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Friday PhotoEssay

I have two options for this week’s PhotoEssay…I can share all the pretty or interesting things in the garden or I can share all of the pests and bugs and problems we’re starting to see. Any votes?

I’ll be honest that I was leaning towards the pests, bugs, and problems, but then I decided it would get rather lengthy and that I should save that for one or two posts next week. If you want a quick preview: spider mites, caterpillars, squirrels, blight, holey leaves, stinkbugs, and more!

You can see from our Whole Garden picture this week that we mulched the sweet potatoes on Tuesday and that we have a couple sunflowers blooming. You can’t see that the tomatoes are looking increasingly beset by a variety of problems and pests. Oh well. Such is tomato growing in Kansas! We’ll have some great examples for the Tomato Pests & Diseases talk at Tomato Day!

Look at this! We have buckwheat seedlings starting to grow. (Sorry about the poor focus on the seedling. Still learning the new camera. But the soil particles are in great focus!) This is very quick germination, probably aided by the warm temperatures and the nice shower we had yesterday morning. These seedlings are in the Pizza Garden. I haven’t seen any in the other beds yet…Hmm…

Earlier this week I was talking to someone about the tomatoes we had growing in the Demo Garden, and I said that there must be nothing spectacular about the ‘Bella Rosa’ variety because I had to look it up to remember we had it planted. Then I went out to the garden to take a look at the plant. I’m not going to forget about it again, that’s for sure! It has a cluster of 6 or more HUGE tomatoes on it, as well as more set higher up in the plant. It is supposed to have 10 oz fruit, and these are well on their way.

I commented last week about the ‘Limmony’ flowers that were aborting rather than setting, and I was wondering how many tomatoes we would actually get from this plant, since they are supposed to grow into huge tomatoes. Well, I may be changing my tune about that! I looked the plant over this week and again saw the big one shown here, but also found at least a dozen small green tomatoes that were set in the last couple weeks. Twelve beefsteak tomatoes may not be quite as many as you would get from a hybrid, but it is a pretty exemplary showing from an heirloom in my experience! (To put that in perspective, I just counted 17 tomatoes from the hybrid Jetsetter plant, including the 2 we’ve already harvested.)

This ‘Little Baby Flower’ watermelon has been growing like crazy this week. (Note to melon thieves: This melon is NOT anywhere close to ripe. Please leave it alone. Thanks!)

The squash under the row cover are also growing fast. Our hoops are shorter than sometimes, so I think we are going to have to take the row cover off before the plants have reached the blooming stage and hope the Squash Vine Borers have already found fodder somewhere else this year. I haven’t seen any of the moths flying around in the last couple weeks, so maybe we are safe?

I haven’t really been checking the pepper plants for production because they are often a little bit later than the tomatoes, especially the snack pepper types. I was walking by the Kids Snack Garden on Tuesday morning during our work time and notice a flash of red! We had a couple of peppers ripe. Then yesterday there were a couple more. I haven’t tried any of them yet, but it seems like the ‘Lunchbox’ variety are an improvement over the ‘Yummy’ variety in earliness and production at least. We’ll see how they taste.

Have a great weekend!

Planting a Buckwheat Cover Crop

Since we harvested the rest of the garlic and shallots last week and we are not going to be planting our next crop until early August, we have a unique opportunity to grow a cover crop in our Demonstration Garden this year!

Cover crops are typically grown for a number of reasons: prevent soil erosion, increase soil nutrients, suppress weeds, improve soil organic matter content, and provide food for beneficial insects. They can also help with soil compaction & drainage, suppress diseases, and break insect cycles. With such an impressive list of benefits, you wonder why we haven’t done it before!

The challenge with cover crops is that they need a certain amount of time to grow, which can interfere with other things you want to grow. In our case, we had a large area that was otherwise going to be empty. Enter the buckwheat!

Buckwheat grows fast, tolerates drought, and can scavenge phosphorus from the soil. It is also excellent as a weed suppressor, and the flowers provide habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects.

The first step was getting the soil moistened in the areas where we wanted to plant the buckwheat. Except for rain, most of those areas hadn’t been watered in a couple weeks while we were drying down the garlic and shallots. As you might imagine, the soil was quite dry! We watered and worked up the soil to ensure even moisture. Then we scattered the buckwheat seed (about 1/4 lb per 100 sq. ft.) and raked it in.

This is the buckwheat seed. It is rather triangular (well, pyramidal) seed that almost seems like it has wings on the edges. It is actually related to rhubarb, and isn’t even a grain (like wheat), but rather a seed (from a nutritional standpoint). We should have some germination by next week or maybe even the end of the week.