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Friday PhotoEssay – September 4, 2015

Labor Day weekend seems to be the official “end” of summer, although many gardeners still have lots of produce coming in through the month of September. Many years the best peppers are harvested this month. I know that although our tomato plants look awful (and we’ve removed some of the worst), there are lots of green tomatoes still on the plants.

The lettuces in the close bed really pop with that neon green color, don’t they? The strawberries are also looking very healthy and most of the flowers still look great.

There are often spiders everywhere in the garden at this time of year, especially when it has been a rainier summer. I almost walked into a big web stretched between the grapes and the peanuts this morning. This spider was on the web, but then ran off to hide under this grape leaf. As annoying as the spiders may be, they are generally considered beneficial for the garden, so don’t try to kill them!

We did such a good job keeping the squash vine borers and squash bugs at bay this year that our zucchini finally succumbed to another problem – powdery mildew! Many squashes and pumpkins are highly susceptible to powdery mildew, although newer varieties have been developed that are resistant. We removed these plants right away, because we didn’t want the disease to spread. On the neighboring trellises, I’ve seen a couple vines with spots of mildew, but nothing major yet. If you don’t catch the mildew early, removing the plants really is the best option.

We transplanted the rest of the lettuce on Tuesday and surrounded it with some rabbit guard fencing, since we’ve had some rabbit troubles this year. We decided it wasn’t very pretty, but at least it should be functional! Hopefully the un-munched lettuce will be pretty enough to offset the fencing.

We harvested a bunch of squash this week, mostly the ‘Tromboncino,’ which seems to be very productive. We’ve also started harvesting a few others, including a huge ‘Green Striped’ Cushaw that will be featured in our next Saturday Sampler. I’ve been checking out potential recipes!

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – August 28th

I can hardly believe that it is almost September. Well…until I look at our sad tomato plants. Then I can believe it! The overnight temps are also cool enough that we decided to go ahead and plant some of the lettuce this week.

Overall, everything still looks like a jungle in the garden.

The fascinating fasciation on the squash vine I showed you last week continues to develop. It could be pretty neat to see how much crazier the end of the vine gets before the end of the season.

Our peppers have been pretty pitiful this year, so I’m trying not to judge any of the varieties overly harshly. This is the ‘Sweet Sunshine’ that was billed as an “edible ornamental.” It was supposed to look like an ornamental pepper, but the peppers were supposed to taste like the sweet snack peppers. It is just barely beginning to set fruit, so it isn’t nearly as attractive as an ornamental. The peppers are tiny, and while the flavor is good, each pepper is about half a bite. It’s just not worth it!

We planted the lettuce seeds 3 weeks ago, and the plants are looking good! I have some new lights in my office, and everything looks great. We planted some of the transplants out in the tallest raised bed where we had potatoes earlier in the year, with the theory that the rabbits can’t get to them. We are going to try some type of rabbit fence to keep them out of the lower beds. This is (surprisingly) the first year we’ve had a rabbit problem in the garden. We’ve had squirrels in the past, but they don’t care about the lettuce.

We’ve had Swiss Chard in the garden all year long, and I’ve barely taken a single picture of it. For those of you that are long-time readers, you will know how impressive that is. We’ve been harvesting it regularly, so it has stayed more at the salad size than getting bigger into the “cooking” size. The leaves have also stayed very clean and disease free, considering the amount of rain we’ve had. I would guess that the regular harvesting combined with the plants being pretty isolated in a spot with good airflow has really helped.

We replanted the beans 3 or 4 weeks ago as well, and it is interesting to see the differences in growth and germination. One variety didn’t even come up! The ‘Carminat’ pole bean pictured here has really taken off and grown well. The ‘Blue Lake’ pole bean on the other side of the trellis really hasn’t started climbing yet. I’ll be surprised to see if we get many beans before it gets too cold.

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – August 21, 2015

We seem to be in a bit of a late summer lull in the Demo Garden. We have a few things going for fall, the tomatoes are looking worse every week, and the squash aren’t quite ready to harvest.

As you can see, the tomatoes continue to look more grey or brown than green, even though the tops of the plants are a little bit crazy. The beans we planted a couple weeks ago are up, but the spider mites seem to have attacked immediately. Luckily it is a bit cooler, keeping the mites slowed down somewhat.

For the third year in a row, the begonias and coleus planted in this section of the garden look amazing! I’ll be honest that I don’t love begonias, but they are stunning in this spot.

In this wheelchair barrel planter, we had potatoes in the spring that did extremely well. Since then, we tried planting beans but they didn’t grow well. It seemed silly to think of a nutrient deficiency when the potatoes did so well. But then we planted radishes, and it was clear two weeks ago (above) that the leaves were pale yellow and stunted. Below you can see the improvement.
We fertilized and although there is still a bit of chlorosis (yellowing) they have grown well. We often forget with vegetable gardens that when we harvest a crop we are taking all of the nutrients from those vegetables out of the soil and consuming them. Just because a spot produced well last year or in the spring doesn’t mean that it won’t need additional fertilizer or compost before planting another crop. Maintaining and building our soil is a continual process!

