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Friday PhotoEssay

The garden here is loving all the rain for a change! I guess that is the flip side of our sandy soil – when it is dry it is really dry, but when it is wet it is only kind of wet instead of soggy.

Here’s a look at the whole garden for this week. It’s hard to see, but the potatoes are starting to fade a bit as are some of the onions. The tomatoes and pumpkins are growing like crazy.

 This is the Bitter Gourd (aka Bitter melon) vine. It is just starting to tendril, and the leaves are so different from our other vines. It is also very tender. The leaves and stem almost feel soft, especially compared to cucumbers and other vines that we grow.

This ‘Maraschino’ sage has grown well and is starting to bloom. We will have some happy bees and other insects this summer!

There were two little strawberries on the ‘Mara des Bois’ plant this morning. The three of us that were in the garden split them and gave them a try. They were good, but not exceptionally flavorful. They had almost a sweet-floral flavor and not much acid. Of course, given the rain, I’m surprised they tasted like anything at all.

The creeping savory is doing a pretty impressive job of creeping, since it started out in a tiny 2″ pot. Savory is the Herb of the Year next year, so it will be nice to have some good healthy plants growing.

We have green tomatoes! I went through all the plants this morning to check fruit set, and we have tomatoes on 5 of the 7 heirloom varieties. The two varieties that I couldn’t find any fruit set on were Opalka and Amana Orange. They are 80 and 90 days respectively, so I’m not surprised that they are lagging. I am also wondering if we are getting a little bit delayed fruit set due to high nitrogen. It is warm enough that the compost is starting to break down and release nitrogen, so it is possible that could be promoting foliar growth and inhibiting fruit set somewhat, because there weren’t lots of tomatoes set on any plants. Or it could just be that these are heirlooms and that is what they do!

Have a great weekend!

Garden Work Day in April Weather

Yesterday, although it felt more like April rather than mid-May, we forged ahead with planting our vining vegetables anyway! I’m just tired of waiting on the weather’s pleasure, and the soil is marginally warm enough anyway.

The main things we had left to plant were the cucumbers, gourds, melon, and pumpkins on the trellises throughout the garden. Here you can see the spinach and mustard still growing well in the trellis area of the Taste of India Garden. Typically we plant on the outside of the trellis, but given the plant and trellis placement this year, we decided to plant the seeds between the drip lines and the edge of the trellis.

We also had the Prairie Star Annual flower trials to plant this week. The entry gardens, quiet garden, and some containers were planted with the flowers in the Prairie Star trial. We’ll be keeping an eye on them all summer long to see how they do.

 Since only 3 of the original strawberry plants survived, we planted a few more plants of two different varieties that I was able to find locally. We added 7 Ozark Beauty plants and 5 Quinalt plants to our mix. I hope we have better luck with these! The rest of the garden we will plant to some flowers or herbs or something else. We’ll wait and see!

Except for a few miscellaneous things, we are almost done with planting for the year. It will be fun to see how things grow!


Friday PhotoEssay – April 25th

We made it to Friday, and we didn’t get more than a few drops of rain. Grr. As much as I don’t appreciate the severe weather in the forecast, we could really use a couple inches of rain. And then a couple more in another week or so. And probably a couple more after that.

As you can see, our Whole Garden view is getting greener, little by little. It helps that the tomato plants are sitting out getting some sun and wind. I almost over-winded them on Wednesday morning. They were looking a little battered by the time I took brought them back in.

The strawberry garden, unfortunately, is the one area that does not seem to be getting greener. Usually bareroot strawberries are pretty easy to grow, so the fact that we have lost about 80% of the plants is not stellar by any means. And it is probably mostly my fault plus the weather. (At home I can blame the rabbits!) When we planted, the soil was incredibly dry, so we worked really hard to get it moist. Then the temperatures were bouncing around and fairly cold overnight. Then I tended to hit the strawberries with water every time I watered the areas we planted seeds. The top inch of the soil dries out quickly and usually needs to be moistened frequently. Strawberries with 4-6″ of roots – not so much. And then it was cold. My guess, without sending in a sample for diagnosis, is that the majority of the plants succumbed to a root rot of some sort that thrives in cold, wet soils. So…we may be on to Plan B for the strawberry garden. I don’t even know what that is right now. I’m sure we’ll figure something out!

The ‘Bloomsdale’ spinach in the MG Faves garden is looking great! At least it likes the cold weather.

