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2023 Demo Garden Bed Plans

Since we just started planting the Demonstration Garden this week, it seemed like it was time to actually share our garden plans for the year! We continue to battle root knot nematodes in the soil of our beds, so many of our garden plans are with those management plans in mind.

If you came out to the garden at all last year, you probably noticed our rebuilt entry beds. We went simple with them last year, but this year we plan to take full advantage of the trellis/pergola to grow some Cypress Vine and Blue Butterfly Pea Vine. We have also located our herbs and pollinator plants out there as well. We are hoping for an attractive and welcoming display in the parking lot!

Our Bed 1 theme this year is “Stir Fry Garden,” so we went with a range of vegetables that you might look for to do some sort of stir fry dish – some more traditional than others! We have some cabbage, Chinese stem broccoli, and bok choy, as well as carrots, onions, radishes, and spinach. In the center tiers we will have green snow peas and purple sugar snap peas, as well as parsley and cilantro.

This bed is also slated for nematode management, so once all these crops are harvested in June, we will be solarizing this bed to reduce the nematode populations for the remainder of the summer, followed by a late summer/fall cover crop of sunn hemp. (No, it isn’t that kind of hemp – it is a nematode-suppressing, nitrogen-fixing legume!)

I’m going to jump to Bed 5 – which rounds out our Stir-Fry theme with some spring Brassicas. We have red and green cabbage, purple and green broccoli, and purple and white cauliflower. I sense a pattern…! The Burgundy Broccoli is actually a sprouting broccoli that will have lots of smaller side shoots rather than a large head. Because the insect pressures have been so awful the last few years, we are trying out a full covering of insect netting to keep the cabbageworms and loopers off the plants. This bed will also be finished for the year in June to allow for the solarization and cover crops as explained above.

Bed 2 continues to be our only bed without any nematodes that we know of, so we are using the other half of it as our tomato “control” again this year. We will discuss tomatoes in more detail when we get to Bed 6. The other half of the bed will be Edible Flowers (with also some peas and birdhouse gourds). We have a mix of spring flowers, herbs, and a few later summer flowers that will be featured in this garden.

While we do some sort of trellising or vertical gardening each year, it has been several years since we have had a dedicated vertical garden bed. We are getting a little more creative with our trellising this year, using two of the cattle panel trellises in the traditional way, one that is arched over the walkway between beds 2 and 3, and two that are on their sides to create flat trellises for shorter vining crops. We are also getting a little more creative with our planting times – rather than planting all the warm season vines in May, some of them will be planted a bit later as the peas finish, which will hopefully spread out our harvests a bit more. And to squeeze a few more things in, we are planting lettuce and onions under, around, and between the trellises!

Continuing with our nematode management theme, Bed 4 is a selection of different crops that have some amount of nematode resistance. The lettuce and spinach aren’t specifically resistant, but early spring crops don’t typically see as much damage. Leeks and sweet corn, as monocots, tend not to be host plants for nematodes as readily as broadleaf plants. We are doing a little bit of “plant partnering” with interplanting some vining southern peas that have nematode resistance. The last part of the planting is the three sweet potato varieties, that all have nematode resistance. The spring crops will go through mid-May or mid-June, before being followed with the second planting.

As we saw earlier with Bed 2, we are splitting our tomato plantings again this year. We are also continuing with the nematode-resistant theme for the garden. Since we solarized this bed last year, we are hoping that the nematode population is minimal or gone, but we are still playing it safer. We have two varieties – Green Zebra and Genuwine – that do not have nematode resistance. These will be our “control” varieties to see if we get nematode activity after the treatment last year. The other four varieties have nematode resistance. This will help keep the population (if any) of nematodes in that garden low. We are also reprising the two basils we had last year, simply because they were pretty amazing varieties and we thought we might as well keep them going.

I’m not going to go into all the details on the tomatoes, but just a quick summary:

  • Green Zebra – an open-pollinated “heirloom-type” tomato that is green with dark green stripes and a yellow blush at maturity. Not nematode resistant.
  • Genuwine – another “heirloom-type” that is a cross between Brandywine and Costoluto Genovese. Not nematode resistant.
  • Edox – a red, cluster-type cherry tomato that has nematode resistance.
  • Tough Boy Gold – a relatively new yellow hybrid that has nematode resistance.
  • Goliath Original – as is says, the original of the Goliath series, large red slicer type, with nematode resistance.
  • Granadero – a roma/paste tomato with nematode resistance. We had this one in our Latin American garden last year, and it performed well, so we thought it deserved a full try to see if it performed as well a second time.

