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Gardener's almanac (May 21)

Rain dance -- I'm hoping we can once again declare late spring here and get on with some decent temperatures.

We got some rain, but I was sad to see this notice from western Kansas and the Grant County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism: "Due to the extreme drought conditions we are canceling the Grant County Wildflower Tour which was scheduled for May 28th in Ulysses, KS."

Plant -- Beans, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, lettuce, peppers, okra, sweet potatoes, pumpkins (wait until later in June for Halloween harvest), sweet corn, tomatoes, squash.

Cucumber beetles -- If you had cucumbers or muskmelons that suddenly turned brown and died last year, you may have had a disease known as bacterial wilt, says Ward Upham of K-State. The cucumber beetle carries this disease. Once a plant is infected, there is no cure, so prevention is the key. Young plants can be protected with row covers, cones or other barriers, Upham says. Seal edges so beetles can't enter. Plants will eventually outgrow the barrier, or the barrier will need to be removed for pollination. Apply insecticides before beetles are noticed, Upham says. Spray weekly throughout the season with rotenone or permethrin (numerous trade names). Once plants have started flowering, spray late in the evening after bees have returned to the hive, Upham advises. Check labels for waiting periods between when you spray and when the fruit can be picked.

Cabbageworms, etc. -- Cabbage, broccoli, potatoes and snap beans should be watched over for evidence of harmful insects, K-State entomologist Bob Bauernfeind says:

* White cabbageworm butterflies flit over cabbages and broccoli but then rest to deposit eggs. Newly forming heads should be protected from them.

* Early planted potatoes have thrived, and Colorado potato beetles are active. Hand-picking beetles and destroying eggs are two methods. Otherwise watch for the appearance of Colorado potato beetle larvae and apply insecticides in a timely manner.

* Bean seedlings are emerging, and are already being fed upon by bean leaf beetles. Bean leaf beetles are small ( inch) and stay out of sight by quickly moving to the undersides of leaves or dropping to the ground. If you don't control them, beetles will eat stems as well as leaves.

Pine needle scale -- If you've seen white needle specks that look a little like dandruff on pines, spruces, firs, hemlocks, and sometimes yews and cedars, they are likely pine needle scales, Upham says. Heavy infestations can kill twigs, branches and even entire trees.

"In Kansas, pine needle scales produce two generations per year, one of which is hatching right now," Upham says. "The new crawlers are bright red to brown. They're so tiny you need a magnifying glass to see them. Until they settle in place and form their waxy cover, though, they're vulnerable to insecticides."

Kansas' first generation of reddish crawlers typically emerges in May to early June. The second appears in mid- to late July, Upham says.

The only control option now is to spray either generation's crawlers soon after they emerge, he says. Insecticides include acephate (Orthene), cyfluthrin (Tempo, PowerForce Multi-Insect Killer Concentrate, Bayer Home Pest Control Indoor & Outdoor Insect Killer), permethrin, (numerous trade names) and carbaryl (Sevin).

"After your initial spray, check for crawler activity twice at seven-day intervals. If you find active ones, spray again," Upham says.

Adult pine needle scale males are white, narrow and 1/32-inch long. The females are white and wider on one end with a yellow or orange cap on the other; they're also larger at inch long. As is typical for scales, the adults never move.

Get your garden questions answered -- Master Gardeners will be on hand from 8 to 10 a.m. today and every Saturday through October in the demonstration garden outside the Sedgwick County Extension Education Center at 21st and Ridge Road. They'll be ready to identify the plants growing there, demonstrate composting techniques and answer gardening questions.

Natural fertilizer talk -- The Wichita Organic Garden Club will meet at Botanica at 7 p.m. Tuesday, and the speaker will be Tom Phillips of AGGRAND, giving a short overview of the natural fertilizers that the club sells at its meetings as a fundraiser. The club's Melvin Epp will follow the talk with a discussion of which formulations to use with each vegetable and with flowers. The meeting is free and open to the public, and snacks will be shared at the end of the meeting. Botanica is open until 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, so the gardens also will be available for viewing.

Memorial Day at Botanica -- Admission will be $3 for everyone on Memorial Day at Botanica, when the gardens will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A hot dog lunch will be available for purchase from Friends of Botanica from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., but picnics are also encouraged. From 1 to 1:45 p.m., the Wichita Community Band will play a variety of American march music, and free ice cream will be available.

CSI exhibit talk -- Laurel Zhany, education specialist at Exploration Place, will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about "CSI: The Experience," a new exhibit highlighting forensic science coming to Exploration Place this summer. The lunchtime lecture will be from 12:15 to 1 p.m. and is included in Botanica admission.

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