Children’s Vegetable Garden (CVG): Week 13 (Nov 14, 2015)

Today was the long awaited Vegetable Contest and Picnic!

Today’s Master Gardener Judges were Numa Laiche, Don Crites, and John Opelia. They came out to share their expertise and wisdom on growing the perfect veggie.

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

Click here to read the what the judges were looking for.


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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.


A big Congratulations to our Grand Champion, Amelia Contreras. She won Grand Champion with the BHN 968 tomatoes. They were perfectly identical in shape and color and were exceptionally unique because they are all attached together. Now, that’s a true gardener!

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Click here to 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. It is always the best time of the season!

Children’s Vegetable Garden (CVG): Week 12 (Nov 7, 2015)

I don’t need to tell you that a front had come through on Saturday. Wow it was very windy! And grey!


But our intrepid gardeners showed up and harvested again. Keeping up with your garden is one of the things that makes our gardeners successful—kudos, gardeners!


Especially because it was a grey day so it was nice to see pops of colors from the flowers. The marigolds and the zinnias still look bright and a few green beans are still blooming. I spend a lot of time talking about our great veggies, but let’s visit with our flowers for a moment. Flowers mixed into a vegetable garden not only look pretty, but they attract pollinators like bees into the garden.

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I hope that you are deadheading flowers in your yard when they no longer look nice. Deadheading is not just about keeping the plants looking attractive. It also directs energy that most plants would be spending on the next phase (seed production) to producing more flowers instead, which is what we want. You might also want to cut a few flowers in their prime too….the gardener tending his zinnias in the picture above told us that his family likes to float a few blossoms in a bowl of water. Great idea! 🙂

Speaking of deadheading, we continue to put the spent blossoms and other green yard waste on our compost pile. Here’s a pic of the compost pile and a volunteer and his helper mixing some of the deadheaded flowers into the pile.


The tomatoes are still producing well. See the curled leaves of the plant in the picture (below) at the left? That is in a section of the garden that is subject to more crosswinds, and the tomatoes there had more curled leaves as it was cooler. That is a good example of an area –a microclimate— which has a different climate from the rest of the area. Your yard can have microclimates too, and it is important to consider this when you think about planting. For a nice short article on microclimates, read this article from the Cornell University.

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In addition to the tomatoes, this week we mainly picked radishes, bunching onions, a few greenbeans (most have already been picked), and the outermost leaves of our lettuce, leaving the plants to continue to produce.


When picking their bunching onions, our gardeners continued to carefully separate them and replant one back so it can start multiplying again.

Even though our harvest will be starting to slow down the garden is still producing and it is important to keep our plants as healthy possible so we will have the best yields we can. Remember to do those same things which we have been doing all season: keep an eye out for bugs, and keep the beds and plants clear of dead and dying leaves. Some insect pictures:

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On the left we have a cucumber beetle—we had them all over the place–squish these if you see them. On the right, a good insect, a bee. This bee was inside a cucumber flower, not moving very much, when we noticed it early in the cool morning. As it warmed up, the bee did too, and eventually left.

Here’s a picture of one of the huge barbeque rosemary plant in the CVG. It’s called that because the stems are very straight and strong, just right for skewers. If you have a spot for a hedge, consider a rosemary hedge! This variety grows about 4-6’ tall, but there are rosemary varieties that are shorter.


A final picture of the garden as we finish our day:


The bonus picture this time is of a head of cabbage. This coming Saturday is the gardener’s picnic and vegetable contest, and I expect we will have some lovely heads of cabbage and other vegetables shown at it.



Lyn Komada, Bexar County Master Gardeners

Children’s Vegetable Garden (CVG): Week 11 (Oct 31, 2015)

Children’s Vegetable Garden (CVG): Week 11 (Oct 31, 2015)

There wasn’t much weeding or plant maintenance, but we did check for weeds and bugs, and removed yellow/brown leaves or leaves that had overgrown their boundaries and were shading other plants too much. Then…we harvested. And harvested!

