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Horticulture center to showcase landscape research


Do you wonder how K-State Research and Extension develops its list of recommended grass, flower or vegetable varieties? University research conducted right in Olathe, Kan., helps to determine what grows best in Kansas City-area landscapes.

The K-State Research and Extension Horticulture Center's Field Day is the public's opportunity to peek behind the scenes. The event will be held July 30 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is the public's once-a-year opportunity to talk with the experts, and learn about the latest varieties and methods for achieving success. Admission is $5 per person, which includes bottled water, seminars, classes and demonstrations.

The center conducts research in turfgrass, high tunnel fruit and vegetable production and annual flowers. Visitors can speak with university professors heading up the research and Johnson County Extension Master Gardener volunteers. Volunteers will staff a plant clinic and answer gardening questions. Bring your ailing plants or specimens for identification.

This year's Field Day will showcase the following research:

--Grafted tomato research: See heirloom tomatoes grafted onto more vigorous, modern-day root stock. Researchers hope to create new varieties that possess the winning combination of heirloom flavor and modern disease resistance.

--Creative design for annual flower beds: Landscape Flower Designs display sponsored by Proven Winners.

--Groundcovers for shade trial, 25 varieties.

--Echinacea: 50-plus varieties in a rainbow of colors. Find out which ones thrive and which ones aren't worth the money.

--Patio planters: 250-plus exciting new plants and color combinations.

--Organic versus Inorganic Lawn Fertilizer: Is organic better then inorganic? Is organic environmentally healthier? Come find out.

The flower plant trials are popular with the public. Thousands of colorful annual flowers fill two acres. Companies from around the world submit their newest developments for testing. The research trials show which flowers can withstand the Kansas City-area climate. The trials also illustrate that not all varieties are created equal. This field day gives a firsthand view of the dead, dying and ugly plants. Visitors can learn which varieties to purchase to achieve floral success in this area, and which to avoid.

Also new this year will be the opportunity for Johnson County residents to get one free soil test, compliments of Johnson County Stormwater Management. A soil test determines the amount of nutrients in the soil, as well as the pH, or acidity, of the soil. Nutrient levels are important to know in order to grow healthy plants. Knowing nutrient levels is also a step toward protecting the water quality in local streams and lakes.

Go to www.johnson.ksu.edu/soiltest to learn how to take a soil sample, and bring your sample to the field day to receive your free soil test. At least two cups of dry soil are needed for a proper test. If you are unable to attend the Field Day, bring your soil sample on a weekday to the Johnson County K-State Research and Extension office at 11811 Sunset Drive in Olathe. (One per Johnson County household, while quantities last.)

The Research Center is located at 35230 West 135th Street in Olathe. The entrance is approximately nine miles west of Highway 7 on 135th Street. Admission is $5 at the gate. Lunch will be available for purchase during the event. For information call 913-715-7000, or visit www.johnson.ksu.edu.

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