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Friday PhotoEssay – August 19, 2016

We have been busily harvesting a number of vegetables – especially peppers and tomatoes. I’m pretty pleased with most of our tomato varieties. Although some have had cracking issues, most of them have been yielding pretty consistently.

28473952483_f027a32dc6_zEvery week the garden feels more and more like a jungle. For better or for worse, not much has really started dying off yet. Usually by this point in the season, there are things that are clearly going downhill. At the moment, everything just continues to encroach on the aisles.

28804424280_fbcf140afcThe first flush of peppers on the ‘Escamillo’ sweet pepper plants has finally ripened to the golden yellow color. The plants had a very good initial yield. I hope they can set and ripen another flush of fruit before it gets too cold this fall.

28985916812_e8e9e9145cWe harvested a whole bag full of the ‘Fushimi’ peppers from the Oriental garden. These peppers are not supposed to be hot (despite their appearance), and they are often sauteed in oil and sprinkled with salt as an appetizer. I’m hoping to have time to try that recipe out soon!

28804461070_091415e232If I’m honest, the ‘Lucky Tiger’ cherry tomatoes still look a bit sickly in color to me. The plant all of a sudden had tons of ripe fruit. Despite this pile, at least this many were thrown away due to significant cracks.

28903498346_666f294e70We harvested the first of the Korean Golden Honey Melons last week. They are very cute! They do taste exactly like you expect an Asian melon to taste like (if you’ve had the opportunity to try them before). Meaning, don’t expect the sweet cantaloupe or watermelon flavor we are used to! Most Asian melons are a little crunchy and have a flavor more like a sweet cucumber than a melon. The flavor is often a little floral and mildly sweet, compared to the high sugar content of an American melon.

28830400612_919e28407cWe’ve harvested the first handful of the hot paprika peppers (‘Leutschauer’) and they have taken up residence on my office table to dry. They will dry naturally if they have reached the point where they are starting to get just a little bit soft and wrinkly on the plant AND if there is no damage to the fruit that will let decay get started. The best thing to do would be to put them in a dehydratro, which I may do if we have enough at one time.

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – July 22, 2016

Another sweltering week, another Friday photoessay! Let’s take a break from our Tomato Day preparations to take a quick look around the Demonstration Garden.

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I would say that we have reached the midpoint of summer in the garden. While many plants are still going to grow and mature, the tomato plants have reached maturity. With the usual onset of insects and diseases, there’s a lot of downhill to go from here. We will also be planting a range of things for fall over the next few weeks.

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This is the buckwheat that we planted first, following the lettuce. You can see that it has put on significant growth in the 5-6 weeks it has been planted and has started flowering. It has not yet started going to seed. We cut this buckwheat back and then put about 2/3 of it in the compost bin and the remainder we spaded into the soil.

28477766445_e1b1163ec3Eggplant can be a little bit tricky to determine when it is ready to harvest. Like many vegetables, it is typically harvested at the botanically immature stage. It can actually be harvested at almost any size, up to the point where it starts to mature. Once sign of that maturity is when the color goes from bright and glossy (like the eggplant on the far right of the picture) to slightly faded and dull (center). When we cut into the dull colored eggplant, we see that the seeds are brown rather than white, a sign of maturity. While the eggplant can still be eaten at this stage, the seeds are much tougher and will make the texture of the eggplant less enjoyable to eat.

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We have started picking a few of the Purple Bumble Bee cherry tomato, and so far it is a bit more pink and green than purple/maroon and green. The flavor is decent, but not spectacular.
27861927223_34b3bf75a9The ‘Esterina’ cherry tomato has been very impressive. It has had several large clusters ripen already and has more to come. The flavor is also very sweet. So far it is definitely a winner!

27861945903_a8221bb972The peppers are maturing nicely and I’m looking forward to seeing how they all perform. However, with some of the wind and rain storms that we’ve had, several of the plants are leaning over and exposing the fruit to more sun. Hence the sunscald on the two peppers shown in this picture. Fruits with sunscald should be picked to prevent the development of disease. A mature fruit with sunscald can usually be eaten if the damaged part is trimmed off and no diseases have developed.

Come see us Saturday at Tomato Day!

Friday PhotoEssay – June 3, 2016

It seems as though the recent rainy spell has come to an end, and we had a lot of catch up to do in the garden this week.

The tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, and peas have been growing well despite the rain and cool temperatures. The peppers and eggplant are languishing a bit, and some of the vine crops haven’t come up well.

