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Friday PhotoEssay – May 5, 2017

It’s time to start our regular Friday reviews of the Demonstration Garden!

We have more growing in the garden than some years at this time. Except for the tomato and vertical gardens, which are empty, most of the other areas have lettuces, other leafy greens, peas, or root veggies.

34089420810_b1e36a6b7cWe had our first harvest of many of our leafy greens this week. This is the Elegance Greens Mix from the Grocery Garden. It got a little bigger than I prefer for salads, but we will be trying to stay on top of harvesting moving forward. Watch for harvest updates and track our produce value from the Grocery Garden as the season progresses.

34433386646_08ab0150e4The green sprouting broccoli that is in one of our barrel planters has enjoyed the cool weather and is looking great. It isn’t showing signs of heading yet, but I expect it will be soon. Another boon of the cool weather is that the cabbageworms aren’t around either!

34344105431_c9d314e282In what may be the first live demonstration of the challenges of growing heirlooms, this ‘Brown Dutch’ heirloom lettuce in the Colonial Garden is already starting to bolt. It is most likely reacting to the temperature fluctuations from warm to cold. But for whatever reason, this variety is not as tolerant to that and more prone to bolt.

34089439200_0d9db4ceb6The pallet garden we planted last year to strawberries is back up and growing. It is flowering and setting fruit. I don’t love the fact that the plants are so small. I think they are probably showing the lack of nutrients available to them in the pallet, and I don’t know that fertilizing right now is going to improve the fruit. It will be important for plant health if we want to keep it going for next season though. Now…how to fertilize and keep the nutrients where we put them? Ah, the challenges of pallets!

34089442010_59c9a47d0fThe Japanese bunching onions and carrots that we overwintered were harvested this week. The carrots weren’t in great condition. I think that overwintered carrots are best harvested in January or February, before it starts getting too warm!

34089460380_5ed50b1541Our poor tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are still waiting to be planted. It has just been TOO COLD. With the early, warm temps 6-8 weeks ago, we started thinking early spring. But the reality is that the temperatures in the past two weeks have been too cold for these plants to be outside without suffering cold injury. We are hoping to plant tomatoes this next week and the peppers in two weeks.

Friday PhotoEssay – June 10, 2016

With a week of warm temperatures and no rain, everything is growing quickly. The end of the spring crops is almost here and the summer veggies are starting to set fruit!

It’s hard to see from this overview photo, but I know that in a few weeks the tomatoes are going to be most of the way up the trellises and the garden will look completely different yet again. We did remove one of the quilt block lettuce gardens, since the lettuce was bolting. The other is holding on for a little longer.

The ‘Rainbow Treasure’ strawberry on top of the pallet is blooming a bit and fruiting. The plant is still very small, but the colors are great.

Let’s just say that watering the pallet garden is every bit as challenging as I expected it would be. We have the PVC tubes, but they don’t get the edges watered. We ended up putting the watering wand on the upper corner at a slow trickle to soak in. Still not ideal.

I keep trying and trying to capture a picture of the ‘Black Beauty’ tomato plant, because the stems have a purple cast to them that is striking and in contrast to the other plants. But with the sunlight, I can’t get it to show up the same way in a picture. You’ll have to come see it! As you can see, this plant (and most of the other tomatoes) are starting to bloom and set fruit.

Our ‘Himrod’ grapevine is starting to fill out the fruit. It has quite few bunches this year, despite the vines not being overly large last year. Hopefully we don’t have any major insect or disease issues before harvest.

This is the ‘Patio Plum’ toamto plant. It is maybe 8 inches tall, but showing tiny flowers. I keep wanting to think there is something wrong with it, but it seems perfectly healthy. Just super tiny!

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – May 13, 2016

With a week of warm weather and some rain, the garden continues to grow quickly.¬†After this week, we have almost everything planted. We planted seeds of cucumbers and other vines, the scorzonera, and a few other miscellaneous things. I think all that we have yet to plant is the oca (hasn’t arrived yet) and some of the flowers. Of course, the vegetables that will be part of the fall garden are also not yet planted.

Of course, there is always something that goes wrong. This poor tomato plant is showing signs of herbicide injury. It is the only one, which means it is probably something in the soil. We added some compost, but other areas that have compost added are looking okay. We may never know exactly what happened! We will let it grow for a little longer to see if it outgrows the problem.

In contrast, this purple Chinese cabbage (from the purple garden), is looking spectacular. I love how the interior leaves get more crinkly as it grows.

The Chinese broccoli (in the Oriental Garden) is just starting to produce the edible flower buds. This type of broccoli is not supposed to produce large, individual heads but rather lots of smaller shoots. You can already see some of the side shoots developing. I think that we will need to harvest the initial center shoots to encourage more side branching for best yields.

We harvested the lettuce in the pallet garden and then planted some more strawberries. We also moved it to it’s permanent summer spot, which is a little bit shadier. It probably better mimics a balcony or patio situation this way, and maybe the lettuce will stay nice longer.

We did harvest the lettuce beds again this week, resulting in a multitude of bags of lettuce. It was looking really good and showing the pattern well. I couldn’t get a great picture because of the sun and shadow, but I think you get the idea.

