Friday PhotoEssay – August 19, 2016

We have been busily harvesting a number of vegetables – especially peppers and tomatoes. I’m pretty pleased with most of our tomato varieties. Although some have had cracking issues, most of them have been yielding pretty consistently.

28473952483_f027a32dc6_zEvery week the garden feels more and more like a jungle. For better or for worse, not much has really started dying off yet. Usually by this point in the season, there are things that are clearly going downhill. At the moment, everything just continues to encroach on the aisles.

28804424280_fbcf140afcThe first flush of peppers on the ‘Escamillo’ sweet pepper plants has finally ripened to the golden yellow color. The plants had a very good initial yield. I hope they can set and ripen another flush of fruit before it gets too cold this fall.

28985916812_e8e9e9145cWe harvested a whole bag full of the ‘Fushimi’ peppers from the Oriental garden. These peppers are not supposed to be hot (despite their appearance), and they are often sauteed in oil and sprinkled with salt as an appetizer. I’m hoping to have time to try that recipe out soon!

28804461070_091415e232If I’m honest, the ‘Lucky Tiger’ cherry tomatoes still look a bit sickly in color to me. The plant all of a sudden had tons of ripe fruit. Despite this pile, at least this many were thrown away due to significant cracks.

28903498346_666f294e70We harvested the first of the Korean Golden Honey Melons last week. They are very cute! They do taste exactly like you expect an Asian melon to taste like (if you’ve had the opportunity to try them before). Meaning, don’t expect the sweet cantaloupe or watermelon flavor we are used to! Most Asian melons are a little crunchy and have a flavor more like a sweet cucumber than a melon. The flavor is often a little floral and mildly sweet, compared to the high sugar content of an American melon.

28830400612_919e28407cWe’ve harvested the first handful of the hot paprika peppers (‘Leutschauer’) and they have taken up residence on my office table to dry. They will dry naturally if they have reached the point where they are starting to get just a little bit soft and wrinkly on the plant AND if there is no damage to the fruit that will let decay get started. The best thing to do would be to put them in a dehydratro, which I may do if we have enough at one time.

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – August 5, 2016

We have hit our stride with summer produce over the past couple weeks, and unlike some years, there really aren’t many signs of decline around the garden…yet.

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Although, in the interest of full disclosure, we did remove the cucumbers that were in the accessible beds. They were pretty sad at this point. The rest of the garden looks a little bit like a jungle. I find myself dodging plants that are trying to take up space in the aisles when I walk through the garden.

28124954224_1cae23ddaeWe chopped and incorporated the other areas of buckwheat this week. One section was to prevent it from going to seed. The section pictured here we needed to clear so we could plant fall veggies in a couple weeks. A couple of our Master Gardeners brought hedge trimmers to do the chopping step with the buckwheat, then we used spades and garden forks to turn it under.

28742586545_6c006ca279Here’s the post-turning shot, in case you were curious what it looks like. It takes buckwheat only about 2 weeks to decompose sufficiently once incorporated.

28637321782_9f63b3ec8eSome of the purple peppers are beginning to color. This variety turns orange, then darkens to red. I think this in-between stage is a pretty cool look!

28665342471_e36084d472The Chinese Long beans are starting to produce, which is always fun. The challenge with them is that I’m always torn between the desire to leave them on the vine to see how long they get and knowing that for optimal eating quality they should be picked at about 12″ long.

28637346152_814bc77aa9We harvested the bulk of the grapes from our grapevine this week. We have a ‘Himrod’ grape, which is a green-gold, seedless table grape. The skins are a bit tough in some cases, but the flavor is exceptional. They taste nothing like grocery store grapes.

28712555076_0709e60abb_zJust to wrap up for today, another quick look at our Pollinator garden. Since our last look, the passionflower vine has reached the top of it’s trellis. Everything else seems to be doing well, and we have had some caterpillars on things.

Have a great weekend!

 

Prepping for Fall & Beating the Heat

Many years, fall is my favorite time in the garden here in Kansas. The tricky thing is getting yourself into a “fall” mindset when it is still blazingly hot in early August. Yes, now is the time to plan, prepare, and plant your fall vegetable garden!

28637375082_2a128d6b64We started seeds for some of our fall plantings about 4-5 weeks ago: broccoli, cauliflower, Japanese winter bunching onion, kale, and bok choy.

I moved them outside onto the table near the building last week, so they don’t look quite this nice anymore. The flea beetles are going to do a number on our fall brassicas, I’m afraid.

Despite the heat, I wanted to get at least some of these plants in the ground, because they are drying out too fast in the cell trays.

Timing isn’t too critical on some of these, but the broccoli and cauliflower may not have a long enough growing season if we don’t plant them soon.

