Why Horticulture?

Kids with bowl of blackberriesThis bowl of blackberries represents the importance of horticulture. The importance to our families, our communities, and our state.

On the surface, we might sometimes be tempted to boil down our impact as horticulturists to something like the following statement:

“Through educational programming, this family learned the appropriate fertilization and pest management practices to grow blackberries in Kansas, resulting in an increased yield and higher productivity.”

That’s great. But does it tell the whole story? I would argue that it doesn’t remotely touch on the whole story.

This bowl of blackberries is from a variety that was bred and selected for heat tolerance and thrives in our Kansas climate. It represents a wide range of trees, flowers, grasses, fruit, and vegetables that have been developed for the harsh climate we live in. We may live on the prairie, but there is still a value to our community in having beautiful green spaces, safe athletic fields, shade, and healthy produce. We shouldn’t have to move to Oregon, Michigan, or Maine to enjoy these things. Even knowing that water quantity and quality is a current and future concern, we can still find a way to have a green world around us through a commitment to horticulture science and research. A commitment to these things helps keep young families in our community, adds value to our properties and landscapes, and makes this a better place to live. This is community vitality.

This bowl of blackberries is about $50 worth of fruit. (Probably another $10 worth was already eaten!) That is $50 that I do not have to spend on groceries this week, which I can save for another purpose or use to buy higher quality food. It represents family resource management and nutrition.

This bowl of blackberries is a healthy snack for my kids that enables them to eat fruit when they want it, rather than having it portioned out or eating crackers for snacks. We are supposed to make half our plate fruits and veggies – we are well on our way at this point! It represents health and nutrition, as well as healthy habits that are for a lifetime.

This bowl of blackberries represents learning by doing, an appreciation for our food system, and how food is grown. My kids learn practical skills like watering and harvesting, but also that some bugs are good for our garden – that we should protect and care for them. They learn about the circle of life, that actions have consequences and sometimes bad things happen – with a dead bird in the netting covering the fruit.

This bowl of blackberries teaches my children about family time and relationships. We work together to reach a goal and learn about patience and persistence. This is part of our family culture.

This bowl of blackberries teaches my kids about community service and giving back. That our bounty is to be shared with neighbors and friends. It is part of being in a community and in relationship. These are some of the key 4-H life skills.

For those that lack a green thumb, this bowl of blackberries represents a local farm that they can visit with their family to still gain some of the same benefits of growing the fruit themselves, while supporting our local economy in a way where the money will benefit another family business and be reinvested in our community. This is part of global food systems and community vitality.

These blackberries were grown in my backyard, but they could have been grown at a school, in a community garden, or on a local farm. The value and impact of just this one “act of horticulture” can have wide-ranging and diverse benefits to a family, a community, and our state.

Underpinning it all is the basic science of horticulture, explored and taught by horticulture scientists, researchers, and educators for decades as part of the land grant mission at state universities across the country. While yield, productivity, and resource conservation are important, they aren’t the whole story and we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t share the bigger story of why horticulture.

Growing in the Garden

Every day there is something new growing in the garden. The spring and early summer have been challenging this year, leaving us with some good examples of what can go wrong (and right!).

40866316040_495a3f95f4First, the obligatory whole garden view for the week. Lots of green and growing!

41689429815_1881f2eef7A few weeks ago we found our bean leaves all Swiss-cheesy, almost overnight. Well, big munched holes usually mean a caterpillar or a beetle. In this case, Bean Leaf Beetle. Because we didn’t catch them right away, we opted to spray with permethrin, which took care of them. If you want an organic option, pyrethrin is the best choice.

41689404715_c26fc29c73And more holes in the cabbage leaves! These were caused by tiny, young grasshoppers. We opted not to spray the cabbage because it was closer to harvest and…

41689412315_4235424418…it was also pretty clear that the cabbage was not enjoying the heat. The red cabbages in particular bolted (went to seed) before developing any significant head. They may have performed better in a spring where it warmed up more gradually. They may also do well if fall planted. But this spring…not so much.

28715714068_af968fe92bWe did get a couple partially formed heads of the red cabbage. You can see the scorched interior leaves. But isn’t that a neat internal head color! No filters used in the photographing or editing of these pictures!

41689408495_a3f8589ae2We have reached the flowering stage for a lot of things. This is the flower of a new, trailing ornamental oregano, ‘Amethyst Falls.’

42626527292_d8b49b7ce1We are used to beans with white or maybe purple flowers. However, the ‘Scarlet Emperor’ Runner bean has bright scarlet-orange flowers. They are just starting to open this week.

