Stacey and Sean Killingsworth are sharing their love of gardening and eating homegrown produce with their young daughters. Neighbors Teresa Stumpf and Teresa Hammer are sharing plants between their yards and with others. And Laura Nutter and Bill Cawood are sharing the healing benefits of a garden with area veterans.
Next weekend, they'll be among the gardeners who are sharing their gardens with visitors as part of an annual tour organized by the K-State Research and Extension's master gardener volunteer program.
Gardening enthusiasts can wander through seven gardens in the greater Wichita area during the June 1-3 tour, which showcases examples of various types of gardens , including shade gardens, wildlife-friendly gardens, native plants and ponds.
Master gardeners will be available at each of the gardens during the tour to answer questions. Proceeds from the $10 tour tickets fund the master gardener program, part of which includes answering gardening questions to the extension office during the spring, summer and fall seasons.
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An urban micro-farm
Stacey Killingsworth has a childhood photo of her contentedly playing in a garden. She's passing on that love of gardening to her 9- and 12-year-old daughters.
“We've got two little ones who are fond of going out and picking things to eat,” said Killingsworth.
To indulge that fondness, the Killingsworths have planted chokeberry plants alongside an east patio wall, surrounded their raised bed vegetable garden with edible flowers like nasturtium, and are growing borage, which also bears edible flowers, in vertical planters in a 12-foot easement strip they bought from a neighbor. The girls can also pick blueberries and blackberries from plants growing in another four raised beds in the easement, which was a former carport. Hops, which Sean Killingsworth shares with his beer-making friends, grow up the fence along the easement.
With a small yard, the Killingsworths use several vertical gardening techniques.
Multiple vertical planters hold herbs, lettuce and other edible crops. Sean Killingsworth, who started growing tomatoes in pots as a teenager, prunes and trains his tomato plants for vertical growth. It not only keeps the plants tidy; it also helps the plants put more energy into producing fruit, Sean Killingsworth said. One year, the plants grew 14 feet high.
“It was cool,” said Stacey Killingsworth. “The neighbors watched them clear the fences.”
Sean Killingsworth said his favorite eating tomato is the heirloom Cherokee purple, while the kids like the orange, super sweet cherry-like tomatoes called sun sugars.
Their compact yard also includes a rabbit hutch for the family's two bunnies, Edie and Clover, who provide a ready source of compost, and a chicken coop with four hens, who also provide eggs along with manure for compost.
A friendship garden
The yards of Hammer and Stumpf at 2028 and 2034 N. Payne can be called a friendship garden, not only because the neighbors' friendship has grown from their love of gardening, but because they pass on cuttings and plants to others, sort of like Amish friendship bread.
“We share with a lot of people,” said Hammer. “Instead of throwing out things when we thin plants, we give it away.”
When Stumpf moved next door to Hammer in Riverside 15 years ago, her backyard was basically barren, with no trees and not very much plant life. Now it's filled with plants – many started from cuttings from Hammer's garden – and paths that lead to various garden beds within the backyard.
In the front yard, Stumpf added on to a small shade garden Hammer had planted street-side. Hammer used stone from the demolished Steak and Ale restaurant to create the border. Within that garden, she's planted her favorite plant, azaleas.
Together the pair have more than 30 varieties of clematis, a favorite flowering vine of both women.
“That's been our plant that we collect and get excited about when we see a new one,” Stumpf said. Hammer's yard, for example, includes clematis that produce deep purple flowers, yellow flowers, and even a lilac-colored pom-pom like flower.
The two also share a love of yard art. They create and sell unusual-shaped planters, made by using repurposed fabric dipped into a cement slurry and left to harden, and leaf-shaped cement pieces that have impressions of leaves from their elephant ear and other plants. Stumpf, for example, uses one of the leaf-shaped pieces as part of a fountain feature, which is surrounded by desert willow trees that bear a large pink flower.
Moles are a common pest in Riverside gardens, and the pair have tried several remedies, including dumping human urine in the holes, without much success, they said. The best deterrent they've found to keep them away from certain areas is to stomp around the ground, forcing the moles to create their burrows elsewhere.
