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Friday PhotoEssay – June 9, 2017

Lots of plants are blooming in our garden this week – and that’s not always a good thing!

35031930602_45365981f0With warm weather, the garden continues to grow rapidly. Nothing ever stays the same, and over the next week we will be removing some spring plants and planting a few more summer plants.

35031904862_bbb559f4d7The potatoes are now in full bloom. Between the rather showy white flowers and the purple tinge on the leaves, the plants are beautiful. They are also getting a bit floppy. I’m concerned that the yield may not be great due to excess nitrogen, but we won’t know that until later. Typically, we assume that tuber growth has started once flowering begins and harvest is after the plants have died back.

35031914982_90a4d01203Of the carrots we have planted in the Grocery Garden, one is ‘Dragon,’ a purple-skinned, orange fleshed heirloom. With the spring weather, several of the carrot plants are bolting. Once bolted, the carrot root will be more bitter and fibrous, as well as simply smaller that otherwise. Carrots can grow well here in good soil, but they are more reliable in the fall. The warming temperatures in the spring can cause many varieties to bolt.

35066831521_d687b007c7Also blooming this week is the cilantro. We have been growing a variety, ‘Calypso,’ that is supposed to be slower to bolt. Really, not bolting until early June is very good results for cilantro in Kansas. And even though it has bolted, the flowers are edible and then the seeds can be used for coriander later.

35031896952_29eb30a54f The tomatoes are flowering and even starting to set some fruit. This is the ‘Little Napoli’ that is in the Accessible Garden. It was impressive last year, and looks like it is on the same track this year.

35197347145_3553f919a0Hmm…no flowers here to fit with the theme. Still, I wanted to show off how good the kale and chard are looking in the Accessible Garden.

Friday PhotoEssay – May 30th

We have a big change to show off in the garden this week!

Yes, we have mulch! Doesn’t it look great? It always gives the garden an entirely different look and feel once we get everything mulched. We mulched everything except the areas where there are still seeds working on germinating. We even mulched between the rows of beans, chickpeas, and carrots. Any bare soil we covered with straw, as much as possible.

Many of our tomato plants are starting to bloom, and it seems like the weather (so far) is working in our favor to have great fruit set. It could be a bumper tomato crop at the rate we’re going! This is one of the ‘Opalka’ plants, and it doesn’t show up very well in this picture, but I’m pretty sure that this is one of the varieties that typically exhibits the “wilty” gene. I have an ‘Opalka’ plant at home that shows it a little bit better. The “wilty” gene is found in some varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and it causes the plants to have slightly wilted appearance to the leaves. I think it is typically most visible at about this stage of growth. There isn’t anything to be concerned about or do differently. The most important part is to not just assume that the plant needs more water! On these wilty plants, you want to be sure to check the soil moisture level rather than watering indiscriminately when the plant looks wilted.

The kale we have planted in the Italian garden is looking really good. It is ‘Nero de Toscano’ or Black Tuscan kale. You might also see it called Lacinato kale or Dinosaur kale. Some kale connoisseurs will say that this type of kale has the best flavor, sweetest, mildest, whatever of any type of kale. I don’t know about that, but to be totally fair to it, I would imagine those descriptors are best applied in the spring or fall when the weather is nice and cool. Kale in Kansas at this time of year is going to be pretty strongly flavored! I still really like this African Sweet Potato & Kale Stirfry (on the second page).

All of the vine crop seedlings are doing well, including our Indian gourds. This is one of the Bittermelon/Bitter gourd seedlings. The leaves look a tiny bit exotic – if by exotic I mean slightly different from other vining vegetables.


 The potatoes are flowering! They sure took their time coming up this year, but they have grown so fast since then. Potato flowers don’t necessarily mean a whole lot, although growing up we always figured that we could start “stealing” a few potatoes from under the plant once they started flowering.

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – April 25th

We made it to Friday, and we didn’t get more than a few drops of rain. Grr. As much as I don’t appreciate the severe weather in the forecast, we could really use a couple inches of rain. And then a couple more in another week or so. And probably a couple more after that.

As you can see, our Whole Garden view is getting greener, little by little. It helps that the tomato plants are sitting out getting some sun and wind. I almost over-winded them on Wednesday morning. They were looking a little battered by the time I took brought them back in.

The strawberry garden, unfortunately, is the one area that does not seem to be getting greener. Usually bareroot strawberries are pretty easy to grow, so the fact that we have lost about 80% of the plants is not stellar by any means. And it is probably mostly my fault plus the weather. (At home I can blame the rabbits!) When we planted, the soil was incredibly dry, so we worked really hard to get it moist. Then the temperatures were bouncing around and fairly cold overnight. Then I tended to hit the strawberries with water every time I watered the areas we planted seeds. The top inch of the soil dries out quickly and usually needs to be moistened frequently. Strawberries with 4-6″ of roots – not so much. And then it was cold. My guess, without sending in a sample for diagnosis, is that the majority of the plants succumbed to a root rot of some sort that thrives in cold, wet soils. So…we may be on to Plan B for the strawberry garden. I don’t even know what that is right now. I’m sure we’ll figure something out!