We also have a number or root vegetables that need to be planted soon if we want to get a good crop.

Things like lettuce and spinach need to wait a few more weeks, because the soil is just too warm to plant now. They also grow faster, so we can afford to wait a bit longer to plant.

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In preparation for planting some of our root vegetables next week, we put a thick layer of straw mulch down in some of the planting areas. Organic mulches like straw can cool the soil up to 10 degrees in addition to helping with soil moisture. Hopefully we’ll get better germination because of the straw.

For more ideas and techniques about fall vegetable gardens, here are several posts about fall gardening from a few years ago:

Fall Gardening: Why Try It and What to Plant

Fall Gardening: Less Common Vegetables for Kansas

Fall Gardening: When to Plant

Fall Gardening: Dealing with Late Summer Heat

Fall Gardening: Dealing with Late Fall Cold

Fall Gardening: Kansas Climate Conditions for Extending into the Winter

Fall Gardening: Using Row Covers

Fall Gardening: Overwintering Vegetables for Spring

Friday PhotoEssay – July 22, 2016

Another sweltering week, another Friday photoessay! Let’s take a break from our Tomato Day preparations to take a quick look around the Demonstration Garden.

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I would say that we have reached the midpoint of summer in the garden. While many plants are still going to grow and mature, the tomato plants have reached maturity. With the usual onset of insects and diseases, there’s a lot of downhill to go from here. We will also be planting a range of things for fall over the next few weeks.

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This is the buckwheat that we planted first, following the lettuce. You can see that it has put on significant growth in the 5-6 weeks it has been planted and has started flowering. It has not yet started going to seed. We cut this buckwheat back and then put about 2/3 of it in the compost bin and the remainder we spaded into the soil.

28477766445_e1b1163ec3Eggplant can be a little bit tricky to determine when it is ready to harvest. Like many vegetables, it is typically harvested at the botanically immature stage. It can actually be harvested at almost any size, up to the point where it starts to mature. Once sign of that maturity is when the color goes from bright and glossy (like the eggplant on the far right of the picture) to slightly faded and dull (center). When we cut into the dull colored eggplant, we see that the seeds are brown rather than white, a sign of maturity. While the eggplant can still be eaten at this stage, the seeds are much tougher and will make the texture of the eggplant less enjoyable to eat.

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We have started picking a few of the Purple Bumble Bee cherry tomato, and so far it is a bit more pink and green than purple/maroon and green. The flavor is decent, but not spectacular.
27861927223_34b3bf75a9The ‘Esterina’ cherry tomato has been very impressive. It has had several large clusters ripen already and has more to come. The flavor is also very sweet. So far it is definitely a winner!

27861945903_a8221bb972The peppers are maturing nicely and I’m looking forward to seeing how they all perform. However, with some of the wind and rain storms that we’ve had, several of the plants are leaning over and exposing the fruit to more sun. Hence the sunscald on the two peppers shown in this picture. Fruits with sunscald should be picked to prevent the development of disease. A mature fruit with sunscald can usually be eaten if the damaged part is trimmed off and no diseases have developed.

Come see us Saturday at Tomato Day!

Friday PhotoEssay – July 15, 2016

With another week of sun, rain, and heat, the garden continues to grow quickly. Many of our vines and other warm season vegetables are finally putting on some good growth. Surprisingly, the tomatoes are still looking really good with minimal signs of disease or other problems.

28221838142_cbcf2fb300_zMany of the plants have reached full-size, although the vining crops have yet to fill the trellises.

28325457545_aa71fc5e8fThe Oriental Garden is really starting to look good. This ‘Ladyfinger’ okra didn’t germinate very well, but looking at the plants now, I’m glad that we only have 4 or 5 plants. They are starting to take over the surrounding area already! There are just a few buds starting to develop. Maybe by next week there will be some okra to show.

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The ‘Goddess’ banana peppers are showing off this summer. We’ve grown banana peppers many times, but this variety is by far the most productive of the ones we’ve grown recently. The three plants have been loaded with peppers.

28221842412_58e03ea6dfThe Pollinator garden is looking great with bright colors of the milkweeds, zinnias, and sages. This garden will just continue to grow, change, and get more beautiful as the summer progresses.

28247003151_3433aeda65As I said earlier, the vines are just starting to take off. This is the Oriental garden. The left side of the trellises has beans and the luffa gourd. The right side of the trellises has cucmbers and melons. They are just starting to set fruit.

28222032172_6fcf0435ef_zDo you know what this is? It is the flower of a passionflower/passionfruit vine. I don’t know if it will actually produce fruit, but we are watching it grow and bloom in our Pollinator Garden. It is just starting to climb up the trellis.

Have a great weekend!

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