Despite the fact that it hasn’t been that warm, some of the lettuces have still started bolting, particularly the oakleaf varieties. We harvested heavily yesterday, leaving these “lettuce trees” behind. Normally the main lettuce stem stays squat and near the ground. These are bolting (going to seed) and so the stem has lengthened out to put on the flower stalk. We will probably remove the lettuce from this bed next week. The lettuce in the other quilt block is more heat tolerant and isn’t bolting yet.

When we planted the Black Scorzonera seeds, we were a little bit concerned because it was supposed to take up to three weeks to germinate and the soil needed to be kept moist. Thankfully, the soil staying moist wasn’t an issue at all! We also had very quick and high germination. I’m excited to see how these do.

The tomatoes took advantage of the weather to get a little bit taller than I might have preferred before the first tie on the stake & weave. We did that yesterday. We also removed the lower suckers from the plants. If you’ve never seen a stake & weave system in person, come out and take a look over the next few weeks as the plants grow.

The tomatoes on the cattle panel trellis have also been growing well. We removed the larger suckers on these as well and used plant clips to attach them to the trellis.

We harvested a bunch of the purple kohlrabi this week, leaving just a few of the smaller ones for another time. They have done very well!

The K-State Purple garden is really showing off right now…we also harvested a nice amount of purple snow peas from the trellis.

Last but not least, a quick check-in with our Pollinator garden. It’s doing well, although hasn’t filled in much with the cool weather.

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – April 29, 2016

It’s a rainy day in the demo garden. Or rather it was a rainy day, and is now a drenching, downpour day. Let’s just say that things are sufficiently watered for the foreseeable future. Of course, one of the benefits of raised beds is the improved drainage, so we will probably be watering again long before many of you!

26440885980_845464d057_zOur spring lettuces, leafy greens, cabbages, and more are growing quickly with the relatively warm, moist conditions.

26611529926_96a9c7e987_zThe quilt block lettuce had grown significantly, so we did a heavy harvest of it this week.

26364992670_f2fdcc663a_zAnother view of the lettuce with the evening light hitting the leaves.

26387428700_874863956c_zWe got a LOT of lettuce off of a 4′ x 8′ area. About 12 bags worth, I think?

26634056126_488ce18b93_z A bouquet of lettuce leaves. Many of the lettuce leaves were quite large. It was also interesting to see the different textures. The red and green oakleaf lettuces (‘Mascara’ and ‘Encino’) were much more delicate leaves. The red romaine (‘Thurinus’ – center above), was sturdy but without the thick midrib you might expect of a more mature romaine. The ‘New RedFire’ and ‘Muir’ which are leaf and summercrisp types respectively, were also sturdier leaves.

It’s not something that necessarily matters a lot, but it does affect storage life and eating quality. Some people may prefer eating the more tender leaves than the thicker leaves. However, from a storage standpoint, the sturdier leaves are going to last longer in the refrigerator due to the fact that they leaves are not as easily bruised.

26620365202_f9fcdea66f_zAnd after a lettuce-centric post, I’ll leave you with our perennial garden sage, which is happily blooming right now, even with all the rain.

Have a great weekend and stay dry!

Going (Pea)Nuts!

We harvested our peanuts a couple of weeks ago, even though we hadn’t yet had a freeze. The tops were definitely getting yellow and looking like they were almost done. I posted about it in one of the Friday PhotoEssays, but I thought I would pull that information out for you in a separate blog post.

We grew two different varieties of peanuts, ‘Tennessee Red Valencia‘ and ‘Schronce’s Deep Black.’ We got these heirloom varieties from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

In case you didn’t realize it, peanuts are a legume, just like beans and peas. They also grow in pods below ground, but they aren’t tubers or roots like potatoes and carrots.

The plants flower and are pollinated. Then the ovary in the flower initiates this long tube, called a “peg.” The peg begins to grow down toward the soil. This is called “pegging.”

One of the reasons that our yield this year wasn’t what we might have wished is that our heirloom peanut varieties were a lot taller and lankier than we had expected. This meant that when the flowers bloomed and produced the “pegs,” the pegs couldn’t reach the soil and produce peanuts. We could have had dozens more peanuts!

So, the moral of the story is that we should either have chosen a modern variety with shorter plants where the flowers occur closer to the base OR we should have planted the heirloom varieties in a spot with more space to flop over and reach the soil. Another option would have been to hill them up, if we’d had space. Now we know!

This is the ‘Schronce’s Deep Black’ peanut. In the raw, undried form it has deep purple skins.

This is the ‘Tennessee Red Valencia’ that is a more traditional color. Bright pink when raw that will darken to brick red when dry.

Since harvest, the peanuts have been drying. (This isn’t all of them. Our yield wasn’t quite that bad!)

As you can see, the colors have darkened quite a bit. The next step will be roasting…or boiling! What do you think? Roasted peanuts or boiled?