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Friday PhotoEssay

There was this weird wet stuff falling from the sky this morning. I think something might be broken somewhere! A cool, cloudy morning is sure nice for a change.

I did a little bit of quick research to determine at what point we are supposed to start harvesting the Roselle (hibiscus) to use for teas, drinks, cooking, etc. Come to find out, we are actually supposed to use the calyx AND the ripened fruit. Here you can see the stage we are at right now with the calyxes turning more and more pink, but the fruit/seed pod is still very green. It should be bright pink/red when it is ready to use. I guess we’ll be waiting a little longer for our hibiscus drinks.

I showed you our cup of harvested black sesame earlier this week, but I thought you might like to see what it looks like on the plants. I think it is interesting that the pods get so small and insignificant when they dry, and also that they open like they do! Normally one of the improvements that we breed for in seed or grain crops is the “non-shattering” characteristic that keeps the seeds firmly attached or enclosed through harvest.

I haven’t posted many herb pictures this year, because most of the herbs were just struggling to get well established in the heat. This is in the perennial herb garden, and you can see that the Lemon Balm and the Anise Hyssop have finally filled in to the point that they are looking really nice next to each other. On the edges you can just see the sage and thyme that are also looking pretty good.

These are the lettuce seedlings that we planted on August 7th. They have grown very fast! We will be transplanting them on Tuesday, providing all goes well.

The begonias and coleus in the Prairie Star Annual trial weren’t looking bad for most of the summer, but they weren’t spectacular. After a couple weeks of not-quite-so-hot weather, they are looking really nice!

Have a great weekend!

Getting Ready for Fall

With rain yesterday and not a SINGLE triple-digit temperature forecast in sight, it’s time to talk about fall gardening. It probably hasn’t been reflected in most of the pictures on this blog, but if you come to the garden you will see that most of our vine crops are looking old and tired. They will be doing well to make it for another 3-4 weeks in most cases. We are also starting to see what I suspect may be some powdery mildew. Ugh.

Since we have so many vine crops this year, there will be lots of space for fall vegetables. We are almost exclusively starting things indoors this year, rather than trying to direct seed. The reasons for this:

  • It’s still a bit hot to successfully start most of the fall vegetables from seed, especially in combination with…
  • Our very sandy, extremely well-drained soil in the raised beds will make it hard to keep the seeds moist enough to germinate well. Vegetables with tiny seeds like lettuce and carrots are a challenge anyway!
  • Even if we were to plant seeds right along the drip lines, the emitters are still 12″ apart, and I just don’t think we’d get good germination. We may have a challenge getting some of the shallow-rooted fall vegetable transplants established as it is.

So, what are we planting?

We planted 2 varieties of radicchio – a red and a green. We also planted some red bunching onions, one variety of leeks, cilantro, cutting celery, and 5 varieties of lettuce. The lettuce, cilantro, and cutting celery should easily be ready to transplant in about 4 weeks. The onions, leeks, and radicchio…well…we probably should have planted them indoors 2-3 weeks ago. We’re not perfect either! All three vegetables grow very slowly from seed and take several weeks to be large enough to transplant. The radicchio I am expecting to be the fastest of the three…they may be the right size in about 4 weeks. However, radicchio tends to have a very low germination percentage. The packet of brand new seed tested at a 65% germination rate. That’s another great reason to start them inside! We actually double planted the seed, to make sure we got plenty of plants.

I’m looking forward to having some non-heat stressed plants growing for a change!

Friday PhotoEssay

I’m going to try my best to get these Friday PhotoEssays up and going for the rest of the spring and summer. This week the theme is “all the non-garden renovation stuff we have going on that I haven’t blogged about yet.”

Our tomatoes, peppers, etc have been growing along in my office. They didn’t grow as well this year until I gave them a hit of fertilizer a couple times last week. They are a little smaller than I’d like for them to be, but I think they’ll be fine to go ahead and plant next week after we get the irrigation lines in place.

I thinned out the red shiso seedlings this week. The seeds were so tiny that we planted several in each pot. However, the plants themselves get pretty big, so I snipped out the excess, leaving a single, healthy seedling.

The roselle (hibiscus) and jicama have been outside getting used to the outdoors since the end of the week last week. They are definitely ready to be planted in their permanent homes.

We planted 3 varieties of hanging basket tomatoes last week (before Herb Day). The 3 varieties are ‘Cherry Falls,’ ‘Red Rambling Stripe,’ and ‘Gold Rambling Stripe.’ They have doubled in size since this picture was taken! I haven’t seen any flowers quite yet, but I’m sure we’ll be at that point soon. They are supposed to be trailing varieties, but thus far they are still pretty upright. Something else to keep an eye on!