In the accessible garden spaces, we are leaving the chocolate mint in place for another season. The center section will have a spring planting of kohlrabi, followed by some short ‘Short Stuff’ sunflowers for the summer. The right section currently has spinach that was overwintered, and will be replanted with some snack pepper plants come May.

The remainder of the accessible garden beds – the salad table will have lettuce and radishes this spring. We are replacing it with a deeper table, so maybe there will be a home for some leftover peppers this summer. The barrel planter still has chives, and the tower garden will once again have a mixture of leafy greens, herbs, and flowers.

The containers around the garden will have a mixture of vegetables and flowers. We have chosen a few pepper varieties to go in some of the larger containers: Habanada, Slovana, Sweet Nibbler Red, Sweet Nibbler Yellow, Mocha Swirl, Born-to-be-Mild Jalapeno, and Pot-a-peno Jalapeno. We will have to compact tomato varieties in a couple of the largest pots: Bush Champion II and Little Bing. And in the large smart pot in the shade we will have some ginger plants.

Other News: If you made it all the way to the bottom of this lengthy post, I have some other news to share. I have been writing this block as part of my position here at the Sedgwick County Extension office for 13 years now – although much less frequently the last several years. I have accepted a new position with K-State Extension, and will be leaving this job and hence this blog behind. I don’t know if the new agent hired in will be interested in continuing the blog or even maintaining its existence – that will be for them to decide. I’m going to guess that I may get around to at least one more post before I’m gone, but I won’t guarantee it. A big thank you to everyone that is still hanging around and following this blog. I have enjoyed learning and sharing with you!

A Closer Look: Bed 2 Plans

Today let’s take a closer look at the plans for our second bed in the Demo Garden. This bed is fairly simple, compared to Bed 1. Half the bed is planted to tomatoes (and basil!), while the other half will be planted to potatoes in the spring and leafy greens in the fall.

I know that you are probably really excited to know more about the tomatoes – but in the interest of having something to talk about when we get to Bed 5…I’m going to make you wait. Sorry!

So that leaves us with the potatoes and the leafy greens. Bed 2 is our only raised bed that did NOT show nematode damage last season, so it is both our “control” bed for our tomato varieties so we can compare productivity and growth with Bed 5, which has heavier nematode infestation. We also chose to plant potatoes in this bed, since they can have nematode issues as well. One of our Master Gardener plants red, white, and blue potatoes with their grandchildren, so we thought that would be a fun approach.

In the half of the bed with potatoes, we divided the space into three 4’x4′ areas, with each area for a different variety. Our red variety is ‘AmaRosa’ Fingerling. I know the map has three things listed – we weren’t sure what we would be able to find, so I had a list to look for. But I found this one, which was our first choice. ‘AmaRosa’ is a fingerling potato (so longer and slender), with red or burgundy skin and marbled pink and white flesh. Yep, interior flesh is pink and white! We actually just planted the potatoes this morning, and I was pleasantly surprised by how large the seed potatoes were, so that bodes well for a healthy crop.

Our white variety is ‘Kennebec,’ which is a long-time, high yielding basic white potato. It is a midseason variety, and has a good package of disease resistance. This is a common variety that you can probably easily find in a local garden center.

Our blue variety is a newer variety (although it has been around for several years at this point), called ‘Adirondack Blue.’ It is one of the darker blue/purple fleshed potatoes that you can find, and the color holds well, especially if you roast it. The plants themselves are also supposed to have a slight blue color to the leaves.

Once the potatoes are harvested in the summer, we will likely plant a buckwheat or sunn hemp cover crop in that area while waiting for cool weather to return for our fall planting. If you aren’t familiar with sunn hemp, it is a summer annual legume that grows quickly, fixes nitrogen, and suppresses root knot nematodes.

For our leafy greens, ‘Astro’ Arugula is probably the most common, reliable variety. ‘Black Magic’ is a newer cultivar of the traditional Lacinato/dinosaur kale that was selected for uniform, long, slender leaves. ‘Joi Choi’ Bok Choy is a larger choy variety, 12-15″ tall at maturity, with thick bright white stems. ‘Kookaburra’ spinach is a fast-growing semi-savoy variety that is supposed to perform well in the fall. It is fairly upright, which is nice in our gardens because the sandy soil can get on the lower leaves when it is rainy.

Check back next week to hear about Bed 3!

