Week 15: May 26, 2018

Hi friends!

Last week at the Children’s Vegetable Garden we started to think about the process of wrapping up the beds for the summer. (BOO!) As we all know – too well – the summer in San Antonio can be brutal for some types of plants – and humans! Our solution: put the beds to sleep for the summer. Research and common sense has shown us that our spring crop is generally done producing quality veggies by the time the serious heat rolls around, and leaving the plants longer than advised only invites bad bugs to come party. So, next week will be our last blog post for the spring garden.

Since the Week 15 agenda consisted of general maintenance in our beds, and most of the harvesting was done during Week 14, I thought this would be a perfect time for some fun  progression pictures:

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^^POTATOES^^

^^BROCCOLI^^

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^^CUCUMBER^^

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^^BUSH BEANS^^

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^^TOMATOES^^

That’s all we’ve got this week friends, be sure to check back in next week to see how our last meeting and work party went!!

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Week 14: May 19, 2018

Hi Friends! Last week was our CVG Picnic and Veggie Contest, and boy do we have some fun pics to show off. We had people from all over San Antonio come to volunteer their time to help judge, help cook out and help bring dishes for us all to share potluck style.

What a great volunteer turn out we had last week. Also, I think we should note (for those of you who are new to our blog) we have volunteers come help run each garden group weekly. In addition to volunteers on Saturdays, we also have a team of volunteers who come during the week to water the beds. Together, our volunteer team is absolutely essential to the success of the beds, and the garden would flounder without them. Take a look at our volunteer garden leaders with their respective groups:

Our gardeners worked all season to harvest that perfect veggie to enter into the vegetable contest. I should note that the Bexar County Master Gardener judges had very strict guidelines regarding judging the produce:

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As you can see, this contest was serious stuff for a new gardener to try to win. 😉

Are you ready to see our contest participants?? Here we go:

 

!!What an impressive showing!!

As we all know, it’s not always about winning. The knowledge each gardener gains from this program will stay with them for a long time. Making the connection between food and it’s source is such an essential lesson for young people to learn, and add the knowledge of how to actually grow food, and you’ve got a major game changer there. So, in the spirit of knowledge, each gardener was a winner, regardless of how their veggies looked. (And I mean that in the least cheesy way possible, because everyone who participated really, honestly does come out ahead.) BUT, just in case you were wondering, here are some of the entries that went through the very rigorous judging process ;):

AND THE WINNERS…..

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What a fun day for everyone, especially for those who competed. What’s better than beautiful weather, great food, green and growing gardens, and awesome company?

That’s all we’ve got for now, friends. Only two more weeks to go before we put our gardens to bed for the summer so, make sure to check back in next week to see how our plants did in the HEAT.

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**Special thanks to the Yaeger family, Dana Drury and Lou Kellogg for taking the best pictures and allowing me to share them on this blog**

Week 13: May 18, 2018

Hi friends! Man oh man, the harvesting that was done last week was incredible! All the hard work of planting, fertilizing, pest removal and watering has paid off BIG TIME. The amount of tomatoes, potatoes and beans I saw kids harvesting was seriously impressive.

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^^LOOK AT THOSE POTATOES^^

One young gardener told me that digging for those was just like digging for treasure – and I’d definitely agree.

 

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Y’all, for real, these gardeners have done a fantastic job this season and have the harvests to prove it. The squash was really coming in last week, and some people were able to take some home! IMG_1588 6

The garden pests are always sneaking around though. It’s important to always continue to the on the look out for detrimental insects. I know my garden had a lot of harlequin bugs this past week, and even though the Children’s Vegetable Garden does a great job of hand picking and treating organically, the bad bugs always find a way to show up here and there. Take a look at the cucumber beetles photobombing my picture of a beautiful squash blossom…IMG_1574 4

We’ve touched only a bit on our Junior Master Gardener lessons here on the blog. Basically, each week we have a local expert on various topics come talk to the group or give a demonstration. Last week we had a local Purple Martin expert, Mr. John Henry, come to the garden and talk about the local Purple Martin population. This was especially cool for the kids because he lowered their houses and showed us THE BABY BIRDS THAT JUST HATCHED. They were adorable and looked like tiny bald aliens and the kids went nuts over them. It was truly very cool to see.

