Home & Garden

Gardener’s almanac (Sept. 7)

Fertilize cool-season lawns — The most important time of year to fertilize fescue is September. If you fertilize no other time of year, do so now. If you fertilize at other times of the year, do so now. The second most important time is November. Lawns that are fertilized in the fall seem to green up earlier in the spring, extension agent Rebecca McMahon says. Early spring is actually not the time to fertilize.

“Cool-season grasses naturally thicken up in the fall by tillering (forming new shoots at the base of existing plants) and, for bluegrass, spreading by underground stems called rhizomes. Consequently, September is the most important time to fertilize these grasses,” Ward Upham of K-State says.

Apply 1 to 1.5 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. The settings recommended on lawn fertilizer bags usually equal about 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, Upham says. The nitrogen in fall feedings should be quick-release; usually only lawn fertilizers marked for summer use contain slow-release nitrogen, Upham says.

Keep watering, especially trees — Some of us may be waiting for another wet spell rather than getting back into a pattern of watering, but we shouldn’t be inactive. Many trees’ root systems, for example, have been damaged from the weather the last couple of years, by both drought and saturated soils that cut off oxygen to the roots. “We need to give that root system time to recover,” Upham says, and that is done by watering to keep the soil moist.

Peonies take a powder — Even though they may still have green leaves, peonies are essentially dormant by Sept. 1, Upham says. If they’re looking raggedy and you want to cut them back, you can do so now, cutting the leaves off close to the ground, he says. If you’d like to divide peonies in order to have more, read on:

More peonies, please — Peonies never have to be disturbed if they’re blooming happily, but if you want to make more plants by dividing a plant, you can do so in the fall, Upham says. Be aware, though, that it can take three years for the plants to reach full size and bloom. Be sure that the places where you plant the divisions get at least a half day of full sun.

Here are Upham’s instructions for dividing:

First, remove the leaves, then dig up the entire plant. Shake and wash off as much soil as possible so that the pink buds or “eyes” are visible. Each division should have three to four buds, and you’ll need to use a sharp knife to cut through the tough roots.

Space the plants so that there is at least 2 feet between dwarf types and 4 feet between standard types.

Planting for divisions is the same as for new plants: Make sure the pink buds are about 1 inch below the soil, and no more. As you place soil around the plants, keep firming the soil as you go so that the eye does not sink any lower than 1 inch. Water in well, and continue to water through fall and winter as needed to keep the soil moist.

After the soil freezes — usually sometime in December — add a mulch of straw, leaves, compost or other organic material.

Plant — Lettuce, radishes, spinach and turnips.

Winter squash picking — Ah, it seems like yesterday we were talking about when to harvest watermelon. Today we’ve already moved on to winter squash. Upham gives these signs of change in color and in toughness of the rind that tell us when these squashes are ready to pick:

• Butternut turns from light beige to deep tan. Acorn is a deep green, but it has a ground spot that changes from yellow to orange. Hubbard squash is gray or orange at maturity.

• Check for toughness by trying to puncture the rind with your thumbnail or fingernail. If it easily penetrates the skin, the squash is not yet mature. The stem should also be dry enough that excessive water doesn’t drip from it.

For long-term storage, winter squash ideally should be stored at a temperature between 55 and 60 degrees with 50 to 70 percent relative humidity. Acorn squash will usually last five to eight weeks, butternuts two to three months and hubbards five to six months in such conditions.

Garden events

Suburban Garden Club meeting — The Suburban Garden Club will meet at 10 a.m. Monday at Treescapes, 1202 N. Andover Road in Andover. Lunch for those who are interested will be at the Pizza Hut in Andover. The public is welcome.

Birds-in-the-garden talk — Encouraging birds in the garden will be the subject of a discussion led by Denice Craig at a meeting of the Derby Garden Club on Monday. The meeting will be held at the president’s house, and a picnic at 6:30 p.m. will precede the discussion. Anyone who is interested may attend; call 316-788-2316 for directions.

Flower photography talk — Photography of flowers will be the subject of the meeting of the Wichita Daylily Club at 7 p.m. Monday at Botanica. Admission to the meeting is free and open to the public.

Rose rosette webinar — The Wichita Rose Society will meet Tuesday evening at Botanica. There will be a meet-and-greet with light refreshments at 6:30 p.m., then a tour of the rose garden with Botanica gardener Connie Bell. Immediately after the tour, there will be a webinar on recent research results on rose rosette disease by Star Roses NovaFlora Research. The event is free and open to the public.

Carnations and Cosmopolitans — That’s the theme of Tuesdays on the Terrace, which will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Botanica. Scott Alan Knost will provide the live music on the terrace, and food and drinks will be for sale. The gardens are open until 8 p.m. Admission is $7, or $3 for Botanica members.

Bees and pollination talk — American Honey Princess Emily Campbell will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about bee-keeping and the role honey bees play in pollination. The lunchtime lecture, at 12:15, is included in Botanica admission.

Land Institute and Chisholm Trail Box Canyon tours — Dyck Arboretum of the Plains is sponsoring two tours in September: to the Land Institute, Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery and Coronado Heights on Thursday, leaving from Salina at 9 a.m. ($35), and to Chisholm Trail Box Canyon, including bison-watching at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, on Sept. 24 ($47). Call 620-327-8127 for reservations, by Tuesday and Sept. 20, respectively.

African violet meeting — The Wichita African Violet Study Club will meet at 1 p.m. Friday at Botanica. The meeting is free and open to the public.

Bartlett Arboretum concert — Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine will be open Sept. 15 for a concert that’s a warm-up for the Winfield bluegrass festival later that week. Bluegrass band Driven will perform on the arboretum’s grounds at 4 p.m.; gates open at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the gate. Picnics are welcome, and food will also be for sale.