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2016 Garden Plans: Bed 6 – Root Vegetables

If Bed 5 (Flowers, Pollinators, Herbs) was pretty much a reprise of things we’ve grown before, then Bed 6 is almost the exact opposite. It features not only new varieties of common vegetables, but some things that we’ve never tried before.

25591335151_cef5a0c400Let’s start with the more common things. In the spring, we will be trying out three varieties of beets.

  1. ‘Cylindra’ is a red been that is long and cylindrical rather than round. Some people find this variety sweeter than regular beets.
  2. ‘Boldor’ is the newest variety of yellow/gold beets. The other more recent variety, ‘Touchstone Gold’ was an improvement over the heirloom varieties that typically had poor germination. It will be fun to see if this is another good improvement.
  3. ‘Avalanche’ is a white beet that is also an All America Selection. It has been a while since there has been a new white beet variety, so it will be interesting to see if it is an improvement.

In the fall, we will replace the beets with  some slightly less common things.

  1. ‘Brilliant’ Celeriac (aka celery root) is grown for the root, not the leaves/stems like traditional celery. It commonly needs a long, cool growing season, so it will be fun to see if we can make it grow here!
  2. ‘Helenor’ rutabaga is another root vegetable that is common further north. Again, it may not grow well for us here. If you aren’t familiar with the vegetable, rutabagas are kind of like large, sweeter turnips.
  3. ‘Merida’ carrot is a variety that is supposed to work well for overwintering, so we will give that a try this fall.

Then, there is that other strange stuff shown on the map. You are probably wondering if those are vegetables that I just made up. I didn’t! They are real things!

  1. Oca is a root vegetable that is native to the Andes. It is somewhat like a potato, but has bright colors. Will it like Kansas? We won’t know until we try it!
  2. Black Scorzonera is an old, European root vegetable. Sometimes called “oyster plant” for the flavor, it is considered something of a delicacy, albeit rather difficult to grow and prepare. It needs a long growing season, too. Will it like Kansas? We’ll find out!
  3. Crosnes (aka Chinese Artichokes) are from mint family and develop little tubers that look a bit like miniature Michelin men. The tubers don’t develop until the daylength shortens at the end of summer or early fall, and it can be killed by frost. Will they do much in Kansas? If you guessed, we don’t know, that would be right!

I’m hoping for some interesting and photogenic vegetables from this garden, although I have to be honest that if the summer turns out to be too hot and nasty, then we could just have lots of dead plants.

Friday PhotoEssay – August 15th

It’s Friday! And you can tell that the garden is continuing to wind down into fall. I will have to look back and see at what point the garden stops getting greener and starts getting browner. We are definitely into the “browner” stage right now.

I guess it’s still pretty green though, at least from a distance. It helps that you can’t really see the quinoa from this angle.

We did harvest the ‘Kesar’ and ‘Red Samurai’ carrots from the India Garden this week. They were pretty good sized! Unfortunately, they had just enough exposure to heat this summer to make them pretty bitter. Ideally we would have harvested them earlier, but since they got started late, they really weren’t ready. Honestly, they were pretty yucky.

So the ‘Kesar’ carrots, which were billed as “red” were actually purple skins with yellow interiors. I guess that is yet another lesson to take catalogue descriptions with a grain of salt.

The quinoa is still flopped over from the wind and storms last week, and it continues to develop some more color! I hope the color keeps getting brighter, otherwise I’m going to be sad.

We also went through and harvested all the okra that was ready (and past ready). Most okra starts to get tough and stringy once it is more than 3-4″ long, so it is important to pick it as it reaches the right size. I read a blog post this week called “A Reason to Love Okra” which talks about how okra is cooked in India. I thought it was a really interesting insight into the different preparations of okra that we use.

Speaking of which…tomorrow at 9 a.m. in the Demo Garden is our August Saturday Sampler program, and we are featuring Indian recipes and recipes with flavors of India. I know one of the recipes in the booklet is a Crispy Okra Raita, but I don’t know if that one will be up for sampling or not. Either way, you should come check it out!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday Harvest Report

We had some things to harvest today! We pulled the cippolini onions, some of the beets, one carrot, and a bunch of mustard greens!

‘Red Marble’ Cippolini Onions. These are supposed to be smaller onions that are a little bit flattened, so they are just about the size they are supposed to be. Not the same size as the big sweet onions for sure!

A big ol’ pile of mustard greens! They are starting to bolt, so we pulled a lot of the plants today, leaving just one row down the middle of the bed, under the trellis.

We just harvested a few of the beets, and they are pretty variable in size. Still, given the rough start they had, we can’t complain.

I just pulled one carrot to see how they were, and we decided not to pull any more today. The reason isn’t that they aren’t ready, but because we have a group of kids coming from Rainbows Camp Woodchuck on Friday and we thought they would enjoy pulling the carrots.

The first tomatoes on the Silvery Fir Tree plants are starting to turn! Maybe they’ll be ready by the end of the week.