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And the harvesting was wonderful. Our gardeners harvested in a variety of containers…baskets…paper bags…boxes (lovely neatly wrapped tomatoes!)…even a (well cleaned out) kitty litter container. Having a LARGE maine coon cat myself, I can agree that those are very handy to reuse for all sorts of things!

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Our gardeners continued to weigh their produce.  A note here…the gardener who was weighing her cherry tomatoes in the picture below…that was her SECOND load…they would not all fit on the scale…she had over 13 pounds of tomatoes this week!

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Here’s a peek at some of the plants…kohlrabi, kale, cherry tomatoes, and cabbage. Don’t forget you can click on any of these pictures to enlarge them, then use the back arrow on your browser to return to this post. As we harvested the kohlrabi, we planted 3 radish seeds, in a triangle, in place of each kohlrabi that was removed.

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And let’s not forget the flowers…the zinnias looked especially cheerful at the ends of the beds:


A few more pics of some of the harvest from just one of the beds…

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Our gardeners should be proud of the work they did here during this season…showing up for 11 weeks to garden has really paid off!

For my usual final pic of the garden, I experimented with a panoramic pic from my iPhone (most of these pics are taken with a Canon SX700HS–small enough to clip on a backpack or belt, but takes fantastic pics.)


My bonus picture myself is of one of the experimental plots in the CVG…this one has kale in it this season. This particular garden area is one of my favorites…the neat rows of plants, good walking areas between the rows. Each season it changes depending on what is being tested out, but it reminds me of the old potagers, or kitchen gardens, which I have been reading about lately. Go ahead and google either of those terms and enjoy reading about them yourself.  Oh, and while I’m on the topic of reading–I’d like to point you to the Bexar County Extension website.  As Master Gardeners in Bexar County, we are certified horticultural volunteers for the Texas Agri-Life A&M Extension Service, and our local county extension website is a fantastic resource for information about a variety of topics including gardening, food science, pest management, and 4-H.



Lyn Komada, Bexar County Master Gardeners

Children’s Vegetable Garden (CVG): Week 9 (Oct 17, 2015)

The weather could not be better in the garden! The Green Growers started their day with an introduction from Sandra. She visited all our garden beds and assigned  the days replanting.


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Green Growers continued maintenance chores and found there was a growing aphid population on their cucumber leaves. Master Gardeners were assigned the task of carefully applying the wash to the cucumber plants. Sandra identified a rouge amaranth plant growing like wild in our section! Nathan added how easily it was for this plant to spread seeds with high winds and nearby plants. They can grow over 6 ft. tall!




We replanted Radish, Beet and Lettuce seeds. Since there are not many weeks left in our project this weekend was a great time to replant. The Children learned about separating the bunching onions and leaving one to start a new bunch! Maxi harvested a few tomatoes. There were a few Kholrabis that were ready to go! Sandra said that everything on the knolrabi is edible, “except the dirt!”.



Our Green Growers  continued harvesting today. Angel had 2 cucumbers that weighed over 3 lbs.! . The yield for our bush beans was no much but we are hopeful that next week will be recipe trading time!



Thank you Mary! She examined our sick cucumber plant in section 34. There may be a problem with how the plant was watered?  She took some pictures and looked for obvious holes where worms may have entered. Mary returned with a plan from David Rodriguez- CEA- Horticulturist for tExas A&M AGriLife Extension on how to rescue this one? No further watering was recommended and we will continue to watch.




Next, Green Growers gathered for a Bingo activity hosted by JMG. Children were given a tour of the succulent plants in the Botanical Garden. There was a bingo game using questions about these plants and many prizes!

Here is Miguel giving the garden a smile!


Our scarecrows are lined up and ready for Halloween!


After all these activities it was time to clean up!

The gardeners are preparing for a large number of visitors next week! Our flowers are blooming and here is a look at what they are going to see!

New Zinnia



Stephen Reyna, Bexar County Master Gardeners

Children’s Vegetable Garden (CVG): Week 7 (Oct 3, 2015)

Fall has is here! The Green Growers started their day with an introduction from Sandra. She distributed Radish and Lettuce seeds and gave a demonstration of row placement and soil preparation.



