Monthly Archives: August 2012

Friday PhotoEssay

Let’s take a look around the garden this week, shall we?

This purple tomatillo is just about the perfect stage of ripeness. I would have been able to demonstrate that better if the husk had stayed on when I picked it. Unfortunately, it stayed on the plant. You can see the difference in the purple color of the part that was exposed to the sun versus the part that was hidden under the husks.

Sticking with the purple theme, here’s our first ripe ‘Indigo Rose’ tomato. The purple coloration has been evident for a few weeks and also tends to increase with sun exposure. The under color, a rather bright orange shows that it’s ripe. Unfortunately when you mix orange and purple, you tend to get a rather ugly brown color. While unique, these definitely aren’t an attractive tomato. I haven’t tasted one yet, but from what I’ve heard the flavor also isn’t great.

This is a look at the unripe ‘Indigo Rose’ tomatoes. You can see the variability in purple coloration. (Also the spider mites on the leaves.) The dark purple one is much prettier, but still unripe and green when you look at the bottom.

We noticed on Tuesday morning that the mandevilla have these nice bright orange aphids all over them. We borrowed some ladybug larvae from the cucumbers to have a snack.

The Red Aztec Spinach has reached the point where it is putting up flower buds/seed heads. The leaves and the flower buds are generally considered to be the edible parts of the plant. My husband things the leaves taste like raw green beans. The bud clusters aren’t as big or thick as I wish they were. If you are interested, here are a couple links to recipes. (It is easier to find recipes by using the name “Huazontle.”)

This salvia has been hanging out in the Prairie Star Annual bed all summer and overall looking rather ugly and disgusting. Then, all of a sudden, after a couple weeks of cool weather, it is in full bloom and looks great! Now I have to wonder if it was the weather causing it to look bad or if it just doesn’t bloom well until later in the summer.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend!

Fall Gardening: Why Try It and What to Plant

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to be sharing several excerpts from a publication I recently wrote about Fall Vegetable Gardening. Here’s the first bit!

Why a Fall Garden?

Fall gardens in Kansas can be very productive and enjoyable after a hot summer. While many of our summer vegetables will continue to grow and produce until frost, a well-planned fall garden can provide vegetables into the early winter, while some plants can be over-wintered to get an early start the following spring. Cooler temperatures make it refreshing for gardeners to spend more time in the garden again during the fall.

What to Plant

Vegetables for fall gardens generally fall into the “cool season” vegetable category. These are vegetables that prefer the cooler, more moderate temperatures of the spring or fall in Kansas. Many of them will also tolerate cold weather in the early winter.

Types of Vegetables

The three main types of vegetables that will do well in a fall garden are:

  1. Leafy salad greens
  2. Root vegetables
  3. Brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc)

While not every vegetable in each of those categories is a good choice for fall, many of them will do very well. Lettuces, spinach, arugula, Swiss chard, Asian greens, collards, beets, carrots, turnips, radishes, some onions, chicories, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, broccoli raab, leeks, and other related vegetables do well in fall plantings.

Vegetables that Grow Best in Fall

Although our fall weather can still be quite hot at times, the trend is always toward cooler temperatures. This allows for some vegetables, especially the Brassicas, to be more productive and better quality in the fall. Often when planted in a warm spring, they will go directly to flower (bolting) rather than producing a good crop. Cauliflower in particular may be more productive and of better quality when planted in the fall. Bok choy and other Asian greens will also be much less likely to bolt and develop a strong flavor in the fall. Likewise many lettuces will have a crisper, sweeter characteristic in the fall.

Vegetables that Do Not Grow Well in the Fall

A few vegetables that we plant in the spring will not be as productive in the fall.

  • Peas love cool weather, but they also require a cool soil for good germination. Our soil temperature is typically too warm in early fall for the peas to germinate and produce well. When planted later in the fall, they may not have enough time to mature and produce a crop (although you can get some awesome pea shoots that can be a delicacy! Another blog reminded me of this a few days ago.). Snow peas may be more successful when planted in late August than other types of peas.
  • Potatoes can be planted for a fall crop in the northern parts of Kansas, but in southern Kansas the soil is too warm and usually the yields are poor on fall planted potatoes.
  • Fall planted onions will produce great green onions and some small onions, but they will typically not produce the large storage onions due to the shorter season. Some types of onions may do better than others, and some may also overwinter well, producing larger onions in the spring.

