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2018 Demo Garden Plans

It’s the time of year when gardeners are starting to think about their plans for the upcoming season…no matter how cold, snowy, or icy it may be! Our Master Gardeners are no exception, and they worked hard to plan all these different beds in our Demonstration Garden over the past several weeks.

Whole Garden Overview

This is an overview of our garden layout with the themes for each bed. Both Beds 1 and 4 are split in halves for two different themes this year.


Bed 1 will feature Brassicas on one half in the spring and carrots in the fall. The Brussels Sprouts will grow through the season. The other half of this bed will be vegetables that have snack value and interest for children.


Bed 2 is our Tomato garden this year. The trellis and half of the cages will feature varieties that are “indigo” types. These have a gene that promotes anthocyanins and a very dark, purple-black color on the shoulders. I’ll guarantee you that the fruit will be unique! The other three varieties are beefsteak tomatoes (more than 10 oz fruit) that also happen to grow on compact vines.


The SNAP-Ed garden in bed 3 is a new project for us in partnership with our nutrition educators. This garden is also divided in half, and each half has a budget of $30 to spend, total. This includes seeds, plants, fertilizers, and any trellising structures or materials. The general plans are as pictured, but specific varieties will be determined based on what is available at retailers that can take SNAP (Vision cards / food assistance) benefits, as those on SNAP can use those dollars to purchase seeds and plants for a food garden. We will also be tracking the methods used, the total yield, and the value / return on investment of each garden half.

Slide5Bed 4 is also divided into two separate themes. Half will feature heirloom shelling beans (dry beans), with 4 varieties of pole beans on trellises and two varieties of bush beans. The other half will feature Italian vegetables and herbs.

Slide6Bed 5 is our “Miscellany” garden. In other words, things we wanted to try (or plant again) that didn’t fit into any of the other beds’ themes.

Slide7The Herbs / Pollinators garden is returning to Bed 6 this year, with some similar things and some new things, including a cascading ornamental oregano and some different types of Agastache.

Slide8After several years as our Kitchen Herb Garden, Bed 8 will be home to our Edible Flowers garden this year. Did you know that all those flowers are edible?

Slide9Bed 9 is still the Hops plant for at least one more year. Bed 10 has been designated as the “Year-Round Salads” garden. Featuring lettuce in the early spring, spinach in the late fall, and a mixture of less common, heat tolerant greens in the summer. With orach, amaranth, and goosefoot, it’s going to look a bit like a weed bed to start with!

Slide10The accessible gardens will reprise some of the plants found in other areas of the garden, but with more confined growing conditions of the planters.

Slide11The barrel planters will include some greens, herbs, and radishes.

Slide12Last, but definitely NOT least, the containers on the inside perimeter of our garden will feature a range of peppers. The goal is to start with the sweet peppers on one side of the garden, and gradually increase the Scoville (heat) level around the garden.

Not pictured or listed, we will also continue to have gingers in some of the shadier containers, as well as herbs. We will be showcasing a wide range of rosemary in one set of containers, including varieties that we can only grow as annuals. Outside the garden, the annual flower demonstrations will continue in the large containers.

There you have it, our complete vegetable garden plans for 2018! As always, we have some exciting, new, and different things planned for the year. We will be starting seeds this week for some of the earliest plantings.

Friday PhotoEssay – September 23, 2016

It’s been a few weeks since the last Friday PhotoEssay, and the garden has definitely changed.

29876437065_555785450d_zI think the biggest change is simply the fact that while it is still a jungle out there, many of the tomatoes and vines are much more brown than green. The peppers are even starting to show some wear and tear. I think the only thing that is still unabashedly green is the luffa gourd vine…which has still not started blooming!

29793640581_8a5a5ac970On the other hand, we planted the Passionflower vine for the flowers and caterpillars, but we do have some fruit set. I don’t know if it will ripen before it gets cold, but it’s still pretty neat to have fruit.