A garden for body and soul
Nutter was struggling with the suicide death of her veteran father, Donald Kolar, when she decided she wanted to commemorate his life with a bush and a bench on the grounds of the Robert J. Dole Veterans Administration Hospital.
The idea blossomed into a full-fledged garden after Nutter talked with a behavioral health nurse at the VA who was wanting to start a garden for therapeutic reasons.
With hundreds of donated plants, materials and hours of labor, Nutter along with Cawood, a veteran and a master gardener, started the garden in 2013 that provides herbs and vegetables for nourishment and a peaceful pastime for veterans. The garden is located next to the VA's behavioral health building along Edgemoor Street and across from a fire station.
Nutter said her dad loved gardening and would share produce with anyone from the mailman to the bank clerk, so it's fitting that the VA garden's produce be shared, too.
The produce can be harvested for free by veterans, their families, VA employees and volunteers. Bags, scissors and even recipes are stored in mailboxes alongside the raised vegetable beds and the in-ground herb bed to take home the harvest.
“It's been gratifying to see what my dad started with his whimsical way of helping that's now carried on this way,” Nutter said.
The garden has various therapeutic areas, from the sensory garden featuring aromatic herbs such as mint, rosemary and thyme that can be touched and smelled, to a touch garden featuring lamb's ear and celosia that feature different textures. One garden features bright Persian shield plants bordered by sun-tolerant begonias.
Oother gardens on the tour
▪ 1919 S. Crestline features the garden of Steele's Landscape owner, Jason Steele, who has installed gardens throughout the country and is known for incorporating one-of-a-kind water features .
▪ 1203 N. Covington Circle has the feeling of an arboretum, with more than 50 trees and subsequent shade gardens that feature hostas, ferns, begonias, salvias and impatiens.
▪ 2879 N. Edwards Court showcases plants and landscaping design that are meant to attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife.
▪ 6901 E. Perryton in Bel Aire features a once-weedy easement that has been turned into a prairie garden with several native plants.
Master Gardener Garden Tour
Where: 5500 E. Kellogg, 3816 E. Lewis, 2034 & 2028 N. Payne, 1919 S. Crestline, 1203 N. Covington Circle and 2879 N. Edwards Court in Wichita, 6901 E. Perryton in Bel Aire
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 1 and 2; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 3
What: An opportunity to tour seven area gardens with various features. The tour is organized by and benefits the K-State Research and Extension's master gardener volunteer program. Plants are labeled and master gardeners are available at each garden to answer gardening questions.
Tickets: $10. Advance tickets available at the Sedgwick County Extension Education Center, 7001 W. 21st St. N., Wichita and online through a link at sedgwick.k-state.edu, or at the individual gardens on the days of the tour
More information: 319-660-0100 or sedgwick.ksu.edu
Upcoming garden tours
The annual master gardener tour June 1-3 kicks off three weekends of June garden tours in Wichita. Two other tours are:
▪ The North Riverside neighborhood hosts it biennial garden stroll 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, June 9. The stroll will highlight five gardens and a school-based vegetable garden, according to organizers. Tickets are $5 and available in advance at Johnson’s Garden Center locations and at the gardens on the day of the tour. Gardens on the stroll are at 1440 N. Woodland, 1145 W. 13th (with food trucks available), 1530 W. 13th St., 1828 W. 18th St. #1016, 1410 Lieunett, and St. Patrick's Catholic School, 2023 N. Arkansas All proceeds benefit neighborhood landscaping projects.
▪ The Kansas Pond Society showcases water gardens on its annual tour from 9 a.m.-5 p.m Saturday, June 16, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday, June 17. According to organizers, some ponds will only be on the tour for one day. Maps listing the locations serve as the tickets and are $10 per carload. They can be purchased at Johnson's Garden Center locations, Hong's Nursery, Scenic Landscape and Woodard Mercantile. Proceeds from lemonade stands at some of the gardens will benefit Wesley Children's Hospital.