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A Closer Look: Bed 2 Plans

Today let’s take a closer look at the plans for our second bed in the Demo Garden. This bed is fairly simple, compared to Bed 1. Half the bed is planted to tomatoes (and basil!), while the other half will be planted to potatoes in the spring and leafy greens in the fall.

I know that you are probably really excited to know more about the tomatoes – but in the interest of having something to talk about when we get to Bed 5…I’m going to make you wait. Sorry!

So that leaves us with the potatoes and the leafy greens. Bed 2 is our only raised bed that did NOT show nematode damage last season, so it is both our “control” bed for our tomato varieties so we can compare productivity and growth with Bed 5, which has heavier nematode infestation. We also chose to plant potatoes in this bed, since they can have nematode issues as well. One of our Master Gardener plants red, white, and blue potatoes with their grandchildren, so we thought that would be a fun approach.

In the half of the bed with potatoes, we divided the space into three 4’x4′ areas, with each area for a different variety. Our red variety is ‘AmaRosa’ Fingerling. I know the map has three things listed – we weren’t sure what we would be able to find, so I had a list to look for. But I found this one, which was our first choice. ‘AmaRosa’ is a fingerling potato (so longer and slender), with red or burgundy skin and marbled pink and white flesh. Yep, interior flesh is pink and white! We actually just planted the potatoes this morning, and I was pleasantly surprised by how large the seed potatoes were, so that bodes well for a healthy crop.

Our white variety is ‘Kennebec,’ which is a long-time, high yielding basic white potato. It is a midseason variety, and has a good package of disease resistance. This is a common variety that you can probably easily find in a local garden center.

Our blue variety is a newer variety (although it has been around for several years at this point), called ‘Adirondack Blue.’ It is one of the darker blue/purple fleshed potatoes that you can find, and the color holds well, especially if you roast it. The plants themselves are also supposed to have a slight blue color to the leaves.

Once the potatoes are harvested in the summer, we will likely plant a buckwheat or sunn hemp cover crop in that area while waiting for cool weather to return for our fall planting. If you aren’t familiar with sunn hemp, it is a summer annual legume that grows quickly, fixes nitrogen, and suppresses root knot nematodes.

For our leafy greens, ‘Astro’ Arugula is probably the most common, reliable variety. ‘Black Magic’ is a newer cultivar of the traditional Lacinato/dinosaur kale that was selected for uniform, long, slender leaves. ‘Joi Choi’ Bok Choy is a larger choy variety, 12-15″ tall at maturity, with thick bright white stems. ‘Kookaburra’ spinach is a fast-growing semi-savoy variety that is supposed to perform well in the fall. It is fairly upright, which is nice in our gardens because the sandy soil can get on the lower leaves when it is rainy.

Check back next week to hear about Bed 3!

2015 Garden Plans: Peppers & Potatoes

It is always a bit of a challenge to figure out what we are going to plant in the 4′ x 4′ gardens. This year we are planting peppers in one of them and potatoes in the other.

Bed 9There is space for 4 pepper plants, but we have a nice diversity of plants included.

1. ‘Lunchbox Orange’ is a variety we tried a couple years ago. This is one of the “snack pepper” varieties. It has pretty good yield and delicious, sweet, orange peppers.

2. ‘Sweet Sunshine’ is a new variety that was developed as an edible ornamental. It looks like an ornamental pepper, but unlike regular ornamental peppers, the peppers are supposed to have a good, sweet flavor. Usually ornamental peppers are really hot and not very tasty.

3. ‘King Arthur’ is one of our standard, recommended bell peppers.

4. ‘Sweet Banana’ is a standard banana pepper.

For the potato garden, we really only need 4 seed pieces, so the Master Gardeners will go out and buy a couple seed potatoes locally for planting.

And I think that is the end of our garden plans for this year! Of course we have our Prairie Star annual flowers in various locations around the garden, but we won’t know what we have to plant until May.

On to the planting season!

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 – Garden Tour Edition

I haven’t been doing a very good job this year of keeping you up to date on all our upcoming events. This weekend is our annual Garden Tour, and I was able to check out several of the gardens this morning and earlier in the week. I was hoping to have one picture of each garden, but I realized that I don’t quite have them all.

Anyway, the tour is going on today, tomorrow (Saturday), and Sunday. For more details, go here. I did want to give you a little bit of a sneak peak to encourage you to go. If you are really into food gardening, a lot of times the Garden Tour may not have lots to offer you. This year, there are 3 gardens that have significant fruit and vegetable gardens! The others are gorgeous, but not quite as edible.

To get started, here’s a look at the Demo Garden this afternoon. Nothing too major this week, since things are growing pretty slowly with the cool weather. We aren’t on the Garden Tour this year, but you can always come take a peek!

This is one of the West Wichita gardens that has lots of great shade plantings and neat little garden areas.

This Haysville garden has some awesome blackberries, a large vegetable garden area, and then more vegetables and herbs in other parts of the yard.

This area has peppers and garlic growing, as well as some cannas and other ornamentals.

This Derby garden has a variety of different beds with perennials and some cool stonework.

This sprawling, Haysville country garden has something for almost everyone. There are some pretty neat raised beds that you’ll have to go see for yourself.

This Derby garden has fruits, vegetables, herbs, and a whole lot more! And almost nothing is in a square or rectangular garden!

I have to say that this little border area was one of my favorites. There are annuals along the front edge, but do you recognize the plants in the second row? I’ll give you a minute.

Yes, they are potatoes. I honestly don’t think about potatoes as a potential border plant! But once they start dying back, how hard is it to just dig them all at once and let everything else grow up around them?

I hope this little taste inspired you to check out the Garden Tour.

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – May 9th

Once again, the garden has changed a lot this week, although the visible changes are more in the tomato cages than the actual tomatoes at this point!

For the second week in a row, I’m going to show off this view of the garden. When I take the picture in mid-morning, the shadows are not kind from the north side, so I like this better! You can see that there is more green, and a lot more metal in the garden!

I’m pretty sure that I’m going to spend half of my time this summer taking pictures of the ‘Silvery Fir Tree’ tomato plants. This one was planted in one of the tiers of the Wheelchair Accessible raised bed, and it is looking great. Isn’t the foliage cool? I hope the plant still looks this neat as it grows.

I’m pretty sure that the potatoes has doubled, tripled, or quadrupled in size in the past week. They were only a couple inches tall last week, and now they are well on their way to being a jungle.

In the “weird” category, the Borlotto (‘Lingua di Fuoco’) beans in the Italian garden are coming up, but their first set of leaves are looking damaged. It doesn’t look like herbicide injury, but I am wondering if the soil is too “hot” there, meaning we added too much compost. However, beans in other areas of the garden (different varieties) are looking good. Although the leaves that do unfurl look holey, I don’t think it is an insect. We may have to try replanting to see if we get better results, or I might try planting a few seeds in my office to see what happens.

It would appear that this tomato plant didn’t want to go on. It seems to have swooned after being planted! Actually, under closer inspection, it looks like the stem is almost perfectly cut through, which would seem to indicate a cutworm. Ugh. At least it has left the other plants alone so far? We will have to replace this plant next week.

Harvest? What harvest? The endive/escarole mesclun appears to be enjoying the weather this week, as we harvested some on Tuesday and it you certainly can’t tell! I know that plain endive is not very commonly eaten in the U.S., so I’m going to try to find some recipes to try. Endive is often found in salad mixes, but it is a more bitter flavor on its own.

Have a great weekend!