29762973422_6ea8ea03dbThere was a point where I think we all felt like the Ginger bed wasn’t going to amount to much, but the plants have really done well! Clockwise from the left-most plant: Greater Galangal, Turmeric, Ginger, Cardamom. We are going to try digging the plants, potting them up, and keeping them for next year.

29793648681_c754bb8e69While the Black Scorzonera doesn’t look like much from the top, I’m actually very pleased with how the plants are doing. What remains to be seen is what the roots look like, but it typically isn’t harvested until after a couple frosts, so we have some time yet.

29793656061_e0dc1c5068The flowering purple carrot / false Ammi from the Purple Garden has really started looking good. It took all season, but it has some nice flowers on it now. Because it’s technically a carrot that bolts easily, if we pulled it the roots should look like a poor quality purple carrot.

29841977936_1a3e6da1c9_zOur pollinator / herb garden is looking really good right now, although the milkweeds are getting a bit gangly. The zinnias in particular are very attractive. Now all we need is for the sages to be in full bloom!

Have a great weekend!

2016 Garden Plans: Bed 6 – Root Vegetables

If Bed 5 (Flowers, Pollinators, Herbs) was pretty much a reprise of things we’ve grown before, then Bed 6 is almost the exact opposite. It features not only new varieties of common vegetables, but some things that we’ve never tried before.

25591335151_cef5a0c400Let’s start with the more common things. In the spring, we will be trying out three varieties of beets.

  1. ‘Cylindra’ is a red been that is long and cylindrical rather than round. Some people find this variety sweeter than regular beets.
  2. ‘Boldor’ is the newest variety of yellow/gold beets. The other more recent variety, ‘Touchstone Gold’ was an improvement over the heirloom varieties that typically had poor germination. It will be fun to see if this is another good improvement.
  3. ‘Avalanche’ is a white beet that is also an All America Selection. It has been a while since there has been a new white beet variety, so it will be interesting to see if it is an improvement.

In the fall, we will replace the beets with  some slightly less common things.

  1. ‘Brilliant’ Celeriac (aka celery root) is grown for the root, not the leaves/stems like traditional celery. It commonly needs a long, cool growing season, so it will be fun to see if we can make it grow here!
  2. ‘Helenor’ rutabaga is another root vegetable that is common further north. Again, it may not grow well for us here. If you aren’t familiar with the vegetable, rutabagas are kind of like large, sweeter turnips.
  3. ‘Merida’ carrot is a variety that is supposed to work well for overwintering, so we will give that a try this fall.

Then, there is that other strange stuff shown on the map. You are probably wondering if those are vegetables that I just made up. I didn’t! They are real things!

  1. Oca is a root vegetable that is native to the Andes. It is somewhat like a potato, but has bright colors. Will it like Kansas? We won’t know until we try it!
  2. Black Scorzonera is an old, European root vegetable. Sometimes called “oyster plant” for the flavor, it is considered something of a delicacy, albeit rather difficult to grow and prepare. It needs a long growing season, too. Will it like Kansas? We’ll find out!
  3. Crosnes (aka Chinese Artichokes) are from mint family and develop little tubers that look a bit like miniature Michelin men. The tubers don’t develop until the daylength shortens at the end of summer or early fall, and it can be killed by frost. Will they do much in Kansas? If you guessed, we don’t know, that would be right!

I’m hoping for some interesting and photogenic vegetables from this garden, although I have to be honest that if the summer turns out to be too hot and nasty, then we could just have lots of dead plants.

Two Fennel Recipes

One of the things we had in the Fall Italian Garden was bulbing fennel, which you may sometimes see in the grocery store labeled “Anise.”

This is the fennel that was harvested before the cold weather set in a couple weeks ago. Most of it was pretty good sized. As a recap, we started the seeds indoors and then transplanted in early August. It is edible at any size of bulb development, and I know that sometimes people like the smaller ones to roast whole. The bulbs were good sized a few weeks before we harvested, but I always like to see how big we can grow things in the fall and how long they will last in the garden.