Choosing Varieties for the Fall Garden

While you can often use the same seeds you planted in the spring to grow again in the fall, there are also times when it is beneficial to choose different varieties specifically for fall plantings. Depending on your planting plan, you may want to look for varieties that have more heat tolerance for the late summer transplanting. You may also want to consider varieties with great cold tolerance to allow your garden season to stretch even further into the winter. Another consideration on some crops is to choose a variety with a shorter “days to maturity” to ensure that you get a crop before it gets too cold, especially if you end up planting later due to hot weather in August.

Video Wednesday: Transplanting Lettuce

Third time’s the charm?

Video about transplanting lettuce…even though it is focused on spring planting, there are still some good tips.

Transplanting Lettuce & Radicchio

Even though we are looking at temperatures in the 90s this week, we went ahead and transplanted the lettuce and radicchio. It would have been too big by next week anyway.

The colors will get much darker and more vibrant as things cool off this fall. In this picture, the darker red lettuce is a leaf lettuce called ‘Galactic’ that is generally a dark red. The lighter red (okay, so it just looks green in this picture) is a red butterhead type called ‘Skyphos’. We also have a green romaine, ‘Winter Density,’ a green oakleaf, ‘Panisse,’ and a red oakleaf, ‘Jamai.’

First off, we removed those horridly aphid-infested cucumbers from the Family of 4 Garden. We also raked of the straw mulch from any of the areas where we were planning to plant.

We planted the lettuce right along the drip lines, staggering the plants about 6-8″ apart on either side of the drip. The soil was BONE DRY even after we recorded more than 3″ of rain over the weekend! I’m guessing that unless we have more consistent rainfall this fall (yeah, right), we will probably lose some of these plants, just because the drip doesn’t have enough coverage in this super sandy soil. The emitters on the drip are 12″ apart.

Once we were done planting, we put the straw mulch back in a light layer between the rows of lettuce. Having straw mulch in a lettuce bed isn’t necessarily a great idea, because it can make cleaning the lettuce after harvest a bit of a pain. However, we really wanted the straw to help hold soil moisture and to keep the soil a little bit cooler for the time being. We also made sure we watered thoroughly.

Over in the “New & Unique Vegetables” garden we planted some green and red radicchio seedlings. (They both look green right now. Color development depends on cold weather.) We used the same planting scheme as with the lettuce. We also planted some cilantro in a small area in the Mexican Garden, between the peppers and the Mexican Oregano.

The leek and onion seedlings are still pretty small, so we will plant them in a couple weeks when there is more space to plant.

Friday PhotoEssay

There was this weird wet stuff falling from the sky this morning. I think something might be broken somewhere! A cool, cloudy morning is sure nice for a change.

I did a little bit of quick research to determine at what point we are supposed to start harvesting the Roselle (hibiscus) to use for teas, drinks, cooking, etc. Come to find out, we are actually supposed to use the calyx AND the ripened fruit. Here you can see the stage we are at right now with the calyxes turning more and more pink, but the fruit/seed pod is still very green. It should be bright pink/red when it is ready to use. I guess we’ll be waiting a little longer for our hibiscus drinks.

I showed you our cup of harvested black sesame earlier this week, but I thought you might like to see what it looks like on the plants. I think it is interesting that the pods get so small and insignificant when they dry, and also that they open like they do! Normally one of the improvements that we breed for in seed or grain crops is the “non-shattering” characteristic that keeps the seeds firmly attached or enclosed through harvest.

I haven’t posted many herb pictures this year, because most of the herbs were just struggling to get well established in the heat. This is in the perennial herb garden, and you can see that the Lemon Balm and the Anise Hyssop have finally filled in to the point that they are looking really nice next to each other. On the edges you can just see the sage and thyme that are also looking pretty good.

These are the lettuce seedlings that we planted on August 7th. They have grown very fast! We will be transplanting them on Tuesday, providing all goes well.

The begonias and coleus in the Prairie Star Annual trial weren’t looking bad for most of the summer, but they weren’t spectacular. After a couple weeks of not-quite-so-hot weather, they are looking really nice!

Have a great weekend!