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Sneak Peak at our 2016 Demo Garden Plans

You may find it hard to believe that we jump right in to planning our Demonstration Garden the first week of the new year, but we do! This allows us plenty of time to plan, order seeds, start seeds, and get everything growing in the garden in a timely fashion.

Our Master Gardener Demonstration Garden committee met this past Tuesday to start the planning process and decide what the themes are going to be for our garden beds this year. We always have fun thinking about new things we could try growing.

Here is our overall garden plan for the 2016 garden:

2016 Garden Map

Bed 1: Peppers are the Herb of the Year, so we will be showcasing a wide variety of peppers this year. We will also do some leafy greens in the spring and fall in a “quilt block” pattern.

Bed 2: There are so many new purple vegetables, herbs, and other edibles that we thought it would be fun to do an all purple garden.

Bed 3: Tomatoes! We don’t know yet what we will showcase, just that there will be tomatoes.

Bed 4: We will be featuring some Oriental vegetables that can be grown successfully in Kansas – some common, others not so much.

Bed 5: Our popular herbs & pollinator flowers garden will be moved to Bed 5 for this year.

Bed 6: Root vegetables – some old favorites, but also possibly some less- common roots.

Bed 7: Grape vine and thymes

Bed 8: Perennial herbs

Bed 9: We thought it might be fun to try Hops in advance of 2019 when it is Herb of the Year.

Bed 10: Plants from the Zingiberaceae (Ginger) family, such as ginger, cardamom, galangal, turmeric, etc.

Accessible Garden/Containers: We are going to feature some of the new “compact” or container-type tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and more. We may also try out a new salad table design from our Hort Therapy committee and make a “pallet” garden like those that have been so popular on Pinterest and Facebook last year.

As you can see, we have some exciting things coming your way this summer, so stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks!

A Quick Tour of the MG Faves Garden

We haven’t done very many tours of individual garden beds this year, for some reason. I thought today seemed like a good day to take a look at the MG Faves Garden.

On the end of the garden, where the Yukon Gold potatoes resided earlier this year, we have a planting of ‘Rocdor’ yellow beans. They are generally looking pretty healthy and will probably start blooming in a couple weeks. Yum, fall beans!

Next to the ‘Rocdor’ beans is our fall planting of ‘Beananza’ beans. These were planted a couple weeks later, so they aren’t quite as far along. We had originally planned to try to keep the spring planting all year, but the spider mites just got too bad. So with that situation, we moved the ‘Beananza’ beans to this spot, where we would have other wise planted more root vegetables. Since this is the spot we just pulled beets and carrots out of, it wouldn’t have been ideal to go back in with more root veggies anyway.

The ‘Big Bertha’ bell pepper plants are huge, but they haven’t been very productive recently. They had a few peppers early in the summer, and all the remaining peppers are still pretty small. This isn’t uncommon with peppers, but my perception is that these plants are less productive than in other years we have grown this variety.

On the other side of the bed, we have two Cayenne pepper plants. They have been quite productive this summer. But then…it seems like hot peppers are always more productive than you wish they were!

Then we have the fall vegetable section, with a row of kohrabi (not pictured), and a row of healthy Watermelon Radishes. There will also be a row of lettuce or spinach planted in a couple weeks.

I didn’t take any pictures of the cucumbers on the trellis, because there isn’t much to see. I’m not sure why, but neither the ‘Sweet Burpless’ nor the ‘Straight Eight’ have been particularly productive. It may be the shading from other plants or something, but the plants aren’t huge and while we’ve gotten several cucumbers at a time, they aren’t spectacular. They do have a fair bit of anthracnose from earlier in the summer when it was rainy and cool, but I would have expected them to grow out of it by now.

We will probably pull them out and remove the trellis in a couple weeks to plant some fall salad greens.

The Jet Star has been reasonably productive, but again, not as productive as I think it should have been. In thinking about it and looking at the picture, I suspect that we should have used some fertilizer in the mid-summer after the first flush of fruit set. We put so much compost in during the spring, that I didn’t really think about it. However, the garden soil is pretty sandy and with all the rain and irrigation, these plants could be nitrogen starved. They do look a little bit yellow and peaked. At this point, I think that there’s not a lot of point in fertilizing, because I don’t know that it would get us anything. We’ll think about it!

The poor Cardinal basil! When we grew it 2 years ago, the plant was huge and gorgeous and full of blooms. This year I don’t think it has even considered blooming. I think this is a case of way too much shade from the nearby tomatoes and trellises. The plant looks generally healthy, just small. We have had more problems with shading this year than the last two years, it seems.

The sweet basil is sandwiched in between the Juliet tomato and the cucumber trellis. Can you see it there, stretching out? This basil also got shaded, but has just enough sun to encourage it to stretch. The ‘Juliet’ tomatoes have been fairly productive, as they do tend to be, although not quite as much as I would expect.

That’s what’s up in the MG Faves Garden! Is your garden starting to look tired too?

Handout from the Planting & Preserving Workshop

I usually try to post the handouts/presentations from all of my classes on the blog, and I realized that I never posted my presentation from the Planting & Preserving Workshop back in February.

