Blog Archives

Preparing for the Sudden Onslaught of Winter

I feel like I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the weather, but it really isn’t just idle conversation! The weather is extremely important to our success as gardeners. After one light freeze and lots of unseasonably warm weather, we are looking at more than a week of unseasonably cold temperatures. Overnight lows look like they will be hovering in the upper teens to low 20s for the better part of the next two weeks. (At least that low of 9 degrees is gone, for now!) Many of the cool season vegetables will tolerate temperatures down to 24 or 25 without significant damage, but two weeks of lows down around 20 is probably a bit much for them to tolerate, especially when they haven’t been hardened off with cold-but-not-too-cold temperatures.

So…it was time to harvest some things and cover others this afternoon! Because I can’t resist experimenting, I left one or two plants of almost everything in the garden, just to see what would happen.

We already had the cold frame out, but still open. We closed it up and tucked some straw along the back edge to keep the cold air out.

We also put hoops and row cover over the main section of spinach and radicchio. Normally I’d leave those out, but I think this will be a bit cold all of a sudden.

I left some of the other spinach around the garden uncovered, including the Indian variety. (I don’t have great hopes for its cold hardiness!)

I harvested a few of the radicchio plants to see what stage they were at. I also harvested the watermelon radishes, fennel, half the bunching onions, and most of the dandelion greens. I was just going to leave the lemongrass, but then I just couldn’t let it go to waste, so it went to our Foods & Nutrition department.

I’ll post more pictures and show what I did with some of the different vegetables later in the week!

Friday PhotoEssay

We are busy preparing for Herb Day today! Come on out to the Extension office from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. to learn about growing and cooking with herbs. The Kansas Grown! Farmers’ Market will be in the parking lot until noon, and there will be lots of opportunities to buy your herb plants for the year. For more information, check out the event flyer.

We got our shipment from Richters Herbs yesterday of a few herbs that I haven’t seen around here before. This is the Nutmeg Thyme. I was surprised how tiny the leaves are! Maybe once it is planted and gets more sun it will get a little bigger. I didn’t remember the leaves being this tiny though. We also got Rose Petal thyme, Mint thyme, Ginger mint, and Sweet Aztec. Sweet Aztec is in the mint family and has super sweet leaves, kind of like stevia.

I was all set to bring the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant inside for the last couple of days, but then one of the Master Gardeners pointed out that we could use the cold frame. I’m still not used to having the cold frame here! We tucked everything inside and closed the lid, and it’s all looking great this morning after being out there for the past couple of days. We probably could have left it closed a little longer, but we wanted to get it open before the sun hit it and started cooking things inside.

The perennial herb garden is really looking spectacular! A couple months ago, we were sure most everything had croaked. Now it is looking great. The oregano and sage are looking particularly nice.

The ‘Red Beard’ onion is now flowering. It is really past time to pull them out, but I wanted to leave them in just until they bloomed so that I could get some pictures. The flowers are not as nicely ornamental as chive flowers. Now to get them pulled out before they go to seed! We need the spot for tomatoes anyway.

The sugar snap peas in the container by the Kids’ Snack Garden are growing like crazy and paying no attention to the weather. They kind of need something to climb on, but then again, they seem to be doing fine just climbing on each other.

Have a great weekend! Next week is going to be busy with planting (finally!).

New Cold Frame

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile now, you know that in the past we have used “low tunnel” type row covers/cold frames. (These terms tend to get used interchangeably, although they aren’t necessarily exactly the same.)

This is what we’ve done in the past – putting either plastic or fabric over low plastic hoops to protect cool season vegetables. With the new garden, we wanted to try something new, especially something that wouldn’t be as susceptible to the wind!

We wanted to try a more traditional cold frame, which is a wooden box with a glass/plastic top. We used plexiglass. One of our Master Gardeners built this for us. (Thank you, Don!) It is designed to fit onto the red cedar raised beds, around the corner posts.

As you can see, the lid is hinged and runs on a track. It is also only about 4′ x 4′ rather than the length of the whole bed. We wanted something that would be usable but that we could still hope to lift and store somewhere during the rest of the year!

The Master Gardeners planted some spinach seeds in this raised bed the week before the cold frame was installed. They are growing pretty well, since the weather has still been warm. The day length tends to slow the growth down at this time of year as well. You can see we still have the lid open, since it hasn’t been getting consistently cold. I might see about closing it for today and tomorrow, then opening it again later in the week.



Friday PhotoEssay

This week’s Friday PhotoEssay is heavy on scenes from our garden at the Wichita Garden Show, since there isn’t a whole lot going on outside yet.


The cold frame that took hours to build! Many people were interested in it, but the work of building it is a major deterrent.

2009-garden-show-004The garden is built, but not yet planted! Yes, it is safe to use treated lumber to build raised beds, because the lumber is no longer treated with a compound containing arsenic.

2009-garden-show-024The cold frame was planted with gorgeous lettuces, spinach, and mesclun. It was making me hungry all week!

2009-garden-show-029Both the purple brussels sprout plants and the tomatoes in hanging baskets were popular with visitors to the garden throughout the show.

2009-garden-show-021The herb and edible flower garden is shown here in the foreground, and the light stand with seedlings and microgreens is in the back.

feb-16-demo-garden-0171Can you guess what this is? No? It’s a young radicchio plant that’s been growing all winter under a row cover here at the demonstration garden. Isn’t it gorgeous? This picture was taken on February 16th.

That’s all for this week! Check back next week to see what’s growing in the demo garden!