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Friday PhotoEssay – May 5, 2017

It’s time to start our regular Friday reviews of the Demonstration Garden!

We have more growing in the garden than some years at this time. Except for the tomato and vertical gardens, which are empty, most of the other areas have lettuces, other leafy greens, peas, or root veggies.

34089420810_b1e36a6b7cWe had our first harvest of many of our leafy greens this week. This is the Elegance Greens Mix from the Grocery Garden. It got a little bigger than I prefer for salads, but we will be trying to stay on top of harvesting moving forward. Watch for harvest updates and track our produce value from the Grocery Garden as the season progresses.

34433386646_08ab0150e4The green sprouting broccoli that is in one of our barrel planters has enjoyed the cool weather and is looking great. It isn’t showing signs of heading yet, but I expect it will be soon. Another boon of the cool weather is that the cabbageworms aren’t around either!

34344105431_c9d314e282In what may be the first live demonstration of the challenges of growing heirlooms, this ‘Brown Dutch’ heirloom lettuce in the Colonial Garden is already starting to bolt. It is most likely reacting to the temperature fluctuations from warm to cold. But for whatever reason, this variety is not as tolerant to that and more prone to bolt.

34089439200_0d9db4ceb6The pallet garden we planted last year to strawberries is back up and growing. It is flowering and setting fruit. I don’t love the fact that the plants are so small. I think they are probably showing the lack of nutrients available to them in the pallet, and I don’t know that fertilizing right now is going to improve the fruit. It will be important for plant health if we want to keep it going for next season though. Now…how to fertilize and keep the nutrients where we put them? Ah, the challenges of pallets!

34089442010_59c9a47d0fThe Japanese bunching onions and carrots that we overwintered were harvested this week. The carrots weren’t in great condition. I think that overwintered carrots are best harvested in January or February, before it starts getting too warm!

34089460380_5ed50b1541Our poor tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are still waiting to be planted. It has just been TOO COLD. With the early, warm temps 6-8 weeks ago, we started thinking early spring. But the reality is that the temperatures in the past two weeks have been too cold for these plants to be outside without suffering cold injury. We are hoping to plant tomatoes this next week and the peppers in two weeks.

Garden Cleanup & Spring Planting

We have kicked off our planting season in the Demonstration Garden with work days the last two weeks. We went from a garden that was full of volunteer wheat and cheat to a garden that had the beginnings of our plans implemented for the season.

32929204433_3da4bdaab1As you can see, the weeds/grass and leftover plants from last year were having a field day. This picture actually looks better than it would have a day previously, as the Compost Committee graciously pulled the weeds and spread compost in Bed 4!

33742353865_00d3d30728Here’s the “After” shot from yesterday. We removed the old hops vines, most of the other dead plants and all the weeds. We added a whole bunch of compost to the beds that needed it, and got started with planting.

33742337345_7d221b99e1The Colonial Garden is probably the farthest ahead in the planting game, as the vast majority of the plants in this garden are spring/fall (cool season) veggies. We transplanted three types of lettuce that Thomas Jefferson had records of planting, as well as two heirloom cabbage varieties and an heirloom, vining pea. We also planted both parsnip and salsify seeds.

33613084431_28699f536cThe Accessible planters are largely planted already with spring crops. These planters will have a mixture of kale, chard, sprouting broccoli, spinach, lettuces, radishes, and peas for the spring. We will have a couple tomatoes later on, but again, lots of spring/fall crops.

33742361035_ea89ed1edfOne of the most interesting things in the early spring planting is this kale mix. It is called Kale Storm Mix, and we planted it in several of the containers. This is a multi-seed pellet, sometimes called a “fuseable.” They’ve been around the flower industry for a few years, but this is the first time I’ve seen them for veggies. The seed company took 3 kale varieties and mixed the seeds in a uniform ratio and put them into these larger “seed pellets.” The result is supposed to be an evenly mixed, visually attractive blend of kale. We’ll see how it turns out!