Planning and Planting to Preserve (PDF)

I realized in looking through the slides that I didn’t really have any speaker’s notes included. If you have questions after looking through the slides, please feel free to leave a comment or send an email and I’ll try to help you out.

2014 Grow Good Food Workshop

Both beginning and advanced home food gardeners will find something to interest them at the 4th annual Grow Good Food Workshop. The workshop will be held on Saturday, March 22, 2014, from 9 am to 4 pm at the Sedgwick County Extension Education Center, 4-H Hall at 21st and Ridge Rd. in Wichita.

Cost of the class is $5 for all day. Register online at http://growgoodfood.eventbrite.com or call 316-660-0100.

The morning session of the workshop includes three classes on basic gardening topics. During the afternoon, attendees will have the choice between more advanced gardening topics and classes on preserving and cooking garden produce.

Morning Sessions

9 a.m. – Getting Started with a New Garden

10 a.m. – Choosing What to Plant

11 a.m. – Common Pests & Problems

Advanced Gardening

1 p.m. – Growing Heirlooms & Saving Seed

2 p.m. – Raised Bed Gardening

3 p.m. – Success with Squash & Vines

Cooking & Preserving

1 p.m. – Food Preservation 101

2 p.m. – Vegetables for Picky Eaters

3 p.m. – Equipment & Gadgets for Food Preservation

Register online at http://growgoodfood.eventbrite.com or call 316-660-0100. 

2014 Garden Plans: Bed 4 – A Taste of India

I told you it got crazier, didn’t I? That said, I’m really excited about this garden! I love trying new things, and although they could totally flop, it is what keeps the garden exciting.

Bed 4 (2)One of the best things about planning for this garden is that I really wanted us to use Indian varieties, not just vegetables that are used in Indian cooking. It’s one thing to say, “They eat cucumbers in India, so let’s just plant any old cucumber variety.” It’s something different to plant a variety from India. So, when I started researching before our committee meeting, I was ecstatic to find a seed company selling Indian varieties in the U.S. – Seeds of India! The vast majority of our plants and seeds will come from them.

Before we discuss the specific things we decided to plant, I thought it might be helpful for you to see a list of the vegetables, herbs, and spices that were under consideration:

Indian Vegetables (2)You can see how it might be possible to have an “Indian” garden that didn’t seem very Indian at all, if we weren’t careful. This is by no means a comprehensive list – there are a number of other things that I didn’t include on the list, in some cases because I wasn’t sure what they were or where to find the seeds. Here’s a good guide to Indian vegetables.

So, the things we did choose to plant:

Curry Leaf – this is a tropical plant (can’t handle temps below 55!). It is almost like the bay leaf of Indian cuisine. A lot of traditional curry recipes call for curry leaf, so I’m excited to try growing it as an annual.

Cumin – This plant grows a lot like dill, with the umbels of flowers (pink!) that then produce seeds.

‘Kesar’ Carrot – This carrot is red, high in lycopene, and the Days to Maturity was listed at 120 days. We decided to plant some of the ‘Samurai Red’ carrots (60 days) as well, just in case the ‘Kesar’ variety doesn’t make it through the hot summer. We may plant a second crop of carrots in the fall.

‘Dulhan’ pepper is shaped like a tomato and is supposed to taste like a sweet pepper but with a hint of heat.

‘Jwala’ is a hot pepper that is reputed to be the most popular hot pepper in India. It looks a lot like a cayenne pepper to me, but it’s hard to tell until you can compare side by side.

On the first trellis we will have edible gourds – one snake gourd and one bitter gourd (aka bitter melon).

‘King Cobra’ snake gourd is supposed to have long, white speckled fruit that look like snakes. The gourd is low in calories and can be cooked in a variety of ways.

‘Tagore’ bitter gourd (or bitter melon) is an Indian-type  gourd with a mild bitter flavor and more rounded tubercles, compared to some of the more pointed types.

For the cucumbers, we chose ‘Poona Kheera’ (aka Puneri) and ‘Sambar.’ Poona Kheera is a salad cucumber that is white when young and turns russetty brown as it gets bigger. It is supposed to thrive in hot, arid climates. (Watch us be cool and wet this year!) ‘Sambar’ is listed as a cooking type cucumber for use in curries and stews. It is yellow with brown blotches on the skin.

Underneath the two trellises, we will plant the ‘Sagar’ spinach and ‘Basanti’ mustard greens. I have no idea if they will be different in any way from other spinach and mustard greens, but we’ll find out!

Legumes are a staple of Indian food, and so we wanted to try growing some, even though we don’t have enough space to get a great yield. The ‘Black Kabouli’ chickpeas have black/dark purple seed coats, rather than the typical brown. Black hummus, anyone? Chickpeas typically like slightly cooler summers, so I don’t know how well they will do here. Cowpeas are a traditional Southern vegetable, although the Green cowpeas are an Indian variety. Cowpeas typically do fine here.

All told, this garden could be spectacular and exciting or a source of a lot of stress this summer!