Winner of the 2015 Written Education Award at the Texas Master Gardener Conference

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Bexar County Master Gardeners would like to recognize Ms. Lyn Komada for all the hard work she has put into making this blog exceptionally great. It was because of her that the Bexar County Youth Gardens Blog received the 2015 Written Education Award at this summer’s Texas Master Gardener Conference. Thank you Lyn for your love and dedication to sharing the beautiful experiences at the Children’s Vegetable Garden at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens.

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Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP) 2016 Fall Registration NOW OPEN!!

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The Garden is proud to present one of the nation’s oldest youth gardening programs. Children ages 8-13 get their hands-on horticulture with the help of our partner organizations, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Bexar County Master Gardeners.

The Children’s Vegetable Garden Program at the San Antonio Botanical Garden is an opportunity for children to grow their own vegetables and ornamental plants with the help of instructors from the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Service and Bexar County Master Gardeners, as well as other volunteer organizations. Each child is allotted a 3.5’x28’ garden plot. Children will have fun growing different types of seeds, vegetables, and ornamental annual flowers. Children can also earn their Junior Master Gardener certification by participating in fun, hands-on activities each week after they have tended their garden. In order to gain the most from the learning experience and to help ensure successful growing, participants are required to attend all sessions (two absences are allowed). Families are welcome to share the gardening experience with their child. A parent or guardian must stay with their child.

Fee: Thanks to a generous donation from our friends at Milberger’s Landscaping and Nursery, the Spring Vegetable Garden Program will be $40 per child or $60 for two children to share a plot (non-refundable). Donations welcome. Ages 8-13.

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Click here to register!!

Questions? Please contact Timothy Roan at 210-536-1412 or troan@sabot.org

Date: Every Saturday from August 20th – Dec 3rd

Time: 8am to 12pm (or until classes and garden chores are done)

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Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP): Week 16 (June 4, 2016)

Week 16 was the final week of another successful spring Children’s Vegetable Garden season, just in time with the warmer temperatures arriving. It was a busy last day. Those of you with home vegetable gardens will still be harvesting for a few weeks, but we needed to remove the plants and clear the plots so they will be ready for the fall session. It was tough to remove a gorgeous Tycoon tomato plant or a banana pepper still producing, but everything was harvested before the plants were removed:

There was still a lot to harvest. Those of you with home gardens are still letting your plants produce, but we had to clear everything out since our program was ending. So our gardeners were busy harvesting and then removing the plants….

It was a true community garden effort, wheelbarrows going back and forth as we added the plant material to the compost pile.

The wheelbarrows got a LOT Of use today.

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The harvest was mainly tomatoes, peppers, japanese eggplant, and some very large cucumbers…

Last week I suggested googling recipes for cherry tomatoes.  This week it’s recipes for green tomatoes we need to google, and there are a lot of recipes to choose from.  They will not go to waste!

This family had an easy way to get their harvest to the car:

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Let’s have a peek inside their garden trolly:

Some of the gardeners opted to take their Alternanthera home with them, and from the lovely color, I can see why. The magenta color is on the underside of the leaves, the purple and green are the tops. This is a bit wilted from being dug up but should perk up once it is replanted.

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We also started adding mulch to some of the common areas of the garden…mentors, gardeners, family, *and* some volunteers from UTSA all worked together on this effort.

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All of our gardeners were asked to keep a garden journal of what they did. This gardener did a GREAT job with her journal, starting with a custom cover:

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She included including drawings and even the plot layout.

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Her mom printed out the agendas in reduced format to fit the sleeves of the small binder, and the gardener added her notes each session. (Remember you can click on any image to see it larger.)

At the end of the garden, beyond the fence but still in the Botanical Garden, is a HUGE fig tree. If you like figs and have room for one in your yard, they are very easy to grow and produce like crazy. Look at all the figs growing on this small section of the tree, some o them blending in with the leaves:

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If you want to grow one in a home setting I’d suggest perhaps not letting it get two stories high…it’s hard to harvest that way. There used to be one in my yard that previous owners had pruned so it was about 8’ high but about 10’ wide, so you could walk in among the branches and harvest. The taller branches could be pulled down to harvest, or a small stepstool used. One thing about figs though, is that you’ve got to stay on top of the harvest. If some of the figs end up on the ground for a bit ferment, you’ll have drunken grackles wobbling around your yard. (I speak from experience….)

So, what’s next? Signup for the next season – the Fall Children’s Vegetable Garden – has started and you can get info on that on this page at Botanical Gardens website. It reviews the program and at the bottom there is a link (the very last line) to click on to register. If you are planning a fall vegetable garden in your own backyard, you can get a list of recommended varieties for our area and when to plant them by clicking here.

In fact, you might want to look at ALL the lists on this page from our local Bexar County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension website and see other recommended plants for our area.

End of Day pictures… There are still plants in the test/common beds. Isn’t the color of this coleus gorgeous (first pic)? And the sage has been let to bloom all spring and lovely. I think I will get one from my local nursery to add to my flower garden.