Overall, the progress the gardeners have made and the amount they’ve learned is honestly very impressive, and they’ve really earned all the fresh veggies they get to take home.

That’s all we’ve got for now, friends. Make sure to check back next week to see who won the veggie contests at our CVG picnic and party!

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Week 12: May 5, 2018

 

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Hey friends! We had lots of stuff going on around the garden last weekend – thankfully it was a beautiful day to be outside! We’re still growing our veggies as big and healthy as we can for our annual CVG Picnic, where we’ll hold our CVG Vegetable Contest. This year it’s May 19th – just over a week to grow still!

In the meantime, we’re doing our best to keep the pests out, and really make these last few weeks count. Hand picking pests off our plants is a pretty easy and effective way to manage their populations, but at the end of our meeting, we still applied Organic Pyrethrum to our plants just to make sure. (These guys can be super sneaky.)

All the green (or flowering) and growing plants are all still looking great! Some beds might be ready to harvest their potatoes already and the tomatoes are coming along nicely.

 

My personal favorite, though, is the progress of our cucumbers:

 

^^How great do these look?!^^

Very impressive.

We also had a few other chores around the garden to take care of – the volunteers helped harvest the ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss Chard from the research bed, and some of our young gardeners helped by watering the raspberry beds, the strawberries and the hops. Others helped by cutting vines, adding compost to established beds and cleaning out the shed.

That’s all we’ve got for now, friends. Make sure to check back next week to see how much progress our cucumbers have made!

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**Special thanks to the Murphy and Yauger families for sharing their pictures**

Week 11: April 28, 2018

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Hi friends! Last week in the garden was another beautiful Saturday morning. There was no planting to do, but there were A LOT of garden chores to take care of. The first thing we had to address was all the BUGS.

Harlequin bugs.

Everywhere…IMG_1125

One of the first things our young gardeners had to do was make sure the broccoli plants were removed from the garden after harvesting. This is super important in our fight against the insect offenders. If unnecessary plants stems are left to grow in our beds, it simply provides a to breeding ground for the bad guys and makes it more difficult to control their population.

You can see in these beds where our gardeners took out what was left of their already harvested broccoli plants.

We took a look at our green and growing plants, too – we made sure to pinch off any tomato leaves that were touching the ground and attached our cucumber’s vining tendrils to the trellis.

Has anyone been harvesting their spearmint? Our ‘Yerba Buena’ spearmint is especially tasty in fresh tea, lemonade or even salads.

Bonus – the kiddos got to participate in a Junior Master Gardener exercise in team building: “Over and Under” TEAM building.

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Another important task we do each week is ensure each bed is weed free. I know, I know…weeding is boring, tedious and annoying – but essential. Weeds will gobble up all the fertilizer and leave your plants without proper nourishment. You can see a volunteer helping to tidy up a plot below – take a look at the other plots – all weed free.

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That’s all for now, friends. Be sure to check back next week to see how our young gardeners being prepping for the CVG Picnic and the veggie competition.

**Thank you to Dana Drury for sharing her photographs for this post**

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Week 10: April 21, 2017

Hey there, friends! Last week in the garden was wet and muddy, but FULL of fun surprises hiding in our garden beds. We found lots of brand new tomatoes on our plants, and most of our young gardeners had young cauliflower heads that needed to be tied up.

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Those tied up plants are our cauliflower plants! When the tiny cauliflower curd, or head, starts to emerge, it’s a good idea to tie up the leaves around it. This helps make sure that the cauliflower head is white (not yellow) and keeps all the growth snuggled up together so it grows in the nice, neat heads that we’re used to seeing at the store.

