Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP): Week 14 (May 21 , 2016)

 

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Abundance. Harvest. Drizzly rain. Some Bugs and Weeds. That pretty much sums up our day. While we are heavily into harvesting, we continue to debug and remove weeds, dead leaves, and tomato leaves touching the soil.   Today’s post is about the harvest.

We harvested our remaining potatoes, and on some of them we saw white bumps (see picture below).  These are swollen lenticles. Lenticles are pretty much the pores of the potato, and during wet weather may swell up. The potato is still perfectly edible, but may not last as long as potatoes without swollen lenticles. To read more about them, click here for an article from the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.

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The potato harvest was very good:

 

After we harvested the potatoes and removed the plants, our gardeners evened out the soil:

It looks neater and, more importantly, we don’t want water pooling in low spots where there are no plants to benefit from the water.

The tomatoes were also showing signs of getting a lot of water in a short amount of time: splitting. (This is also a sign of not enough water. Too.) The cherry tomatoes below are not smiling, they have split and healed.

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Can you eat a split tomato? Opinions are mixed. It does not affect the flavor any, so on a large tomato, you can just cut away the area that is split and use the rest. However, that split area, until it healed, was open to insects, mold, etc. It can be hard to cut away on a smaller tomato. To be safe, if you have a large harvest, you might want to compost the split cherry tomatoes. Having said that, I’ve eaten them and I’m still here. However, damaged tomatoes should not be used in canning.

Let’s enjoy some pictures of our gardeners harvesting and their harvest:

And let’s not forget the whopper begonias, which continue to look huge and amazing:

 

Stay dry,

Lyn

Lyn Komada, Bexar County Master Gardeners

Bonus Picture!

 

Need a lovely, quick growing vine that is covered in flowers? And that you can collect seed from and reseed in the spring? Consider the hyacinth bean, a long time favorite here in San Antonio. The only downside to it is the purple purple bean pods it produces are poisonous, so you’ll need to be careful if there are young children or pets who like to nibble on plants.

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Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP): Week 13 (May 14, 2016)

Finally! The picnic and Vegetable Contest is here!

Master Gardener Judges were John Opelia, Don Crites, and Numa Laiche all  came out to share their expertise and wisdom on growing the perfect veggie and to find a new Grand Champion for Spring 2016.

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The criteria, rules and guidelines were followed accordingly by each student to enter the contest.

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Click on this link to  read the what the judges were looking for.   Contest Guidelines spring 2016

Of course there were other garden chores to do like HARVESTING!! And what a harvest!

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Once all the entries were submitted, it was time for the judges to come in and rank the veggies according to color, size, and marketability.

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After much debate, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place ribbons were given out to each participant, and a Grand Champion was named.

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Congratulations to William Luna from Section 9 on his Grand Champion win with a BHN 968 Cherry Tomato, a Texas Superstar.

 

Click here see more pics of the garden and pics of all of our Junior Master Gardeners with their Certificates of Participation kindly taken by Bexar County Master Gardener, Lou Kellogg.

Thank you to everyone that came out and participated. Such a wonderful time 🙂

 

Thank you Lou Kellogg and Jennifer Sierra for providing such awesome pics for this blog post

Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP): Week 12 (May 7 , 2016)

Hi!  I have good news and bad news. The bad news … remember last blog post I mentioned that sometimes it is better to remove plants that are still producing but have a bug problem or disease that was affecting other plants? I wasn’t hoping to have an example quite so quickly, but our broccoli had to go. When we harvested the main broccoli head a couple of weeks ago, we left the plants in place because they will produce multiple side shoots to be harvested. Well, it was acting as a host for harlequin bugs which were spreading to the other plants. In the picture below you can see the insect damage as well as the side shoots. The dark spot in the center is where the central broccoli head was removed a couple of weeks ago. There’s also a harlequin beetle hiding in picture, mostly covered by a leaf.

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Let’s have a closer look at a harlequin bug:

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The gardeners disposed of all the bugs that they could find, harvested the developed side shoots, and removed the broccoli plants. Goodbye broccoli; we’ll miss you.

One of the garden beds also lost their cucumber: you can see it wilted in the pic below:

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This one was a bit of a puzzle. There were no immediate signs of bugs, disease, or anything traumatic enough to destroy the plant, so it was removed and several master gardeners looked it over.  Right above the ground, at the bottom of the stem, it had bent enough that while it had not snapped through, was damaged enough to kill the plant.

 

The good news: we harvested potatoes! You can tell when the potatoes are ready to harvest because the plant leaves will start to yellow or you may see potatoes if you gently move some of the surface soil away with your fingers. Here, two of our gardeners have discovered their first potato which they have carefully uncovered:

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Sometimes, potatoes will grow in unusual shapes. This gardener was happy to find one that looked like a duck!:

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Enjoy some more of our harvesting pictures:

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While we were harvesting our potatoes, we were happy to see several earthworms in the soil. Click here to read more about earthworms and why they are beneficial, and here if you are interested in growing your own earthworms.

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We also harvested at least one of the cabbages in each plot. Next week is our Vegetable Contest, Picnic, and Recognition Ceremony, and our gardeners are saving what will be their best produce for that.  In the picture below, the gardener has harvested a cabbage head and is removing the outer leaves.  These leaves are damaged from storms and bugs and he will add them to our compost pile.

The tomatoes continue to do well….we are picking the cherry tomatoes each week, and the larger Tycoon tomatoes continue to grow.

In the first pic below, the gardener is showing us how early we pick some of the cherry tomatoes…this one is getting lighter with a blush starting at the bottom. The second picture shows what happens if we leave them on to ripen more….birds or other animals will start to nibble on them…see the peck mark on the leftmost tomato?

