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Gardener's almanac

Leaching houseplants —"Everyone knows that someone stranded in the ocean should not drink the salt water," Ward Upham of K-State says in making the case that houseplants have the same problem when salt builds up in their soil.

"Fertilizers are salts," Upham says. "They must be salts in order for the plant roots to take them up. However, salt levels can build up over time and eventually may harm plant roots, leading to scorched leaves and unhealthy plants....

"Houseplants have a certain soil volume that doesn't change until a plant is repotted. Thus salt build-up can be a crucial concern especially if plants are fertilized heavily. Leaching an overabundance of salts can be an important practice to insure the health of our houseplants."

Leaching requires adding enough water to wash out excess salt. The amount of water should equal twice the volume of the pot, Upham says. You can leach a plant outside on a nice day or in a bathtub or sink. Add water slowly so that it doesn't overflow the rim of the pot.

"If salt has formed a crust on the surface of the soil, remove it but don't take more than 1/4 inch of the underlying media," Upham says. "This may also be a good time to repot the plant."

Daylily meeting — The Prairie Winds Daylily Society will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at Botanica to gear up for spring. The public is invited; bring scissors. Sharron Gregory will present a program that includes making a notepad for daylily notes, what grows best in our area, the importance of the daylily popularity poll and garden judge ballots.

Scottish-gardens talk _ Botanica volunteers and master gardeners Jane Farris and Sharon Pedroja will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about their trip last summer to Scotland. They'll show photos of the gardens they visited there and contrast the plants with those we grow here. The lunchtime lecture, at 12:15, is included in Botanica admission.