42626524332_0eaf927909This isn’t a flower…but it’s still cool! We have over a 18 different pepper varieties this year, mostly growing in containers. This variety is called Fish, and not only does it have striped / variegated fruit, the leaves also show variegation.

That’s it for this update. Come visit us to see more of what’s going on in the garden.

SNAP-Ed Garden Update

Last week we had our first harvest of red saladbowl lettuce, spinach, and radishes, and finished off the harvest this week. We also planted some transplants including a variety of peppers, tomatoes, parsley, and basil; as well as seeds including green beans, zucchini, and cantaloupe.

interplants YYplant bnz

The green beans have sprouted, the tomatoes and peppers are growing bigger. We also experimented with branches, and made our own tomato cage!

Tomato Cage Y

We made a tomato cage out of branches to show how inexpensive gardening can be if you were to reuse items that are commonly on hand, such as tree branches, tied with some twine at the top.

Like I said, in the past two weeks, we were able to harvest red saladbowl lettuce, spinach, and radishes. We took this harvest, weighed each item, and compared them to grocery store prices. Below is how much you would be paying at the grocery store for how much produce we’ve grown so far:

Radishes – 87 total – worth $23.09 at the grocery store
Spinach – 1 lb 4.8 oz – worth $3.13 at the grocery store
Red Salad Bowl Lettuce – 1 lb 7.5 oz – worth $14.10 at the grocery store

Year to Date: $40.32

One of our SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educators was able to use the spinach and red salad bowl lettuce tossed with the radishes and some added carrots for a tossed salad in one of her SNAP-Ed classes at Inter-Faith Ministries!

FINALLY, Spring.

There’s no question about it, spring was reluctant to come and stay this year. While we have tried to stay on schedule with our planting, we ended up delaying a few things until it got a bit warmer. Thankfully, the warm weather coincided with tomato planting time, so we are pretty much back on track!

41567684981_0383065076 This is the garden in mid-April. You can see from the wooden stakes that things had been planted…but not much green was showing up!

41843273812_28b7977459Jumping ahead three weeks to today…there’s a lot more green to be seen, and you can also see that we have been adding trellises and tomato cages!

41169157274_a7ee443ed4Of our early spring planting, these plants are probably the most spectacular right now. These Chinese cabbages were transplanted the third week of March and have survived multiple nights below freezing with NO protection, snow, cold rain, and wind. The light green is ‘Tokyo Bekana,’ a loose leaf cabbage. The red and dark green are both heading types of Chinese cabbages that are just barely starting to form their heads.

41843272742_28e2656566Also beginning to look good is our SNAP-Ed garden. The radishes, spinach, and lettuce are all finally growing well, and we inter-planted the peppers, tomatoes, and herbs this week. Look for more about this garden to come next week!

41169154634_c1eea26f5fOf the lettuces we have in the garden this spring, this one is by far the most interesting. This is a variety called ‘Italienischer.’ It is very upright and dark green. At maturity it is supposed to be 18″ tall and heat tolerant. It also has the unique oakleaf leaf shape. It almost looks like an overzealous dandelion!

40078997300_5c3f9f8f87While not as beautiful, I also had to share this heirloom lettuce variety – mostly because of the name! The lightly red-tinged leaf lettuce has the name ‘Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed.” I don’t know who came up with that, but…it’s quite the name.

In addition to tomatoes, we planted most of our herbs (except the basil) and all of the various beans this week. Next week we hope to get the peppers planted as well as the cucumbers, squash, and melons.

Hope to see you at Herb Day tomorrow!

Beginning of the SNAP-Ed Garden

This year, Bed #3 of the Demo Garden is in collaboration with the nutrition educators in the SNAP-Ed program. The goal of this bed is to see how much can be grown in a smaller space using SNAP benefits (EBT/formerly “food stamps”), since edible plants and seeds can be purchased with these benefits. The bed is divided in half, with $30 to spend on each half. This includes seeds, transplants, fertilizers, and any trellising that is needed.

planting the SNAP-Ed gardenIn the last week of March, we planted lettuce, spinach, and radishes by seed. Luckily they survived the cold weather we’ve been having!

Into the third week of April, there is some growth and labelling in the garden!

More planting to come next week. The SNAP-Ed nutrition educators are excited to use the produce from the garden for their cooking demonstrations! We will be tracking the harvest yields throughout the summer to show how much a family receiving SNAP benefits could add to their diet through gardening.