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Wichita gardener’s almanac for May 16

Lack of a late freeze may mean a heavy fruit crop this summer.
Lack of a late freeze may mean a heavy fruit crop this summer. Tribune

A true spring — A friend of a friend noted on Facebook this week that we were having a real spring this year. While some of us might want it to warm up more consistently, it is nice – and important – to have a true spring, with good rainfall and non-scorching temperatures. Happy mid-May!

Plant — Beans, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, okra, pumpkins, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes. To extend your sweet-corn harvest, Ward Upham of K-State advises planting one block of corn, then waiting until they are half-inch to an inch tall, then planting another block, and so on. Sweet corn can be planted through mid-July.

Leaf fall from anthracnose — Cool, wet weather can contribute to anthracnose on sycamore trees, discoloring leaves and sometimes causing them to fall off, Upham says. Healthy trees will leaf out again in a few weeks, so it’s nothing to do anything about (except for dealing with the leaves, of course). Birch, elm, walnut, oak and ash trees also can get anthracnose, Upham says.

Heavy fruit crop — Lack of a late freeze means that fruit trees may be carrying a heavy load this spring, Upham says. That can reduce next year’s harvest and the size of this year’s fruit and cause problems for branches, so thinning is recommended. The average spacing on a branch should be: apples and pears: 4 to 6 inches apart; peaches: 6 to 8 inches apart; plums and prunes: 4 to 5 inches apart; apricots: 2 to 4 inches between fruit. It’s OK if some fruits are closer as long as the average per branch is met, Upham says. Cherries don’t need to be thinned.

Cabbage worms — Damage from cabbage worms usually shows up about now, Upham says in this week’s Horticulture 2015 newsletter. Fuzzy green worms come from eggs laid by the white butterflies flitting around the plants, he says. Early treatment is essential, using the organic BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) or spinosad (Borer, Bagworm, Leafminer and Tent Caterpillar Spray; Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew). Sunlight deactivates BT quickly, so try to spray late in the day or on a cloudy day, Upham says. Insecticides such as carbaryl (Sevin), malathion and methoxychlor will kill natural enemies of the worms along with the worms. Hit both sides of the leaves, a task that is easier if you use a dust in a duster rather than a liquid spray, Upham says.

Cucumber beetles — If you had cucumber or muskmelon plants that suddenly turned brown and died last year, it might have been from bacterial wilt, Upham says. There is no cure for it, so it needs to be prevented this year. Cucumber beetles carry the disease. Protect young plants with row covers, cones or other barriers whose edges are sealed so the beetles can’t enter. As plants grow, the covers will need to be removed, and an insecticide should then be applied before beetles are noticed. Spray weekly using permethrin (under various trade names), waiting until the evening once plants have started to flower so that bees are not hit. Check labels for waiting periods between spraying and harvest, Upham says.

Moving houseplants outside — Once temperatures are consistently above 55 at night, houseplants can be moved outside, Upham says. He recommends a spot that is in dappled shade, is protected from the wind and is close to water, such as a porch or area shaded by trees or buildings. Full sun will burn the leaves.

Garden events

Project Beauty May luncheon — Project Beauty will have its May luncheon on Thursday at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Wichita Airport. Wayne Bryan of Music Theatre Wichita will give the program. The lunch will be at 12:30 p.m. at the hotel at 2098 Airport Road. Tickets are $17; send a check to Jean Wellshear, 6411 Marjorie, 67206, by Monday.

“Basil and Chocolate” talk — Master chocolatier Beth Tully, owner of Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates, will be at Botanica on Wednesday to talk about ways to combine herbs and chocolates. She’ll talk about how to match chocolate varietals to herbs and how to infuse herbs in chocolate. She’ll also have samples of Cocoa Dolce’s herb and chocolate creations. The lecture, at 12:15 p.m., is included in Botanica admission. Syl’s will have lunch for sale for $8 from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Bartlett Arboretum concert — The fiddling Quebe Sisters will perform at Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine at 4 p.m. May 24 (gates open at 3 p.m.). Tickets are $10; children get in free.

Horticultural Therapy Workshop — A horticulture therapy workshop for those who work with people who have physical or mental challenges will be June 10 at the Extension Center in Wichita. K-State professor Candice Shoemaker will be the keynote speaker. There will be tours of two accessible gardens and lessons on accessible gardening, horticultural therapy techniques, gardening with special-needs youth and seniors, raised bed gardening, growing plants from cuttings, and growing people through gardening. Hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the center at 21st and Ridge Road. Registration is $50 by June 1, $60 after. More information and registration can be found online at www.sedgwick.ksu.edu.

Annie Calovich