A Closer Look: Bed 1 Plans

I am cautiously optimistic that I will be able to go through each bed we have planned and go into more details about the varieties we have chosen and what we will be doing with each raised bed. So let’s kick that off with a closer look at Bed 1!

As we discussed in the general garden plan post, this bed is all about herbs (and some edible flowers)! Very generically, we could say that the green end is culinary, the red end is tea, and the blue is some of each. However, there are obviously some things that can cross over from culinary to tea and back. I’m not going to cover every last detail of each plant, because that would make this post ridiculously long. However, I do want to call out a few specific things.

First, the nematode situation. This bed had root vegetables in it last year, with variable levels of nematodes. The two central square tiers had parsnips all year long, and the parsnips were DISGUSTING on an epic level with their nematode infestations.

As you can see – disgusting – and not very edible. The longer end sections had evidence of nematodes, but weren’t nearly this bad, particularly on the radishes. We spend a long time looking for research papers and articles discussing nematode resistance in herb plants. One thing we found that was interesting was that some herbs – like mint and basil – had just as much root damage from the nematodes, but it didn’t impact their top growth. We found mixed results on things like marigolds, nasturtiums, oregano, marjoram, and salad burnet. So we are going to try all of those directly planted in the soil. The mint will be in pots because, mint.

The lemongrass and the Hibiscus sabdariffa (aka Roselle) will also be grown in very large pots. We will be procuring lemongrass stalks from a grocery store and rooting them to get the best culinary type. And the Roselle is the type of hibiscus that is commonly used for teas.

In the center of each end of this bed we will have some type of trellis, one with a jasmine plant and the other with blue butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea). These are both vining plants with flowers used for teas.

Another plant of interest is the ‘Zloty Lan’ Chamomile – a variety that is supposed to have larger flowers and more robust plants.

Most everything else listed should be fairly straightforward, and we won’t know specific varieties until we are able to purchase the plants from one of our local vendors. I think it is safe to say that we should have a very fragrant and tasty garden in Bed 1 this year!

2022 Demo Garden Plans

Our garden plans for this year are both a return to a greater diversity of plants and the start of a multi-year effort to combat the increasing levels of root knot nematode that we have been experiencing in our beds. With the exception of Bed 2, all of the plants we removed or harvest last fall had some amount of root knot nematode damage, so we will be doing a wide range of things to work to improve that. (For more information on what root knot nematodes are, go here:

As you can see from the list on the right, we have quite a range of different things planned for the garden, including some things we haven’t done in many years and others that are brand new to us! We haven’t had a large area dedicated to culinary and tea herbs for many years. the herbs have mostly been in containers and smaller beds since we renovated the garden in 2012, so having the entirety of Bed 1 dedicated to herbs is a change for us.

You will also notice that we have “N-Resistant tomatoes” in both Beds 2 and 5. This means that we have chosen nematode resistant cultivars for our planting plans, with the exception of one variety that is our “control” variety as a comparison. In Bed 6, we have plans for a lettuce quilt (more below), and will be doing some soil solarization and cover crops after the spring harvest is complete in hopes of significantly reducing the nematode populations in that bed.

We have gone all out in filling our herb bed with a plethora of diversity! Very roughly, the green end are more culinary herbs (with some crossovers) and the red end is more tea herbs (again with some crossovers/dual purpose plants). The blue center is pretty much a mixture. Because the blue center sections of the bed had really terrible nematodes last year, we will be planting the majority of the plants will be in large containers, except for the marigolds, oregano, marjoram, salad burnet, and nasturtiums which are “supposed” to have some resistance to the nematodes.

Bed 2 was the only bed that didn’t have nematodes visible on the plant roots when we cleaned up the garden last fall. Whether that was because of the hot peppers populating most of the bed or other factors, it is hard to say. But with that in mind, we are using half of the bed as our “control” for our nematode resistant tomato cultivars. We chose 5 cultivars that are known to have resistance to nematodes, and one variety, ‘Chef’s Choice Orange,’ that is not identified as having nematode resistance, but that we have grown successfully here in the past. We will have the same cultivars planted in Bed 5, which had very high levels of nematodes last year so that we can compare the performance of the varieties in each bed. In the other half of the bed we will have red, white, and blue potato varieties in the spring and some cool season leafy greens in the fall.

