Monthly Archives: April 2009

Spring Salad

On my way home last night I checked on our Family of 4 Garden and decided that it was about time to start harvesting a little bit. I went through and pulled a few radishes and picked some of the larger spinach, lettuce, and mesclun leaves. (I also picked a few pea tendrils as garnish from another bed.)

The radishes and greens are spread out on a cookie sheet. Look at all that dirt!

The radishes and greens are spread out on a cookie sheet. Look at all that dirt!

The leaves were pretty dirty, primarily from all the rain we’ve been having splashing soil up onto the plants. The radishes, well…obviously they were growing underground, so the dirt is expected. I decided to tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces before washing, because I thought that would help get them clean. One of the worst parts of home-grown salad is eating gritty sand!

The shredded salad is in the salad spinner basket and ready for a wash-spin cycle.

The shredded salad is in the salad spinner basket and ready for a wash-spin cycle.

I was actually surprised by how easily the leaves came clean after running under cold water, tossing, then spinning dry. I actually repeated the washing and spinning twice to make sure they were clean.

The radishes are medium-sized, but ready to start eating!

The radishes are medium-sized, but ready to start eating!

The radishes are beautiful. I am a big fan of the different colors. These radishes were very tasty, although not hot and spicy. They had a better flavor that you’d get from the grocery store, but I think the weather has been too mild for them to develop much heat. (My husband is a fan of the mild flavor, but I like the hotness!)

The salads were bright, colorful, and delicious!

The salads were bright, colorful, and delicious!

I weighed the greens before washing, and they weighed in at 3 5/8 ounces. The pea tendrils were an additional 3/8 ounce, so the total greens were 4 ounces. The radishes were about 1/2 a bunch like you would get from the grocery store.

Our cost analysis:

5 oz. tub of organic spring salad mix from the grocery store = $3.19 ($3 on sale)

1 bunch of organic radishes from the grocery store = $1.50? (I don’t know this price off the top of my head. I’ll check and update this later.)

So we had 3 5/8 oz of organic spring salad mix, which would be about $2.30. The half bunch of radishes is $0.75. So we aren’t racking up the dollars quickly, but the freshness is worth it!

We topped the salads off with some pinenuts, dried cranberries, and blue cheese dressing.

We topped the salads off with some pinenuts, dried cranberries, and blue cheese dressing.

We had enough salad for two medium-sized side salads. If needed, it could have been divided into 4 small side salads for a family of 4.

At this point our grocery savings has covered about 1/3 to 1/2 of our seed cost. However, we’ve got a lot more salad coming in the near future!

Building a Raised Bed

One of our raised beds has been rotting and falling apart for some time now. We have been hoping for a couple of nice days before Herb Day to get it taken out and replaced. Unfortunately…nice days seem to be hard to come by this week! We have to get it done, so some of our Master Gardeners are braving the muddy mess of the garden to rebuild the bed. (This is not necessarily recommended practice, by the way!)

Edgeless bedThe raised bed with the old, rotting edging removed. Look at those puddles. This was a muddy job!

New edgingFitting the new edging into the garden. We are using pressure treated lumber. (Because arsenic-containing compounds are no longer used in treating lumber, it is now considered safe to use for garden beds.)

Also, notice how much higher the new boards are that the garden. It is supposed to be sloped away from the sidewalk to drain away from the building. We didn’t realize how much that end had settled until the new lumber was in place!

Finished bedThe completed raised bed. We used railroad ties on the ends and 2 x 10 treated lumber for the sides. Notice the two braces in the center of the bed. These will help prevent bowing.

What is the “Best” Tomato to Plant?

One of the most frequently asked questions on the Master Gardener Hotline is, “What is the BEST tomato to plant?” To a non-gardener, it may seem like a reasonable, straight-forward question. To a tomato-loving gardener; however, it is extremely difficult! There are so many nuances to tomato growing, that there are room for multiple answers to the question.

Usually, what people really mean to ask is “What is the easiest, most successful tomato variety?” The answer we usually give is that Jetstar is an old favorite that does well, and Celebrity is a good basic, all-around tomato. Juliet or Sweet 100s are good cherry/grape type tomatoes. (I really don’t “get” the whole purpose behind the differentiation of cherry tomatoes vs. grape tomatoes, but that is a completely different issue!)

One of my favorites - Large Barred Boar

One of my favorites - Large Barred Boar

There are many other tomatoes that do well here, which is why we have the Recommended Tomato Varieties for Kansas 2009 (pdf). The reality is that many tomatoes do well in many areas, but that in a given year (with whatever the weather is) and different gardens with different gardeners, the results can be drastically different. Part of gardening is finding what works best in your garden!

So what do you grow, tomato-wise?

Rain Rain Go Away!

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the rain already! I want to be able to get back outside, and the rain is hindering me! (And like any good gardener, a few days after it has stopped raining, I’ll be complaining about how dry it is and that I need to water.)

Mmm...SaladThe other frustrating part of all the rain (beyond the soggy ground), is that many of the lettuces and leafy salad vegetables are nearly at a harvestable stage. The rain is splashing soil up onto the leaves and into the crown of the plants. I’m a little concerned that some of the smaller plants might suffocate. However, my main concern is that trying to get the leaves clean enough to eat will be a challenge, even with a brand new salad spinner!

Don’t Forget Herb Day!

Just a reminder that Herb Day will be held this Saturday, here at the Sedgwick County Extension Center. (21st and Ridge Rd)

There will be lots of herb plants and products for sale, and great door prizes available!

Master Gardeners and Herb Society members will be giving seminars and demonstrations about growing and using herbs.

I will be speaking at 11:30 a.m. in the Demonstration Garden about Planning and Planting a Small Garden.