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – July 17, 2015

The garden is growing well in the heat, but we are starting to see the effects of the heat. Spider mites are popping up on the beans and tomatoes, the squash are looking a bit scorched, and the strawberries are tiny. Let’s take a look!

The garden doesn’t look quite as lush and green as it has some years, but that’s okay. The combination of rain and heat has been challenging, so it isn’t surprising to see things looking a little less than ideal.

Most of the tomato varieties are just starting to ripen. This is actually the normal average for ripening here, although the last few years have been such odd tomato years it is hard to keep track. This tomato is one of the new ‘Chef’s Choice Orange’ that we are trying. As you can see, the cracks are problematic. That said, almost all of the varieties we’re growing have some cracks this year. Cracking is a very common problem in Kansas, primarily caused by fluctuating moisture levels and temperature. That pretty much describes this year! The best solution to cracking is to harvest fruits early and let them ripen indoors.

Many of the tomato varieties have good fruit set, but I’m particularly impressed with this ‘Italian Gold’ variety, an heirloom roma with golden yellow skin and flesh.

The spring planting of beans are starting to show signs of spider mites. The yellow and white stippling on this leaf is caused by spider mites. While we could try treating, I think that we will probably pull these beans out in a week or two and replant for the fall.

After harvesting the pitiful amount of zucchini off these plants on Monday, we decided to leave the row cover off from here on out. (Partly because we didn’t think we could get it back on. Clearly our design needs some work…) The removal of the row cover has resulted in floppy plants and some sunburn on the leaves, not surprisingly. I expect the plants will improve quickly though.

Tiny strawberry! No, they aren’t supposed to be this size, but considering the heat, I’m impressed that there are fruit at all. Everbearing/day neutral strawberries typically will not set fruit at temperatures over 85 degrees. The flavor was nothing to write home about either. It was very sour.

We have Saturday Sampler coming up tomorrow at 9 a.m., featuring summer squash/zucchini. This is one of the ‘Tromboncino’ squash that is supposed to be resistant to squash vine borers. So far, so good on that front!

Have a great weekend!

Cold, Wet, Wet, Cold… Strawberries!

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I live in Seattle or England, or someplace else that is reputed to be cold and rainy. While I’m not going to complain about the rain (too much), the colder than normal temperatures combined with the rain are causing some garden challenges that we are not used to seeing in Kansas. Namely, a lot of diseases and related problems that we aren’t used to! All those problems that are listed under the “caused by cool, wet conditions” we typically ignore. Well, not this year!

20150516_092950Luckily for us, the Demo Garden has excellent drainage (we installed drains a few years ago) and raised beds to help keep the soil warmer and drier than would otherwise be the case. Even so, we were still having issues with the beans due to cold soils. I’m curious to see how the squash does, particularly some of the heirlooms.

20150516_092618Of course, the lettuces and greens are perfectly happy with the weather. I’ve noticed some slugs and roly polys enjoying my lettuce at home, because they love the moisture. If you are seeing slugs or roly polys, the best thing to do is to improve the air circulation around your plants. In my case, I was seeing the problem in lettuce that I hadn’t yet gotten thinned out. The areas where the plants were not too thick were unaffected. Roly polys love decaying organic matter, so removing any damaged, diseased, or dying leaves is also important.

As I was belatedly thinning out my lettuce, I also noticed some leaves with disease lesions on them. Also due to cold, wet, and poor air movement.

Our Hotline has been taking lots of calls about fungus, including instances of potato plants rotting off. Cold, wet, poor drainage are the culprits. In this case, there’s not much to do now, other than do what you can to improve air circulation and drainage. We haven’t seen a problem in the demo garden since the potatoes are in a tall raised bed.

20150516_093028The new strawberries are happily filling in rapidly with the mild weather. The older plants are still producing some berries. Fruiting strawberries can be quite negatively affected by cold, wet weather. At home, I’ve observed slugs and roly polys eating fruit, as well as numerous berries with rotting fruit due to the wetness. Again, the keys are keeping the fruit as clean and dry as possible. I don’t have a good straw layer down, which is resulting in berries sitting on dead leaves – not good! The weather has resulted in me doing something that I almost NEVER do – pick fruit before it is 100% ripe. I’m sacrificing the best flavor for not damaged berries, which I’m willing to do under the circumstances. It’s also important to pick and remove any berries showing damage, because the rain will just keep spreading the fungal spores to the remaining fruit and the problem gets worse.

20150520_153436[1]The last problem that we can expect from the rain and cold is root damage. You can see this strawberry plant has some black and brown roots that have been damaged by the excess moisture. While we probably won’t see much sign of root damage until the rain stops, it’s likely to be a problem. I can already tell you that my basil at home isn’t going to make it. Signs of root damage include yellowing leaves, leaf curl/wilting (especially when the soil is still moist), and stunted growth. With as much rain as we’ve had, I also won’t be surprised if we see some nitrogen deficiencies in areas with sandier soils.

Well…except that we needed the rain, this post has been as gloomy as the weather! But it’s not all bad:

20150520_155208Have a great Memorial Day weekend!