Our tomato trials are looking very fortuitous at this point in the year. When we were planning this winter, we chose to try out some of the more recent All-America Selections tomato winners. These are varieties that have been tested all across the U.S. and have shown to perform reliably under a wide range of conditions.
We had already grown Chef’s Choice Orange a couple of times and found it to be a reliable producer with great flavor. (I have also grown it at home for a few more years and it has quickly become one that is an easy choice.)
With that experience, we are interested to see if other, new varieties in the Chef’s Choice line will be just a promising for Kansas. We chose to grow the Chef’s Choice Orange again as our “known” trial variety. To that, we have added the following varieties. (Links to the All-America Selections pages, with more variety details.)
Chef’s Choice Red – 8 oz fruit, prolific
Chef’s Choice Green – Green and yellow at maturity and citrus-y flavor common to green-when-ripe tomatoes.
Chef’s Choice Yellow – 10 oz. somewhat sweet fruit
Chef’s Choice Pink – 12-14 oz beefsteak with pink skin and flesh
We also chose two non-Chef’s Choice varieties to test in order to have a broader comparison.
Galahad – Red fruit with high disease resistance and purported crack resistance. (Crack resistance is a hot commodity in Kansas, so we are hoping for great things!)
Mountain Rouge – From the “Mountain” series, a 12-14 oz. pink beefsteak with high disease resistance.
Some Cherry Tomatoes:
In other areas of the garden, we also have some cherry tomatoes planted, and these are a little further outside the normal varieties.
Moonbeam – A pale yellow or white grape tomato that is supposed to have high yields and exceptional flavor.
Brad’s Atomic Grape – This multi-colored tomato has been all over social media for a couple years, but we have heard from some locals that it cracks horribly. So…we’re going to give it a try!
Blush – A yellow oblong cherry with red stripes and interior blush. We have tried others in this series in the past, all with bad cracking problems, so it will be interesting to see how this one performs.
If all goes well, we hope to have a bounty of tomatoes this year, as well as some great new varieties to recommend in our area.
It’s the first day of summer, and it feels like it! Like many of you, there are good and bad things happening in the garden due to the excessive rain and milder temperatures. Honestly…we kind of need this heat to push along some of our warm season plants.
It has been awhile since an update, but that doesn’t mean we have been MIA in that garden. As you can see, despite the weather challenges, the garden is planted, we have been harvesting, and things are going well. One benefit of the raised beds (and the drainage tiles underneath our garden!) is that no matter how much rain we have gotten, it drains away fairly quickly. So we are not seeing too much root damage from saturated soils.
The herbs & pollinators garden has been growing gangbusters, with absolutely huge bronze fennel, lush parsley, and several beautiful agastaches.
We once again have a SNAP-Ed garden, where we are highlighting the ability to use SNAP dollars to purchase garden plants. We track our expenses and the value of harvested crops. We also have to budget for every purchase, so there is often not money to purchase tomato cages or similar items. The gardeners built this homemade tomato cage for the two tomato plants. We will see if it fares better than last year’s homemade cage!
Corn is something new for us in the Demo Garden, simple because of the space requirements. We tried a Peruvian corn variety a couple years ago, but it didn’t grow. This corn is ‘Glass Gem’ popcorn. We are interested to see how it performs in the small area we have given it.
Lest you think all is well in the garden, we are starting to see a fair amount of early blight on the lower tomato leaves. We hadn’t mulched the garden until last week, which probably didn’t help prevent disease. Mostly this is a rain and humidity problem. Cultural controls would include mulching, caging or staking, and keeping the leaves dry. Fungicide options would include chlorothalonil and copper-based products. It is important to note that fungicides only prevent new leaves from becoming infected, NOT cure infected leaves.
The other thing that we are seeing right now are aphids all over the tomatoes. This is quite abnormal, but probably due to the cooler weather. The benefit of hotter weather is that it should help the tomatoes grow faster and slow down the aphids (which normally like cooler weather). The white specks are the molted husks of the aphids. The black and orange guy is a ladybug larvae that is happily feeding on the aphids. We are hoping that between the hotter weather and the ladybugs, we won’t need to treat for the aphids.
There is much more to see in our garden, so come on over at visit us sometime!
It is once again the time of year where we plan what will be featured in our Demonstration Garden for the season. As always, we have a great mix of tried-and-true vegetables and some new and interesting things. When it is cold and snowy, it is a lot of fun to think about what will be growing in the garden in just a few short weeks. We will be starting the first of our seeds next week and it is all downhill from there!
Below you will find maps for each of our raised garden beds. The maps show the overall theme or focus for each bed as well as the specific varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers we will have growing.