This is something cool that you don’t see every day! This is one of the vines of the ‘Tromboncino’ squash. One of the neat things is that the seeds were planted at the other end of the bed and this plant has climbed all the way to the opposite corner of the bed. The other neat thing is that the vine has gone from round to flattened. This is a phenomenon called “fasciation.” A mutation happened at some point during growth and that mutation continued to manifest in all future growth on this vine. It doesn’t hurt anything, but it is a bit bizarre.

This is also the ‘Tromboncino,’ but these squash are a much darker green color than the others have been. I don’t know if this is a different vine (genetic variation of the seeds), if this is related to the mutation causing the fasciation shown above, or if this is a different mutation. The vines are such a jumble that I don’t think it is possible to sort out at this point. Anyway, it’s interested to all of a sudden have different colored squash!

I also caught this praying mantis hanging out on one of the squash last week. They can eat many insects, including grasshoppers, but I wonder if this one has been feasting on squash bugs?

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – August 7, 2015

Another week, another downpour, more squash bugs and spider mites! This gardening season has certainly come with its share of challenges in the Demo Garden, and I’m sure you are experiencing the same things at home.

The general overview shows that things are still looking pretty green, although the tomatoes are looking a little sickly with all the spider mites. The squash are still looking pretty good, despite the onslaught of squash bugs.

The ‘Tromboncino’ squash are still producing steadily. I prefer that over getting too many zucchini! I captured this image this morning while the squash blossoms were still open. Female squash flowers have the immature fruit behind the flower and then the fruit continues to develop following pollination. I thought it was pretty neat to see how big the squash is already in this case, even before pollination! You could even harvest the squash at this point and stuff the flower with cheeses and herbs, then saute as is.

We are starting to see more squash bugs on the trellised squash. It isn’t unexpected, but nice that it held off until now. We are picking off eggs and nymphs as we see them as well as spraying once a week. We have also seen a couple of vine borers that our Master Gardeners caught early and tried the “surgery” method of cutting them out of the stems. So far we have no casualties of squash vine borers, which is a win in my book!

Our Quiet Garden area is looking beautiful right now. There are several coleus, begonia, and impatiens varieties that are showing their colors in good form. These are all varieties that are either on our Prairie Star list of recommended annuals or they are in the trial right now to determine if they are worthy of being on the list.

I noticed a few squash in the zucchini area that are showing this grey mold. It looks like it is primarily on squash that were not successfully pollinated, thus being more likely to rot. That predisposition to rot, combined with the rain this week and the density of the stems and leaves has probably resulted in the grey mold. The best thing to do is to just remove squash like this ASAP to prevent the mold spreading to other squash or the stems.

The Master Gardeners planted some lettuce seeds for transplanting outside later this month. Starting the seeds indoors and transplanting is one way to make lettuce available to harvest earlier in the fall than if we were to wait until the weather is cool enough to plant seeds outdoors. I usually plan on about 4 weeks from when we plant seeds to when the plants are ready to go out in the garden.

This is ‘New Gold’ Lantana that is planted in the containers near the garden entrance. It is looking spectacular right now! This variety is on our Prairie Star Annuals list as a variety that thrives in Kansas and blooms consistently all summer. It definitely looks like a winner this year.

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – July 31, 2015

Even though the tomatoes are just starting to ripen, we are beginning to think about fall in the garden! Here’s a before and after look at the garden this week. Can you tell what changed?

Before:

This is Tuesday before our regular work day.

After:

This is Thursday, after the work day. Can you tell what we did? We did harvest the potatoes last week, but this week we removed our spring planted beans because they were full of spider mites and pretty much done. We are planning to replant with different varieties next week for our fall bean crop. We also pulled the pole beans off the trellis, even though they had just started blooming. We will replant the same varieties and see if we get better results this fall.

At long last, the ‘Muir’ lettuce finally gave up in the heat of last week! We had been very impressed with the fact that it had not bolted nor gotten bitter yet. This variety should be a great option for us to grow in spring into summer. We will have to try it again another year to see if the results are the same. We will be replanting lettuces in the next few weeks.

As per usual, the cherry tomatoes are the earliest ripening and most prolific tomatoes in the garden. This year we have Sweet Million (red), Chocolate Cherry (purple), and Yellow Pear (yellow) growing in the tiered Accessible Garden beds.

One of the delights of growing a range of winter squashes – big, beautiful flowers and attractive leaves! These squash blossoms would be great to pick and stuff with cheese or other fillings.

When I was checking our squash stems for signs of vine borers the other day, I noticed this big guy hiding out under the vines. Do you see him?

The zucchini have quickly started producing now that the row cover is removed. I guess the row cover was both a successful and failure as an experiment. It definitely prevented the squash vine borers while it was on, but we didn’t get much squash until it was removed.

Have a great weekend!