Video Blog of the Garden in Early April

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Better Late Than Never…THE LIST!!!

2016PlantListsandCheatSheets

With my career change last year came a huge change in my priorities in life.  My job keeps me super busy, but also super happy.  Gardening and working in the greenhouse used to be my “escape” from the unhealthy stresses of my old job.  I now find myself in a much better state of mind at the end of the workday and do not have the need to decompress for hours on end with plants in my hands.  That being said….I still love to grow and still love to help people have amazing gardens, but things will be scaled back a bit for now.

I have  a great lineup of tomato and pepper plants this year and they are looking very good and ready to be transplanted in the next couple of weeks.  I will not be planting the huge numbers of each variety though. I’ll have a lot of plants for sale, but may run out of some types quickly.  It will be first come, first served again this year, so stop by early to have your best chance at getting the types of plants you really want to grow.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as I transition into my new awesome career.

My plant sale dates will be as follows:

April 16th:  GO NATIVE Event at the Discovery Center (FREE Native plants,  trees, seeds and landscaping advice)

April 23rd:   8-4

April 30th:  8-4

May 1st:    8-noon

May 7th:    8-4

May 8th:    8-noon

I am at 215 East 97th Street, KCMO.

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Fall Prep Work for Better Spring Gardening

If you’re like the vast majority of gardeners, by the end of Summer, you’re getting tired of the garden for the year.  The tomato plants are sad looking or dead, the squash bugs have devoured all of your plants, what the squash bugs didn’t eat the grasshoppers munched down or fungal diseases of every sort have obliterated most of your garden.  Maybe you’ve got a few pepper plants that are finally putting on ripe fruit or you’re eyeing the last of the green tomatoes and wondering when they’ll ripen.  Perhaps your sweet potato vines are covering everything in their path and you can’t wait to find those buried treasures in the next few weeks.  At any rate, most of us are not nearly excited about gardening as we were back in March when we could barely wait to get our hands in the soil.

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Despite all of the hardships of summer, the cooling weather is your signal to get back in there to finish the fight so that next year’s gardening can be that much easier and even more successful.  Hopefully some of you planted fall crops such as beets, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuces, turnips, and radishes.  If so, you’re one of the few brave souls still eating fresh veggies from your garden beds.  Even if you don’t have anything harvest-able, get out there and remove all of the dead plants and toss them in the compost pile.  Leaving the dead plants in the garden can encourage pests to over-winter in the debris and could contribute to the spread of plant diseases.

Add a healthy layer of compost to each bed and till it into the top few inches of soil.  This allows the nutrients in the compost to be fully available to your plants in the spring.  It also makes it much easier to plant next spring as the soil is ready to accept seeds or seedlings with little extra effort other than a gentle raking.  Many gardeners have delayed planting in the spring because they have to wait for their soil to dry out before working it…tilling in the fall while it is drier can definitely give you the edge next spring.

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It’s not too late to plant a few things now.  You can definitely plant garlic as this is the the peak time to get those cloves in the ground for a harvest next June.  You can also sow the seeds of lettuce and radishes, but be prepared to cover them in a few weeks when that first threat of frost looms.

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Now is a good time to reflect on this past gardening season.  Write a few notes about what worked and what didn’t do so well in your gardens this year.  Make a list of “Must Grows” for next year as those seed catalogs will be coming in the mail in just a couple of months.  Make a sketch of your garden or use one of the many garden planning websites or programs to help you get organized and be able to hit the soil running once winter starts to lose her icy grip on us next year!

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7th Annual Tomato Tasting Results and Pictures!

We pushed the envelope of ripeness this year, but managed to have 48 varieties ripe and ready to taste this morning.  It’s half of what we had last year, but with the crazy weather we’ve had, I was very grateful to have the diversity we had.  About 100 people joined us for our 7th Annual Tomato Tasting…many old friends and a lot of new faces as well!  We were very fortunate with a comfortable breeze which made it very nice to be outside this morning…the heat returned soon after we were finished so having the tasting in the mornings seems to be the best bet!

The Local  Pig did a great job as our hosts and they broke out big pans of smoked ham, pepperoni, and sausages for all to enjoy.  I saw a lot of our tasters taking home brown paper sacks full of locally produced meats.  I can’t thank Alex, Matt and their whole crew enough for all of the generosity and help during the past three years!