Our tomatoes are in Bed 1 this year. Because of how this raised bed is structured, we will have roma tomatoes in one end, early maturing varieties on the other end, and some more common “comparison” varieties in the middle. The roma tomato varieties are a mixture of hybrids and heirlooms, with different colors, sizes, and shapes. We chose the “early maturing” theme because everyone always likes to have the first tomatoes! The six varieties we chose also are a mix of hybrid and heirlooms, with maturity dates ranging from 54 to 65 days from transplanting.
Bed 2 will feature a mix of cool season vegetables that are planted both in spring and fall. The spring plantings feature leafy greens, peas, carrots, radishes, and kohlrabi. The fall plantings feature two new cauliflower varieties, beets, daikon radishes, lettuce, spinach, and carrots. Our plan is to put row covers over at least part of the fall plantings to extend the growing season and overwinter them.
The theme for Bed 3 is the “Kansas Backyard Garden.” The idea is to feature common vegetables grown in Kansas. Most of the varieties are not too far out there either. A couple things that I’m excited about though are the bush-type vine crops. We are trying both a new bush watermelon variety, ‘Cal Sweet Bush’ that has only 18″ long vines, and ‘Cherokee Bush’ pumpkin that has about a 4′ spread.
On the other hand, Bed 5 is a long way from Kansas! We are featuring vegetables that are indigenous to Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa. Researching this garden was an education, because we discovered that some of our common ornamentals were originally edible vegetables in Africa! Vegetables that you may be familiar with are eggplant, okra, kale, and peanuts. You may be less familiar with cowpeas, long beans (a type of cowpea), amaranth, cleome, celosia, and bambara beans.
You probably do know amaranth – but as pigweed. There are colored leaf varieties and varieties that have been cultivated for edible greens. Other varieties are grown for flowers and seeds. Cleome is a ornamental flower we know, but most of us haven’t eaten the foliage as a vegetable! Celosia is another common flower that you may have grown for color. But the leaves and young flowers can also be eaten as a vegetable.
Cowpeas, long beans, and bambara beans are all from the genus Vigna. Cowpeas you may recognize. The long beans are vining beans that produce 18″ long edible pods. Bambara beans are kind of like cowpeas…the peas look a lot like the cowpeas. But they are kind of like peanuts…the pods grow underground.
One of the best things about this garden theme is that these are all vegetables that thrive in hot climates, so we are excited to see how they do in Kansas!
For a second year, we have a bed that we are calling our “SNAP-Ed” bed. This bed is a demonstration of how to garden on a very small budget, using only seeds and plants that can be purchased from a store where it is possible to use the SNAP EBT (food stamp) benefits.
Also a reprise from last year is Bed 6. Agastache is the Herb of the Year featured at our Herb Day event on May 4th, so we kept this bed in the same location with several overwintering agastache varieties. The flowers and herbs are chosen for the attractiveness to butterflies and other pollinators.
Beds 8, 9, and 10 are all 4′ x 4′ beds. Bed 8 will feature ornamental gourds on a trellis. Bed 9 will feature sunflowers. Bed 10 will feature a popcorn variety called ‘Glass Gem.’
In the accessible garden area, we are featuring a “Salsa Garden” theme. In the tiered raised bed will be a roma tomato, herbs, and peppers. In the barrel planters will be a trailing tomato variety, more herbs, and some green onions.
Our containers around the garden will feature flowers this year, especially some new varieties of Pentas. We are excited for spring! What are you planning to plant this year?
Last week we had our first harvest of red saladbowl lettuce, spinach, and radishes, and finished off the harvest this week. We also planted some transplants including a variety of peppers, tomatoes, parsley, and basil; as well as seeds including green beans, zucchini, and cantaloupe.
The green beans have sprouted, the tomatoes and peppers are growing bigger. We also experimented with branches, and made our own tomato cage!
We made a tomato cage out of branches to show how inexpensive gardening can be if you were to reuse items that are commonly on hand, such as tree branches, tied with some twine at the top.
Like I said, in the past two weeks, we were able to harvest red saladbowl lettuce, spinach, and radishes. We took this harvest, weighed each item, and compared them to grocery store prices. Below is how much you would be paying at the grocery store for how much produce we’ve grown so far:
Radishes – 87 total – worth $23.09 at the grocery store
Spinach – 1 lb 4.8 oz – worth $3.13 at the grocery store
Red Salad Bowl Lettuce – 1 lb 7.5 oz – worth $14.10 at the grocery store
Year to Date: $40.32
One of our SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educators was able to use the spinach and red salad bowl lettuce tossed with the radishes and some added carrots for a tossed salad in one of her SNAP-Ed classes at Inter-Faith Ministries!
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.
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.
Bed 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.
Bed 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.
The 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.
After 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?
Bed 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!
The accessible gardens will reprise some of the plants found in other areas of the garden, but with more confined growing conditions of the planters.
The barrel planters will include some greens, herbs, and radishes.
Last, 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.