Our tomato trials are looking very fortuitous at this point in the year. When we were planning this winter, we chose to try out some of the more recent All-America Selections tomato winners. These are varieties that have been tested all across the U.S. and have shown to perform reliably under a wide range of conditions.
We had already grown Chef’s Choice Orange a couple of times and found it to be a reliable producer with great flavor. (I have also grown it at home for a few more years and it has quickly become one that is an easy choice.)
With that experience, we are interested to see if other, new varieties in the Chef’s Choice line will be just a promising for Kansas. We chose to grow the Chef’s Choice Orange again as our “known” trial variety. To that, we have added the following varieties. (Links to the All-America Selections pages, with more variety details.)
Chef’s Choice Red – 8 oz fruit, prolific
Chef’s Choice Green – Green and yellow at maturity and citrus-y flavor common to green-when-ripe tomatoes.
Chef’s Choice Yellow – 10 oz. somewhat sweet fruit
Chef’s Choice Pink – 12-14 oz beefsteak with pink skin and flesh
We also chose two non-Chef’s Choice varieties to test in order to have a broader comparison.
Galahad – Red fruit with high disease resistance and purported crack resistance. (Crack resistance is a hot commodity in Kansas, so we are hoping for great things!)
Mountain Rouge – From the “Mountain” series, a 12-14 oz. pink beefsteak with high disease resistance.
Some Cherry Tomatoes:
In other areas of the garden, we also have some cherry tomatoes planted, and these are a little further outside the normal varieties.
Moonbeam – A pale yellow or white grape tomato that is supposed to have high yields and exceptional flavor.
Brad’s Atomic Grape – This multi-colored tomato has been all over social media for a couple years, but we have heard from some locals that it cracks horribly. So…we’re going to give it a try!
Blush – A yellow oblong cherry with red stripes and interior blush. We have tried others in this series in the past, all with bad cracking problems, so it will be interesting to see how this one performs.
If all goes well, we hope to have a bounty of tomatoes this year, as well as some great new varieties to recommend in our area.
It has been quite the ride since I posted our first look at garden plans for this year, hasn’t it? So many things have changed, and likely many others will before it is all said and done. Because our face-to-face programming is suspended for the time being, we have been thinking about how to adjust our garden for the summer to accommodate the safety of our staff, volunteers, and the public. At the same time, we know that many new gardeners are seeking information on how to start and maintain a successful vegetable garden, and that access to fresh, healthy food is more important now than ever. (And it has always been important!)
Because most of our early spring planting was eliminated, with the exception of plants that we already had ready to go, we have re-planned chunks of the garden to change those plans. We also had several parts of the garden that were planned to be more novelties, ornamental, or trials of things that we didn’t know quite how they were going to perform. In order to best fulfill our educational mission and serve our broader community, we have eliminated the majority of those types of plantings from the garden, and will instead replace them with the following:
- Extra tomato and pepper plants that we had started already.
- Beans, squash, and other common, generally productive vegetables that we had available.
- Additional plantings of varieties we have grown in the past, had leftover seed in stock, and knew were going to be productive to replace trial varieties that were less likely to perform well.
Some of the things that we have maintained include:
- Planting the square beds (8, 9, and 10) to perennial fruit plants. If you look at the pic above, you can see the dwarf apple in the front and the blackberries and raspberries growing in bed 9.
- Vertical gardening / trellises to grow lots of cucumbers, melons, and other things throughout the garden.
- The tomato trials of recent All America Selections winners.
- Lots of different colors of veggies!
An additional change, along with planting varieties that emphasize productivity, is that we will be donating significantly more of the produce to those in need. Most years, a large portion of our produce is used for educational programming – for our Master Gardeners or others in the community, and extra produce has been donated. This year the primary focus of our garden will be to donate to those in need as a food bank garden.
As always, we look forward to growing and learning along with you! You might also be interested in joining our new, Victory Garden 101 Facebook Group to engage in more conversations and learning about vegetable gardening. What changes have you made to your garden plans due to the pandemic?
It has been a LONG time since we have posted an update about the Demonstration Garden. In fact, I think we haven’t posted much since the garden plans were done last year. Hopefully we will do better this year!
We had our first planning meeting just last week, and we have already started planning our gardens for the year. Below you can see the map to this year’s overall plans.
The quick overview:
Bed 1: Vining crops grown vertically. We have done this many times before, but it has been a couple years since we have used a whole bed. Stay tuned to find out what we grow!
Bed 2: Foodscaping – We are mixing vegetables, flowers and herbs together in this garden. We are taking our inspiration from our upcoming Keynote speaker at the Design & Grow Gardening Workshop! (Register here.)
Bed 3: New, Weird & Colorful (Unicorn) – We couldn’t decide if we wanted to try new varieties, weird things, or colorful things, so we combined them all and gave it the name “Unicorn” just for fun. I can’t wait to see what we end up planting!
Bed 4: This will be our Tomato garden for the year. One end has turned into perennial herbs as well.
Bed 5: Pizza! We are getting ready for some delicious grilled pizzas with tomatoes, peppers, basil, onions, spinach, and arugula.
Bed 6: Ireland – We will be featuring vegetables common to Irish cuisine.
Bed 7-10: Fruit – We are going to be investing in some perennial fruit for small spaces in our beds for the next few years. We are looking at berries, tree fruit and figs.
Stay tuned! If all goes well, I should be back to update you on specific varieties over the next few weeks.
It’s the first day of summer, and it feels like it! Like many of you, there are good and bad things happening in the garden due to the excessive rain and milder temperatures. Honestly…we kind of need this heat to push along some of our warm season plants.
