Monthly Archives: May 2013

Mulching & Other Garden Tasks

After the three day weekend, you might expect we would have lots of projects around the garden. Not necessarily the case! We really had only one larger project to complete, since everything is planted and we aren’t ready to start harvesting anything. That big project was spreading mulch.

We had some really nice wheat straw to use. It makes the plants look even greener! We try to put about 3 inches of straw around most of our plants. We mulched the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant today.

Here’s the mulched Pizza Garden. The garlic and shallots still have a little bit of straw left from last fall, so there was no reason to try to replenish their mulch. Things like beans and herbs we didn’t mulch, although we probably could have. The basil we left unmulched because it is still pretty small and it could use some more heat in the soil.

One of the effects of using straw mulch (or any organic material like leaves or paper) is that it cools the soil a few degrees. You don’t want to put straw mulch down too early, before the soil is nice and warm. We also left the vine crops unmulched for the time being, although we’ll put straw down in the vertical garden in a few more weeks. (On the other hand, that cooling effect will come in handy in a few weeks!)

The three biggest benefits of mulching are:

  • Weed suppression (who doesn’t want to have fewer weeds to pull?)
  • Moisture retention/even soil moisture (and we are VERY concerned about watering as little as possible here in Wichita!)
  • Disease minimization (many of the leaf spot diseases are caused by splashing soil onto lower leaves)

So go out and find yourself some mulch (if you haven’t already)!

Friday PhotoEssay

Wow! It was almost like having a whole week of spring weather! The garden is looking good, especially the tomatoes. We’ve had 2 years of tomato troubles here in the Demo Garden, so I’m happy to see normal growth and some flowers starting.

The garden doesn’t look that much different than last week, other than that hint of purple over in the herb garden where the sage is in full bloom.

Here’s a closer look at the sage. It is looking beautiful! I love the purple next to the gold variety of Lemon Balm.

One of the Spiderwort that was planted in the new Shade Garden this week.

The container of sugar snap peas in the Kids’ Snack Garden is starting to have some peas. There definitely aren’t enough to do much with, except grab one for a snack, of course!

We pulled the Easter Egg Radishes and the lettuces from the Kids’ Snack Garden this week. They were a lot bigger than I usually let the radishes get. Some of them were probably a little bit woody.

We’ve got tomato flowers! I’m just starting to see a few flowers on the determinate varieties and the cherry/grape varieties. Not surprisingly, the heirlooms and the ones with longer days to maturity don’t have any flowers (or buds) yet. I’m really hoping for a good tomato year!

We have chives in one of the herb containers this year, and it is blooming as well. I guess the theme today is purple and blue flowers, huh? Since the plant is small, the flowers are pretty small yet too.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

Something Different with Radishes – Butter Braised Radishes

Radishes are one of those vegetables that most people either like or don’t like. However, most of the time they just get eaten whole as a snack (usually with dip) or on a salad. For whatever reason, cooking radishes isn’t something most people even consider. It is more common in Asian cooking with the daikon radishes.

A few weeks ago, when I was thinning out the radishes from the radish-parsnip planting experiment, I decided I needed to try a recipe that I saw in a magazine earlier this spring. The recipe is Butter Braised Radishes from Fine Cooking. I didn’t have quite that many radishes, and they had been in the refrigerator for over a week by the time I got around to them, so I didn’t save the tops to put in at the end.

I sliced up the radishes. The French Breakfast radishes I sliced in half the long way. These were the first thinning, so a lot of the radishes were pretty small. Into the pan with a little bit of butter! I suppose you could use olive oil or some other fat if you want to.

After they were partially cooked, I added the chicken broth. They simmered away nicely, giving everything that nice pink hue. Then the vinegar and seasonings are added and cooked down until everything is glazed up nicely.

Here they are after all the liquid was cooked down. They got some nice color on them.

Here is one portion dished up in a bowl. I wanted to make it look “spiffy” and so I “garnished” it with a spinach leaf from our salad to take the picture. It needed a little green, since I didn’t save the radish tops to put in.

The flavor was interesting…maybe a little bit like turnips? I know that isn’t necessarily a selling point. But they are cousins, so it would make sense. The chicken broth overpowered the flavors a little bit, but the vinegar helped cut it somewhat. I don’t know that it really needed the little bit of sugar.

Anyway, if you are bored with raw radishes, this is something to try! It is a pretty simple recipe and fairly quick. Once you’ve got the hang of it, I would try adding some different flavors or trying different vinegars or braising liquids to give it a different twist.


New Garden in One Morning!

The area right next to our Demonstration Garden was planned to be an expansion for a demonstration of shade-loving perennials. We’ve been working on it slowly over the past year, with the fence constructed last fall and planning going on throughout the winter. The irrigation system got redone last week. Today was planting day! Here are a few before and after shots.

Before planting.

Before planting. Some light weeding is taking place before getting started.

After the soil was prepared, they placed all the plants.

After planting! The plants were good sized going in, which helps make it look fuller right now.

The view in the other direction after planting. From dirt to garden in one morning!

Checking Up on the Shallot Trial

Since I pulled up one of each variety of the garlic and shallots for the Garden Tour this weekend, I’m going to use the opportunity to share my observations of the different varieties at this stage of growth.

Shallot TrialWhen I was working on signs for the garden last week, I updated the maps for the garlic and shallot trial. Here’s the updated map for the shallots. I will be honest that as I’m looking at the varieties, I think we may have the wrong label on the (French) Grey Shallots and the French (Red) Shallots. Based on the growth habits and what they look like, I’m pretty sure the labels got switched somehow.

This is the ‘Sante’ shallot. It is the largest so far, and you can see that the developing bulbs are clearly red. The individual stalks also separated from each other easily. This was the first variety to start putting up flower stalks.

This is the variety we have labeled as the Grey Shallots, but I’m pretty sure they are actually the French Red shallots. The developing bulbs have a tinge of red to them, but they aren’t as large or colorful as the Sante shallots. There are also not as many stems in the clump, although it looks like they are still going to divide a couple more times.

The Dutch Yellow Shallots are clearly a different color than the two redder varieties. The bulbs are smaller yet than the previous variety, but there are more stalks. These were just starting to put on flower stalks.

This variety we have labeled as the French Shallots, but I’m pretty sure they are the (French) Grey Shallots. This variety is very different from the others! The leaves are much yellower than blue-green and there are LOTS of stems. They are much smaller and don’t seem to have started sizing up yet. They have not put up flower stalks yet either, which would make sense, since they seem to be further behind the others. Read the rest of this entry