And this is the ‘Sagar’ spinach from the Taste of India Garden. It doesn’t look very much like the other spinach, does it? I suspect that it may actually be some type of New Zealand spinach, or at least some significantly different plant that is called spinach in India. This is a good example of why it is a good idea to use (or at least include) the scientific names for plants, especially in a cross-cultural situation. It would be nice to know if it is a different species than we are used to for spinach. It would also have been nice to know before planting, as a New Zealand spinach has slightly different requirements. We could be lucky that we have such a good germination rate!

The ‘French Breakfast’ radishes are looking great and growing fast. It is always nice to have something that is growing well to look at!

Speaking of growing well, this Lacinato Kale that we transplanted in March is really starting to look nice. Now whether it looks tasty…I guess that might be in the eye of the eater!

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – April 4th

We’re going to get started with Friday PhotoEssays again, although I can’t promise you that I won’t still miss one or two until things really ramp up this spring. (If we were farther north, I would have to insert some joke about ramps. Here in Kansas, ramps…not really a thing. More about ramps.)

I really enjoyed doing the “Whole Garden” shots last year as a way to watch the garden grow. Right now you can see little flashes of green here and there, but mostly it is soil, drip lines, and stakes marking where we’ve planted. Let’s get closer to see what’s growing!

The ‘Bloomsdale’ spinach in the MG Faves garden came up last week, and I had almost completely given up on the ‘Sagar’ spinach in the Taste of India garden. I thought that either the compost was too “hot” and burned the seeds or we had let them get too dry. Then, on Tuesday, I noticed that there were a few seedlings just popping up. Now there are more. They are still much smaller than the ‘Bloomsdale.’ And here I didn’t think that growing an Indian spinach variety would be that different!

The strawberries we planted last Friday are already starting to put on a few new leaves. They don’t seem to mind the cold!

When we were working on Tuesday, I asked our MG Herb Guru about the horseradish, because I was pretty sure that now is when you typically harvest roots and then replant for spring. Our plant is one year old, so we weren’t expecting much. But, come to find out there were roots all the way through the 4×4 bed. These are all the little plants that we divided out after digging up roots.

Here’s the stack of roots we harvested. They aren’t as big or as fork-y as you sometimes envision, but for a first year, they look pretty good! I guess that counts as our first harvest for this year.

Have a great weekend!


Planting Strawberries

If you recall, one of the beds in the Demo Garden this year is designated for “annual” strawberries. That is perhaps a bit of a misnomer, because the plants themselves are still technically perennials. However, we are trying two varieties of day-neutral strawberries, which can produce strawberries all year long, regardless of day length. Traditional, June-bearing strawberries only produce once in the spring. For that reason, these varieties are often grown as annuals, particularly in commercial settings.

The first variety of berries arrived last Thursday, which we planted on Friday. The second variety arrived yesterday, so we planted those this morning.

Here’s the bundle of bareroot plants that got here on Thursday. Don’t those roots look healthy? Bareroot plants are still dormant or mostly dormant, which means that we have a little leeway in planting, but we really don’t want the roots to dry out. We stored the plants in the bag they were shipped in (partially open) in the refrigerator until planting.

When you are planting strawberries, the key is to plant them at the right depth. You want all the roots to be underground, but you can’t get the growing point below the soil level. That means that you have a very narrow margin of error for the correct depth. On this plant, the correct depth would be the darker brown area in the center, between the roots and where you can see green stems coming out the top.

The other important part about planting strawberries is that you can’t just bend the long roots in the bottom of the hole. We call that a “J” root planting. When your bareroot plants have lots of long, healthy roots, it is usually easier to trim a couple inches of the finer roots off the bottom. We trimmed our plants so they had about 5″ of roots. Much easier to plant at that point! Since the plants are still dormant, it doesn’t hurt them to have their roots trimmed.

For spacing the plants, we planted much closer than if we had been planting June-bearing strawberries. We planted a double row of each variety, about 10″ apart (4-5″ off the drip line). The plants in each row were planted approximately 12″ apart, and the rows were staggered, so there aren’t two plants directly across from each other. You can kind of see the tops peeking out in the pictures above.

Because we had just worked in a whole bunch of really nice compost, we didn’t fertilize at all. If you haven’t added compost, manure, or fertilizer recently when planting strawberries, a little bit of a starter fertilizer might be helpful in the planting holes.

Now it is just a matter of keeping things moist and waiting for the plants to take off and grow!