Monthly Archives: July 2013

Planting a Buckwheat Cover Crop

Since we harvested the rest of the garlic and shallots last week and we are not going to be planting our next crop until early August, we have a unique opportunity to grow a cover crop in our Demonstration Garden this year!

Cover crops are typically grown for a number of reasons: prevent soil erosion, increase soil nutrients, suppress weeds, improve soil organic matter content, and provide food for beneficial insects. They can also help with soil compaction & drainage, suppress diseases, and break insect cycles. With such an impressive list of benefits, you wonder why we haven’t done it before!

The challenge with cover crops is that they need a certain amount of time to grow, which can interfere with other things you want to grow. In our case, we had a large area that was otherwise going to be empty. Enter the buckwheat!

Buckwheat grows fast, tolerates drought, and can scavenge phosphorus from the soil. It is also excellent as a weed suppressor, and the flowers provide habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects.

The first step was getting the soil moistened in the areas where we wanted to plant the buckwheat. Except for rain, most of those areas hadn’t been watered in a couple weeks while we were drying down the garlic and shallots. As you might imagine, the soil was quite dry! We watered and worked up the soil to ensure even moisture. Then we scattered the buckwheat seed (about 1/4 lb per 100 sq. ft.) and raked it in.

This is the buckwheat seed. It is rather triangular (well, pyramidal) seed that almost seems like it has wings on the edges. It is actually related to rhubarb, and isn’t even a grain (like wheat), but rather a seed (from a nutritional standpoint). We should have some germination by next week or maybe even the end of the week.

Tuesday Harvest

We aren’t recording our harvest yields for any of our gardens this year, since we aren’t doing a Family of 4 Garden. However, just for today, I did weigh out our produce.

We had 5.25 pounds of eggplant, 4.25 pounds of tomatoes, 1 lb of peppers and onions, and 1 lb of green beans for a total of 11.5 pounds of veggies! All of our produce this week was taken to one of the drop off locations for the Plant a Row for the Hungry Program, since it is Plant a Row for the Hungry Week!

This is Plant a Row for the Hungry Week!

Plant a Row LogoThe Plant a Row for the Hungry Program is happy to announce that next week, July 7-13th has been declared as Plant a Row for the Hungry Week by proclamations of the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County.

The Plant a Row for the Hungry program is a national effort to donate fresh garden produce to local food banks to distribute to those in need. The local program is a partnership of the Kansas Food Bank and the Sedgwick County Extension Master Gardeners.

Over 413,000 pounds of produce have been donated over the 12 years of the program. In this 13th year, the program hopes to collect a record amount of 87,000 pounds of produce to boost the total donation to over half a million pounds of produce! To help meet this goal, we are asking gardeners, in honor of Plant a Row for the Hungry week, to donate not just their excess produce but also some of the produce they would normally use themselves to help others in need. “Bring your best to the table,” said Kevin Enz from the Kansas Food Bank.

Gardeners can drop off their produce at the Kansas Food Bank or any of the drop off locations around the area, listed below.

Kansas Food Bank 

1919 E. Douglas

Augusta Ace Home Center  

316 W 7th Ave.  — Augusta

Brady Nursery

11200 W. Kellogg

Hillside Nursery

2200 South Hillside

Hillside Feed and Seed

1805 S. Hillside

Johnson’s Garden Centers

802 North Ridge Road

21st & Woodlawn

2707 West 13th

Valley Feed & Seed

1903 South Meridian

Friday PhotoEssay

After a cooler week, it looks like we are going to climb back into our more seasonable hot temperatures in the mid-90s for next week. Happily, I think everyone has had good tomato set and all the plants are off to a really good start before we get to that point.

You can see that we now have a big open hole in the center of the garden with the garlic and shallots completely gone. We’ll be planting some buckwheat next week. Meanwhile, the tomatoes, eggplant, and vine crops are increasingly looking like a jungle! The eggplant are particularly dense.

The eggplant are starting to produce like crazy. I know that a picture of 4 eggplants may not convince you, but there are dozens more eggplant fruit set on our plants. The white with lavender streaks is the ‘Orient Charm’ and the dark purple is ‘Millionaire.’

I noticed these tomato flowers on my morning walk through the garden, probably because they were right at eye level and the yellow stood out amongst the green leaves and stems. When the stems of the flowers turn that bright yellow, you can be sure they are going to drop off because there wasn’t any fruit set. There are still a couple green ones, so we’ll have to wait and see if there is any set from this cluster. So why are the flowers dropping when it hasn’t been too hot? Well, what I didn’t tell you is that this is the heirloom variety ‘Limmony,’ which is supposed to have fruit up to 1 lb in size. I know there are a couple tomatoes set already, and I suspect that the plant knows that it can’t handle too many fruit of that size, hence dropping so many flowers. It would be interesting to know if this is a chicken or the egg scenario. Does the fruit get huge because the plant only sets a few fruit or does the plant only set a few fruit because it knows the fruit get huge?

Except for the basils and thyme, all the other herbs are in containers this year. This container is looking great right now! I think the location, where it is getting a bit of afternoon shade, is agreeing with it. The variegated plant in the front is Pineapple Mint. The container also has Stevia, Scented Geranium, and a Cinnamon? Basil.

We are starting to see a lot of flowers on the melon plants in the Vertical Garden area. Unfortunately, as is typical, they are virtually all male flowers, especially on the non-watermelon types. I’ve seen a few female flowers on the watermelon. This flower is very clearly a male, as there is no baby melon behind the flower.

This flower is so pink, it kinda seems fake! This is the center of a huge bloom on the ‘Pink Clouds’ hibiscus that we have planted in a couple of the containers by the classroom area.

Have a great weekend!

Final Garlic & Shallot Harvest

We harvested the last of our garlic and shallots from the garden this week. On Friday we will be moving on and starting some seeds for fall vegetables, although it still seems too early.

We didn’t have very many plants of the Elephant Garlic, but at least a couple of the bulbs were huge! The others were good sized, but not nearly as big.

The ‘Purple Glazer’ garlic had really nice sized bulbs that seem very consistent. We also had good germination, so there were lots of plants to harvest.

The ‘Killarney Red’ garlic also had some nice large bulbs, although they weren’t as consistent. There were a few smallish bulbs. I think either we didn’t plant as many or the germination wasn’t quite as good on these.

One of our farmers’ market vendors grows ‘Music’ garlic and loves it. I’ll say that the plants were vigorous and most of the bulbs also look large and well formed. There are a couple of smaller bulbs, but I suspect those were along the edge of the bed away from the drip lines.

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