Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.


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.

Friday PhotoEssay – May 30th

We have a big change to show off in the garden this week!

Yes, we have mulch! Doesn’t it look great? It always gives the garden an entirely different look and feel once we get everything mulched. We mulched everything except the areas where there are still seeds working on germinating. We even mulched between the rows of beans, chickpeas, and carrots. Any bare soil we covered with straw, as much as possible.

Many of our tomato plants are starting to bloom, and it seems like the weather (so far) is working in our favor to have great fruit set. It could be a bumper tomato crop at the rate we’re going! This is one of the ‘Opalka’ plants, and it doesn’t show up very well in this picture, but I’m pretty sure that this is one of the varieties that typically exhibits the “wilty” gene. I have an ‘Opalka’ plant at home that shows it a little bit better. The “wilty” gene is found in some varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and it causes the plants to have slightly wilted appearance to the leaves. I think it is typically most visible at about this stage of growth. There isn’t anything to be concerned about or do differently. The most important part is to not just assume that the plant needs more water! On these wilty plants, you want to be sure to check the soil moisture level rather than watering indiscriminately when the plant looks wilted.

The kale we have planted in the Italian garden is looking really good. It is ‘Nero de Toscano’ or Black Tuscan kale. You might also see it called Lacinato kale or Dinosaur kale. Some kale connoisseurs will say that this type of kale has the best flavor, sweetest, mildest, whatever of any type of kale. I don’t know about that, but to be totally fair to it, I would imagine those descriptors are best applied in the spring or fall when the weather is nice and cool. Kale in Kansas at this time of year is going to be pretty strongly flavored! I still really like this African Sweet Potato & Kale Stirfry (on the second page).

All of the vine crop seedlings are doing well, including our Indian gourds. This is one of the Bittermelon/Bitter gourd seedlings. The leaves look a tiny bit exotic – if by exotic I mean slightly different from other vining vegetables.

 The potatoes are flowering! They sure took their time coming up this year, but they have grown so fast since then. Potato flowers don’t necessarily mean a whole lot, although growing up we always figured that we could start “stealing” a few potatoes from under the plant once they started flowering.

Have a great weekend!


Well….we got a bare 0.10″ of rain last night. I guess that’s better than nothing?