Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP): Week 5 (March 19th, 2016)

It was a chilly morning (in the high 40s when we arrived), windy and wet, and we were as bundled up as the tomatoes. We started out by doing our normal weeding (very few), and checking our plants. This gardener is checking his potato plants for plant-eating insects:

s16w5.chillyMorning

Sure enough, found a few caterpillars to remove

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Remember how small the potato plants were just a couple of weeks back? They are healthy and growing fast:

s16w5.potatoes

With the cold, wind, and storms, there was bound to be some damaged plants and sure enough, the tiny begonias looked a bit weatherworn. Some were missing entirely. You can see a bedraggled survivor and the wet soil it is in:

s16w5.begonia

The rest of the plants, luckily, fared better.   If you’re following along, I bet you’re wondering how Bob the BHN 968 tomato is doing? I had a peek at Bob along with the other tomatoes in our section and I’m happy to report that, snug under their wrapping, they were all growing and flowering. Have a look at Bob yourself:

 

Bob the dwarf cherry surprise

The squash are starting to come up…most of the beds had between 1-4 seedlings showing. We’re going to wait another week to give some of the slowpoke seeds a chance to get going, then we will plant addition seed to replace any that have not sprouted. They might be planted a bit too deep (need a bit more time) or they might be duds and never come up. We’ll have a peek at them next time….right now they’ve only got their first two leaves (called cotyledons).

Today we planted ‘Little Ruby’ Alternanthera transplants, a Jalapeno pepper transplants, and Provider Bush bean seeds. This particular Alternanthera (try to say that three times fast!) is a Texas superstar and is a lovely reddish purple color—click here to read more about it. Each gardener planted three plugs in their beds…look at the healthy roots on this plug:

s16w5.alternanthera

You can see a couple of rows of the plugs in the background of that picture…isn’t the color lovely?

We also planted a Jalapeño pepper transplant by the ‘Yellow Banana’ and ‘Sweet Bell’ peppers we planted last week and carefully place a cage around it just like we did on the others.   Here’s a gardener with his healthy transplants from last week and this week :

s16w5.Peppers

Lastly, we planted Provider Bush beans. Bush green beans are one of my favorite vegetable plants to grow with kids (or in my own yard) because (1) they taste great and (2) it’s always fun to look for the beans when when we start harvesting…they blend in so well it’s like a game of hide and seek. Before the beans were given to the gardeners they were treated with an inoculant. Simply put, an inoculant contain a bacteria which help the plants absorb nitrogen, which results in better yields. Click here to read more about inoculants. If you haven’t already tried it, it’s good to know that a little inoculant goes a long way, so maybe you and your gardening friends can buy some together to share, especially if your green beans haven’t been producing well. Note that you treat the seeds before they are planted, and if you have old inoculant, be sure to check the expiration date, as the bacteria don’t live forever…most inoculant can be kept about a year.

Here’s a couple of pictures of our garden section at the end of the day:

As always, please check our agenda for detailed planting instructions and information about fertilizing.

See you soon!

Lyn

Lyn Komada, Bexar County Master Gardeners

Bonus pic!

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Shhhh, don’t tell anyone but there’s a tomato plant hiding in the asparagus patch, and a nice size plant too. See how it blends it?  You’d never know it was in there unless you looked.  Now, while I think it was a neat surprise—it blended in so well—it really should get removed so it won’t be competing with the asparagus for nutrients and water.  As Master Gardener Sandra told one of our gardeners earlier in the season ‘ A tomato seedling growing where you want to plant potatoes is a weed.’ Same with the tomato plant in our asparagus.  

 

Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP): Week 4 (March 12, 2016)

sp16w4.maintAs usual, we started with our routine checks: making sure our existing plants are healthy, checking for bugs, and weeding. It’s so much easier to remove smaller weeds than larger ones. Keeping the soil lightly raked where you haven’t planted keeps it from hardening so water/rain will drain better.

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Then we moved on to planting. We do a mixture of plants and seeds at the CVG, and this time we did both. We started out planting four bronze-leaved ‘Whopper’ begonias that will bloom with red flowers. These were baby plug size, meaning they were smaller than the usual transplants, so we needed to handle them very carefully.  Why plant flowers in a vegetable garden?  Flowers attract pollinators like bees, so the more flowers the better. Also, esthetically, it looks pretty.  Consider mixing a few flowers in your veggie beds, or a few veggies in your flower beds!

Do you like yellow squash? I really enjoy it sautéed with zucchini, onion, and garlic, and some spices—really nice over rice. Yellow squash was the next to be planted—4 seeds, spaced apart as directed in the agenda. Why do we grow a mix of seeds and plants. Well, it’s good for our gardeners to learn how to plant both, and some plants—like yellow squash—will grow very easily from seed. Our squash seeds were planted very shallow, with the points just under the soil level, and remaining so after watering.

