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Gardener's almanac

Rot, rot and more rot — The hot and humid weather has been ideal for the development of a hosta-attacking fungus, K-State reports. The Sclerotium rolfsii fungus attacks other plants as well.

"In just one week, the rot disease can severely damage hostas," says Megan Kennelly, plant pathologist with Kansas State University Research and Extension. "It can make ajuga, daylily and phlox plants simply collapse. Unfortunately, once it's in your garden, the fungus becomes very difficult to eradicate."

The fungus starts at ground level, attacking and softening petioles, the little stems that attach leaves to plants. The infected leaves wilt, turn yellow and then brown.

"At that stage, damaged parts often are easy to pull from the soil or plant," Kennelly said. "Plus, you start to see the fungus itself on the rotted tissue and surrounding soil. It looks like rapidly growing tangles of fluffy white threads that sometimes resemble swan's down.

"Within days, the fungus also starts depositing a soil-sprinkling of hard-shelled, seed-like survival structures. These little time bombs can stay dormant in the soil for several years." The fungus can also be spread by splashing or shoes.

"The best management comes down to preventing the fungus from entering your garden in the first place," Kennelly said. "Before buying new plants, inspect them carefully for rot-related symptoms. Replant sites that have had crown rot with plants that aren't a known host."

Squash vine borer — Squash vine borers can cause squash, zucchini, pumpkins and gourds to suddenly wilt and die, Ward Upham of K-State says. You can't do much at that point. Prevention includes crushing the dull red eggs before they hatch, excavating larvae from stems before they cause much damage, or using an insecticide. Applications should begin when the vines begin to run and be reapplied every seven to 10 days for three to five weeks, Upham says. Direct the spray at the crown of the plant and the base of runners. Insecticides include permethrin (numerous trade names) and esfenvalerate (Monterey Bug Buster), Upham says.

Orange tomatoes — Tomatoes that are normally red will turn orange instead when temperatures are above 95, Upham says. It doesn't affect the edibility, but if you want red tomatoes, pick them when they just start coloring and let them ripen at a temperature from 75 to 85, and they'll be red.

Tomato Day winners — Here are the results from last weekend's Tomato Day contests at the Extension Center, with the winners listed from first to third places:

Largest tomato: John Holmes of Valley Center, 1 pound, 15.3 ounces; Michael Talbot of Wichita, 1 pound, 8.6 ounces; Bill Robl of Wichita, 1 pound, 8 ounces.

Ugliest tomato: McHugh/Corrin of Wichita; Michael Talbot of Wichita; Claire Winter of Mount Hope.

Best Plate of Three Standard Tomatoes: Dan Rogers of Valley Center; Anna Avila of Andover; Jack Webber of Wichita.

Best Plate of Three Roma or Plum Tomatoes: Floyd Bockelman of Wichita, Marilyn Stedman of Wichita, Maurine Holt of Derby.

Best Plate of Six Cherry or Pear Tomatoes: McHugh/Corrin of Wichita; Shirley Rogers of Valley Center; Charlie Webb of Wichita.

Best Cluster of Grape Tomatoes: Ron Roenne of Wichita; Tom Kessler of Wichita; Phillip Roenne of Wichita.

Preserved Salsa: Tom Welk of Wichita, Kristen Womack of Wichita, Clarence Engels of Wichita.

Fresh Salsa: Amanda Dodds of Wichita, Tina Young of Wichita, Chuck Thomas of Maize.

Kids/Six Cherry Tomatoes: Timothy Dobson, Henry Dromey, Jacob Dobson.

Kids/One Regular Tomato: Amanda Dodds, Tucker Mitchell, Amelia Young, Cassady Young.

There were no entries for a new category — best heirloom tomato.

The Artistic Tomato photo: Spencer Ring of Wichita, Steven McMahon of Wichita, Floyd Bockelman of Wichita.

Unique Tomato Growing Methods photo: Floyd Bockelman.

14 to 18 Years Old/Mr. Tomato Head photo: Gabriella Casenove.

14 to 18 Years Old/The Artistic Tomato photo: Gabriella Casenove.

13 and Under/Mr. Tomato Head photo: Maria Casenove.

13 and Under/The Artistic Tomato photo: Maria Casenove.

Riverside Parks talk — Naturalist Jim Mason will be at Botanica on Wednesday to give a lunchtime lecture on the history of Riverside Parks. He'll illustrate the history and show what the park looks like today. The lecture is at 12:15 p.m. and is included in Botanica admission. Syl's Catering will serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for $7.

Petunias and Puckered Outs — Trevor Stewart will provide the music for the next Tuesdays on the Terrace at Botanica. It's from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; gardens are open until 8 p.m. It's included in membership or regular admission.

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