Week 6: March 24, 2018

Hi friends! We’re 5 weeks in, and the plants are making great progress and our young gardeners are doing a great job caring for their beds! So far there are a LOT of broccoli heads that have emerged in the garden, as opposed to only one from Week 4! Take a look at the growth in only one week:

^^What a difference ONE week makes^^

Before we got started on any new plantings, we always start with a quick look over of our current plants. Take off any yellowed leaves from your cole crops, keep adding compost to the mound between your potato rows, pick off any tomato leaves that are touching the ground and make sure your tomato cages are secure (this will be really important as the tomatoes grow tall and need strong support).

Week 6:  This week we planted squash and beans – which happens to be 2/3rds of the famous Three Sisters companion planting practice. The third veggie is corn! Companion planting is when you plant mutually beneficial plants next to each other in the garden. This way the plants can help each other with things like pest control or increasing crop yields. The beans provide the plant trio (and subsequently soil) with nitrogen. The corn supports the vining beans, and the squash serves as a ground cover to help prevent weeds. Proper spacing is always important when planting your garden, but it’s especially important when planning a companion garden – we don’t want beneficial plants too close or too far away from each other.

Section 4 – AKA The Guardians of the Garden – worked hard getting all their bean seeds rows measured and spaced out properly for a successful garden. Here are the Guardians learning how to plant today’s seeds from their awesome section leader.

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‘Cosmos’ Bush Beans

We spaced out each seed 2-3 inches away from each other on top of the soil.  When it was time to add another row, we measured 8 inches from the first row. After all the rows were laid out, we carefully planted the seeds about an inch below the surface. Check it out:

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‘Gold Star’ Yellow Squash

We also direct seeded our squash – this time in the shape of a diamond instead of in rows. Again, spacing is important here. We measured and marked 20 inches away from our tomato plant for our first seed. Next, we measured and marked 12 inches high and low of seed #1. Finally, we measured 16 inches away from seed #1 to mark with a pole. Each squash seed gets planted at the marked position, just barely below the surface. Firm the seed into the ground, and then water. If any seeds come up during watering, gently plant them back into the ground.

That’s all we’ve got from today, y’all! Be sure to check back in next week!

If you are interested in learning more about vegetable gardening in Texas, or just simply wanting to add to your family library, check out The Texas Vegetable Book by Dr. Sam Cotner.

Week 5: March 17, 2018

Hi Friends! The Children’s Vegetable Garden is thriving right now in this wonderful spring weather! Of course we can’t give all the credit to Mother Nature – the garden wouldn’t look this incredible without the dedication and hard work of the gardeners and volunteers.  This past Saturday we were all very impressed when we saw what showed up over the previous week:

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^^Hello there, little broccoli!^^

That’s right friends, we’ve officially got broccoli. Our ‘Green Magic’ broccoli has started to produce tiny – but mighty – heads of broccoli. I can’t wait to see how much they’ve grown over this past week! This is a good opportunity to talk about damage done by caterpillars. You might notice that some of the leaves on this plant are missing pieces on the ends – it’s hard to tell by the picture if this was done by caterpillars or done by the gardener. Either way, once noticing the leaves, this young gardener carefully checked the backside of the leaves for caterpillar eggs. Next, the broken (or yellowed) leaves were removed. Finally, after all the garden chores were completed and right before leaving, the broccoli plants were drenched in Javelin/Bt worm killer.

If you follow this blog, then you probably already know that the first thing we do each week (before planting anything) is check in on our plants that we already have in our beds. Here are pictures of the gardeners and volunteers of Section 6 (the section we’re highlighting this week) checking in on their progress.

What are some things they’re looking for?

Like I mentioned before, the cole crops are being checked for yellowed leaves, leaves with holes, small yellow eggs or even (gasp!) live caterpillars (AH!). If any of these are evident on your cole crops, take a look above at the steps our gardener took to treat this. Are the root balls of the tomatoes showing? If so, add more soil to cover them back up. Check the tomato cages while you’re at it – the cages should be firmly secured and should not be shakey. Another chore the gardeners did was add more compost to the area between the potato rows. Here’s a look at the progression of one of our gardener’s potatoes (take notice of the compost hill):

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Week 5: This week we planted some pretty ‘Mixed Carpet’ petunias at the ends of our beds. It’s importing to be very careful when handling transplants – make sure to be especially gentle when moving the plants out of their containers and into the holes – any damage to their root system could harm the plant.

