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GARDENER'S ALMANAC

Gardeners exchange — The garden exchange — for anyone who wants to give away plants, pots and garden tools, and/or for anyone who wants to pick up some plants, pots and garden supplies for free — will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 23 at Fairview Christian Church at 16th and Fairview. Kelly Hayes of Sun Prairie Dog Recycling hosts the garden exchange in the church parking lot. It's a good time to clean out the garden shed and divide your perennials, giving starts away instead of tossing them out, and also a good time to get some garden plants for free or maybe pick up a tool you need. About the only thing that can't be "exchanged" is a chemical of any kind.

In the vegetable garden — The master gardeners harvested the first of their fall lettuces this week in the demonstration garden at the Extension Center. They also harvested tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. "We also thinned out the kale and picked a couple of daikon radishes," extension agent Rebecca McMahon reports. "The radishes are big enough to start eating, but not as big as they can get yet.

"Some of the fall vegetables like kale, chard and radicchio have very soft, tender leaves right now. We need some cooler temperatures to toughen them up before it gets cold." And she adds: "We're finding a few caterpillars here and there on some of the lettuces, but not enough to make it worth spraying yet." The master gardeners will be harvesting lemongrass and basil soon to store for winter.

Spring bloomers in the fall — After a stressful summer, plants that bloom in the spring sometimes also bloom in the fall. Ward Upham of K-State says he's seen quince and crabapples blooming this fall. "Iris that are blooming now are probably reblooming varieties that normally bloom twice a year," Upham says. "Fall flowering of plants is normally sparse and does not appreciably affect the amount of bloom the following spring."

Quince fruit — Flowering quince grown for its blooms in the spring normally does not put on fruit, but some of the thorny shrubs this year are showing what look like misshapen or fuzzy "apples," Upham says. "Normally fruit does not develop because frosts prevent fruit formation and plants fruit poorly without cross-pollination," he says. "Quince fruit are quite hard but are sometimes mixed with other fruit to make jellies and preserves." Let me know if you make some!

Maple or oak? —Sometimes people don't know how to tell the difference between a maple and an oak, Upham says. "The easiest way is to look at how the leaves are arranged on the stem. Maples are opposite leaved and oaks are alternate. Opposite leaved plants such as maples and ash have leaves directly across from one another. Alternate leaved plants have leaves alternating up the stem — one on one side and the next, further up the stem, on the other."

Caterpillar ID — Ray Cloyd, entomologist for K-State, fields questions this time of year about parsleyworm or black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) caterpillars. "These caterpillars primarily feed on the leaves of fennel, dill and parsley although they will sometimes feed on plants such as Queen Anne's lace, celery and similar plants in the carrot family," Cloyd says. "Young caterpillars are mottled black and white, which results in them resembling bird droppings. More mature caterpillars possess bands of green, yellow, white and black. In addition, there are six yellow spots within each black band.

"Parsleyworm overwinters as a pupa or chrysalis that is attached to the bark of trees, sides of buildings, or other protected habitats. Adults typically emerge in May and June, and females deposit eggs on plants in the Apiaceae family, only laying several eggs per location. After eggs hatch, caterpillars feed for three to four weeks in which they undergo a series of color changes as they mature. Full-grown caterpillars eventually migrate off plants to find a place to pupate."

Good time to test the soil — Fall can be the best time to test the soil for any needed nutrients. The soil is usually not as wet in the fall, plus this is the ideal time to add any organic matter that may be needed, Upham says. "Begin by taking a representative sample from several locations in the garden or lawn," Upham instructs. "Each sample should contain soil from the surface to about 6 to 8 inches deep. This is most easily done with a soil sampler."

If you don't have a sampler, use a shovel to dig straight down into the soil. Then shave a small layer off the back of the hole for your sample. Mix the samples together in a clean plastic container and select about 1 to 1.5 cups of soil. This can be placed in a plastic container such as a resealable plastic bag.

Take the soil to your county extension office to have tests done at the K-State soil-testing laboratory for a small charge. A soil test determines fertility problems, not other conditions that may exist such as poor drainage, poor soil structure, soil-borne diseases or insects, chemical contaminants or damage, or shade with root competition from other plants.

Field to Fork workshop — Kansas State University and Butler Community College are teaming up to offer "Field to Fork and Recipe to Reality — Bringing Your Food Product to Market," a conference on Nov. 9 focused on giving agricultural producers and others information about commercializing a food product.

The conference will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the K-State Research and Extension Sedgwick County education center at 7001 W. 21st St. in Wichita. Experts in food processing, regulations, labeling, marketing, distribution and business development will give presentations and be on hand to discuss what it takes to bring a food product to market.

The fee is $30, and includes breakfast, beverages and a barbecue lunch. Online registration is available at http://fieldtofork.eventbrite.com. More information is available by calling the Sedgwick County Extension Education Center at 316-660-0100.

Waterbirds talk — Paul Griffin, local birder and member of the Wichita Audubon Society, will be at Botanica on Wednesday to give a talk on the waterbirds that live in or often visit Wichita. The lunchtime lecture will be from 12:15 to 1 p.m. and is included in Botanica admission. Truffles will serve lunch for $7 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Photography walk — Jeff Cowell will lead a photography walk around Botanica from 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 21. He will give hands-on instructions on how to improve your photography skills. The cost is $25, or $15 for Botanica members. To register, call Karla at 316-264-0448.

Daffodil sale — You can buy unusual daffodil bulbs at good prices today as the Wichita Daffodil Club has its annual daffodil sale in the Fireside Room at Botanica, 701 N Amidon. The sale will begin at 10 a.m. and run until 3 p.m., unless the bulbs sell out earlier. The club specializes in planting the newer show-quality varieties that are not available at the garden centers, and these are what you will find at the sale. Bulbs are initially purchased from specialty growers and hybridizers and grown in members' gardens and are proven perennializers in our Kansas climate. Bulbs for landscape garden use and naturalizing will also be available.

Bootanica — Today is Bootanica at Botanica, with activities for the family. The event is from 2 to 5 p.m., and costumes are optional. There will be a variety of nature-related activity centers: the spider's lair, bug-a-BOO, the plant graveyard, the scarecrow trail, creepy creatures, the bat cave, spooky story-telling and pumpkin decorating. Admission is $7 a person; children under 2 are free. For more information, call 316-264-0448 or go to botanica.org.

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