The ‘Bloomsdale’ spinach in the MG Faves garden is looking great! At least it likes the cold weather.

And this is the ‘Sagar’ spinach from the Taste of India Garden. It doesn’t look very much like the other spinach, does it? I suspect that it may actually be some type of New Zealand spinach, or at least some significantly different plant that is called spinach in India. This is a good example of why it is a good idea to use (or at least include) the scientific names for plants, especially in a cross-cultural situation. It would be nice to know if it is a different species than we are used to for spinach. It would also have been nice to know before planting, as a New Zealand spinach has slightly different requirements. We could be lucky that we have such a good germination rate!

The ‘French Breakfast’ radishes are looking great and growing fast. It is always nice to have something that is growing well to look at!

Speaking of growing well, this Lacinato Kale that we transplanted in March is really starting to look nice. Now whether it looks tasty…I guess that might be in the eye of the eater!

Have a great weekend!

First Plantings for 2014

After we got all the compost into the raised beds on Tuesday, we had a few things to get planted. Because of our garden plans this year, we just had a couple things to plant here and there.

First, we had ‘Yukon Gold’ potatoes to plant in the MG Favorites Garden. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the planting. We also had a bundle of ‘Red Marble’ cippolini onion plants to go in the ground. They came in the mail yesterday, so we needed to get them planted.

The cippolinis are relatively small onions that are much flatter than normal onions. We chose them specifically for the Italian Garden, and then decided to plant the rest in the Salsa Garden, since we already had them coming. The plants for these onions were pretty small – smaller than I’ve seen before with other onion plants. I’m assuming it is because the end product is also smaller?

We also had some Lacinato Kale to plant in the Italian Garden and some ‘Parris Island Cos’ romaine lettuce for the Master Gardener Favorites Garden. These plants were started about a month ago, but I don’t think I ever got that on the blog.

We planted spinach and radishes in the MG Favorites Garden in an area that will be under the trellis later this spring. We also planted spinach in the ‘Taste of India’ Garden.

In the Italian Garden, we planted seeds of the endive/escarole mesclun and the ‘Italiko Rosso’ dandelion (red rib dandelion).

Hopefully by next week there will be growing things to photograph!

2013 Garden Plans: Pizza Garden (and a Chard Recipe!)

Yes, I know the chard recipe is random. We’ll get to that. First things first!

The first group that did their detailed plans for the year was the Pizza Garden group. It worked out well, because Bed 6, where the Pizza Garden will be, is currently half planted to leeks and garlic. We won’t be short of garlic for our pizza sauce!

Pizza Garden SpringAs you can see, the better part of the garden is taken up with the garlic that was planted last fall. We are going to harvest one row of leeks early and replace it with onions. (I know, poor rotational practices, I know.) Then we have picked out a roma and a cherry tomato, a bell and an Italian roasting pepper, and whatever herbs we can fit in. (Basil, oregano, thyme, parsley)

We are tentatively planning to use either ‘Mariana’ or ‘Plum Dandy’ for the roma variety and probably ‘Chocolate Cherry’ for the cherry tomato. The bell pepper will probably be ‘Big Bertha,’ because I think I still have extra seeds. ‘Planet’ is the variety we’ll be trying for the Italian Roasting peppers.

Pizza Garden FallThen in the second half of the season we had to get a little creative. After we harvest the garlic, we need something semi-pizza-ish to plant. We are going to do a row of green onions (I know, poor rotation again), a couple of zucchini plants, and some greens. I know the zucchini and greens are maybe a bit of a stretch for some of you to put on pizzas, but they shouldn’t be! Hopefully we can showcase some pizzas this fall using those greens.

You might notice that we’ve got some different varieties of greens planned from what we usually plant. We are going with the ‘Lacinato’ kale rather than the ‘Redbor’ we’ve planted a lot in the last few years. ‘Lacinato’ is supposed to be more tender and flavorful. We are also planning to use ‘Fordhook’ Chard, which is completely white stems, instead of the multi-colored ‘Bright Lights.’

Speaking of Swiss Chard…I tried another recipe last night that was delicious! (See, I told you there was a connection!) I’ve got enough garden plans coming up that I don’t want to spend a whole post on it, but for those of you still looking for a delicious way to eat Swiss Chard, I give you:

Bacon, White Bean, and Swiss Chard Pot Pie!

The recipe came from Smitten Kitchen, (both from her new cookbook and the blog), and we followed her directions with the exception of the pancetta. We used bacon, because we had bacon. We also used some Swiss Chard from our community garden plot 2 years ago that was still kicking around in the freezer. I just realized that virtually every Swiss Chard recipe that I really like came from Smitten Kitchen. If you don’t like chard, you’ve clearly just been using the wrong recipe source! I also noticed that the recipe she posted today also features chard: Lentil Soup with Sausage, Chard, and Garlic. Now I have a recipe to try for the last bag of chard in our freezer.

So anyway, if you are growing a pizza garden this year, don’t leave out the kale and chard!