Green Growers continued maintenance chores and found  Lacewing eggs on their cucumber leaves. These will grow to be helpers in the garden she explained. Sandra said “Tomato Horn Worms are making their presence known in the garden”. She continued “We should look for them assiduously!”. Striped and spotted yellow beetles were promptly squished and all orange or red bugs were welcomed and talked to nicely..


Next, we planted Radish and Lettuce seeds. Since the garden is almost fully grown it is important to use the remaining space wisely. These seeds were not coated so they were easier than carrots to put in place. The soil was first watered, hand tilled and then staked. Here is Joshua getting ready to plant his radishes!


Our Green Growers harvested over 20 lbs. of cucumbers today! Natalie had over 3 lbs. herself. She and her father have been working hard to keep the garden happy! The parents have contributed so much to these activities this season it is wonderful to see the rewards.



Thank you Mary! She found a sick tomato plant in our section that has Tomato Horn Worm evidence. Sandra said “All of the time I’ve ever spent in the garden, I’ve only seen one Tomato Hornworm”. She added, “Of course he looked very fierce!” Mary advised to cut low hanging leaves especially the ones that touch the ground. Pruning and watering were recommended and we will continue to watch.


Next, Green Growers gathered for a Scarecrow making activity hosted by JMG. Children were given history about the origin of the scarecrow and invited to create one for their plot.


Here is Miguel and his father working on a holiday themed scarecrow!


Let’s look at it in the garden.. Wow it’s a Santa Scarecrow!


All of the children returned to gardening and placed their security guards at attention!

The garden was hopping, buzzing, crawling and alive with motion today!The weather could not have been better and all our vegetables and flowers were filled with color.




Stephen Reyna, Bexar County Master Gardeners

Children’s Vegetable Garden (CVG): Week 6 (Sept 26, 2015)

Our gardens continue to flourish…gardening in the morning is a great way to take advantage of the cooler time of the day.


When doing our maintenance chores we kept an eye out for cucumber beetles and cabbage loopers to squish, both of which were found in the gardens. Aphids too. We also pinched back any cucumber leaves that were touching the ground, to reduce the chances of a disease moving from the soil to the plant via those leaves.

We planted ‘Nelson’ Carrots this time, and we used pelleted seeds, meaning they are coated with a substance to make them more uniform in shape and easier to see. How many times have you tried to plant tiny, irregular seeds evenly in a row? Pelleted seeds make it easier to do that, both for the home and the commercial grower. One tip, though…they do get sticky if they get wet, so be sure to plant with your hands dry! Here’s a gardening team at work planting their carrots:


We continued to harvest cucumbers from our plants…don’t they look great!

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Uh, oh…what’s going on with that second plant? Let’s take a closer look….click on the picture below and take a close look where I’ve marked some red lines. (Then use your ‘Back’ arrow in your browser (if you’re using Internet Explorer)  to come back to this blog and continue reading.)


Yes, those red lines in the pic show where the vine was cut in two.  Unfortunately, when harvesting their cucumbers, the gardener snipped through the vine also, which is why part of the plant is wilted and dying. The good news is that not all of the plant was affected, so there will still be some cucumbers from this plant on other vine stems if it survives the major accidental pruning.

We also have some demonstration plots where plants are grown for seeds or research, and our gardeners, parents, and volunteers help with those two. Here is a group planting broccoli and kale. Many hands do make quick work of a task!

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The Junior Master Gardener (JMG) program is also under way at CVG, and today the activity involved making a ‘plant person’. Here’s the gardeners working on their projects:

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Let’s look at a finished one…in the first pic below, this gardener is showing us the troll he made, and will have fun trimming the grass ‘hair’ as it grows to adjust the hairstyle and make it trollish, The second pic is an example of what a finished plant person will look like when its hair grows in.

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As always, let’s have a look at our garden as we left it for the day


For our extra pic of the week: a scarecrow. The San Antonio Botanical Garden has their annual display of scarecrows make by different groups. Just for all you Buddy Holly fans, here’s a scarecrow  that is near the CVG: Buddy Crow, made by HEB2 in New Braunfels. Love those glasses!

