Monthly Archives: April 2010

Another “Local” Blog

I know that most of you reading this blog are either enamored with my elegant prose or are interested in vegetable gardening. Still…some of you might be a little bit interested in lawns, weeds, or ornamental plant topics. (I have no idea why, but you might have a reason.) If that is the case, I’d like to point you toward a new blog started by the K-State Turfgrass folks.

You can find the KSU Turfgrass Blog at http://blogs.ksre.ksu.edu/ksuturf.

Some of their recent posts that might be of interest:

If you want more information on the Kansas Healthy Yards & Communities program, you can visit the website.

Spring Planting Rolls On

We “broke ground” in another of the raised beds this week. The Beans & Dwarf Vines garden is getting going with the planting of 3 bean varieties.

First we cleaned out all the weed seedlings and worked in some fresh compost. Then we measured out the garden so we would get the beans in roughly the right space. Serves us right for trying to be cutesy and planting rows of beans with spaces for the vine crops in between. (You can see the original plan at the link above.)

We planted three rows of beans, each row about 6″ apart. Maybe a little close together, but…we’ll see how it works out. We planted ‘Royal Burgundy’ (purple snap bean), ‘Carson’ (yellow snap bean), and ‘Jumbo’ (Italian flat bean aka Romano bean). When I was getting the seeds out of my drawer, I realized that somehow I neglected to buy any of the Dragon Tongue beans. They weren’t even on my list! I’m not sure what happened there. Those will have to be planted later. I also decided to wait on the lima beans, because I think they would rather be planted when it is just a hair warmer.

First Garden Harvest!

Wow, have I ever been delinquent in writing posts. Okay, so it’s only been a day and a half, but the minutes, hours, and days seem to keep flying by. I’m having a hard time fitting in blog posts this spring! But enough complaining about my busy schedule… (Nor will I bore you with the philosophical argument over whether or not to include an exclamation point in the title of this post.)

Moving on…we harvested the first salad greens from the garden yesterday. It is exactly this reason that I think I’m an advocate for starting lettuce inside and transplanting it. We planted 4 week old transplants on March 23rd, and on April 20th, they looked like this:

Yum! Absolutely gorgeous lettuce! In contrast, the lettuce that we seeded on March 23rd, is about 2 inches tall. It will be tasty, yes, but not for another few weeks. Anything that gets me some veggies earlier in the spring is a good thing in my book. We harvested about 12 “heads” of lettuce, with another 20 or so to harvest next week. (They would probably last longer, but they are taking up space that the tomatoes go in.)

We also had to thin many of the Asian mustards, and we saved the little seedlings for delectable “microgreen” salads. The third thing ready to harvest yesterday was the ‘Hong Vit’ Leaf Radish. This is in our Asian garden, and the leaves taste a lot like radishes. Unfortunately, our mild weather means they aren’t too spicy. Maybe that’s a good thing?

The leaf radish is in the front. It’s kind of hard to see, but they have brilliant pink stems and veins. In the lower right corner of the picture are some of the young mustard greens. Gotta love the first salads of spring!

Fruit Ripeness: A Rant

*Long post alert…if you don’t want to read the whole thing, at least read this article: To Pick or Not To Pick.*

Beyond working with Master Gardeners and home gardeners to improve their gardens and all that good stuff, I also work with the local fruit and vegetable growers to help them start or improve their businesses. Once you step over the line from “home gardening” to “commercial gardening/farming,” there is a whole other world out there in terms of magazines, resources, and technologies. I subscribe to a wide variety of professional publications for commercial produce growers to help me stay up to date on the latest things going on in the industry. Even though most of our local growers are very small and sell directly to customers, other things will eventually trickle down in the industry.

In the last couple months, I’ve been following some articles in the American Fruit Grower magazine, about harvest quality in stone fruit. (Stone fruit are peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries.)

The first article, published in March, Stone Fruit: Truth in Advertising, was largely about methods growers could use to make sure they are harvesting their fruit (specifically peaches) at the correct time. What really caught my attention was this paragraph near the beginning of the article:

The consumer has the final say about your fruit quality, and the national trend for per capita peach consumption is downward, indicating that consumers are not happy. When surveyed, many people indicate that they were disappointed in the quality and taste of the fruit. If consumers had a bad experience with their first peach of the season from the local chain store, they may move on from peaches to purchase other fruits for the rest of the summer.

I don’t know about you, but that reflects my personal experience. I would happily buy a half dozen peaches every week they were available…if my experience would prove to me that i would be guaranteed that every one of those peaches was going to be sweet, juicy, and have a good texture. However, my experience is that maybe 1 out of every 5 or 6 peaches I buy from the grocery store is worth eating. So, I don’t buy them.

Anyway, I was interested in finding out more about the trends in peach consumption, and found this report from the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center:

Annual per person consumption of peaches in the United States peaked at 13 pounds in the early 1970s. By 2008 annual consumption had dropped to 8.8 pounds per person.

So, that’s a fairly significant drop. (Part of the drop is explained by reduced consumption of canned peaches, but people are switching to fresh over canned, they just are eating less peaches.) Obviously the peach industry has some major issues with consumers.

The next thing I saw, was the results of a reader poll, done by the American Fruit Grower. The poll asked, would you pick fruit before it was ready if a lucrative offer presented itself? 27% responding said yes, 16% maybe, and 57% no. It’s good that more than half said no, but I was still surprised by how many said yes or maybe. Obviously it’s a complicated situation.

Which brings us to the next article. The April issue of the American Fruit Grower, To Pick or Not To Pick.  Largely an editorial, the writer tells about the happenings at a Fruit Ripening Workshop held in California at UC-Davis. I would encourage you to read this article, because it will put the situation into perspective for you. These fruit growers are trying to make a living and keep their businesses running. Often, they have to deal with low market prices that may not be worth the cost of producing their fruit. Large retailers often have all the power in the relationship. The growers have to make decisions that will keep their farms viable, even if it means selling the produce at less than optimum ripeness. You can hardly fault them for that.

What can we as consumers do about it? Well…obviously we already are by not buying. Of course, you can support local fruit growers, but some years our spring weather means no fruit. Beyond that…I’m open to suggestions?

http://growingproduce.com/americanfruitgrower/?storyid=3453The consumer has the final say about your fruit quality, and the national trend for per capita peach consumption is downward, indicating that consumers are not happy. When surveyed, many people indicate that they were disappointed in the quality and taste of the fruit. If consumers had a bad experience with their first peach of the season from the local chain store, they may move on from peaches to purchase other fruits for the rest of the summer.

Friday PhotoEssay

Once again, things are growing fast in the garden this week, and we are finally getting a little bit of rain!

One of the apple trees was in full bloom earlier this week, but that’s past now. All the petals have dropped. It remains to be seen whether or not any of the flowers were pollinated.

The Chinese Cabbage is getting absolutely huge. It should be starting to curl up into a loose head any time now.

Compared to the tomato transplants, the peppers are looking as healthy as can be! It’s kind of a switch for me, since I usually have great luck with tomatoes and moderate with peppers. Everything would really like to be spending more time outside, but the wind has been a little much.

The radishes haven’t minded the weather one bit. In fact, I think the roots are just barely starting to swell. We should have radishes in another 10-14 days.

I did manage to sneak the peppers and tomatoes outside for a few hours one day though. Tucking them around the currant bushes shielded them from the worst of the wind.

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