Any picked tomatoes that still need to ripen a bit can be either left to ripen naturally, or placed in a paper bag with an apple, banana, or ripe tomato. These fruit release ethylene gas which speed up ripening.

I told you last time that you’d be surprised at the change in the beans over a week…have a look! The pile in the picture on the right all came from one garden bed, and there will be a lot more next week too.

Consider growing green beans in your own garden if you are not already…they easy to grow and the flavor and crispness of a just picked green bean is really good.  It’s also fun to try to find the beans…they blend in so well, it can take a couple of passes to find them all.  No matter how carefully you look, there’s always more to be found!

I could go on and on with harvest pictures, but I think you get the idea that we and our gardeners are very happy that their hard work has paid off with a great harvest. Everyone seemed to have the most fun with the potatoes, green beans, and cherry tomatoes, but sweet banana peppers, jalapeño peppers, and bell peppers also went home with our gardeners.

Before I close, I would like to mention that at the Junior Master Gardener activity, John Henry came and talked about Purple Martins. The kids were fascinated as he lowered one of the houses and even removed one of the nest boxes briefly let them have a peek inside at the young martins.

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Want a peek inside a nest box too? I took a picture to share with you:

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They were kept carefully shaded from the sun, and were only out for a short period of time.

Our end of day pictures:

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Until next time,

Lyn

Lyn Komada, Bexar County Master Gardeners

Bonus Picture:

Remember the corn picture I posted about 3 weeks back when it was about 1 ½ ft tall? Look at it now! I asked some of our gardening family members to stand with the corn so you could get an idea of the size:

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Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP): Week 11 (April 30th, 2016)

Rain, rain, go away…. you’re soaking our plants TOO much. Yep, too much rain can be as bad as not enough. If you’ve got clay soil at home and haven’t amended it much, it will get soaking wet and take a very long time to dry out. Leaves turn yellow or light green, start to look wilted and, under the soil, the roots are rotting. Of course, when it’s US that are overwatering, we can adjust that. But when it’s Mother Nature….we can’t control when and how much it rains. Our San Antonio weather is very challenging because we seem to go from very dry to very wet weather. Some of the practices we follow in the CVGP can help during rainy times:

  • Don’t plant too closely together, and prune back plants that are overshading/too close to eachother. Good air circulation will promote drying and reduce the risk of fungal and bacterial diseases. If you look at our agendas (click on the Agenda top near the top of this page) we provide info on how far apart we space our plants when we plant them. This info will also be on your seed packet or the information tag on your transplant.
  • Remove yellowed or brown (dead) leaves from the plant and the ground. Again, it reduces the disease risk.
  • If you’ve got caliche, heavy clay, or only a bit of soil before you hit rock, build a raised bed. The water will drain away from the plants (with the use of good soil.)
  • Amend clay soil to improve drainage. Click here for a short agriLIFE Extension article on soil preparation.  (One of the authors, Dr. Masnabi, taught a master gardener specialist class on vegetable gardening which I took. It was a great class!)
  • Absolutely no walking or stepping in the garden beds—this compacts the soil.
  • If you have a REALLY diseased or very buggy plant and it has not reacted to the appropriate treatment, be brave and yank it out. I know you don’t want to—especially if it’s about to bear–but it’s best for the rest of the plants.

Let’s have a look at how the plants are doing! This week, in our section of the CVGP, our gardeners have harvested cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, basil, and some banana peppers.

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s16w11.cherryTomatoesWe are picking the cherry tomatoes as soon as they blush pink to prevent the birds from getting to them. Because we are only here once a week, we pick a little earlier than we might in a home garden that we see daily. The squash, for example, will be HUGE (and full of seeds) if we leave them for another week. You can see some bug damage on the squash, but our gardeners are squishing any bugs they find and the plants are producing very well, like squash do. (If you’re growing them at home, bet you have a great crop too!)   Let’s take a closer look at a squash leaf, though…you can see the mottling that is caused by a virus spread by the beetles we’re busy squishing. It is not affecting the fruit at the moment; the plants are still very strong.  (You can click on these pics to see a slightly larger version.)

Some of the banana peppers are going home, and we continue to pinch back the basil to encourage it to grow and take the tops home too. They can be eaten or rooted in water to make a new plant.

The bell peppers are still small, the eggplant are flowering, and the jalapenos are still a bit too small to pick, as are the Tycoon tomatoes, which are doing really well:

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Some of the green bean plants have tiny beans, and they are flowering to produce more. Next week, you’ll be surprised at the beans.

By the way, as our gardeners pick up dead leaves, etc, they go into wheelbarrows or buckets. This one is full of leaves from harvesting broccoli or removing leaves that were shading other plants:

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They go into our compost pile:

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The blackberry patch, also is doing very nicely…the berries are just starting to get some color, and the netting is keeping the birds away. We’re growing Natchez, a thornless Texas Superstar variety. (If anyo of you are growing thorny blackberries, like me, you’ll appreciate a thornless variety!

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At the end of our day:

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(The short green area to the left of the tomato cage are the potatoes. Almost ready to start checking for potatoes…)

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(The green to the left of the cucumber trellis and the cole crops are the green bean patch, and that pop of red at the end are Whopper Begonias.)

Want to read all the instructions for what we did today?  Click here to read today’s agenda.

Until next time,

Lyn

Lyn Komada, Bexar County Master Gardeners

Bonus Picture:  The yucca in the Botanical Garden right by the CVG looks beautiful and, as  I was taking picture of it, a mockingbird landed on the tip of the tallest one.  Probably wishing he could get at those blackberries….

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