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Gardener's almanac

Cut back and divide ornamental grasses — Here's a good task to do now, especially if your soil is still too wet to work (see item below). "Grasses green up earlier if foliage is removed and are more attractive without a mixture of dead and live leaves," Ward Upham of K-State says. "A number of tools can be used, including hand clippers, weed whips (if the foliage is of a small enough diameter), weed whips with a circular blade or even a chain saw. Use the top of the chain-saw bar to cut so the saw doesn't pull in debris and clog. Also, it is often helpful to tie foliage together before cutting so it doesn't interfere and is easier to dispose of. Burning is another option, but only if it is safe and legal to do so. Note that these grasses may not burn long, but they burn extremely hot. Even so, the crown of the plant is not damaged, and new growth appears relatively quickly.

"If the center of the clump shows little growth, the plant would benefit from division. Dig up the entire clump and separate. Then replant the vigorous growth found on the outer edge of the clump."

Turn the compost — If you have a compost pile, give it a turn now to break up frozen spots and get it all mixed together to warm up, Upham says.

Wet soil test — I'm going to repeat this info, as I know people are itching to get into the soil, but you need to be sure it's dry enough: Take a handful of soil and squeeze it. If it crumbles, you can work in it. If any moisture comes out of it, or even if your finger leaves an indention in it, it needs to dry out more.

Be sure to test the moisture of the soil at the deepest part of where you're digging, not just at the top.

If you plan to plant a tree this spring, dig the hole as soon as the soil is dry enough, then cover it with a tarp if rain is forecast near the planting date.

Gathering for Gardeners — Planting so you mow less and enjoying the sound of water without installing a pond are two of the talks that will take place March 13 at Hutchinson's annual Gathering for Gardeners.

The Hutchinson Horticulture Club will offer the day of free gardening information at our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Hutchinson. The church is at 407 E. 12th St., just west of the Cosmosphere.

Doors open at 8:30 a.m., and the public is invited to attend any and all events. Here's the schedule of talks and presenters:

* 9 a.m., hot and ornamental peppers, by retired Hutchinson Community College instructor James Taylor

* 10 a.m., do-it-yourself vegetable gardening, by Reno County extension agent Pam Paulsen

* 11 a.m., tomatoes: something new and something old, by retired K-State professor Chuck Marr

* 1 p.m., easy water features for patios or gardens, by Emily Nolting of K-State

* 2 p.m., mow less/relax more: think shrubs and ground covers, by Cheryl Boyer of K-State

* 3 p.m., new and old perennials at Botanica, by staff horticulturist Janet Gordon.

The garden clubs _ You can tell we're knocking on spring's door by the activity of the garden clubs. Read on. Visitors are welcome to all listed events.

Talk on growing impressive roses _ The public is invited to a meeting of the Wichita Rose Society on Tuesday, when the program will be "How to Grow Roses That Will Impress Your Neighbors." The meeting will be at Botanica. Social hour is at 6:30 p.m., and the meeting starts at 7. Light refreshments will be served.

African violet show and sale — The African Violet Study Club will have a show and sale of plants from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 13 at Botanica. Admission to the show and sale is free.

Daylily photos — Cindi McMurray, vice president in charge of programs for the Wichita Daylily Club, will be showing photos from recent daylily gatherings during a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Botanica. Visitors are welcome.

"Soil Testing and Seed Planting" — The Derby Garden Club will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the Valley State Bank Building, 330 E. Madison (north door, basement) in Derby. Soil testing and seed planting will be the topic.

Native American Horticulture conference — About two hours south of Wichita, Oklahoma State University will have a conference on Native American horticulture on April 8 in Stillwater. The topics will include creating a native landscape by a horticulturist from the Smithsonian, adventures in Native American gardening, the environmental benefits of native grasses, Pawnee traditional seeds, plant use at Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center at Spiro, Okla., and landscaping for culture: bringing back medicine to the people. The cost is $75 postmarked by March 29, $100 after. Registration is limited to the first 100 people. For more information, contact Stephanie Larimer at 405-744-5404 or e-mail stephanie.larimer@ okstate.edu.

Children's garden talk — Botanica director Marty Miller will talk about the planned Downing Children's Garden at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday at Botanica. The lunchtime lecture is included in Botanica admission.

Beginning watercolor class — Botanica will offer a beginning watercolor class in eight sessions from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 18 to May 13. Fee is $100, $90 for Botanica members. Call Karla at 316-264-0448 to register.

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