The gardener’s beds are ready for the Fall CVGP…come join us!

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Regards,

Lyn

Lyn Komada,  Bexar County Master Gardeners

BONUS PICTURE:

If you’re very observant, there’s all sorts of things to see at the Botanical Gardens. Right beyond the back fence of the CVGP (next to the huge fig tree) there is a tree with tiny peaches on it, and a hungry squirrel. Then, up on the hill overlooking the CVGP, there is a bench to sit on, occupied for a bit by a…turkey? OK, maybe you didn’t have to be very observant to notice the turkey…he was pretty big!

 

 

 

Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP): Week 15 (May 28 , 2016)

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Tomatoes and critters…this picture unfortunately shows you why we pick our tomatoes when they are starting to blush. The good news is that because we do that, we have fewer half-eaten vegetables to throw out.

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Here’s an interesting photo…this is a closeup of 4 tomatoes that were put in a wheelbarrow intended for the compost pile. Can you guess what I want to talk about?These two tomatoes at the bottom have what is called catfacing: deformed, incurved areas which may include scarring. Although they are misshapen, this area can be cut around, and the rest of the tomato is edible. The other two, though, were composted. Click here for a good short article about tomato problems with some really good pictures from the University of Minnesota Extension.

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Not all misshapen veggies are problems, though. We thought this Japanese eggplant was rather cute and looked like a porpoise. Of course, that was after we’d harvested a large number of cherry tomatoes, so probably ANYTHING that wasn’t a cherry tomato would look cute. How many cherry tomatoes, you ask?  LOTS!

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Something to consider: we only have one cherry tomato plant per plot…think of that when you think about planting an entire tomato 6 pack in your yard…share some plants with friends!  By now, you are probably wondering what we are doing with all the cherry tomatoes we are picking.  We’re wondering the same thing.  An easy search on ‘cherry tomato recipes’ luckily provides a lot of options. There was one idea I saw on several sites that particularly liked: roasting them in the oven and freezing them for future use in other dishes or to make sauces. I like the flexibility of having oven roasted tomatoes in the freezer. If you are interested, the general idea of the recipe was to:

  • Toss washed and dried cherry tomatoes with a small amount of olive oil
  • Put them, single layer, on a baking pan (line with foil for easy cleanup later)
  • Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper
  • Bake (recipes I saw ranged from 350-400 degrees) until the tomatoes start to deflate but not burn (I saw times estimated from 20-45 min)
  • Freeze, single layer, in freezer bags, and use as needed.

Let’s have a look at the cucumbers and squash. Although our gardeners were keeping up with their harvesting, the growth rate with all the rain and the warm temperatures is nothing short of amazing. These cucumbers went from tiny to huge in a week:

And now, a lovely picture of powdery mildew on a squash leaf….

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Those are words not usually seen in the same sentence, but it is a nice clear one that lets you see that it really does look powdery. Seeing as it is so close to the end of the season for us, we removed the plant, but we could have removed the affected leaves and tried a fungicide if we wanted to try and save the plant. The tradeoff there is that it might spread to other plants the longer the infected plant remains. If you’d like to read some good squash Q&A, including how to treat powdery mildew, click here for a good article on our own Aggie Horticulture site.

Not all squash plants were having problems…this one has moved over into the walkway and has some squash ready to pick.

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Yes, we were very busy again this week with harvesting…

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The green bean plants were removed because they were no longer producing. It was much easier to find the remaining beans after the plants were cut at the base and removed from the plots: s16w15.harvesters2

Some harvest pictures to hopefully inspire you to consider a small vegetable garden, if you don’t have one:

Corn? OK, I snuck that picture in to see if you were still reading. Well, the gardeners aren’t growing corn in their plots, but there is a small area where corn is growing at the vegetable garden. This week, in fact, one of the chores was to dirt up the corn (mound up dirt around the base of the plants) which are getting top heavy as the ears of corn develop. Yes, there is a person in the picture below of our mini cornfield.

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Let’s have a quick look at how our non-vegetable plants are doing too…

The green and purple leaves of the Alternanthera look great together..the moss rose continues to bloom profusely (deadheading helps)…look at the size of those Whopper begonia flowers compared to my hand.. the artichokes that were left to flower are gorgeous.  Ummm…one of the plots had a mystery marigold come up and the section leads decided to leave it there. I’m glad they did…it’s been full of cheerful flowers.

If you read the summary of what we did today up in our top picture, you’ll notice that we are still doing the routine tasks of weeding, deadheading flowers, and hand watering where a little extra water is needed. I just didn’t start out the blog with it because I figured you’ve got that part memorized by now.  🙂

End of Day pictures…the beds are emptying out a little as we continue to remove the plants that are no longer producing.

Next week is our last week this season….

Talk to you then,

Lyn

Lyn Komada, Bexar County Master Gardeners

BONUS PICTURE!

This cactus is right across from us and the flowers were gorgeous. I will never have a garden large enough for all of the plants that I see and want to grow.

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Just in case you were thinking of looking for one too, keep in mind that it’s a bit too large for a windowsill:

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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.

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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