Pro Tip: When planting, be sure to plant these guys a little above the soil line – they’ll settle in pretty quickly. You definitely want to  leave them in their peat pots, BUT we don’t want the tops of the peat pots to show. Take a look at a bed in Section 6 during and after planting their petunias:

Did you know… Some weeks we have a Junior Master Gardener group activity. Last week’s activity was learning about the importance of effective communication – not just communication in the garden, but also everyday types of communication. Check out some of our gardeners listening intently…although some *may* have taken a minute to relax – gardening is hard work!:

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That’s all for now, friends! Make sure to check back next week to get updates about our current beds, and see how we did while planting squash and beans – FUN!

Psssst! Real fast, take a look at some visitors we had at the garden last Saturday.

Week 4: March 10, 2018

 

Hi friends! This past Saturday we really got a taste of what’s to come – our young gardeners and volunteers were sweating in the 93 degree heat. Fortunately it was only for a day, but it’s definitely foreshadowing what’s to come. YeeHaw!

The first thing we do each week is check on our plots and existing plants – how do they look? Is our plot level with no craters? If any plants need to be replaced or soil added to our plot, we do this before starting on our agenda items. One thing we did this week was to add a hill of nutrient rich compost in between our rows of existing potatoes. This chore is super easy and quick to complete. Take a look:

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Potatoes with compost mound

^^Look at all that new growth!!^^

Are there holes in our cabbages or broccoli leaves? If so, it might be the infamous cabbage looper.  Cabbage loopers appear initially as tiny white eggs, and then emerge as little green caterpillars. They may look adorable, but don’t buy it. Squish or otherwise dispose of these. We took some time at the end of our garden routine to apply Javelin/Bt Worm killer to any plants that had holes.

 

Week 4: This week we planted our tomato plants. Our awesome volunteer leaders first demonstrated the planting process for their respective sections. Section 8 is the lucky group to be highlighted here this week.

They sure had fun checking in on their existing plants and getting their tomatoes into the ground.

Each section has a mixture of varieties of tomato this season – Tycoon, Ruby Crush, and BHN 968 (aka Dwarf Cherry Surprise).

Our gardeners began by applying one cup of Medina organic granulated fertilizer to the spot they would be planting in. After digging a hole slightly wider than the container of the tomato plants, the kids dusted half a cup of rock phosphate over the tomato hole. The next step is ensuring that their planting’s root system is even with the soil grade, or even slightly higher. Make a berm around the plant that’s as wide as the plant leaves (or “as wide as the plant’s arms stick out” as I like to say). This berm will keep the water from running off.

Pro Tip – if the roots or root ball is visible after watering, it’s important to add more soil around the base of the plant.

Next, we put our heavy duty tomato cages in place. We like to use very large cages because in past years, our tomatoes have grown to be 5′ or even taller. It’s important to provide sufficient support to prevent the branches from breaking under the weight of the tomatoes. Finally, we put our covers over the tomato cages. We use an N-sulate cover to protect the baby plants from cold or wind. The cover can be clipped on with binder clips, and it must reach the ground.

Of course, don’t forget to fertilize the newly transplanted plants and all the “Green and Growing” plants with liquid fertilizer. We use Hasta-Gro starter mix each week.

Check out the step-by-step slideshow of some of our gardeners from Section 8 planting their tomatoes.

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That’s all for this week, friends. Check back in next week for updates from our workday this Saturday!

**Special thanks to Dana Drury for sharing some of her awesome pictures each week!**

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The Children’s Vegetable Garden after planting the tomatoes.