I also thinned out the Red Aztec Spinach seedlings last week sometime. Same story as with the shiso. If these seedlings look an awful lot like the common garden weed known as Lambsquarter….that’s because they are both in the Chenopodaciae family. They are cousins! (Hey, we could be growing lambsquarter as an edible green too!)

That’s all I’ve got! We are looking forward to getting our drip irrigation in place on Monday afternoon and then planting like crazy on Tuesday morning. We also have our annual spring Master Gardener Garden Tour coming up a week from now, so there should be lots of posts to look forward to next week. (Or lots of things to come out and see in person if you are in the Wichita area!)

Have a great weekend!

Seed Starting & More Mexican Vegetables

We are still planning on getting things planted around May 15th this year, so with that in mind we had to get some seeds started at the beginning of the week. (If you are looking for step-by-step directions on planting seeds, here’s my post from last year:

Because each of our garden beds usually has a different arrangement of plants, we have to divide all the seeds into how many of each plants we need. You can also see my notation of 1 seed per pot. A lot of people will put multiple seeds in a pot “just in case” a couple don’t grow. I hate to do that, because then I’ve got a bunch of plants in a pot that I can’t easily separate without damaging the roots, and I have to snip the extras out. I prefer to plant 1 seed per pot, but then plant an extra pot or two of each (depending on how much extra space I’ve got). So the tomatoes pictured on the left say “Plant 4” and what we really need is 2 plants. By doing it this way I know that we’ve got up to 4 healthy plants, 2 that we need and 2 more just in case. If only 3 of the 4 germinate, then I’ve already used up 1 “just in case.” It is pretty rare with fresh seeds to have poor germination.

We have almost 100 pots of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant for the garden this year! Because of the planned late planting date, we are also starting  a few other things indoors that wouldn’t necessarily have to be. Those include the Red Aztec Spinach, culantro (not to be confused with cilantro!), and Aka Red Shiso. The spinach and the culantro are for the Mexican garden and the Shiso is for the Beautiful Vegetables garden.

Here’s a look at the seeds of the Red Aztec Spinach (aka Huauzontle). They are quite small and look a bit like tiny snail shells. We actually did plant multiple seeds in each pot for these, since the seeds are so tiny!

The culantro seeds are also extremely tiny. There seems to be a range of seed sizes and shapes, which is unusual. Maybe the seeds weren’t cleaned very well? Again, we went with multiple seeds per pot.

I took a picture of the back of the culantro seed packet, since it has some interesting information. It is supposed to be more heat tolerant than cilantro, but I find it interesting that the seed packet suggests growing it in the shade…we’ll have to see how that works out!

As of today (Thursday) the Red Aztec Spinach is already growing, as are the marigolds for the edible flower garden. Everything else is still waiting to pop up. Of course, the jicama, thunbergia, and roselle are still growing too. Hard to believe that in about 5 weeks we should be out planting in our brand new raised beds!


Mini Friday PhotoEssay

I think this is the first offical Friday PhotoEssay of the year! Of course, you’ve been seeing a bunch of construction pictures, but I think it’s high time we moved on to plants, don’t you?

This is a bit of a “mini” photoessay because I’ve only got 3 pictures to share, and they are all of baby plants – seedlings. All of the seedlings I planted last week have germinated, so I thought we’d take a look since they aren’t your common, everyday seedlings.

This is the Thunbergia (aka Black-Eyed Susan Vine). Those big seed leaves look kind of chlorotic with the dark green veins and pale yellow areas between veins. However,  want to get some true leaves growing before I start with any fertilizer. You can see those first true leaves starting to unfurl. Since this is a vine, it is going to get rather gangly rather quickly. That will be a challenge with the lights!

This is the Thai Red Roselle seedling. It has its first true leaf already and while it isn’t red yet, you can see that tinge of red in the leaf petioles (stems) and starting into the veins of that true leaf.

This is the Jicama. If it looks a little bit like a pole bean, well there’s a good reason for that. Jicama is a member of the Legume family (the same as peas, beans, vetch, etc). Theoretically that would mean that it fixes a little bit of nitrogen from the air like other legumes, right? The seed packet does specifically say that it does not like too much nitrogen. I wonder….

After a quick internet search, it would appear that jicama does have the ability to fix nitrogen like other legumes. That ability results in a tuber that has more nitrogen than other edible tubers, theoretically making it more nutritious. I found a couple sources citing it as being more nutritious because of the nitrogen…I wonder if they are equating more nitrogen to higher protein? Nitrogen is an important building block in proteins.

So, even if we don’t get a great yield from our jicama plants this year, we should get some nitrogen for our new garden soil out of the deal!