Monthly Archives: August 2011

Urban Gardens & Farms in KC

One of the reasons the blog has been so quiet recently is that I was up in Overland Park helping with the National Association of County Agriculture Agents annual conference. We always have tours as part of the conference, and I helped organize and lead an Urban Agriculture tour. We visited the Kansas City Community Gardens, a couple of different farms, and the New Roots for Refugees Juniper Gardens Training Farm.

The summer has been hot up there, but as you will be able to see from the numbers of tomatoes, not as bad as it has been here.

Most of the tomato plants we saw looked much sadder – diseased, spider mite laden, etc than most of our plants here. However, the striking difference was all those red things hanging from the plants. Yes, those are real, ripe-on-the-plant tomatoes. They do exist! I’d trade my relatively healthy plants for the plants with tomatoes on them, wouldn’t you?

This urban farm is JJ Farm, and the owner, John Kaihua. He farms on 1 1/2 acres of backyards, and sells his produce through a CSA and a small farmers market. He had beautiful, huge red bell peppers of which I was very jealous! It’s pretty cool what you can do with some backyard space.

This is part of the Juniper Gardens Training Farm and the New Roots for Refugees program. You can see one of the women watering her plot. Each woman gets a 1/4 acre plot and assistance with seeds & plants, water, gardening, English, and business skills, and then sells the produce at a local farmers market. Over 4 years, the women transition to more independence and ultimately their own small urban farms, using the skills they have gained.

Here are a couple of the women unloading after a farmers market.We visited a small farm at the Andrew Drumm Institute. They had this homemade chicken tractor in one of the fallow fields on the farm.

This is the raised bed section of the Kansas City Community Garden. Each raised bed can be rented be an individual or family, and all the plots at this garden are on a sliding fee scale, based on income. The raised beds are in areas where the soil is too clay or the drainage too poor for other gardening.

The Kansas City Community Gardens also have a Children’s garden with lots of different types of plants for education. This is a dwarf apple tree in the Children’s Garden.

One of the Master Gardeners was at the garden the morning we visited, and he was kind enough to pick a few watermelons from their demonstration plot at the garden and let us sample. Some of them were definitely better than others. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the really good one.

Last, but not least, we visited the Gibbs Road Community Farm with the Cultivate Kansas City organization. This is a very intensive small farm in Kansas City, Kansas, where they train apprentices in small-scale organic farming. You can see the intensity with the row of squash between two high tunnels!

Either tomorrow or Wednesday, I hope to get another post up about things I was up to in the past couple weeks.

Friday PhotoEssay

Hello? Anyone out there? I hope so, because I’ve got a lot of interesting pictures to share with you all! But first, let’s get an update on the garden.

The flowers are gorgeous and prolific, even if nothing else really is! The bright pink flowers are Penta and the pale yellow are Lantana. They both love heat!

Here’s our heirloom tomato bed at a distance. The plants on the right are the non-grafted heirlooms, and the plants on the left are the grafted heirlooms. You can sort of see the difference in health, but the picture just doesn’t do them justice.

The okra plants in the Family of 4 Garden are looking great, but they aren’t producing any okra yet. Not too surprising, since we didn’t plant them until late.

I found this pepper this afternoon, hiding near the ground. It is turning a gorgeous red color. At least the peppers like the heat.

The garlic chives also seem to be doing fine – They are budded and starting to bloom. Regular chives bloom in the spring with purple flowers. Garlic chives bloom in August with white flowers.

The Master Gardeners tell me that while I was gone, they harvested about 6 or 8 melons, and that they were all really sweet and juicy. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures for you! Maybe next week.

Have a great weekend!


Chef Damian’s Recipes from Tomato Day

I know a lot of you have been waiting, so here are those recipes!

Chef Damian’s Recipes from Tomato Day 2011

Friday PhotoEssay

Yet another Friday is here, and it is also the last Friday for Lunch in the Garden this summer. We’re featuring peppers, and we’ve definitely got a good crop of peppers in the garden!

These gorgeous bell peppers are from the ‘Big Bertha’ plants. The bell peppers seem to go in flushes, but this week was obviously a heavy harvest.

Look! The tomato plant laid a golden egg! Okay…this year, that might almost be true. The yellow “egg” is a Golden Rave Roma tomato and the red pepper behind it is actually a purple ‘Merlot’ pepper. Yes, really. We left it on the plant long enough, it turned red! Pretty neat!

Something decided that this melon was ready to eat, even if we didn’t! I think it is getting close, but I’m waiting for those dark green sutures (the stripes) to fade to something a little more creamy. It’s probably edible right now (well, obviously), but wouldn’t be very tasty. The melon are taking a lot longer to ripen than I expected them to – maybe a combination of how heavily they are set and the lovely weather.

We picked this ‘Black Krim’ tomato on Tuesday when it just had a tinge of pink. Good thing, because the rain the other night might have caused it to crack.

Here’s that same tomato this morning. It’s almost ready to eat. My past experience with the Black Krim is that it should be a more purple/brown color when ripe, but either the heat is causing the colors to be bleached out or the seeds we got were a little more genetically varied toward pink instead of purple. These tomatoes remind me a lot of the ‘Rose’ heirloom tomatoes we grew last year, at least in color. (Haven’t eaten one yet, so not sure about flavor.)

One of my coworkers brought this cool tomato in last week. Aren’t those designs artistic and cool? Anyway, this is an extremely characteristic example of Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. The tomatoes are still fine to eat, they just look bizarre. Usually the plants are infected while still in the greenhouse, and the only thing to do is to pull the plants out when you see a problem.

Have a great weekend! Posting will be light for the next couple of weeks, but don’t forget to check back occasionally!


Apparently this week should have been Tomato Day week, because we are FINALLY getting a good number of tomatoes. These are mostly tomatoes that set during our last “cool” spell back about the third week of June.

Pretty they are not, but they are tomatoes! These fine specimens are all from the Heirloom Tomato trial. Most of them are Marmandes (the orangey red ones) and the two pink ones are Black Krim. The Amish Paste have yet to set fruit that I can see. There would have been two more Black Krim, except that they were rotten thanks to some birds pecking them and damaging the skins. UGH – nothing is worse than rotten tomatoes.

We’re also seeing some tomatoes setting on during the heat, and we’re trying to collect some data as to what varieties are setting and how well. If you would like to participate, you can enter the following information in the Comments.

1. Variety and total number of plants planted

2. Number of plants of each variety with GREEN tomatoes that are SMALLER than golf ball size (or smaller than a large pea in the case of cherry tomatoes).

3. Any other information you think might be relevant (i.e. – planted early/late, shade, watering, insect/disease damage, herbicide injury, fertility, etc.)