Finally, we planted pepper transplants – ‘Yellow Banana’ and ‘Sweet Bell’ pepper varieties.   Have you noticed how much more expensive the colorful (red/yellow/orange/brown/purple/etc) bell peppers are compared with the green ones? That’s because the green ones are picked earlier, so less money is spent by the farmer in watering, fertilizing, and occupying space with the plants. All of the colorful ones were green at some point in their life. Left on the plant longer to develop color, they are also sweeter and have higher amounts of vitamins. So if you can, leave your bell peppers on long enough for them to change color and be fully mature! They taste fine in their green stage too.  Once planted, we put cages over our peppers to help support them as they grow and produce peppers.

Once again, our plantings were a great opportunity for our gardeners to use their math and measuring skills to make sure the plants are planted the right distance apart from each other and existing plantings, per the agenda instructions.

sp16w4.math2

It’s important to space plants the right distance apart. Too close, and they can have airflow issues that can lead to diseases like mildew. To far apart and space is wasted. Different plants have different spacing requirements. Whether you buy seeds or plants, there will be information telling you how to space the plants. (Our agenda also has spacing information for our garden, if you are following along. Yes, I know how difficult it is to thin out seeds (been there, done that) but you’ll have healthier plants and better produce if you do.

Here’s the weekly view of our garden (yes, we are still keeping our tomatoes wrapped up, but we do unwrap them each week to check each plant):

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See you next week!

Lyn

Lyn Komada, Bexar County Master Gardeners

A big thank you to Alexis Moreno, Bexar County Master Gardener intern, for taking the pictures for this post!

Bonus Picture… bet you never in a million years thought I’d pick a picture of an INSECT for my bonus picture. Alexis’s photo of this swallowtail butterfly caterpillar in the dill bed at the CVG was just too nice to pass up. Click here to read an interesting article from the Texas Butterfly Ranch about swallowtail butterflies and see a picture of the beauty this caterpillar will turn into. Enjoy!

sp16w4.caterpillar

Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP): Week 3 (March 5 , 2016)

Tycoon tomatoes! We uncovered our tomatoes to see how they were doing, and they look like a million dollars.

sp16w3.Tycoon

In most of the beds, the potatoes have started peeking out too:

sp16w3.potato

The cole crops also look like they’ve grown. By the way, years ago, when I first heard someone use the term ‘cole crops’ I thought they were saying ‘cold crops’. It sort of made sense to me, since these plants like cooler temperatures, but I found out quickly I’d heard it wrong. ‘Cole crops’ refers to plants in the mustard family. This spring, we are growing broccoli and cabbage, both of which are in the mustard family.

sp16w3.cole

Wait! Are those HOLES in that ‘Cheers’ cabbage on the bottom right? Let’s take a closer look at a cabbage plant:

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(Sigh) Yep. We checked our plants carefully for cabbage loopers, and you should start doing that too. On another plant, one of our gardeners found some eggs….no picture this time–they were dealt with very quickly–but let’s take a moment to review three common eggs you may find in your vegetable garden.

  • Cabbage loopers start out as tiny white eggs. Squish or otherwise dispose of these.
  • Ladybug eggs are yellow.  These are beneficial insects and will eat aphids, spider mites, etc; leave their eggs alone.
  • Lacewing eggs are white and each one is attached to the leaf via a stalk. These are also beneficial insects—they’ll also eat aphids, spider mites, etc – so leave these alone too.

I know you’re all disappointed that I don’t have any CVG bug pictures to share with you (smile), but the season is still early. We’ve had a warmer than usual winter, so I expect we will have lots of insect pictures to share as our season progresses. (Ick. I’ll try and keep them to an educational minimum. Sorry, entomologists. (smile))

We finished checking our existing plantings, and scratched up the soil where we had not planted yet, then went on to planting. This time our gardeners planted another tomato – BHN 968 ‘Dwarf Cherry Surprise’—and four ‘Moss Rose’ portulaca transplants. As usual, detailed planting and feeding instructions can be found in our agenda. I’d like to mention that, once again, we soaked the transplants until they stopped bubbling before planting.  Do you see the bubble in the pic below? (You can click on the picture to expand it, then use the Back arrow on your browser to get back here.)

sp16w3.bubbles

By the way, have you considered that planting can provide a real world example of where math skills are useful?   Here, our gardening trio is using a ruler to calculate even spacing for their 4 transplants:

sp16w3.gardenMath

The results look great; very neatly spaced out:

sp16w3.mossRose

By the end of the day, several of the moss rose had open flowers. They do well in dry, hot conditions so consider them for your own garden. I remember my mom used to grow them in our garden in Queens.

sp16w3.mossRoseCloseup

Here’s a view of our (also) neatly lined up tomato plants. The ones on the left are the Tycoon tomatoes, and on the right are the Dwarf Cherry Surprise that we planted today.