So…what do you do with bulb fennel? I had tried a fennel gratin recipe several years ago that was pretty disgusting, so I went looking for some better options. I ended up with a recipe for Roasted Fennel, Carrots, & Shallots and another recipe for a Radicchio, Fennel, and Olive Panzanella (bread salad). It was a bonus, since we had radicchio in the garden too!

I cut the tops off the fennel, quartered it, rinsed it well (there was some dirt between the layers, but not too much), and tossed the pieces with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

I sliced the carrots, and topped the red bunching onions. The original recipe called for shallots, but I had a whole bunch of these red bunching onions from the garden as well that were pretty sweet, so I opted to use them instead. These were also tossed with oil, salt, and pepper, then spread on a baking sheet.

Everything was roasted at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until tender.

The finished product! (Technically the recipe called for garnishing with parsley and a few fronds from the fennel tops. Oh well.) This dish was a huge hit, even though it was so simple. Sometimes the simple dishes are the best. Almost everyone really enjoyed the flavor of the roasted fennel.

The second recipe was actually a bit more complex, even though it was a salad. I also didn’t manage to get pictures of every step, so bear with me. Here’s a link to the original recipe: Radicchio, Fennel, and Olive Panzanella.

The first step was to toast the bread. The cubes of bread were tossed with lemon zest, oil, salt, and pepper. Then they were toasted in the oven until just crisp. (Not all the way to crouton stage.)

The dressing was pretty simple: minced shallot (I subbed the red onion again), chopped parsley, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper, all whisked together.

The fennel was easy to deal with. I just took a couple of the smaller bulbs and thinly sliced them. Done!

Then the radicchio…

Eew! When I harvested it, the outer leaves looked good, but as I peeled it down to the inner head, I got to this slimy layer. I don’t know if this is normal, if the plants were too crowded, if it was too warm and wet for most of the fall, or what the story was. I’m sure that many of you, getting to this point, would have just chucked the whole thing in the trash and moved on. Luckily you have me to delve through the slime to find out if there was anything good underneath!

What do you know! There was something worth having! One of the heads that I stripped down still had some good green leaves before getting to the red interior leaves. The others needed to be cleaned further, down to the red leaves. But the radicchio “hearts” were just fine to use. No sliminess in evidence at all.

Here’s the bigger “green exterior” head sliced. The center is nice and red. (Recap again: the radicchio was also started inside and transplanted in early August.”)

The final salad: the bread, radicchio, and fennel were tossed, as well as some halved green olives, chopped parsley, a little cheese, some salami and the dressing. It was a colorful and interesting salad. Because the greens were all radicchio, it had a stronger, more bitter flavor than our American palates are used to. Some people really liked it and others didn’t care for it. To make it appeal to a broader audience, I added some sweet lettuces (like bibb lettuce) to cut the bitter greens a bit. The fennel really wasn’t very prominent in this dish by the time everything else was added, but it was a great use for radicchio!

Fall Gardening: Overwintering Vegetables for Spring

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

Overwintering Vegetables for Spring

There are two groups of vegetables that can be successfully overwintered into the spring: root vegetables and very cold hardy leafy greens.

Root vegetables should be planted early enough that they are a mature size for harvest by mid-November. As the ground begins to freeze, the root vegetables can be heavily mulched with straw to keep the soil from freezing. This method can provide an outdoor cold storage for the root vegetables. They can then be dug and used throughout the winter, as long as the soil is not frozen. Row covers can also assist with this goal.

Spinach, kale, some varieties of lettuce, and some specialty greens such as mache and claytonia are very cold tolerant and can be successfully overwintered with a couple layers of row cover. Depending on the winter and the amount of protection given, these vegetables may be harvestable for much of the winter or they may not have harvestable leaves until it is warmer with longer days in early March.