually started from crowns but can be started from seed.

"We recommend transplanting asparagus in mid- to late April after danger of a freeze is past," Upham says. "It normally takes about 10 to 12 weeks for asparagus seedlings to grow large enough to transplant, so they need to be started soon.

"Asparagus seed is somewhat erratic in germination, though soaking seed in warm water for 48 hours helps. Keep the seeding medium between 75 and 80 degrees and plant at a depth equal to four times the diameter of the seed. Germination normally takes two to three weeks.

"Asparagus seems to grow in spurts where growth will be rapid, and then slow. Don't become concerned with this pattern, as it is quite common with asparagus. Plants should be transplanted to a trench about 6 inches deep. Gradually add soil to the trench as plants grow. The trench should be full by the end of the growing season."

Conservation trees — Another thing not to wait to order are seedlings from the Kansas Forest Service for use as conservation plantings, Upham says. The service sells tree and shrub seedlings at a low cost for windbreaks, wood lots, riparian plantings, wildlife habitat and Christmas trees. They cannot be used for landscape (ornamental) plantings or grown for resale. The plants are sold in units usually of 25 to 50. They are 1 to 2 years old and vary in size from 5 to 18 inches depending on the species. Orders are accepted through the first Monday in May each year, but order early to ensure getting the items you want, Upham says. Orders are shipped from the second week of March through the first week of May. For more information and to order, go to the Web site www.kansasforests.org or call 888-740-8733.

Vegetable Growers Workshop — Next month's vegetable growers workshop at the Extension Center is "set up so that both people who are into growing vegetables for market but haven't done much or any will get something out of it, and people who have been growing for some time will get something out of it," Rebecca says. "There are some really good speakers," including an organic farmer from Arkansas who uses a no-till method for growing vegetables. His area is small but intensive, so that "he gets a lot of produce off of his fields," Rebecca says. "It's something I think could be very applicable for people wanting to get started on a small scale here."

The Central Kansas Vegetable Growers Workshop will be from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Extension Center at 21st and Ridge Road. It's sponsored by K-State Research & Extension in Sedgwick, Butler, Harvey, and Reno counties. The workshop will cover the basics of vegetable production including building soil fertility, starting transplants from seed, season extension, crop planning, insect control and marketing. The cost is $10 before Jan. 29 and $15 after. To register, call 316-660-0144.

Birding at Botanica — The monthly walk through Botanica looking at — and listening for — the birds will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday. It's included in admission.

Environmentally friendly garden talk — Extension agent Bob Neier will be at Botanica on Wednesday to give a lunchtime lecture titled "Kansas Healthy Yards and Communities: Building a Greener Community One Yard at a Time." He'll talk about environmentally conscious ways to prepare and build soil, select adapted plants, water wisely and take time to enjoy the garden. The lecture, at 12:15, is included in Botanica admission.

One more week for Christmas tree mulch — You can recycle your real Christmas tree and/or pick up free Christmas tree mulch at several county sites through Jan. 23. Remove all decorations from the tree.

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.

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