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At the end of the day, we fertilized with HastaGrow. Our gardeners were careful to get the plant food on the ground, carefully holding low-lying leaves out of the way.

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HastaGrow can be used as a foliar (leaf) fertilizer, but at a more diluted mixture so the leaves don’t get damaged. If you were to get any kind of nonfoliar fertilizer on leaves, best to rinse it off, preferably with rainwater.  Incidentally, have you noticed your houseplants might have a white coating on the leaves or soil? That’s the minerals in our tap water. Since our water has a lot of minerals in it, even when we hand water at CVG, we try not to get water on the leaves, for the same reason as the full strength fertilizer…the minerals can damage the leaves.

sp16w3.BobTheTomato

If you’ve seen the CVG or have been reading our agendas, you’ll know that we label our plants so we know what we planted where. Bob the Tomato has its variety and other info written on the other side of this label, but I do like this side. (smile) We’ll keep you updated on Bob’s progress in future posts.

At the end of the day it’s always important to clean your tools and put things away neatly:

sp16w3.cleaning

While we’re on the topic of putting things away neatly, here’s a tip:

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This is the part of our tool storage area where we keep the buckets the gardeners use to rinse their tools in. These tend to stick together and be difficult to separate. One of our brilliant volunteers came up with the idea to put a bamboo stick alongside each bucket when stacking them. This way it won’t get stuck in the bucket below. What a great idea!

Our garden, at the end of the day:

sp16w3.FinalPic

Bonus picture time!

sp16w3.allium

Do you remember the movie Alien? The scene where the alien jumps out of the guy’s chest? OK, so that’s what that picture reminded me of. This is an allium, not an alien, luckily, but the the flowers were just popping out.  Here’s what the opening flowerheads look like on the plant:

sp16w3.alliums

Occasionally I will let an onion, scallion, or other allium that I don’t plan on eating have a flowerhead just because they look neat.

Lyn

Lyn Komada, Bexar County Master Gardeners

Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP): Week 2 (February 27th , 2016)

Our cabbage transplants from last week looked good, and there was no sign of the potatoes yet (perfectly normal). After a small bit of weeding and light raking of the unplanted areas (to keep the soil from caking up), we planted two ‘Green Magic’ broccoli transplants over by the cabbages, and a ‘Tycoon’ tomato. Please refer to the agenda to see how much fertilizer we used this session, and where.

By the way, have you started planting your spring garden yet? It definitely isn’t too late…here’s a list of spring vegetables varieties that are perfect for our area, and when to plant them.

Before we planted the broccoli, we soaked the broccoli six pack in a bucket of water until it was saturated and had no more air bubbles rising to the surface. This is especially important to do if the peat pot and/or soil is dry.

s16w2.soak

Just like we did last week with the cabbage, we planted our broccoli slightly deeper than the soil line, covering the purple part of the stem. We made sure that our peat pots top edges were not exposed, or they would act like a wick, drawing moisture away from the soil inside. As a side note, why don’t we just remove the peat pots? Because there are roots already growing through them, and damaging the roots would stress the plants.

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On to planting the tomato plant! These were healthy plants in 1 gallon containers. Please see the agenda for very detailed planting instructions. Here’s a picture of one after it was planted.

s16w2.tomato

There are three things I would like to mention about the tomato plants. First, we use tomato cages, and very large ones….in past years, these plants have gotten 5’ or taller. Adequate support is critical to preventing branches from breaking under the weight of the tomatoes we will be harvesting.

Next, we build a soil berm or ring around the tomato plant, a little beyond the outermost leaves. You might be able to see it in the picture above. When we water, this berm will keep the water near the plant as it is being absorbed by the soil rather than letting it run off if the surface is uneven.

Lastly, we are using an N-sulate cover, clipped onto the tomato cages with binder clips or clothespins, to protect the young tomato plants this early in the season. We could still have cold or windy weather that could damage the young plants. This covering will protect the plant from wind damage, and maintain a warmer microclimate around the plant. And, as you can see from the picture below, it helps to have at least 2 people put the covering on, especially if it is a little windy. 😊

s16w2.windy

At the end of our time together, we shared some kale harvested from some kale beds at the CVG with our gardeners. This crinkly variety felt unexpectedly soft, to the gardeners and they though it was really neat.

s16w2.kale

Bonus picture time! This flowerhead almost looks like fireworks, doesn’t it? Know what it is?

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Dill!

Until next time,

Lyn

Lyn Komada, Bexar County Master Gardeners