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Lyn Komada, Bexar County Master Gardeners

Children’s Vegetable Garden (CVG): Week 5 (Sept 19, 2015)

Hi, everyone! This past weekend we continued planting. (So it isn’t too late for you to start either! Click on this link for a list of fall vegetables–and when to plant them–for our area.) Before we planted, though, our gardeners did their usual inspection of the existing plants for bad things (bugs and other damage) and good things (fruit!) happening in our garden. Yes, our cucumbers and tomatoes have started producing fruit. Botanically speaking, both cucumbers and tomatoes are considered fruit rather than vegetables. Basically, a fruit develops from the fertilized flower and contains seeds. It’s considered a vegetable if it is from other parts—roots (carrots), stems (celery), leaves (cabbage). I like this quote from Miles Kington: “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not using it in a fruit salad”.  (smile) Let’s have a look at some of our our plants…

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In the first pic above , you can see that the marigolds, ‘Cheers’ cabbage, ‘Snow Crown’ cauliflower, and ‘Sweet Slice’ cucumber look great. The second pic shows the ‘Provider’ bush beans growing equally well. The first picture below shows one of the cucumbers that was harvested…a bit larger than pickling size and just fine to pick. Picking ripe fruit regularly encourages the plant to produce more. The next picture is a group of bunching onions. If you remember, we planted two rows with 4 groups of 2 bulbs in each row. In the onion picture below, you can see that one of the bunches did not come up in the row on the left. What we did was pick the largest group of two and carefully separated the two bulbs and moved one to the empty spot.   Quick quiz….onions are a …fruit or vegetable? Vegetable—you are mainly eating the greens and the white stem.

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Let’s have a look at our young tomatoes….we have tons of flowers so I’m hoping for another great tomato harvest.


So, what did we plant this week? Have a look at some lovely six packs of kohlrabi:


Each of our gardeners planted 7 ‘Kolibri’ Purple Kohlrabi.

We also planted some seeds—20 ‘Babybeet’ beets and 20 ‘Santo’ cilantro. Pictures of planted seeds (bare ground) are not especially interesting, but I’ll have some pics of sprouted seeds next time.  As we’ve talked about in the past, it’s important not to plant the seeds too deeply.

Let’s have a look at our garden as we left it for the day…it’s neat to see how it changes from week to week.


For our extra pic of the week: a pinwheel! Consider using pinwheels as inexpensive and useful decorations for your vegetable garden. We have one at the end of each garden bed in our section so we know where our section starts and ends. Also, the movement and sparkle of the shiny pinwheels in the breeze may be a deterrent for birds and other pests…give it a try!


See you next week!


Lyn Komada, Bexar County Master Gardeners

Children’s Vegetable Garden Week 4 Sept 12th 2015

Welcome to Week 4 at the Children’s Vegetable Garden. We planted 2 ‘Snow Crown’ cauliflowers, 4 Orange Tishean marigolds/mari-mums and 4 ‘Dreamland’ mixed colored zinnias transplants today. But first, we did our daily chores.

  1. Tomato Plants- Push in any branches of the Tomato Plant into the cage to help give that support to the plant as it grows. Be sure to clip of any leaves that are touching the soil. If the leaves remain on the soil, they can potentially pick up diseases which will hurt the plant in the long run.

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2. Insect Patrol- Look around your cabbage and broccoli. If you see any cabbage loopers or eggs, gently smash them by rubbing your thumb across them.


Now to start, the kids scratched up the soil  to the areas where no plants have been planted yet to get it ready for the cauliflower transplant.


Then we measured out the area where the cauliflower would go. We used the irrigation on/off valve as a guideline. We measured 20” away from the inside center of the cabbage plants toward the cucumber trellis and spaced our plants 14 inches away from the top and bottom of the inside part of the plot as well as 12 -14 inches from each other as to be lined up with the cabbage plants.

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We were sure to thoroughly soak the 6 packs until all the air bubbles were removed before removing the transplants from the tray.  With this heat, it’s best to re-implement this old technique. Then we planted them( peat pot and all)  a  little below the soil line, as deep as the first set of leaves.  We finished this process by hand watering the plants in a couple of times and labeled our plants with ONE plant tag.