I took a few pictures of the tasting and stole some pics from tasters who posted on FB…thanks to the shutterbugs who captured some great moments!

funforthewholefamily meats tableoftomatoes tomatoesgalore

We also did our totally unscientific voting for the favorite tomato and we had some surprising results.  Sungold was toppled as one of the perennial winners!

Brad’s Blackheart 13
Carbon 12
Kiss the Sky 12
Green Moldova 10
Sungold 10
Cherokee purple 9
Mortgage Lifter 9
indigo Cherry Drop 8
Kosovo 7
Lucky Tiger 6
Purple Bumblebee 5
Purple Dream 5
Aunt Ruby’s German Green 4
Black Cherry 4
Pink Brandywine 4
Cherokee Green 3
German Johnson 3
Sun Lucky +Anna rossen x Sungold 3
Cherokee Gold 2
Juane Flamme 2
Missouir Pink Love Apple 2
Noir de Crimee 2
Sherry Gene 2
Solar Flare 2
Sunrise Bumblebee 2
Hege German Pink 2
Black Brandywine 1
Blush 1
Brandywine Sudduth 1
Carter’s 1
Dester’s Amish 1
Early Girl 1
Plan 9 From Outer Space 1
Stupice 1
Sun Lucky type Beef 1
Sun Lucky Indigo Red 1
Sunlucky x Sungold 1

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7th Annual KCTT Tomato Tasting F.A.Q.

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Last year’s Tomato Tasting was one for the record books with 100 varieties of tomatoes available for tasting!  This year….we’re definitely going to be much lower than that number.  The heavy rains and lack of sunshine in May and June have us a few weeks behind schedule.  Some varieties are ripening though and we’ll have a decent selection of varieties to taste for sure.

The tomato varieties are the star of the show, but the awesome meats The Local Pig breaks out and the scrumptious dishes everyone bring to share are reason alone to spend your Saturday morning in the east bottoms with us!

Please review the F.A.Q.’s below to help make your trip to the 6th KCTTTT a memorable success for all of us!

  • Where and when is the KCTTTT?  The tasting is from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 25th at the Local Pig (2618 Guinotte Ave, Kansas City, MO 64120)  Please click the link to get directions as it can be a bit difficult to find if you’re never been there before.
  • How much does it cost?  The KCTTTT has been and always will be a free event.
  • What should I bring?  Please bring labeled varieties of tomatoes if you can for people to enjoy.  We love tomato variety and want to have as many types of tomatoes to taste as possible!  Put your tomatoes in a brown paper lunch sack with the variety labeled on the sack.  Check them in with Jen at the registration table to get your tickets for the prize drawings.  Each variety you bring gets you one ticket for the drawing…bring as many varieties as you can for the best chances to win!

The big hit of every tomato tasting is the creative dishes people bring for others to sample.  Break out your favorite tomato dish  recipes and we look forward to devouring them!

Also,you might want to bring a lawn chair to sit in as seating will be very limited with the large crowd we are expecting.

  • I don’t have any tomatoes to bring this year, what else can I bring?  It’s ok if you don’t have tomatoes to bring, but we would appreciate it if you would bring along something to accompany the spread of food.  Fresh breads, cheeses, sweets, or anything else that you think people would enjoy will definitely be appreciated.
  • What else is there to do at the tomato tasting besides eat and eat and eat?  You will have the opportunity to vote for your 5 favorite tomato varieties, so be sure to bring a pen to write on your voting tickets.  If you’re a gardener, you might also want to bring a pad and paper to write down your favorite varieties so you can grow them in your garden in the future.  You will also be surrounded by like minded foodies and gardeners who are the friendliest people on the planet…I’m sure you’ll have plenty to talk about!  Also, make sure you make a trip inside The Local Pig to buy some of their fantastic sausages, bacon, steaks, and other amazing products!
  • How can I help with this event?  We are always looking for help setting up and taking down the event.  I will arrive around 7:30 in the morning to put down table cloths and start organizing the tables and tomatoes.  Jen will need one person to help with the registration.  Around 8:00 we’ll need a couple of people to help with slicing and labeling tomatoes to put on the tables.  If you would like to help out, please arrive early and we’ll put you to work!

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Growing Garlic

garlicGrowing garlic is very easy and very rewarding.   If you love cooking with garlic, you owe it to yourself to grow your own this fall.