Kids’ Snack Garden Year in Review

This was a fun garden, largely because of the crazy vegetable arbor that spanned the walkway between this garden and the vertical garden! We also had some really nice plants.

Top Performers

‘Super Sweet 100’ Cherry Tomato – Prolific and sweet, the only real complaint about this variety is that the tomatoes tend to get smaller toward the end of the season. Other than that, a great variety!

‘Lunchbox Red’ Snack Pepper – For the first time, one of the snack peppers actually did well! The red variety started producing in mid-summer and kept going steadily until about a month ago when it went crazy! The plants are healthy and the peppers are a nice size.

‘Easter Egg’ Radishes – These colorful mixed radishes are always a reliable winner.

Good Performers

‘Sugar Ann’ Sugar Snap Peas – These are the peas we had in a container at the beginning of the year. They did well…we just wanted more of them!

‘Breen’ and ‘TinTin’ Baby Romaine Lettuces – Both of these did well. I can’t really think of anything spectacular or problematic about either of them. The ‘Breen’ lettuce had that beautiful dark red color earlier this spring.

‘Mokum’ Carrots – This orange variety is a reliable producer and was this year. It was perhaps a little more variable in size than I would like to see, but I’ll blame that on the spring weather.

All the sunflowers – you either like them or you don’t. They all did what sunflowers do!

Mediocre Performers

‘Kaleidoscope Mix’ Carrots – Sometimes the carrot mixes do well and other times not so much. This mix didn’t ever size up very well, but that may have been the early season drought more than anything. They were tucked in the corner and may not have gotten enough water.

‘Emerite’ Pole Bean – The bean grew and didn’t do much of anything until the cool, rainy part of the summer. Then we did get some nice beans, but that stopped once it was hot and dry again. It did better than we sometimes experience with pole beans, but not a lot.

‘Lunchbox Yellow’ Snack Pepper – Unlike the red variety, this one has tiny little peppers and was not nearly as prolific, especially earlier in the summer.

‘Honey Bun’ Cantaloupe – We added this melon on a whim after the lettuce was done, and it performed about like I remembered it from a couple years ago. It didn’t like the wet weather and was constantly under attack from insects. Still, in most years you will get one or two good melons from it.

Poor Performers

None, really.

To Be Determined

All the fall vegetables are still growing, so no definitive answers on those yet!

Friday PhotoEssay

First off, I have to point out that yesterday’s Eggplant Lasagna post that said “Eggplant is my new favorite vegetable” was written by Denise, not me. I will admit that some of the recipes Denise has tried are definitely tasty, but I’m not sure that raises eggplant onto my “favorite vegetable” list. Let’s take a tour of the garden, shall we?

Here’s the whole garden picture from this afternoon. The tomatoes and other summer vegetables are starting to get that slight yellowish brown cast to them…They aren’t quite that same deep green color as they were a few weeks ago. The sweet potatoes are still crazy and you can see the brassicas growing like crazy in the distant beds.

This is the ‘Deadon’ cabbage variety. We seem to be starting to get a handle on the cabbageworms to some extent. This plant doesn’t have any damage on the new growth, for the most part. We are still regularly applying Dipel dust (Bt) to keep the caterpillars at bay. I still see the cabbage butterflies flitting around laying eggs and a few of the caterpillars lurking here and there. I’ll be glad when it cools down so the insects don’t reproduce as fast!

Hey! We’ve got Swiss Chard! This is the ‘Fordhook Giant’ that is planted in the Pizza Garden. I thought it was going to be white stemmed, but it is looking rather pink stemmed at the moment. Not that I (or the camera) will complain as the fall progresses.

This is the Fall/Winter Salad mix that we got from Wild Garden Seed. They have different mixes designed for different seasons, which is cool. The other neat thing is that they divide the seeds for each mix into 2 packets, a “slow germ” and a “fast germ” packet. The idea is that you plant the slow germinating seeds first and the quick germinating seeds a week or so later to help have the plants ready to harvest at the same time. The seedlings along the middle dripline were planted 2 1/2 weeks ago, and the ones along the close dripline were planted 1 1/2 weeks ago. They are about the same size now, so we’ll have to see if that amount of staggered planting worked out or if we should have waited another week to plant the faster germinating seeds.

The vegetable arbor has really turned into the cherry tomato arbor. Not that I’m complaining…it’s pretty neat. It is a trifle overwhelming though. I picked about a half gallon bag full of cherry tomatoes this afternoon just by going after the ones that were within easy reach. Yikes! Both of these varieties (Super Sweet 100 and Golden Honey Bunch) are winners in my book.

It looks like we have successfully gotten a good stand of carrot seedlings this year. I was worried about that, given the sandy soil and the weather. The kale and spinach were not as successful, so we may have to try replanting those if it every cools down again.

Some of our tomato plants (other than the cherry tomatoes, which are constant), are still plugging along. Both the ‘Limmony,’ shown here, and the ‘Jetsetter’ plants have a lot of medium-sized, developing greet fruit. If it doesn’t cool down too much, we could still have quite a lot of tomatoes ripening this month.

Have a great weekend!