Blog Archives

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!

Prepping for Fall & Beating the Heat

Many years, fall is my favorite time in the garden here in Kansas. The tricky thing is getting yourself into a “fall” mindset when it is still blazingly hot in early August. Yes, now is the time to plan, prepare, and plant your fall vegetable garden!

28637375082_2a128d6b64We started seeds for some of our fall plantings about 4-5 weeks ago: broccoli, cauliflower, Japanese winter bunching onion, kale, and bok choy.

I moved them outside onto the table near the building last week, so they don’t look quite this nice anymore. The flea beetles are going to do a number on our fall brassicas, I’m afraid.

Despite the heat, I wanted to get at least some of these plants in the ground, because they are drying out too fast in the cell trays.

Timing isn’t too critical on some of these, but the broccoli and cauliflower may not have a long enough growing season if we don’t plant them soon.

We also have a number or root vegetables that need to be planted soon if we want to get a good crop.

Things like lettuce and spinach need to wait a few more weeks, because the soil is just too warm to plant now. They also grow faster, so we can afford to wait a bit longer to plant.

28667125631_6b55452f2a

In preparation for planting some of our root vegetables next week, we put a thick layer of straw mulch down in some of the planting areas. Organic mulches like straw can cool the soil up to 10 degrees in addition to helping with soil moisture. Hopefully we’ll get better germination because of the straw.

For more ideas and techniques about fall vegetable gardens, here are several posts about fall gardening from a few years ago:

Fall Gardening: Why Try It and What to Plant

Fall Gardening: Less Common Vegetables for Kansas

Fall Gardening: When to Plant

Fall Gardening: Dealing with Late Summer Heat

Fall Gardening: Dealing with Late Fall Cold

Fall Gardening: Kansas Climate Conditions for Extending into the Winter

Fall Gardening: Using Row Covers

Fall Gardening: Overwintering Vegetables for Spring

Friday PhotoEssay – May 6, 2016

It was planting week in the Demo Garden! If you go back and look at the last whole garden picture, you can see just how much the garden has changed in just a couple of weeks. We planted the tomatoes on Tuesday and the peppers, eggplant, and annual flowers today. Whole GardenMay 6, 2016 (2)

The only things still to plant are the cucumbers, melons, and a few other very warm season things like our oddball root vegetables and tropicals. (More to come on some of those things next week.)

Both the winged beans and the blue butterfly pea (vining flower, not edible pea) required soaking before planting. The winged bean actually recommended soaking and pre-sprouting before planting. You can see these seeds have swollen, broken the seed coat, and are just starting to put out the first tiny shoot.

This is the ‘Black Beauty’ tomato plant. I don’t know if it is the weather or just a characteristic of that plant, but the older leaves have a purple cast to them. Normally I would call it a phosphorus deficiency, but it doesn’t look quite right, so I am wondering if the plant has extra purple pigment due to the anthocyanins in the fruit?

Since we’re on the topic of odd tomato plants, take a look at this cute little guy. It almost looks like a new potato coming up, but it is definitely a tomato. It is still short, but it is the same age as the large plants we transplanted. This is the ‘Patio Plum’ tomato, which is supposed to be very columnar but also compact. So far it is clearly very compact!

For the last two years, the pollinator garden has been beautiful by the end of the season, and I always regretted not taking pictures of it every week to catalog the changes. I’m going to try to take regular pictures of it too this year.

Have a great weekend!

Video Wednesday: Caging Tomatoes

If you’ve got your tomatoes planted, you need to have a plan for keeping them upright. This video talks about some different options for your tomatoes.

More Planting and Bean Troubles

This week brought more planting – namely the peppers and tomatoes!

20150507_084559The tomatoes are already caged, but not yet mulched.

20150507_084608Only 4 peppers this year.

20150507_084448Hey! What is that? Looks like a elm seedling. Oh, you thought I was referring to the strawberry?

20150507_084506So there are a couple strawberries starting to ripen from last year’s planting. This one has been sampled by the roly polys. Ugh! There isn’t anything to do about them other than try to keep things dry. Hard to do this week! The one nice berry I found tasted like a ‘Mara des Bois’ – sweet and floral.

20150507_084639The majority of the beans that were planted didn’t grow well from the first planting, nor the second. They are missing leaves or have damaged leaves. There is a bit of difference between varieties though. It could be a few different things. We had this issue last year, and I thought it might be herbicide. A little more research this year indicates it could also be a bean/seed corn maggot or a disease. Basically, something is damaging the hypocotyl of the seed as it is germinating and results in plants with no leaves. Obviously they aren’t going to grow much from that!

The easiest fix for either of these problems is to till up the area and then replant when the soil is warmer. That worked last year, so hopefully it will work this year too.

20150507_084629This variety – ‘Contender,’ I believe, seems to be mostly okay. I suspect it may be more tolerant of cold soils. ‘Contender’ is an old variety, and sometimes the old ones are the best ones!

20150507_084411We’ll wrap up for the week with a picture of the whole garden! Things are only going to accelerate from here!