Finney County Extension agents

Young trees, those less than six inches in trunk diameter, will greatly benefit from an annual fertilizer application. Research shows that fertilizing young trees dramatically increases growth. Fall or late winter is the best time to apply this fertilizer because the nutrients are absorbed by the plant and stored, then used for rapid growth in the spring. Maturing or mature trees, on the other hand, will rarely benefit from an application of nutrients because their wide-reaching root systems are able to absorb nutrients from lawn fertilization or through a beneficial network of soil organisms.

Most of the soils in the Finney County area are naturally high in phosphorus and potassium. So to fertilize young trees in our area, use a fertilizer with a high percentage of nitrogen, the first number listed on the bag. For a tree four inches in diameter, use one actual pound of nitrogen. If the fertilizer mixture has 20 percent nitrogen, apply five pounds. Spread the fertilizer all around the tree's drip line area.

Iris beds should be cleaned up to lower the chance for a couple of common problems — a fungus disease known as iris leaf spot and an insect named iris borer. Though both cause problems in the spring, now is the time to start control measures. Both the fungus and eggs of the borer overwinter on old, dead leaves. Removing iris leaves and other garden debris from the iris bed this fall reduces populations of these pests. This can significantly reduce problems next spring.

Fall is the preferred time to prepare garden soil for next spring's vegetable garden. Insects often hide in garden debris. If that debris is worked into the soil, insects will be less likely to survive the winter. Diseases are also less likely to overwinter if old plants are worked under. Also, the garden debris will increase the organic matter content of the soil. Working the debris into the soil is often easier if you mow the old vegetable plants several times to reduce the size of the debris.

Fall is an excellent time to add organic matter. Not only are organic materials usually more available in the fall (leaves, rotten hay or silage, grass clippings), but fresher materials can be added in the fall than in the spring because there is more time for them to break down before planting. As a general rule, add two inches of organic material to the surface of the soil and till it in. Be careful not to overtill. You should end up with particles like grape nuts or larger. If you work your garden into the consistency of dust, you have destroyed the structure of the soil.

If you have any questions about October lawn chores or other concerns, contact David Coltrain, Finney County Extension agent, at 272-3670 or email

Celebrate your health

Finney County Extension Noon Program is presenting "Mealtime Inspirations — For the Holidays" on Friday, Nov. 15, from noon to 1 p.m. at the Finney County Fairground 4-H Building.

Let us show you how to make your favorite holiday meal more nutritious. We will be serving lunch along with sharing recipes on how you can make old traditional recipes healthier by focusing on the "Stars" like fruits and vegetables, and show you ways to reduce fat, sodium and sugar in your favorite holiday recipes.

The program will be presented by Carol Ann Crouch, family and consumer sciences agent, Scott County; Belinda Oldham, family and consumer sciences agent, Wichita County; Sheryl Carson, family and consumer sciences agent, Kearny County; and LĂ©hisa de Fornoza, Finney County family and consumer sciences agent.

Please RSVP by noon Nov. 7 by calling to the Extension office at 272-3670 or email There will be a registration fee to be paid to the Extension office before the program date.

Food safety

USDA officials have issued a public health alert warning consumers about the risk for illness.

Poultry has been linked to an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant salmonella Heidelberg that has sickened in 18 states.

The symptoms of salmonella food poisoning often come on quickly and aggressively, and last for up to 48 hours. Typical symptoms during this acute stage include: Abdominal pain, cramping, tenderness, chills, diarrhea, fever, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, signs of dehydration (decreased urine, dry mouth), etc.

To prevent contamination with salmonella is important to avoid eating raw or lightly cooked poultry and cook to a safe temperature (165 F). Foods are properly cooked when they reach a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. It's safe to bite when the temperature is right!

Any questions or concerns, contact LĂ©hisa de Fornoza at 272-3670 or

4-H enrollment

It's time to enroll in the 4-H program in Finney County. 4-H is open to all students 7 to 18 years of age, anytime during the 4-H year.

Members may enroll in a number of projects. Finney County has 10 4-H clubs. Members may participate at the county fair, camps, project workshops and record book awards.

Raising great kids is a challenging task, but it's easier when you have a team of people behind you. 4-H clubs are groups of families that do just that. Through working together, families share knowledge and interests to help kids learn practical skills and important values.

How does 4-H work?

Join a club! 4-H clubs generally meet monthly, and nearly every community in Kansas has at least one. These meetings give youth opportunities to share their project work (speak), plan community service activities and practice running meetings. They have many "sub-clubs" for individual projects, led by adults or teens within the club. For specialized projects like shooting sports, many counties have county-wide project clubs that operate in a similar fashion.

Members choose from a wide range of individual projects, based on their interests and the availability of a knowledgeable adult in the community to serve as a mentor/leader (matching facilitated through clubs). Through these projects, members set goals, learn the skills needed to achieve goals, and exhibit/demonstrate their skills at events like county fairs, speaking contests and other competitions.

4-H challenge

What does writing, speaking, signaling and transmitting have in common? If you said "Communication," you made the connection. It's not what you say, but how you say it, really holds true when communicating your wants and needs to others.

In the 4-H Communications project, youth will learn to interpret verbal and nonverbal information, develop effective public speaking skills, enhance written and spoken communication, defend a point, design a presentation and much more. Things 4-H youth can learn in the project is to write a speech, write a press release, give directions, prepare a résumé, interview for a job, give a talk or demonstration and write a letter.

Join 4-H and learn the basics of organizing and giving a talk.Join 4-H — the club of families who share in teaching kids practical things like giving a talk or demonstration and other important skills and values like responsibility. Join anytime!

To find out more about our 4-H programs, contact Barbara Addison, 4-H agent, at 272-3670, 501 S. Ninth St., email or visit

4-H treat station at Boo! At The Zoo

4-H club members and families will be dressed as Halloween spooks on Saturday. Come by the 4-H treat station at the northeast corner of the duck pond of Lee Richardson Zoo. Finney County 4-H will be there for fantastic fun and community service. Join us!