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10 Days Later…

I really did think that I might post something while I was on vacation, but I guess that didn’t happen. Sorry…I was enjoying the less than 80 degree weather!

Since it rained last Tuesday and again this morning, the activity has been pretty slim since I left.

Here’s a few things I found upon my return to the garden this morning:

Surprise, surprise! Left to its own devices, the zucchini is a bit over-sized.

The fall radishes seem to be doing fine and growing quickly. The carrots next to them are also growing well. I’m not sure why the row of radishes on the end is smaller. I suspect that there’s either more clay soil there due to putting in the sign post or that area didn’t get as much water.

I knew there were a couple melons on our ‘Honey Bun’ Cantaloupe when I left, but I was surprised to see that there are now at least 4 melons set! I’m getting more and more impressed with these plants.

On the less-than-happy side, our rapsberries are definitely looking worse. Just when you think they can’t possibly look worse, they do. Most of the green fruit have shriveled up to nothing. I guess we will be planting something else in this spot next year!

After it dries out a bit, I’ll try to go out and harvest some things. I already know there’s at least one tomato that looks tasty! We’ll also get caught up with the Family of 4 Garden.

First Raspberries

Our poor, sickly raspberry plants are suffering through the heat and are beginning to produce a few berries. Even in good health the weather is still just a little bit too hot for really good berries and with the root rot issues it is definitely too hot. The berries are going from under-ripe to over-ripe in the course of several hours. As I got looking at the plants, I discovered that not all of the canes are in terrible shape from the Phytophthora Root Rot. We’ve lost about a dozen canes from the center of the plant, and there are more that aren’t looking too good. But…there are some canes toward the back of the patch that are still pretty healthy!

If you look close, you can see that the berries on the left are about half the size of those on the right. That’s a great example of 2 things. First, the importance of healthy plants. Second, the importance of adequate water getting to the fruit during ripening. That’s the true damage of the disease right now, is that water can’t get all the way to the top of the canes, so the leaves are scorching and the fruit is small.

Rotting Raspberries

Our ‘Caroline’ Fall-bearing Raspberries have been looking sickly recently, which prompted me to do some investigating into the cause.

The plants were getting rather faded looking, the tops of the plants were showing lots of water stress – more than I expected to see even with the weather changing from very wet to hot and dry, and some of the canes were falling over and dying.

These symptoms told me that something was going on, either with the roots or the canes. I inspected the canes, and this is what I found:

You can see some brown lesions on the canes as well as a brown area near the base of the plant. I was expecting to see lesions on the canes, but I was hoping to see anthracnose lesions, since that is fairly treatable. This didn’t look like anthracnose. I consulted with our Plant Pathology folks and then sent in a sample of a cane and part of some roots.

The diagnosis? Phytophthora crown/root rot. Phytophthora is a particularly nasty organism…technically not a fungus (an oomycete), but just to make our lives easier, let’s consider it enough like a fungus to call it a fungus. Phythophthora loves wet soils and standing water. (Gee…do you see where this story is going?) Late blight of the Irish Potato Famine fame is also a type of Phytophthora.

These raspberries are planted on a raised bed (although not a very good one) in clay soil that hasn’t been much amended with compost. They’ve been awesome for the last couple years, but this seems likely to be the death knell.  The only fungicide available cannot be applied within 45 days of harvest, and sadly these plants are just starting to flower. We would have to try to keep the plants from fruiting, which is likely to be a challenge and also to make sure that no one came along and ate one. Not likely in this demonstration garden!

So the moral of this story is to plant your raspberries in a well-drained location and don’t let it rain incessantly for a month. We will let the plants keep going and see if dry weather will let the plants recover and put up strong canes again next spring. I’m largely skeptical, but it’s possible!

A Bit of Britain

In honor of the England vs. U.S. soccer game over the weekend, I thought we might make this blog a little more international in flavor by featuring some rather English dishes. (Actually, it has nothing to do with the soccer game. It’s just a coincidence.)

I’ve been showing you pictures of our red currants and red gooseberries for awhile now, and the time has come to figure out what to do with them. Since both of these fruits are more common in Europe, it took awhile to find recipes that would work. I actually gave up on the red currants, and adapted a recipe that calls for raspberries, because I couldn’t find any good recipes calling for fresh red currants!

So what did I end up making? Two rather British desserts, Gooseberry Fool and Red Currant Scones. Red Currant Scones & Gooseberry Fool (PDF)

First, let’s talk about the Fool. A fool is a dessert that basically consists of a fruit puree that is folded into whipped cream with enough sugar to make it tasty. It is simple, but a bit of a step up from the mere “berries with sugar and cream” option.

Here is my 8 oz. of gooseberries, with the stems and tails still on. The stems come off pretty easily (usually during picking), and the “tails” scrape off with a knife.

Into the pot they go! I maybe added a bit too much water, which resulted in runny juice later on.

I strained and mashed them after cooking. The “glop” looks rather unappetizing, but the juice is a glorious crimson color! I mixed all of the glop and about 1/3 of the juice (since it was runny) into the whipped cream to make the fool. Oh yeah, and sugar. Don’t forget the sugar!

Yum! The finished Gooseberry Fool. I garnished it on top with some of the extra gooseberry juice. I could probably even thicken it a bit to make more of a sauce.

Next up, the Red Currant Scones! (Adapted from a recipe for Raspberry Scones)

The scone batter is pretty simple to make. The key to good scones, from what I understand, is to make sure your butter is cold and then cut it into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry blender. After that step, I gently mixed in the currants, followed by the whisked eggs and milk.

The batter was really soft and a little sticky, which made shaping it into rounds a challenge. I made 2 rounds and cut them into 6 wedges each, then sprinkled them with cinnamon & sugar.

After baking, the scones are soft and delicious. They are much lighter and less flaky than a lot of scones I’ve had, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The tang (read sour) of the currants complements the sweetness of the scone nicely. I think these will make an appearance at our Master Gardener fruit training this fall. (Now if that isn’t an inducement to become a Master Gardener, I don’t know what is!)

Friday PhotoEssay

Okay, this week’s recipes are posted on the Lunch in the Garden page. I made the slaw, but I’m also providing recipes for some really awesome potstickers that I made last weekend. They were too much work to make for this class!

A couple other things of interest before I move on to the pictures:

One of our K-State Plant Pathologists (think plant diseases), Megan Kennelly, was recently in Tajikistan. You can read about why she was there on the KSU Turf Blog, and see some pictures of her trip on Flickr.

Also, just for fun, here’s a blog with some beautiful pictures of lettuce planted very artistically.

All right, on to the pictures!

These are some beautiful red gooseberries that I picked from one of the plants in the Demo Garden this week. Apparently, the tradition in the U.S. is to pick gooseberries when they are green and very sour. I don’t pretend to understand. If you let them get fully ripe, they are edible fresh! I’ll be sharing a recipe for gooseberries sometime next week (after I try it out)!

The ‘Cascade’ Red Currant bush just keeps on giving. I’m getting close to having enough berries to make a pie. I’m trying to decide if I’m going to freeze them to use later or do something with them now. I’m leaning toward saving them to make a dessert for Master Gardener Basic Training in the fall.

Sorry, I had to show off another picture of the black raspberries. I know it’s rather mean of me.

I don’t know how it happened, but there are a couple of jalapenos ready to harvest already!

Aren’t the baby beans cute? This is actually from Monday, so they are a lot bigger by now. We’ll probably pick a few beans early next week.