Order your garlic in July and August to get the best varieties.  Due to the popularity of growing garlic, most growers sell out of their best types by the end of summer.  There are two types of garlic: Rocambole (stiff neck) is my personal favorite as the flavors are more complex and vivid.  The other type of garlic is the Soft Neck which is what you usually find in the grocery store.  The flavors of soft necks are pretty simple with less heat than stiff neck types.  You can also grow “Elephant Garlic” which is not truly a garlic, but rather a type of leek.

Garlic is best planted in early to mid-October.  Plant individual cloves about 3-4 inches apart and 1 inch deep.  Make sure you plant the cloves with the pointed side up and the root side down so they can grow properly.  Water them well and in a few weeks you will see the small tops of the plants poking above the soil.  They will only grow about an inch or so above the ground during the winter.  There is no need to cover them or protect them in any way as they are very cold tolerant.

garlicbed

The following March, you’ll want to sprinkle some balance fertilizer and/or corn gluten meal on them to feed the plants.  The corn gluten meal will help to keep the weeds down a bit as well.  Keep them weeded and watered once a week andwatch them grow all spring long.

scapes scapesfistful

In May, they will start to produce flowering stalks or “scapes.”  Cut these scapes off as soon as they appear an use them for some delicious dishes.  We like to roast them, saute them, or turn them into pesto.  Removing the scapes not only provides for lots of yummy meals, it allows the plant to put more  energy into making larger bulbs.

Depending on the weather, at some point in June the outside leaves will start to yellow signalling the time to harvest.  Gently pull the garlic at an angle out of the soil or use a garden fork or shovel to dig them out of the ground.  Garlic roots hang onto the soil tightly and it takes a bit of work to get them out of the ground.

Tie them in bundles, or braid them if you’re fancy like that and then hang them in an airy, warm, and shaded area like a garden shed or garage.  Let them cure and dry for a few weeks before removing the stalk and storing them in a dark and cool area such as your basement.

Eat about 2/3 of your harvested bulbs and save the other 1/3 to plant again in October.  You’ll have a supply of plenty of garlic all summer and winter and enough left to keep growing year after year after year!

garlic2

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Is it Gardening Season or Monsoon Season???

drowingingtomtoes

I saw somewhere that we have had some form of measurable rain every day except for three days during the month of May!  With wet conditions like this, you’ll need to do a few things to keep your plants healthy and happy.   Heavy rains leach a lot of nutrients out of the soil and also provide conditions that benefit disease growth.

Hopefully your gardens were designed to have decent drainage.  If you are seeing puddles that last more than an hour or so in your garden, you might consider raising that area up a few inches next year by adding more compost to raise the level of the soil or building a raised bed.  Plants that sit in standing water will not do well as the roots need air to breathe.

If your plants are draining well, you’re in good shape, but will likely need to fertilize your plants again to replace nutrients washed out by the heavy rains.  Hopefully you fertilized your plants with a balanced fertilizer like Tomato Tone when you planted.  You can now sprinkle a handful of the same fertilizer on the soil around the plant and gently scratch it into the soil.  You can also use other non-organic fertilizers, but make sure they are a balanced blend.  Avoid most Miracle Grow formulas as they tend to be very high in nitrogen and will cause your plant to grow very tall and leafy, but also cause it to not bear fruit.

I use a 20-20-20 water soluble fertilizer I inject into my drip irrigation system an have great results using this in small quantities.  Be careful not to use too much or you can burn your plants.  I have used a 10-10-10 granular fertilizer in the past and had great luck with it as well.

If these numbers don’t make any sense, click this link to learn more about what they mean.

Another problem we’re going to have from these wet conditions are plant diseases.  Septoria and Fusarium are two of the major problems we have here in Kansas City.  Copper based sprays are a good organic option for disease control.  Non-organic options are Daconil, Ortho Garden Disease Control, or Mancozeb.

No mater what you use to control or prevent disease, you need to apply them regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions and re-apply after heavy rains wash them away.  You will also need to be diligent in pruning any branches of your plants that show signs of diseases and make sure you prune the bottoms of your plants to allow for air circulation…check out my video for more details.

Hopefully this rainy period will end soon and we’ll get some warm sunshine to dry things out a bit and get us back on track to a bountiful gardening year!

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