Home & Garden

Gardener's almanac

Storing power equipment — Before your lawnmower and your tiller become a distant memory, it would be a good idea to service them for winter storage, Ward Upham of K-State says. It takes some time but pays off in less frustration in the spring when you're ready to fire them back up, he says.

"Run the equipment out of gas or treat the existing gas with a stabilizer, as untreated gas can deteriorate over time," Upham says. "If using a stabilizer, run the engine long enough for untreated gas in the carburetor bowl to be burned and replaced. This is also a good time to replace the oil (and filter, if present) since the engine is warm. Check and replace the spark plug if necessary. Some gardeners will also apply a light, sprayable oil into the cylinder through the spark plug hole. Check and clean air filters and replace if necessary. Many mowers and tillers will have a foam prefilter that can become filthy with use. If allowed to become too dirty, engines will run poorly or may not run at all.

"Sharpen blades, clean tines, tighten screws, replace broken parts and do all the other things needed to keep equipment in good shape."

Poinsettia pointers — To make a poinsettia last as long as possible, place it in a sunny window or the brightest area of a room without letting it touch a cold windowpane, Upham says. The day temperature should be 65 to 75 degrees, and 60 to 65 degrees at night. Move plants away from windows at night or draw drapes to avoid cold damage, he says.

Check the moisture level every day by sticking your finger about one inch deep into the soil. When it becomes dry at that depth, water the plant with lukewarm water until some water runs out of the drainage hole, then discard the drainage water, Upham says.

"Toys From the Past" talk — Gerald Schmitt will be at Botanica on Wednesday to give a lunchtime lecture on his passion for old toys. These include cast iron, pressed steel, wind-up and battery-operated toys made from the 1900s to 1960s. Schmitt will talk about the toys, the companies that made them, what they sold for and what they are worth today. You can bring your own old toys to share with the group. The lecture will be from 12:15 to 1 p.m. and is included in Botanica admission or membership.

African violet luncheon _ No, African violets will not be on the menu, but the Wichita African Violet Study Club will be meeting for a luncheon meeting Dec. 10 in McPherson. If you'd like to attend, call 316-733-0499.

Spaghetti With Santa — Botanica is having a new event this year, Spaghetti With Santa. It will include dinner with Santa and Mrs. Claus, festive stories of the season, decorating a sugar cookie for dessert and seeing the lights of Illuminations. The cost is $12 for adults ($10 for Botanica members) and $7 for youth ($5 for Botanica members). The event will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16. To reserve a spot, call Botanica at 316-264-0448.

Illuminations at Botanica _ Illuminations continues tonight and two more weekends (Fridays and Saturdays) at Botanica. The gardens are ablaze with lights and luminarias, including lights moving to music in the meadow. Hours are 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. today, Dec. 10 and 11, and Dec. 17 and 18. Local groups provide Christmas music each night, and children can see Santa.

The cost is $7 for adults ($6 for Botanica members) and $3 for children ages 2 to 12. Children under 2 get in free. Tickets can be purchased at area QuikTrip stores or at the gate.

Luminary Walk at the arboretum _ Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston also is alight for the holiday, with real candles along the paths and thousands of electrical lights too. It is from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11. The event also features s'mores around the bonfire and refreshments inside, and activities for making free take-home gifts from nature for children and adults. The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for students, $2.50 for children, and free for children 4 and under.