Author Archives: Rebecca

2017 Garden Plans: Beds 8, 9, and 10

We are almost done surveying the garden plans for this year. After this post, there are just the containers and the Prairie Star areas to talk about.

Beds 8, 9, and 10 are the square, 4’x4′ beds along the back edge of the garden. For several years, Bed 8 has been designated as our perennial herb / kitchen herb garden, and that continues this year.

bed-8The winter was a bit of a challenge and we lost some plants out of this garden. We also discovered this spring that the usually well-behaved Pineapple Mint has run amok all over the bed. So this map is more of a suggestion than reality. We have planted some cilantro already, since it is the Herb of the Year being featured at Herb Day. We will also plant the basil and lemon verbena once it’s warmer.

Beds 9 and 10 don’t have any fancy maps. Bed 9 continues to be where our ‘Cascade’ Hops are planted. Hops have a reputation as vigorous growers with large vines. Our plant was rather small last year, as a new planting.

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This year….not so much. Yes, this picture is what the plant looks like RIGHT NOW. It is already grown well over the top of the tomato cage. Ideally, we would figure out a better trellising system for it. However, we’re probably not going to keep it in the garden past next year, so there’s no good reason to do that.

In Bed 10, we have planted a new variety of globe artichoke, ‘Colorado Star,’ which is supposed to have a shorter days to maturity, making it more likely to be successful here. The flower buds, which are the edible part, are purple on this variety.

Supposedly, for best production, the plants are supposed to be subjected to several days of colder temperatures after transplanting to mimic a “winter” season. At least the weather is kind of playing nice for that purpose! We’ll just have to wait and see if it works.

2017 Garden Plans: Accessible Gardens

Last year, we planted a lot of tomatoes, cucumbers, and other warm season veggies in the accessible beds. This year, we swung the other way and have planted (and already planted) a wide variety of cool season vegetables.

accessibleIn the tiered garden, we removed the raspberry that really hadn’t done much. I think it needed more sun that in that location. We opted for swiss chard and a kale mix for spring planting in the two lower tiers, intending for those crops to grow through most of the summer. Then the kale will be replaced with a red veined spinach in the fall. We will replant the chard if needed.

The center tier will have two tomatoes and two basils. The ‘Little Napoli’ was a variety that did well last year and we wanted to try it again. ‘Patio Princess’ is a new compact dwarf that is supposed to have up to 4 oz. fruit.

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The two barrel planters and the salad table are also featuring cool season vegetables this year. The larger barrel planter is planted to spinach and a green, Italian sprouting broccoli for the spring. It will have purple kohlrabi and orange carrots for the fall.

The smaller barrel planter is planted to a variety of pea called ‘peas-in-a-pot’ that is supposed to work well in containers. In the fall, we are trying “Kalettes,” which are a cross between brussels sprouts and kale.  They have shoots/sprouts along the stem like brussels sprouts, but they are open florets rather than mini-cabbages.

In the salad table, we have radishes, green onions, and mixed lettuce for the spring. The cutting celery and parsley will grow through the summer (we hope!), and then the other veggies will be replanted for the fall.

Just because you are growing in smaller planters doesn’t mean you need to skip trying out the weird stuff!

Garden Cleanup & Spring Planting

We have kicked off our planting season in the Demonstration Garden with work days the last two weeks. We went from a garden that was full of volunteer wheat and cheat to a garden that had the beginnings of our plans implemented for the season.

32929204433_3da4bdaab1As you can see, the weeds/grass and leftover plants from last year were having a field day. This picture actually looks better than it would have a day previously, as the Compost Committee graciously pulled the weeds and spread compost in Bed 4!

33742353865_00d3d30728Here’s the “After” shot from yesterday. We removed the old hops vines, most of the other dead plants and all the weeds. We added a whole bunch of compost to the beds that needed it, and got started with planting.

33742337345_7d221b99e1The Colonial Garden is probably the farthest ahead in the planting game, as the vast majority of the plants in this garden are spring/fall (cool season) veggies. We transplanted three types of lettuce that Thomas Jefferson had records of planting, as well as two heirloom cabbage varieties and an heirloom, vining pea. We also planted both parsnip and salsify seeds.

33613084431_28699f536cThe Accessible planters are largely planted already with spring crops. These planters will have a mixture of kale, chard, sprouting broccoli, spinach, lettuces, radishes, and peas for the spring. We will have a couple tomatoes later on, but again, lots of spring/fall crops.

33742361035_ea89ed1edfOne of the most interesting things in the early spring planting is this kale mix. It is called Kale Storm Mix, and we planted it in several of the containers. This is a multi-seed pellet, sometimes called a “fuseable.” They’ve been around the flower industry for a few years, but this is the first time I’ve seen them for veggies. The seed company took 3 kale varieties and mixed the seeds in a uniform ratio and put them into these larger “seed pellets.” The result is supposed to be an evenly mixed, visually attractive blend of kale. We’ll see how it turns out!

33357398180_178b3ba755The ‘Cascade’ Hops is also an interesting experience. Last year I was afraid it wasn’t going to do much for the longest time. Then it did finally take off and grow. This year it is already half way up the cage before April 1st! Yikes! Another fun factoid: hops shoots are edible like asparagus. We tried nibbling on them, and they do taste like asparagus at first. But then there is a really nasty bitter aftertaste. Ugh! There’s a reason hops are not grown for spring edible shoots!

This has been a busy week, because we also got all our tomato and pepper seeds started inside. I don’t have any pictures of the plants yet, but I’m sure you can go back into the blog archives if you want to get the idea!

And just in case you were curious, I’m not planning on planting my tomatoes any earlier than usual – at this point. It’s cold today, and there’s a lot of weather to come before it is tomato planting time!

2017 Garden Plans: Beds 5 & 6 – Tomatoes

Several years ago, when tomato grafting was a relatively new technique, we did try out the grafting method in the demo garden. However, that turned out to be 2011, when it got hot so early and stayed hot for so long that pretty much no one had any tomatoes to speak of for the whole year. Needless to say, all we really learned was that the grafted plants were healthier.

This year, because of our rotations, we needed to put the tomatoes in the shorter beds, beds 5 and 6. Since we have the two smaller beds, we thought it would be a good opportunity to try a comparison of Grafted vs Non-Grafted tomatoes again.

What is tomato grafting? This is a process where the variety you want is grafted (fused) to a root system of a variety that has other characteristics you may want, such as disease resistance. This is one way to be able to grow heirloom tomatoes without the necessity of lots of rotation. Grafting has also been shown to increase the vigor and yield potential of most varieties.

We are trying 3 different varieties – ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Momotaro,’ and ‘Legend.’ We will have 2 grafted plants of each variety in one bed and 2 non-grafted plants of each variety in the other bed. In one bed, we had a little bit more space, so we opted to try a plant that is grafted to have 2 varieties on the same plant. This plan will be half ‘San Marzano’ and half ‘Cuore di Bue.’

‘Cherokee Purple’ is probably one of the most common and popular heirloom varieties. It is a purple skinned and fleshed variety with excellent flavor and decent yield.

‘Momotaro’ is a Japanese variety with dark pink skin and flesh. It is a hybrid slicer variety that has a reputation for excellent flavor.

‘Legend’ is a determinate red slicer that has late blight resistance. Not that we ever have an issue with late blight. It is also early producing and is also reputed to have great flavor.

‘San Marzano’ and ‘Cuore di Bue’ are both heirloom paste tomatoes. The ‘San Marzano’ is a more traditional Roma and the ‘Cuore di Bue’ is a no heart type.

2017 Garden Plans: Bed 4 – Peruvian Garden

We had the Peruvian Aji Limon pepper in the Pepper Garden last year, so I had the idea to do a whole garden growing traditional Peruvian vegetables. A couple of our Master Gardeners have really gotten into the theme and even went to a local Peruvian restaurant to learn from the owner about what they eat.

We haven’t done corn at all in the garden because it’s difficult to have enough space to ensure good pollination. But we really wanted to try growing this giant Peruvian corn, so we decided to risk it. This garden is in our largest raised bed, and we have allotted about half of the bed to this corn. It has much larger than normal kernels, and I’ve seen some information that says it can get up to 14′ tall! Yikes!

The “normal” things in this garden – the purple fingerling potatoes and red onions are things that we’re relatively familiar with.  Same with the cilantro.

The peppers. Aji Limon, Aji Red Rocoto, and Aji Amarillo. The Aji Limon we had last year. It’s small, yellow, and hot. It made an awesome salsa. The Aji Amarillo is the most popular Peruvian pepper that they make a sauce from and use in many dishes. It is a golden orange color at maturity. The Red Rocoto is a hot/sweet red bell-type pepper.

Then….the weird stuff. The Andes mountains are home to a lot of less common roots and tubers. Many of them are marginal for us in the U.S., so these may or may not work for us.

Yuca or Cassava is a starchy tuber that is an important food source in tropical climates. It is very tolerant of less than ideal conditions, so it should do okay for us.

Mashua is related to nasturtiums, but has edible tubers. Yacon is related to dahlia and also has an edible root. As both nasturtiums and dahlias prefer cooler temps, it will be interesting to see if these edible versions can grow well here. They will need to grow throughout the hot part of the season to produce, so it could be a challenge depending on our weather this summer.