Blog Archives

Basic Vegetable Gardening Classes

Where: Sedgwick County Extension, Sunflower Room

When: January 31st and February 7th, 6-7:30 p.m.

Cost: $5, whether you attend both classes or only one

To Register: or call 316-660-0100

Growing vegetables in Kansas can be a challenge, especially for a beginner. A series of two basic vegetable gardening classes will be held on Tuesday, January 31 and Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at the Sedgwick County Extension Education Center Sunflower Room at 21st and Ridge Rd. in Wichita. Both classes run from 6:00-7:30 p.m.

Cost of the classes is $5, whether you attend both or only one. Register online at or call 316-660-0100.

The January 31st class will cover Intro to Vegetable Gardening.

The February 7th class will cover Raised Bed Gardening and Extending the Garden Season.


Why Good Drainage is Important for Your Garden

This is just one of the reasons that we are renovating our demonstration garden:

The tracks are from several weeks ago, when we were working to remove the remaining concrete from the wheelchair garden area. There had been a little bit of rain a few days before, and the bobcat left these ruts. Ugh. Since then, they haven’t drained. Granted, a lot of this water is from yesterday and today. Still…it isn’t even pretending to drain. It’s just sitting there.

The first part of our garden renovation is going to be putting in drain tiles that will help move water away from the garden, especially through our lovely, sticky clay, compacted construction pad. When our building was originally built, this area was compacted like the foundation area. Then a little topsoil was added and proclaimed “ready to garden.” Yeah, not so much. These conditions are why we have always used raised beds and worked hard to develop a high organic matter loam soil in those beds. Even with the added drainage, these conditions are also why we will always use raised beds in our Demonstration Garden and also why we recommend that almost all home gardeners in this area also use raised beds.

Many parts of Sedgwick County naturally have a very heavy clay soil like is below our demonstration garden. If you can dig a hole in your garden or yard and fill it with water, and it takes more than 24 hours to drain, you absolutely need either a different location or a raised bed or berm to make your garden successful.

Why does it matter? Isn’t it just water that the plants can use? Actually, it matters a lot. Plant roots need oxygen as much as we do, and if the soil is full of water, there is no space for air! Water can smother the roots of the plants and increase the ability of some problematic diseases to move around in the soil and infect plants.

It might seem ironic to be talking about drainage as a problem after such a dry year. But if your soil is compacted and poorly drained, even a dry summer doesn’t protect you from problems. If anything, it makes it worse because your soil is either soggy or rock hard.

Improving soil drainage and structure. The reason we recommend raised beds so often is that they are a relatively quick solution to a problem that might otherwise take many years to fix. The way to actually improve your soil as it is will vary with the exact problems, but it would include a combination of deep tine aeration/ripping, incorporating organic matter by the ton, and probably planting some deep rooted cover crops like winter radishes that can break up the soil over several years (and incorporating them for more organic matter). Even then, you will still have a heavy, clay soil, albeit with better organic matter and drainage. Given all that work, raised beds seem like a good choice, don’t they?

Garden Renovation, Phase 1: Demolition

This week we officially kicked off the garden renovation. There’s no turning back now!

This is Tuesday morning, before we started working. The plants look sad, but they were still productive.

If it was green and growing, we pretty much pulled it out on Tuesday. There were A LOT of peppers and green tomatoes on those plants.

Case in point. I know you don’t see any peppers in this picture, but trust me. Most of those bags are full of peppers. It was pepper palooza!

I could be wrong, but I think we might need another compost bin. Just maybe.

This is as things were winding down yesterday morning. All the rest of those bricks and blocks are gone now. All that’s left is some of the trash lumber, the wheelchair height bed, the table, and the compost area. And a whole bunch of dirt.

Note to self: raised beds do NOT need 2-3′ long pieces of rebar to secure them to the ground. Really, they don’t. Not even in Kansas.

It was pretty cool to see the root remnants of the plants we pulled on Tuesday. This root system is from the pepper garden. I guess we did a decent job of watering, because the roots seem to go all the way to the bottom of the raised bed area and even a little deeper.

We also realized just how important (and nice) all the drainage work is as a component of the renovation. After not having rain for ages, then 2″ over the weekend, there was water standing in the packed clay 12-24″ inches below the surface. When we pulled the demonstration table out, we saw it had literally been standing in water. Yuck!

Where’s Our Fall Garden?

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything about planting for fall or shown pictures of what we are doing for a fall garden this year. (Okay, maybe you haven’t noticed.) Or maybe you just assumed that the heat was taking its toll on us as much as you, and we had given up any hope of a fall planting of veggies. (Tempting idea, really.)

As a matter of fact, the main reason we’re not planting a fall garden is this:

This is the concept plan for a renovation of our demonstration garden. We have the money raised to put in new drainage and raised beds and build the shaded education area. Some of the other components will wait until we have funding for them. I’m sure the final result won’t look like the drawing, but it will be nice to have some new raised beds and improved drainage.

Because of this, we will be started to deconstruct our existing raised beds as things finish this fall, instead of keeping the garden going into the winter. We are hoping to have the new raised beds in place by spring, so the garden will be full and beautiful by Tomato Day.

While there won’t be much posting about fall/winter gardening this year, there will probably be a fair number of posts about deconstructing/reconstructing raised beds. We’re also beginning the process of thinking about edging materials and types of features we want for the raised beds. Does anyone have great ideas to share that you’d like to see?

Friday PhotoEssay

It’s the end of the week again! Check out the Lunch in the Garden page for today’s yummy recipe – Curried Mushrooms, Potatoes, and Peas.

The squash in the Smart Pot container is starting to bloom. The ants are liking the flowers too!

The Malabar Spinach is really taking off in this heat!

One of our Master Gardeners let us tour her garden, and she has these really neat raised beds.

The Albino Bullnose heirloom peppers are setting quite well. The peppers are easy to spot, too!

The ‘Piros’ sweet peppers are also setting well. They are kind of squished and ruffled shaped. It will be fun to watch them grow!

Have a great weekend!