Although we didn’t have any planting on our agenda today, we *did* have lots of harvesting to do! Some lucky gardeners had broccoli, cauliflower AND tomatoes to take home. I know I’ve said this before, but there’s nothing better than fresh cauliflower and broccoli from the garden. My kiddos love to toss cauliflower and broccoli in olive oil, garlic and salt. We pop them in the oven to bake, and in no time we’ve got legit tasty roasted veggies.

If you’ve been to the Children’s Vegetable Garden recently, you’ve probably seen the gorgeous bed of ‘Mystic Spires Blue Salvia’.

These beauties are a more compact version of another salvia named ‘Indigo Spires’, but the ‘Mystic Spires’ are a bit shorter and they flower more freely during the growing season. This perennial is great because it’s tolerant of both heat and humidity, and it’s not bothered by pests or deer. These guys need full sun, and I’ve got pictures to prove it.

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The top pictures show the beds in full sun – gorgeous & full. The lower picture shows the ones planted under a big tree – skinny & sparse. They’ll be pretty either way, but put them in full sun and you’ll get the most for your money and (planting) labor. If you want to know more about this really cool plant, you can check them out on the Texas Superstar website.

Another fun sight to see was the Purple Martin house in all it’s glory. This little house has been bustling with activity the past few weekends. This particular Purple Martin house is impressive even without the birds. It’s so big, it’s got multiple floors and multiple wings (bird pun!). The actual Purple Martins are obviously the main attraction, and they’ve got a great set-up at the Children’s Vegetable Garden. IMG_7480 3

That’s all for this week, friends. Have a great Fiesta weekend, and make sure to check back in next week to see what other fun surprises we come across in the garden!

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Week 9: April 14, 2018

 

Viva Fiesta! It’s that time of year again in San Antonio – this time celebrating San Antonio’s 300th anniversary. In honor of Fiesta, we decorated our tomato cages with rainbow colored streamers – they look very lively!

While decorating their tomato cages, the young gardeners noticed something VERY EXCITING….baby tomatoes!!

These guys are tiny but mighty, and we can’t wait to see how much they’ve grown in one week. You’d be surprised how much progress and growth can take place over one week. Let’s take a look at one of the plants I think has made the most progress (and was also planted first – so that helps)…

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Our ‘Kennebec’ potatoes! Wow, they’ve really seen some growth. The first picture is shortly after we planted them on Feb 17th. The last picture is of the potato vines flowering last week. We’ll know they’re ready to harvest when the tops die back, and the skin on the potatoes becomes firm – or isn’t easy to scrape off.

Another plant that has made significant progress is our ‘Gold Star’ yellow squash – take a look:

^^One week after planting (3/31)^^                         ^^Now^^

It’ll be some time before we can actually harvest anything from this plant, but it’s looking good and growing quickly, so that is very promising.

Although we did not plant anything new in our beds this week, we did make sure to take care of the chores we do every week. The first thing we do is lay eyes on our plants. Take a look to see if there’s been any growth, if something’s been eating on the leaves, or if there’s any damage. Take a look at the gardeners showing off their jalapeño and eggplants:

We planted these pretty recently, so it’s no surprise that they haven’t grown too much – but there is DEFINITELY growing happening.

Did y’all know that the children’s vegetable garden has plots that are used for research? Theses specific beds are so fun to watch, and you never know what’s going to pop up next. We currently have a bed full of gorgeous ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard. I personally have had my eye on this bed because I happen to LOVE swiss chard. Like collards, their leaf size makes them a great alternative to tortillas/bread/buns (if you’re looking to replace those items in your meals).

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Another bed that I’m really excited about contains a nice, neat row of various strawberries, including gorgeous ‘Ruby Ann’ strawberries! These little guys will be SO FUN to watch grow. Some of them had a really pretty red flower that I had never seen on a strawberry plant before – all the strawberry plants I’ve ever seen had a white flower, so this was a first for me.

That’s all we’ve got for this week, friends! Make sure to check back in next week to learn a bit about ‘Mystic Spires Salvia’, and to check in our garden’s progress!

 

**Special thanks to the Murphy family for sharing their pictures for this post!**