It has been awhile since an update, but that doesn’t mean we have been MIA in that garden. As you can see, despite the weather challenges, the garden is planted, we have been harvesting, and things are going well. One benefit of the raised beds (and the drainage tiles underneath our garden!) is that no matter how much rain we have gotten, it drains away fairly quickly. So we are not seeing too much root damage from saturated soils.
The herbs & pollinators garden has been growing gangbusters, with absolutely huge bronze fennel, lush parsley, and several beautiful agastaches.
We once again have a SNAP-Ed garden, where we are highlighting the ability to use SNAP dollars to purchase garden plants. We track our expenses and the value of harvested crops. We also have to budget for every purchase, so there is often not money to purchase tomato cages or similar items. The gardeners built this homemade tomato cage for the two tomato plants. We will see if it fares better than last year’s homemade cage!
Corn is something new for us in the Demo Garden, simple because of the space requirements. We tried a Peruvian corn variety a couple years ago, but it didn’t grow. This corn is ‘Glass Gem’ popcorn. We are interested to see how it performs in the small area we have given it.
Lest you think all is well in the garden, we are starting to see a fair amount of early blight on the lower tomato leaves. We hadn’t mulched the garden until last week, which probably didn’t help prevent disease. Mostly this is a rain and humidity problem. Cultural controls would include mulching, caging or staking, and keeping the leaves dry. Fungicide options would include chlorothalonil and copper-based products. It is important to note that fungicides only prevent new leaves from becoming infected, NOT cure infected leaves.
The other thing that we are seeing right now are aphids all over the tomatoes. This is quite abnormal, but probably due to the cooler weather. The benefit of hotter weather is that it should help the tomatoes grow faster and slow down the aphids (which normally like cooler weather). The white specks are the molted husks of the aphids. The black and orange guy is a ladybug larvae that is happily feeding on the aphids. We are hoping that between the hotter weather and the ladybugs, we won’t need to treat for the aphids.
There is much more to see in our garden, so come on over at visit us sometime!
It is once again the time of year where we plan what will be featured in our Demonstration Garden for the season. As always, we have a great mix of tried-and-true vegetables and some new and interesting things. When it is cold and snowy, it is a lot of fun to think about what will be growing in the garden in just a few short weeks. We will be starting the first of our seeds next week and it is all downhill from there!
Below you will find maps for each of our raised garden beds. The maps show the overall theme or focus for each bed as well as the specific varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers we will have growing.
Our tomatoes are in Bed 1 this year. Because of how this raised bed is structured, we will have roma tomatoes in one end, early maturing varieties on the other end, and some more common “comparison” varieties in the middle. The roma tomato varieties are a mixture of hybrids and heirlooms, with different colors, sizes, and shapes. We chose the “early maturing” theme because everyone always likes to have the first tomatoes! The six varieties we chose also are a mix of hybrid and heirlooms, with maturity dates ranging from 54 to 65 days from transplanting.
Bed 2 will feature a mix of cool season vegetables that are planted both in spring and fall. The spring plantings feature leafy greens, peas, carrots, radishes, and kohlrabi. The fall plantings feature two new cauliflower varieties, beets, daikon radishes, lettuce, spinach, and carrots. Our plan is to put row covers over at least part of the fall plantings to extend the growing season and overwinter them.
The theme for Bed 3 is the “Kansas Backyard Garden.” The idea is to feature common vegetables grown in Kansas. Most of the varieties are not too far out there either. A couple things that I’m excited about though are the bush-type vine crops. We are trying both a new bush watermelon variety, ‘Cal Sweet Bush’ that has only 18″ long vines, and ‘Cherokee Bush’ pumpkin that has about a 4′ spread.
On the other hand, Bed 5 is a long way from Kansas! We are featuring vegetables that are indigenous to Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa. Researching this garden was an education, because we discovered that some of our common ornamentals were originally edible vegetables in Africa! Vegetables that you may be familiar with are eggplant, okra, kale, and peanuts. You may be less familiar with cowpeas, long beans (a type of cowpea), amaranth, cleome, celosia, and bambara beans.
You probably do know amaranth – but as pigweed. There are colored leaf varieties and varieties that have been cultivated for edible greens. Other varieties are grown for flowers and seeds. Cleome is a ornamental flower we know, but most of us haven’t eaten the foliage as a vegetable! Celosia is another common flower that you may have grown for color. But the leaves and young flowers can also be eaten as a vegetable.
Cowpeas, long beans, and bambara beans are all from the genus Vigna. Cowpeas you may recognize. The long beans are vining beans that produce 18″ long edible pods. Bambara beans are kind of like cowpeas…the peas look a lot like the cowpeas. But they are kind of like peanuts…the pods grow underground.
One of the best things about this garden theme is that these are all vegetables that thrive in hot climates, so we are excited to see how they do in Kansas!
For a second year, we have a bed that we are calling our “SNAP-Ed” bed. This bed is a demonstration of how to garden on a very small budget, using only seeds and plants that can be purchased from a store where it is possible to use the SNAP EBT (food stamp) benefits.
Also a reprise from last year is Bed 6. Agastache is the Herb of the Year featured at our Herb Day event on May 4th, so we kept this bed in the same location with several overwintering agastache varieties. The flowers and herbs are chosen for the attractiveness to butterflies and other pollinators.
Beds 8, 9, and 10 are all 4′ x 4′ beds. Bed 8 will feature ornamental gourds on a trellis. Bed 9 will feature sunflowers. Bed 10 will feature a popcorn variety called ‘Glass Gem.’
In the accessible garden area, we are featuring a “Salsa Garden” theme. In the tiered raised bed will be a roma tomato, herbs, and peppers. In the barrel planters will be a trailing tomato variety, more herbs, and some green onions.
Our containers around the garden will feature flowers this year, especially some new varieties of Pentas. We are excited for spring! What are you planning to plant this year?