By Janice Sroufe
Although summer with its hot weather is my favorite time of year, the cooler temperatures and beautiful colors of fall are comforting and sometimes a relief. This year we have had nice moistur,e and plants that don’t normally survive until fall are still looking pretty good. But as the garden begins to fade, new opportunities await.
When I am cleaning up the garden for winter, I love to collect seeds to save and grow again next spring. Some annual flowers like celosia, marigold and zinnia freely reseed themselves, so unless you are really super-cleaning your garden, you will probably have plants next year without actually planting the seed yourself.
Sometimes you won’t get the exact same plant but it is fun to see what happens.
My gardening friends love sharing seeds from their gardens, too. You can research the process for saving and planting different seeds on the web.
Consider mowing your leaves rather than raking them this year. You can leave them in place or bag them up to use in the compost pile or as mulch.
It’s a great time to plant trees and shrubs to give them a good start for next year.
If you aren’t tired of vegetable gardening yet, you can plant things like spinach, onion, kale and cabbage. Even if you don’t harvest anything this fall, mulch them a little and they will probably start growing again in late winter.
This time of the year I start thinking about what my garden is going to look like once the tall pink celosia falls over, all the marigolds become dry and brown and the leaves are gone. After I clean everything up, it will just be bare, with a few tree and bush skeletons scattered around the yard.
Of course, I do bring some plants inside to overwinter, but my friend Kathy does something even better – she grows beautiful, exotic orchids in her house. She is actually quite well known for this skill among the Master Gardener community.
Kathy says that orchids are fun and rewarding to grow and easy, once you learn what they need. Here are 5 requirements for growing orchids in Kansas:
Light – Light is essential for orchids to flower. Orchids can grow in light from a south or east facing window but not direct sunlight. Florescent lights also work well.
Water – Orchids do not grow in soil but in a very porous mix. Roots need to be thoroughly wet and allowed to become almost dry before watering, but NEVER allowed to stand in water. Warm water is best as orchids are tropical plants.
Humidity – Grouping plants together helps to increase humidity to the 40-60 percent desired range. A fan nearby is helpful to keep the air circulating.
Temperature – A range between 50 and 90 degrees is desirable for orchids.
Fertilizer – Orchids are hungry! Feed them with a 10-30-20 fertilizer solution at half strength at each watering to encourage blooms.
Some types of orchids have specific culture requirements that you can obtain from the American Orchid Society website: www.aos.org.
If you would like to learn more about growing orchids, the Kansas Orchid Society will host the Fall Orchid Show & Sale on Nov. 3 and 4 at Botanica, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Admission is free and you will be able to see floral exhibits, purchase orchids not usually available in Wichita and find supplies to get your new project going and growing! For more information on growing orchids, go to www.kansasorchidsociety.com or find them on Facebook.
I plan to take a few months off from this column. So until we meet again, happy fall and winter gardening!
Janice Sroufe is a Sedgwick County Master Gardener. She welcomes comments and questions. Contact her at