33357398180_178b3ba755The ‘Cascade’ Hops is also an interesting experience. Last year I was afraid it wasn’t going to do much for the longest time. Then it did finally take off and grow. This year it is already half way up the cage before April 1st! Yikes! Another fun factoid: hops shoots are edible like asparagus. We tried nibbling on them, and they do taste like asparagus at first. But then there is a really nasty bitter aftertaste. Ugh! There’s a reason hops are not grown for spring edible shoots!

This has been a busy week, because we also got all our tomato and pepper seeds started inside. I don’t have any pictures of the plants yet, but I’m sure you can go back into the blog archives if you want to get the idea!

And just in case you were curious, I’m not planning on planting my tomatoes any earlier than usual – at this point. It’s cold today, and there’s a lot of weather to come before it is tomato planting time!

Friday PhotoEssay – May 13, 2016

With a week of warm weather and some rain, the garden continues to grow quickly. After this week, we have almost everything planted. We planted seeds of cucumbers and other vines, the scorzonera, and a few other miscellaneous things. I think all that we have yet to plant is the oca (hasn’t arrived yet) and some of the flowers. Of course, the vegetables that will be part of the fall garden are also not yet planted.

Of course, there is always something that goes wrong. This poor tomato plant is showing signs of herbicide injury. It is the only one, which means it is probably something in the soil. We added some compost, but other areas that have compost added are looking okay. We may never know exactly what happened! We will let it grow for a little longer to see if it outgrows the problem.

In contrast, this purple Chinese cabbage (from the purple garden), is looking spectacular. I love how the interior leaves get more crinkly as it grows.

The Chinese broccoli (in the Oriental Garden) is just starting to produce the edible flower buds. This type of broccoli is not supposed to produce large, individual heads but rather lots of smaller shoots. You can already see some of the side shoots developing. I think that we will need to harvest the initial center shoots to encourage more side branching for best yields.

We harvested the lettuce in the pallet garden and then planted some more strawberries. We also moved it to it’s permanent summer spot, which is a little bit shadier. It probably better mimics a balcony or patio situation this way, and maybe the lettuce will stay nice longer.

We did harvest the lettuce beds again this week, resulting in a multitude of bags of lettuce. It was looking really good and showing the pattern well. I couldn’t get a great picture because of the sun and shadow, but I think you get the idea.

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!

A Pallet Garden…It’s Pinteresting

26378684701_c01d252c28_zIf you’ve been on Facebook or Pinterest at all in the past couple years, you’ve probably seen someone growing something in a pallet. The plants look lush and gorgeous, you can set it up vertically so it doesn’t take up much space, and it looks soooo easy!

So we decided to try it out. I found some instructions that recommended stapling landscape fabric on the back and three sides, then filling with potting soil, planting, and waiting two weeks for plants to grow before setting it upright.

(I’ll give you the sneak preview…everyone thought this project was much more difficult than advertised!)

25828561793_c2663cced0The starting point….an ugly old pallet. This is actually after we had started nailing down some of the loose slats. The other interesting thing – the bottom has extra holes in it where a forklift would pick it up. Hmm…which side to cover?

26405430226_18ab21d06fWe decided to cover the side with the larger holes, because we weren’t sure how the soil would stay in otherwise. We also ended up doing two layers of landscape fabric to make sure it was sturdy enough.

25826511114_3495a01847One of the Master Gardeners had brought along a few old lathe slats and we decided to nail them along the back just to help stabilize everything. Did we have to do this step? No. Does everyone feel a lot better about the durability of the project now? Yes, absolutely!

25826509714_ce58df29d8It took about 4-5 cu. feet of potting soil to fill the pallet. 26158512800_7beeae8ab7.jpg

26158512800_7beeae8ab7We planted some of our leftover lettuce seedlings in the pallet. We also have some strawberries that we will put in later. (If I don’t manage to kill them in my office first…watering…it’s helpful!)

26405785346_011ae93698The final result…it would have been more picturesque had we had some green lettuce too, but I guess we’ll survive with the two shades of red!

We will stand it up on end in another couple weeks and see how things go! My biggest concern with all projects like this is how are we going to keep it sufficiently watered, especially once it is vertical. I foresee lots of water running everywhere.