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SNAP-Ed Garden Update

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.

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The green beans have sprouted, the tomatoes and peppers are growing bigger. We also experimented with branches, and made our own tomato cage!

Tomato Cage Y

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!

2018 Demo Garden Plans

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.

Whole Garden Overview

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Slide5Bed 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.

Slide6Bed 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.

Slide7The 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.

Slide8After 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?

Slide9Bed 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!

Slide10The accessible gardens will reprise some of the plants found in other areas of the garden, but with more confined growing conditions of the planters.

Slide11The barrel planters will include some greens, herbs, and radishes.

Slide12Last, 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.

Grocery Garden Harvest Report – July & August

How time flies when it’s summer and there’s lots of produce! It has been two whole months since I updated you on the harvests, yields, and value of the Grocery Garden bed.

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July: 

Venice Beans: 3.175 lbs @ $4.00 per lb = $12.70

Purple Dragon Carrots:7.85 bunches @ $3.00 per bunch = $23.55

Yellow Carrots: 7.5 bunches @ $3.00 per bunch = $22.50

Cylindra Beets: 4.5 bunches @ $3.00 per bunch = $13.50

Gold Beets: 0.3 bunches @ $3.00 per bunch = $0.90

Red Marble Onion: 0.99 lbs @ $1.50 per lb = $1.48

Bride Eggplant: 0.675 lb @ $5.99 per lb = $4.04

Esterina Cherry Tomato: 2.025 lbs @ $4.00 per lb = $8.10

July Total: $86.77

August: 

Bride Eggplant: 2.56 lbs @ $5.99 per lb = $15.34

Esterina Cherry Tomato: 5.25 lbs @ $4.00 per lb = $21.02

Escamillo Pepper: 14 peppers @ $1.25 per each = $17.50

Red Knight Pepper:3 peppers @ $1.25 per each = $3.75

Spaghetti Squash: 7.80 lbs @ $1.50 per lb = $11.70

August Total: $69.31

Year to Date Total: $276.28

As you can see, we’ve had some great yields on many things and decent yields on others. However, our total value continues to pile up. Over $275 from 100 sq. ft is pretty good! And we have been planting for fall, so there is more still to come.

Friday PhotoEssay – July 28, 2017

We have hit the main harvest season for summer vegetables, even though the spider mites are a severe trial to most of our plants. This seems to be a horrendous year for spider mites, and in a lot of respects, the best we can do is to just wait for cooler weather.

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From the surface, everything looks green and healthy yet, which is nice. You can also see that the Grocery Garden is half empty currently – after harvesting the remaining root vegetables, it is awaiting fall plantings, soon to come!

36087784501_3079efe80bI harvested about 35 tomatoes today, in large part because so many are cracking that we are trying to harvest before they get very ripe. These are nine different Cherokee Purple tomatoes at a range of stages of ripeness. The lower left tomato had fallen off the plant and is hopefully at mature green – meaning it will ripen off the vine eventually. I prefer to wait for color. The other two bottom tomatoes had also fallen off, but have just a tinge of pink. It’s hard to see in the picture due to the light, but they do have small pink streaks at the blossom end. The rest you can see the color change more easily.

36182041256_b9a1c3784dThe ‘Legend’ tomatoes had the most fruit today (17) off of only 3 plants (one plant has a weird virus or mutation and isn’t productive). They are mostly cracked, so still not great from that standpoint.

36182044166_ffe1e27624We are still seeing some rotting tomatoes too. This one is really frustrating, because one tomato started rotting, but we didn’t catch it and remove it. It then infected two more not-yet-ripe tomatoes that might have otherwise been okay. Ugh! Rotting tomatoes are the worst!

36010911962_a73f42f6c1We also harvested our ‘Himrod’ grapes this week. For the second year in a row, our vine has yielded very well, and the grapes taste great, even if they are much smaller than we are used to seeing in the grocery store.

35788277090_9c5c29a090Our melons are also starting to reach ripe stages too. When I checked the tendrils for browning on Tuesday, there were several that looked ready. We tried the ‘New Queen’ (orange), ‘Mini Love’ (red), and ‘Musketeer’ honeydew (white in the background). The orange melon was a tiny bit over-ripe. The red was perfect. The honeydew wasn’t very close to ready. I will say it was a bit of a shock to the system to have a seeded melon for a change! Yesterday I came across a ‘Maverick’ cantaloupe and one of the ‘Gold Crown’ watermelons (yellow rind, red flesh) that was ripe. We tried them too. The cantaloupe was okay but not spectacular. The watermelon was very good.

Have a great weekend! If you don’t have your own, go find some seasonal, local produce!

Friday PhotoEssay – July 14, 2017

Like many local gardens, our Demonstration Garden is seeing the onset of a wide range of insects, diseases, and weather-related challenges. On the surface though, it is beginning to look like a rather overgrown jungle of green.

35753095232_b67cbf5fc4With the tomatoes and vine crops throughout the garden, everything is starting to look a little crazy, and I’m afraid it will only get worse before it gets much better. Of course, on the surface, everything looks beautiful. But at closer inspection, it’s not quite as pretty.

35753076982_ce27e7cb2fWhile the cracked tomatoes are by no means an uncommon sight for the Kansas gardener, it can be downright frustrating when they are cracked to the point of mushy rottenness before they are remotely close to ripe. Not to mention disgusting when you stick your finger into a rotten spot while trying to pick what looks like a good tomato. That is what happened with these two Cherokee Purple tomatoes. The combination of watering, rain, heat, and variety has made these tomatoes mush before their time. Normally we recommend harvesting before full maturity to prevent the worst cracks, but that doesn’t work in this instance.

35922889015_c4d51fa281The beans are well on their way to being crispy due to spider mites. The mites seem to have gotten started a couple weeks ago, and the progression has been such that nothing seems to help. Normally we would recommend either a hard stream of water, neem oil, or horticultural oil as a treatment. However, with the heat and high population, it will probably be time to pull these plants out in the near future.

35922852285_939c99aebfA couple of the melon varieties have a few disease lesions on the leaves. It isn’t very severe at this point, probably because it has been relatively dry until last night. We haven’t opted to treat yet, partly because the plants are so large, but it is important to keep an eye on things like this, because it can spread quickly. In hindsight, it would have been smart to treat before last night’s rain.

35922871395_11255b89b5What sad looking onions, you say? Well, yes. But not really. The onions flopped over at the necks is an indication that the plants are done growing and the onions can be harvested. We pulled all the onions this week, some from the Grocery Garden and the rest from the Peruvian Garden.

35791372561_5a9633ab3aJust so you don’t think that all is death & destruction in our garden this week, here are some of the cucumbers we harvested. The dark green variety is Tyria, and English cucumber that had very small seeds and relatively thin skin. The white one is Lime Crisp, which was supposed to be more of a lime green color, but looks almost white. It was sweet, but had larger seeds.

35534633400_66d93f9fabFinally, the watermelons! We have several melons set and growing well. We bagged / nyloned all of them this week to ensure they can stay on the vine and keep growing well. Since we selected larger melons this year, they likely still have a few weeks of growing to do before harvest.

Have a great weekend!