Friday PhotoEssay – May 5, 2017

It’s time to start our regular Friday reviews of the Demonstration Garden!

We have more growing in the garden than some years at this time. Except for the tomato and vertical gardens, which are empty, most of the other areas have lettuces, other leafy greens, peas, or root veggies.

34089420810_b1e36a6b7cWe had our first harvest of many of our leafy greens this week. This is the Elegance Greens Mix from the Grocery Garden. It got a little bigger than I prefer for salads, but we will be trying to stay on top of harvesting moving forward. Watch for harvest updates and track our produce value from the Grocery Garden as the season progresses.

34433386646_08ab0150e4The green sprouting broccoli that is in one of our barrel planters has enjoyed the cool weather and is looking great. It isn’t showing signs of heading yet, but I expect it will be soon. Another boon of the cool weather is that the cabbageworms aren’t around either!

34344105431_c9d314e282In what may be the first live demonstration of the challenges of growing heirlooms, this ‘Brown Dutch’ heirloom lettuce in the Colonial Garden is already starting to bolt. It is most likely reacting to the temperature fluctuations from warm to cold. But for whatever reason, this variety is not as tolerant to that and more prone to bolt.

34089439200_0d9db4ceb6The pallet garden we planted last year to strawberries is back up and growing. It is flowering and setting fruit. I don’t love the fact that the plants are so small. I think they are probably showing the lack of nutrients available to them in the pallet, and I don’t know that fertilizing right now is going to improve the fruit. It will be important for plant health if we want to keep it going for next season though. Now…how to fertilize and keep the nutrients where we put them? Ah, the challenges of pallets!

34089442010_59c9a47d0fThe Japanese bunching onions and carrots that we overwintered were harvested this week. The carrots weren’t in great condition. I think that overwintered carrots are best harvested in January or February, before it starts getting too warm!

34089460380_5ed50b1541Our poor tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are still waiting to be planted. It has just been TOO COLD. With the early, warm temps 6-8 weeks ago, we started thinking early spring. But the reality is that the temperatures in the past two weeks have been too cold for these plants to be outside without suffering cold injury. We are hoping to plant tomatoes this next week and the peppers in two weeks.

2017 Garden Plans: Containers

This is the final post looking at what we are planning to do in the Demo Garden this year. From here on out, we will be looking at what’s already been growing while I’ve still been catching up on the garden planning posts.

Most years we do either flowers or herbs in the containers. This year we are planting a mixture of vegetables, herbs, and flowers in all the containers. Hopefully they will be both productive and attractive!

Most of the containers have been planted to lettuces, radishes, peas, and pansies for the spring time. Over the next several weeks, they will be giving way to the summer plantings which include tomatoes, peppers, herbs, eggplant, basils, chard, zinnias, begonias, and much more. Here’s a look at the plans for a couple of the different areas.

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One thing that I think will be very interesting to see is the On the Deck Sweet Corn variety. It was developed for containers, but usually small plantings of corn do not pollinate well. It will be one of the the unique things to see for sure.

33334851194_5dd26766deJust for fun, here’s a picture of one of the container groupings in the spring planting layout.

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!