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Gardener's Almanac

Tomato planting _ While the master gardeners were busy scooping up mainly flowers at Dutch's Greenhouse during our tour this week (See Page 1C), I noticed a young man scooping up tomato plants. Domanic Herndon, who lives on the family farm near Wellington, said he already had some tomato plants in the ground, and it was time to plant the rest of them. He said he likes Roma tomatoes the best because they are what he uses to make tons of salsa every summer.

Tomatoes don't make our official avoid-risk planting calendar yet, but sometimes you have to follow your own inner voice.

Planting calendar _ Seed directly in the ground: beets, turnips, collard greens, Swiss chard, carrots, lettuce, spinach, radishes. Plant plants of cauliflower, rhubarb.

In the strawberry patch _ Pinch the blossoms off spring-bearing strawberry plants that were set out this spring, Ward Upham of K-State says. Letting the plant put its energy into developing runners instead will produce the most strawberries next spring. Newly planted everbearing plants also should have the fruits removed for the first four to six weeks after planting so they develop a strong root system, Upham says.

If you need to control weeds amid strawberries, Upham recommends Poast. You can use it once grassy weeds emerge and spray over strawberry plants, just not within seven days of harvest. Poast is in Hi-Yield Grass Killer and Monterey Grass Getter.

"Hosta Guy" to speak Tuesday _ Rob Mortko, aka "the Hosta Guy," will be speaking Tuesday evening at a meeting of the Wichita Hosta Society. He will have unique and rare hostas for sale before and after the meeting, says Danny Lawson of the society.

"Rob always has the latest news on hostas and how to care for them. He highlights some of the newest varieties each time he comes," Lawson says. The public is invited to the talk at 7 p.m. Mortko owns a hosta nursery in Olathe.

Tree House concert at Bartlett Arboretum _ An opportunity to hear music and take in the beauty of Bartlett Arboretum will occur Sunday with the kick-off of this year's Tree House Concert Series. The Infamous Stringdusters, a progressive acoustic band, will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday; gates open at 2. Tickets are $10. Picnics are welcome; dogs are not allowed. Barbecue will be for sale.

Talk on dill _ Kay Neff of Neff Family Farm will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about the herb of the year — dill. Neff will serve samples of recipes using herbs. The lunchtime lecture will be from 12:15 to 1 p.m. and is included in garden admission or membership. Truffles will serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for $7.

"Let's Get Healthy With Herbs" program _ Kay Neff also will be one of the presenters at a program April 27 in El Dorado on getting healthy with herbs. People will be able to buy herbs and learn about growing, preserving and cooking with them. Neff will give tips on what herbs grow here and how to grow them, will share recipes and will have herb plants for sale. Barb Roths, Butler County family and consumer science agent, will talk about the nutrition of herbs in the diet and will prepare dishes that are relatively easy to make. Samples will be served. The event will be at the 4-H Community Building in El Dorado, and the cost is $5. Register by Friday by calling the Butler County extension office at 316-321-9660.

Shakespeare's Birthday Celebration _ Project Beauty is hosting a birthday celebration for the Bard at Botanica from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. There will be a variety of Renaissance-themed entertainment including musicians, drama troupes, dancers, fencers and falconers. From 4 to 5 p.m., you can meet "Shakespeare" and enjoy free birthday cake and punch. Activities and entertainment are included with garden admission or membership.

Birding at Botanica _ Botanica will have a bird walk at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The one-hour guided walk to seek out and learn about the birds along the way is for all skill levels. Bring binoculars if you have them. The walk is included in admission or membership.

National iris society president in town _ The president of the American Iris Society, Judy Kiesling, will give a program on show ethics at the meeting of the Wichita Area Iris Club on Monday at Botanica. Kiesling will give judges training in the garden at 5 p.m., and there will be a covered-dish dinner at 6 p.m. The meeting will start at 7 p.m. The public can attend just the meeting or can bring a dish to share and join in the dinner.

Good bloomers — As I drive around the Wichita area and see wisteria blooming beautifully and gracefully over arbors and at garden gates, I'm proud of our gardeners!

"It's been about four years since we've had this many flowers," Jerry Dieckman of Wichita e-mailed me about his wisteria. "Two years ago we had a hard freeze that killed part of our vines but this year all the cards fell into place."

Wisteria can take all kinds of forms depending on how it's pruned up and where it grows. One of the most unusual I've seen was pointed out to me by Bobbie Yandell of Derby: wisteria blooming through a tall evergreen tree in the front yard of Virgil Palmer.

I've also heard from readers about glorious tulip displays in yards, and Botanica's have also been at their peak. If you haven't been driving around taking in all the sights, don't waste another day.

On the garden hotline _ The Extension is beginning to see samples of succulent oak gall on pin oak and Shumard oak trees. This is caused by a tiny wasp that lays eggs in expanding buds of pin oak early in the spring. These gooseberry-like galls form with a tiny white egg inside. A tiny wasp will hatch out in mid-May, and the gall will then dry up. There is just one generation per year. The trees will put on new growth and grow normally for the rest of the summer. No treatment is necessary. If any treatment is used, it is a spray at bud break (which would have been a couple of weeks ago).

The Extension Master Gardener Hotline takes questions about gardening from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. weekdays at 316-660-0190.

Garden and Bloom Event in Wellington —"Every year it keeps getting bigger and bigger," Sumner County master gardener Bev Miller says of Wellington's Garden and Bloom Event, which will be April 24. This year's theme is healthy gardening. There will be a plant sale, talks, food, decorated garden tables and vendors. The event will be at the Raymond Frye Complex at 320 N. Jefferson in Wellington from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and admission is free. The schedule of talks: 9 a.m., garden salsas; 10 a.m., rain barrels; 11 a.m., concrete leaf casting; and noon, fountain installation.