 

 

Children’s Vegetable Garden Week 3, March 3 (with a quick recap of weeks 1 and 2)

 

CVG blog picHi friends! Spring has arrived in San Antonio, and we’ve already begun planting in the Children’s Vegetable Garden. Our little gardeners were pretty excited to see sprouts peeking through the soil already! We’re a bit behind on updating the blog, so let’s run through a quick recap of weeks one & two before catching up to week three…

Week 1 (February 17): This was our first week together for the Spring season (yay!), and after a long winter (well, maybe not that long), we were all ready to get some plants in the ground. After going over a few garden related agenda items, the children got down to business. Before we planted, we lightly scratched fertilizer into the areas we’d be working in. To do this we lightly scratched granular fertilizer (we used Medina Growing Green Organic Fertilizer) to the soil with a hand cultivator. Next, we planted 1 row of 6 white Kennebec’ Irish potato pieces, 1 row of 6 red Pontiac’ Irish potato pieces and 2 Green Magic’ Broccoli transplants.

Potato planting: Dig two trenches – one trench for red and one for white potatoes. Make the trenches 18 to 24 inches apart, and 4 inches deep. After dusting the trench with half a cup of soft rock phosphate, plant each potato seed piece evenly spaced 6 inches apart. Fill in the trench, gently level the soil out, and water lightly.

Broccoli planting: Pre-soak the broccoli transplants in a bucket of water, filled  up to the lip of their rootball, until all the air bubbles come out. Plant these guys a little below the soil line, or as deep as the first set of leaves. Did your starts come in a peat pot? If so, none of the peat pot should be visible after planting and watering.

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IMG-0253Week 2: We started our workday by checking in on the progress of our plants from last week. After making sure our broccoli wasn’t leaning or our tubers weren’t showing, we started our agenda for this week by scratching fertilizer into the parts of our plots that we would be working in today. Next, we planted 2 ‘Cheers’ Head cabbage transplants and 2 ‘Snow Crown’ cauliflower transplants.

Like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are cole crops. Now, you might think that’s a typo and should say “COLD” crops, but nope, that’s not the case. The family these plants belong to is actually called cole crops.

Cabbage planting: It’s important to think about spacing with all plants – but cabbage will definitely spread out as it grows – so make sure to leave 18 inches between each plant.

Cauliflower planting: Like the broccoli from last week, presoak the cauliflower transplants in water until all the air bubbles come out.

blog 7Pro Tip:  At the end of each meeting we take some time and fertilize. We use Hasta-Gro , an organic fertilizer. Mix 1 oz. of Hasta-Gro with half of the water can, about 1 gallon of water . Each plot only needed a quarter bucket of mixed liquid fertilizer for their cabbage, cauliflower and last week’s broccoli. We made sure NOT to let any of the fertilizer get on the leaves, just on the soil around the plants. (If the fertilizer gets on the leaves, simply wash it off with water.)

The instructors then applied Spinosad, an organic pesticide, to the leaves of all the green, leafy plants. We diluted it at 2 oz. per 1 gallon of water and applied about 1 quart to all the veggies in each bed.


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Finally! We’re up to speed!

Week 3: We started this week by checking in on the progress of the our plants from last week. The gardeners were pretty excited to see green from their potatoes peeking out of the soil! Just two weeks after planting:

 

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Impressive, amiright??

Interested in some behind the scenes/insider information on how we keep our garden so successful? (lowers voice) *We separate the garden into sections, and assign “Section Leaders” to help guide each group of gardeners through the agenda each week.* This tactic makes it possible to ensure every section has suitable direction and supervision. We’ll highlight a section each week here. This week we’ll start with (drumroll)…Section 9!

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^^ Section 9 ^^

Like always we began by scratching granular fertilizer into the area of the beds that we would be working in today. This week we planted ‘Yerba Buena’ spearmint. The children’s garden actually already has a gorgeous raised bed of this tasty herb – take a look:

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Spearmint planting: The gardeners in Section 9 had a great time learning about how to properly plant spearmint from their section leaders. Make sure to dig a hole big enough for the transplant, and then firm the plant into the soil gently. Finally, water it a couple of times with a watering can. Pretty simple instructions for an awesome herb, I’d say! Check out Section 9 learning and planting their Yerba Buena spearmint:

That’s all for now, friends! Don’t forget to fertilize!

Make sure to tune in next week to stay updated with our Children’s Vegetable Garden, and get helpful tips for planting your own successful backyard garden.