Kansas State University


Growing Seasons: Kansas State University Gardens

Category: January 2016

A student’s perspective

Caitlyn (002)a
Caitlyn McVey – Student Intern and Senior in Horticulture

Working in The Gardens last summer was an incredible experience. Helping complete Phase II projects over the summer and seeing how far The Gardens have come in only a few months is amazing. One of my favorite projects was the iris dig and annual iris sale.That is a very busy week, but also a lot of fun to prepare for and to see all the people who come out for the sale. Being able to work in all areas of The Gardens was something I enjoyed as well. This did not limit me to one specific area, and allowed me to learn more about a wide variety of plants and how to maintain them rather than focusing on one location. Not only did I enjoy working on these projects throughout the gardens each day, but I was also able to learn a lot from the everyday jobs we had. It is nice to be able to take what I have learned in the classroom and put it to use in The Gardens. You can learn a lot in class, but may not truly understand it until you are able to go out and actually do it.The Gardens were the perfect place for this.

Supervising the summer crew in The Gardens had a huge affect on me. The experience of what it takes to run the crew was great and taught me more about responsibility, how to manage people and to deal with different situations. Running the crew helped me gain more confidence in myself and my decisions. Again, I was able to learn a significant amount about different plants and their maintenance throughout the course of the summer. Overall, I loved working at The Gardens and am thankful I was given the opportunity to learn as much as I did, knowing that I can benefit from all of it in the future.

Newer lights available for indoor gardeners

20150729_KSU_Gardens AMany gardeners use fluorescent lights to start young vegetable and flower plants during the spring or to grow certain houseplants all year long.  Traditionally, we have used fixtures with T-12 lamps suspended a few inches above the tops of the plants. However, T-12 lamps are fading away due to newer lamps that are a better choice for indoor gardens. These are known as T-8 and T-5 lamps. The number after the “T” refers to the diameter of the lamp in eighths of an inch. Therefore, a T-12 lamp is twelve-eights, or 1.5 inches in diameter, and are what most people are familiar with. A T-8 is eight-eights, or 1 inch in diameter, and a T-5 is five-eights of an inch in diameter.

So, does a smaller diameter mean less light? Not at all. In fact, the T-5 can be the brightest of the three. Another advantage for these newer lamps is they use less electricity per lumen. The traditional 48-inch T-12 is rated at 40 watts. However, there are newer styles of T-12’s that are 34 watts. The T-8 is rated at 32 watts and the T-5 at 28 watts.

This sounds too good to be true. Are there drawbacks? Maybe so or maybe not. First is cost, if you have to replace T-12 fixtures to convert to a T-8 system. However, newer fixtures may be able to handle either T-12’s or T-8’s. Therefore, if you purchased fluorescent fixtures in the last few years, check to see if they are rated for T-8’s before replacing. Note that lamp costs are comparable between T-12’s and T-8’s. The T-5 lamps may be more expensive so check prices before converting.

The question becomes, is it worth it? If you have a T-12 fixture that is rated for T-12’s only and are satisfied with your results, then maybe not. However, if you are investing in new fixtures or have fixtures that can use either T-12’s or T-8’s, then go with the T-8’s. They will use less energy, last longer and provide more light. Prices for T-5’s have been dropping, so you may want to consider them as well.

The newest technology is LED lighting. LED’s have several advantages over other types of lighting including durability, long life, a cool running temperature and more latitude in choosing specific wavelengths of light. Traditionally, they have been very expensive but costs are dropping rapidly. We are starting to use LED’s as supplemental lighting in the university greenhouses but would suggest only using them on a trial basis at home until you see how they perform for you.

-Ward Upham, K-State Extension Specialist

A special place

Cheryl Yunk, President of Friends of The Gardens
Cheryl Yunk, President of Friends of The Gardens

The Gardens at Kansas State University are a place I love to visit. The Gardens are so serene and beautiful. We all need a place in our lives where we can go to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. The Gardens provide this type of atmosphere.

It has been interesting to watch the development of The Gardens over time. When I attended K-State, the rose garden was admired by many. Today, we have a much larger garden to admire and plans are underway to “grow the gardens” even more.

As a member of the Board of the Friends of the Gardens, I’m enjoying being a part of that process and helping to make The Gardens at Kansas State University an even better place for all to visit, admire and enjoy.

In appreciation of 2015 support

DSC_0020Annual gifts from donors make it possible to maintain and improve The Gardens while providing students with invaluable hands-on experiences. Thanks to our donors’ generosity, we were able to accomplish many things in 2015:

  •  Hire one 12-month intern (full time in summer and part time during academic year)
  • Hire four full-time student employees for the summer
  • Produce new garden signs and brochures
  • Purchase and install more than 200 new plant labels
  • Install new walkways with pavers donated by Pavestone

Thank you for your continued support of The Gardens.


Seasonal tips, garden connections

DSC_0001 (2)January in the Midwest:
(from K-State Research and Extension, Kansas Healthy Yards – Communities)

  • Peruse seed catalogs and prepare your seed order
  • Start seeds throughout the winter, depending on growing requirements
  • Water fall-planted perennials, trees and shrubs to prevent dry soil conditions
  • Avoid walking on frozen lawns. It may injure the grass
  • Scatter snow instead of piling it up on the lawn next to drives and walks
  • Gently brush heavy snow from tree and shrub limbs to reduce damage


Upcoming events:

  • Friends of The Gardens Bus Tour to Ward Meade Gardens, Topeka: April 12 (tentative)
  • All-university Open House: April 16, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Garden Party: June 10, 6 – 9 p.m.


Garden connections:

Visit The Gardens online at www.k-state.edu/gardens/.

The Gardens are open:
Dawn to midnight, Sunday through Saturday, March through November.

The Quinlan Visitor Center is open:
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Admission and parking is free.

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