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Hail Damage & Recovery

The hailstorm last Wednesday evening didn’t appear to cause much, if any, damage in the Demo Garden. (Thank goodness! We didn’t need more challenges this year!) My community garden plot, on the other hand, took quite a bit of damage. I thought I would share some of the pictures with you all, as well as how we chose to clean up afterwards.

(I promise that eventually, someday, we will be back to posting pictures of beautiful plants and succulent harvests. For the time being, it would seem that we are stuck with more death and destruction.)

About half of our tomato plants came through pretty well. the other half are in pretty bad shape. Of course, the one that looks the worst is our Chocolate Cherry plant. You can see the battered appearance in the picture, but let’s take a closer look.

You can see here that the stems have some severe injury and are almost shredded. The wounds were severe enough that I chose to cut these branches off, even though I could see some new growth coming out. The stems were slightly squishy where wounded, and this type of damage is just asking for strange diseases to take over.

By the time I was done pruning out the damage on our poor Chocolate Cherry tomato, I think all the possible new growth sites were gone. No leaf axils for potential buds even. (I had pruned out the lower suckers before leaving town 2 weeks ago, so even those were gone!) We found a plant at the Farmers Market on Saturday and stuck it in next to the remaining stub to start growing.

The other thing I had to do was go through and pick off all the tomatoes that were damaged. The open wounds, like the one above are another great place for diseases to enter and rot the fruit. No thank you! We lost a lot of tomatoes (either knocked off by hail or badly damaged), but not as many as I was afraid we might. That said, on a plant that is severely damaged, you should probably pick off all the fruit to give the plant a chance to recover some growth. Our roma tomato plants were relatively unscathed, luckily.

Our kale & Swiss Chard were both pretty well flattened. My husband cut everything back to about 1-2″ off the ground and picked up all the leaves. Again, we’re just trying to avoid collecting any diseases or insects that would take advantage of a weakened plant.

As bad as the tomatoes, kale, and chard looked, the cucumbers by far took the brunt of the damage. We were pretty much left with cucumber sticks.

The squash…well, it was pretty well squashed. I picked off all the baby squash and then cut back all the damaged stalks and leaves. Oh yeah, and while I was doing that I found Squash Vine Borer eggs on the base of the plant. ARGH! I picked them off, but we’ll probably go out and spray with spinosad if we remember.

Here’s my Chocolate Cherry after pruning. I think you can see why I chose to get another plant to put in. Not much hope for regrowth there. Still, I’m going to leave it for a couple weeks just to see if the plant will generate any buds. Sometimes they will.

You can see signs of growth on the cucumber vine sticks. I think most of the cucumbers will make it, but just to be safe, we put a few more seeds in. If necessary, we’ll prune out some of the extra plants later.

The Swiss Chard & kale are both putting on some nice new growth. I expect that in a couple of weeks, we won’t be able to tell the difference! (Well, the planting might be thinner, but we were going to have to thin the plants out soon anyway.)

The squash plant put on new growth pretty quickly. Now if we can only beat out those vine borers…

We don’t have any root crops in our garden, so if you have beets, carrots, or onions that were severely damaged you should assess the size of the roots. The thing with root crops is that they’ve been storing energy in the roots, which we eat. If they were already sizing up and get hailed on, the plant will steal energy from the roots to put on new leaves. You could end up with a situation where you end up with small, poor quality root crops if you let them go. If you have decent size on the roots already, you may be better off harvesting them now.

What to Do with Kale?

I have to admit that my main reason for growing kale is aesthetic. The purple kale is just to gorgeous not to grow. The main reason we planted it in our community garden plot was because it was available (leftovers from Garden Show), and we thought it would be a good sacrificial offering to the rabbits. (Sidenote: the rabbits preferred eating the tomato plants to the kale. Is that a sign?)

When I make the suggestion of eating the kale, my husband helpfully wrinkles up his nose and says, “Mmm…green.” And he’s right, of course – Kale is an extremely nutritious, dark green leafy vegetable. (DGLV’s as a nutrition guru might call them.) Somehow, I don’t think that’s what my husband was getting at though.

Mature kale is rather fibrous, chewy, and definitely has a strong flavor (especially raw). So what to do to get all those good vitamins, minerals, and fiber into your stomach when you’ve got a bumper crop? Here are my favorite 2 options.

1. Kale Chips

Kale chips are so easy, and very tasty. You just wash and dry the kale, tear it into bite-sized pieces, and toss it with just enough olive oil to give it a light coating. Then you bake them at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until crispy. The difference between soggy/limp and crispy is usually just a minute or two, so keep a close eye on them! Once they start to turn brown, they will taste bitter. Once they are crispy, just put them on a paper towel to blot any extra oil and sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you want. I like a dash of cayenne pepper.

2. White Bean, Sausauge, and Kale Soup

This isn’t my all-time favorite soup, but it a nice fall staple. I didn’t use a recipe this time, just browned up some diced onion, carrot, and celery with some garlic for good measure. Then I browned the sausage, and then a few mushrooms. We had some beans left from another recipe, so those went into the pot with the veggies and the meat. I used beef stock for the broth. I added salt and pepper to taste, as well as other seasonings that I felt like. I ended up using a Greek Seasoning that had cinnamon and peppermint in it, which wasn’t exactly what I was going for, but actually tasted really good! The mushrooms and the kale were added about 10 minutes before serving to get nice and tender. Yum!

These are the two ways that I use kale the most. How do you use kale (other than for garnish)?

Lunch in the Garden – Better Late than Never!

Oh, by the way, we’re having Lunch in the Garden again this summer. And yeah, it’s starting today. I completely meant to write a post about it earlier this week, but then I got busy. Why does it always surprise me when summer is busy?

Anyway, here are the pertinent details:

When: Friday, starting today, at 12:15 pm until 12:45 pm. (Although you can stick around longer if you have questions.)

Where: Demonstration Garden, at the Sedgwick County Extension Office (21st St. N & Ridge Rd). The garden is on the West-Southwest side of the building.

Why: Because learning (and tasting) new recipes with veggies in them is fun! You’ll also get a bit of a tour of the garden every week.

This week, the featured vegetable is KALE! Yum!

If you can’t come, but still want to get the recipes, you can always check the “Lunch in the Garden” tab above later this afternoon or next week. I also try to keep the schedule updated so you know what’s coming up at least one week in advance.