In Bed 3, we have chosen a “Latin America” theme. We have jalapeno, Guajillo, anaheim, and chile de arbol peppers, all common in Latin America. We will have three different varieties of tomatillos: one green, one purple, and one sweet yellow. Tomatillos produce best when there are at least two different varieties for pollination. We chose two paste tomatoes (nematode resistant!) for this garden, as well as two Mexican/Latin American herbs: epazote and papalo. On the left end of the bed, we will have a round Mexican squash that is supposed to be resistant to squash vine borer, as well as Chayote squash. We aren’t sure that the Chayote will produce this far north, but you have to try things, right? Under the trellis we will be growing a whole bunch of cilantro in the spring and then let it flower and go to seed for coriander in the summer.

In yet another big change from past tradition, we are going to be planting the Milpa Cover Crop mix from Green Cover Seed as a partnership with our Sedgwick County Soil Conservation District. Not content to leave it alone, we are going to try it at two different planting times, and then add some additional pole beans and a green striped cushaw squash in the center of each half, with some of our trellises providing additional support. The mix isn’t really at its best in a raised bed situation, so we are going to have to judiciously thin out plants as we go to make sure that it isn’t a complete mess of things that will get into the walkways and such. That is also why we are adding in the trellises – just to give the vines a bit more room to roam vertically.

Bed 5 is the other half of our nematode resistant tomato variety demonstration, so the same things as in Bed 2. As you may have noticed, we are also trying out lots of the Emerald Towers and Thai Towers basils – new cultivars that are highly resistant to downy mildew and that are also much later to bolt (flower and seed) than other basils. We really want to see how they perform here!

Bed 6 is a little bit of a throwback to something we did several years ago – a quilt block lettuce garden. We are doing a basic nine-patch pattern with lettuce transplants on one end, plain rows of some root vegetables in the middle, and then a direct-seeded star pattern of lettuce and Brassica leafy greens on the other end. Once the spring crops are harvested, this bed will be covered with plastic for soil solarization, as this is our worst bed for nematodes. After several weeks of solarization, we will end the year with a cover crop that is also nematode-resistant/non-host.

In our accessible garden areas, in the tiered raised bed we will be reprising some cucumbers and melons that we attempted in 2020 but that didn’t quite get a fair trial with full attention.

Finally, in our salad table, we will have some mustard greens, radishes, and lettuce planted for the spring. The small barrel planter will continue to house our chives for another season. Not pictured is our new-last-year Tower Garden, which will have a mixture of leafy greens, herbs, flowers, vegetables, etc. I went through my old seeds to find some goodies, and with 53 planting holes to fill, we should have lots of options!

If all goes well, you should check back soon for more updates and details – although it didn’t happen last year. If nothing else, be sure to come out and visit the garden in person!

2021 Demo Garden Plans and Updates

Our Demo Garden plantings are well underway for this year, and we already have some exciting things to showcase. But first – here’s a quick overview of what we are planning to grow this year!

Overview of our garden plans for 2021 by raised bed.

We chose to continue to focus our garden efforts on productivity and yield over diversity for this year. We are planning to continue donating our harvests to the Common Ground Producers & Growers Mobile Market for their Seniors First food box program, which provides free food boxes to low income seniors.

With that in mind, we are keeping each garden bed to only a couple different types of produce, although we still have more diversity of varieties than you might otherwise see. We are also focusing on interplanting and succession planting to use our space well. For example, in bed 1, we have radishes planted between rows of beets and carrots and IN the row with the parsnips to use every square inch of space. In Bed 2, we are filling the space with lettuce and spinach now, and then the peppers for the remainder of the season will be planted into the leafy greens while they finish their spring season. In Beds 4 and 5, we have planted broccoli, cauliflower, and peas under the trellises that will hold the cucumbers and squash later in the summer to get an additional crop out of those spaces.

The Master Gardeners have been hard at work getting the garden into shape for the spring, and almost all the beds have either seeds or transplants already growing. We had covered most of the beds with straw last fall, so that is both good and bad now – the soil stays moist with the straw, but we have lots of wheat seedlings growing. We also needed to move quite a bit of the straw around to facilitate seed planting.

The other thing I’m excited to show off a little bit are a couple of the school garden templates that I developed last year and planted last fall.

The templates are 4×8 layouts designed with high diversity (and relatively low productivity) for better interest and learning experiences in a school garden setting. (You can see all the templates and supporting information here: Kansas School Garden Guide.) Both of the templates shown here were designed to be planted last fall and overwintered. These overwintered with NO additional protection from the elements. They include pansies, tulips, garlic, shallots, alpine strawberries, barley or wheat, and vegetables (kale, carrots, red-veined sorrel, spinach).

If you haven’t been out in awhile, our garden is always open to the public – best viewed during daylight hours! Things will be changing fast as it gets warmer, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit.