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Friday PhotoEssay – July 22, 2016

Another sweltering week, another Friday photoessay! Let’s take a break from our Tomato Day preparations to take a quick look around the Demonstration Garden.

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I would say that we have reached the midpoint of summer in the garden. While many plants are still going to grow and mature, the tomato plants have reached maturity. With the usual onset of insects and diseases, there’s a lot of downhill to go from here. We will also be planting a range of things for fall over the next few weeks.

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This is the buckwheat that we planted first, following the lettuce. You can see that it has put on significant growth in the 5-6 weeks it has been planted and has started flowering. It has not yet started going to seed. We cut this buckwheat back and then put about 2/3 of it in the compost bin and the remainder we spaded into the soil.

28477766445_e1b1163ec3Eggplant can be a little bit tricky to determine when it is ready to harvest. Like many vegetables, it is typically harvested at the botanically immature stage. It can actually be harvested at almost any size, up to the point where it starts to mature. Once sign of that maturity is when the color goes from bright and glossy (like the eggplant on the far right of the picture) to slightly faded and dull (center). When we cut into the dull colored eggplant, we see that the seeds are brown rather than white, a sign of maturity. While the eggplant can still be eaten at this stage, the seeds are much tougher and will make the texture of the eggplant less enjoyable to eat.

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We have started picking a few of the Purple Bumble Bee cherry tomato, and so far it is a bit more pink and green than purple/maroon and green. The flavor is decent, but not spectacular.
27861927223_34b3bf75a9The ‘Esterina’ cherry tomato has been very impressive. It has had several large clusters ripen already and has more to come. The flavor is also very sweet. So far it is definitely a winner!

27861945903_a8221bb972The peppers are maturing nicely and I’m looking forward to seeing how they all perform. However, with some of the wind and rain storms that we’ve had, several of the plants are leaning over and exposing the fruit to more sun. Hence the sunscald on the two peppers shown in this picture. Fruits with sunscald should be picked to prevent the development of disease. A mature fruit with sunscald can usually be eaten if the damaged part is trimmed off and no diseases have developed.

Come see us Saturday at Tomato Day!

Friday PhotoEssay – April 15, 2016

It’s that time again, and since I haven’t updated much in the last couple weeks, I have a lot to show you.

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The lettuces are really looking great, while everything else except the perennial herbs are still just barely getting going.

26405775326_a0c51593dfHere’s a closeup look at one of the quilt block lettuce gardens. We’ve had a few casualties, especially of the green variety, so the pattern isn’t perfect, but I think you can see the general idea.

25826861154_73fcabf7fdThe varieties in the other quilt block garden haven’t grown quite as fast, so it isn’t as full-looking, but you can still see the pattern.

26431720005_515dc761baAs one sign of how cold it didn’t get this past winter, our flowering sage is still alive. It is also starting to bloom again, which is very odd for this time of year. My guess is that since it didn’t die, it responded to the short daylength of spring by initiating more flowers.

26158548370_de29581f53_zWe are also trying out a new salad table this year in the Accessible Garden area. This table top garden is only 5″ deep and is intended for only shallow-rooted vegetables, primarily in spring and fall.

26158871470_68d076194b_zThe snow peas, kohlrabi, cabbage, and lettuce in the K-State Purple garden are off to a thriving start. We’ll be filling in with warm season vegetables in the next month.

That’s it for this week! Have a great weekend!

2016 Garden Plans: Bed 1, Continued

While we are planning on growing a wide variety of peppers in most of Bed 1, we have the two square tiers that are also part of Bed 1. We chose to plant lettuce in those beds for the spring, followed by cover crops, followed by a fall planting of garlic.

However, we aren’t just planting lettuce in rows this spring. We wanted to change it up and show how you might use lettuce to be part of an edible landscape in place of other ornamentals.

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24609065600_66282941f6What do those look like? If you said quilt blocks, you would be right! I found the idea in some youth gardening materials and thought it would be a fun way to arrange some of our usual spring salad gardens rather than the straight rows. We are trying a couple new (to us) varieties of oak leaf lettuce, ‘Mascara’ and ‘Encino.’ The other lettuces are leaf and romaine lettuces that we grew last year.

The two garlic varieties are a couple that I thought looked interesting, but we will see what is available when the time to order garlic arrives this summer.

Going (Pea)Nuts!

We harvested our peanuts a couple of weeks ago, even though we hadn’t yet had a freeze. The tops were definitely getting yellow and looking like they were almost done. I posted about it in one of the Friday PhotoEssays, but I thought I would pull that information out for you in a separate blog post.

We grew two different varieties of peanuts, ‘Tennessee Red Valencia‘ and ‘Schronce’s Deep Black.’ We got these heirloom varieties from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

In case you didn’t realize it, peanuts are a legume, just like beans and peas. They also grow in pods below ground, but they aren’t tubers or roots like potatoes and carrots.

The plants flower and are pollinated. Then the ovary in the flower initiates this long tube, called a “peg.” The peg begins to grow down toward the soil. This is called “pegging.”

One of the reasons that our yield this year wasn’t what we might have wished is that our heirloom peanut varieties were a lot taller and lankier than we had expected. This meant that when the flowers bloomed and produced the “pegs,” the pegs couldn’t reach the soil and produce peanuts. We could have had dozens more peanuts!

So, the moral of the story is that we should either have chosen a modern variety with shorter plants where the flowers occur closer to the base OR we should have planted the heirloom varieties in a spot with more space to flop over and reach the soil. Another option would have been to hill them up, if we’d had space. Now we know!

This is the ‘Schronce’s Deep Black’ peanut. In the raw, undried form it has deep purple skins.

This is the ‘Tennessee Red Valencia’ that is a more traditional color. Bright pink when raw that will darken to brick red when dry.

Since harvest, the peanuts have been drying. (This isn’t all of them. Our yield wasn’t quite that bad!)

As you can see, the colors have darkened quite a bit. The next step will be roasting…or boiling! What do you think? Roasted peanuts or boiled?

Flowers on the Cucumbers

Just in time for our Saturday Sampler this week, some of the cucumbers in the garden are starting to bloom. Of course, we were hoping there might be some actual cucumbers by this weekend, but they have been a little bit pokey.

This is the ‘Tondo Liscia Manduria’ cucumber-melon that is in the Italian/Vertical garden. It hasn’t really started to vine yet, but it is blooming. Most of these blooms are the male flowers, but do you see those tiny, fuzzy, green blobs? Those are the buds of the female flowers getting started.

I’m going to guess that this first flush of flowers probably won’t result in more than one, maybe two cucumbers. Most of the flowers are male, and the timing might not work out to pollinate the female flowers once they open. It is very common for this to happen with the first flush of flowers, so if you are starting to see flowers on your cucumbers but no cucumbers yet, just be patient and wait for the flowers to sort themselves out.