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On to the Marigolds! We planted them evenly spaced and planted on each side of the irrigation line and about 4 inches away from the top and bottom of the plot. Check out this pic of the Marigolds. We notice some adventitious roots growing and so we planted them deeper than the soil line to help promote the root growth.

Take a look at this beautiful local planting: AgriLife Sciences Marimums

‘Dreamland’ mixed colored zinnias: Fall Zinnias Named Texas Superstars
Wow, another plant!!!
We followed the same procedures as we did with the marigolds. But do not plant them deeper,just level with the soil line. They were planted at the very backside of the plot and starting 6-8 Inches in from inside board.


Next we watered for 10 to 15 minutes and then fertilized with Hasta Gro on all new transplants and old.

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For our Junior Master Gardener Class, we did a Fertilizer Rap and had a small discussion on Robins and their Life Cycle. We even put out a small fruit cup for the Robins to munch on later.


We did all that and even had time to wash our tools:)


(Following in Lyn’s foot steps) Just adding a cool pic of a Blue Winged Wasp. You can find some pretty interesting things in the garden:)


Week 1 of Children’s Vegetable Garden Fall 2015 Aug 22nd 2015

Children’s Vegetable Garden (CVG)- Week 1

The Fall Children’s Vegetable Garden started growing this past weekend!   As always, we’ve got a great group of eager young gardeners, some returning and some new to the program.

Look at those empty beds!  But if you look closer, there are tomatoes in their pots ready to be planted.


We started everyone out with soil preparation.  We cleared a few weeds and then we spread 8 cups of Lady Bug natural derived Alfalfa based Organic Fertilizer throughout the bed.  It is really important even if you, dear reader, have a BRAND NEW VEGGIE BED, to fertilize the soil.  Even the very first time you plant in it. ‘New’ soil is not generally pre-fertilized soil.  (I, ahem, learned that the hard way many years ago, with my first raised bed vegetable garden.  My harvest was really low that season.)

Remember to apply granular fertilizer by sprinkling it low to the ground so you get it where you want it, not where the wind wants it.  Then scratch it in lightly with a rake or hand cultivator, depending on the size of your bed. We do not disturb the soil deeply or till these beds…basically, doing that will create more work for you by disturbing deeply buried weed seeds which might germinate once they are closer or on top of the soil. This will create more weeding work for you and, personally, I’d rather keep weeding to a minimum.  I’m lazy like that.

Here’s a shot of our section discussing fertilizer, and you can see the rakes we used leaning up against the table.


Next our gardeners planted their tomato plants, one Tycoon and one BHN 968 Dwarf Cherry Surprise. When picking out transplants at the nursery, I prefer to pick ones with nice strong stems and no root mass outside the bottom of the pot.  Our plants were all very strong, healthy plants…you’ll see them in the next few pictures.

By the way, you can read the accompanying agenda, which is in another post, to see all the details on how we planted them–  including fertilizer amounts (and please do that—great info!) and it would be redundant to go into all of that here but some of the highlights were that we:

  • Dusted the hole with rock phosphate and mixed fertilizer with the soil we dug from the hole (see agenda for details).
  • Used the same soil we dug to fill the hole back in. Sometimes people will use a premium potting soil to fill the hole in, thinking it will give the plant a better start, but it is better to use the same soil you dug out when you plant in the ground otherwise the roots will have trouble making the transition from a lighter soil to a heavier soil and will not spread beyond the hole as easily.


Then our gardeners mulched, and created a berm (ridge) of mulch around the tomatoes, as in the picture above.  She is putting down 2-3” of mulch, keeping it away from the stem.
Then we watered….


We water by hand because it is water-wise to direct the water where it is needed, and it is a great way to settle the mulch down.

After a bit more fertilizer (Hasta-Gro this time), and a final watering, we checked our work; particularly making sure the tomato cages were well anchored (we used rebar in a candy-cane shape—you can see one in the front of the cage in the pic above).

Why do we use so much fertilizer?  Well, our granular fertilizer is a slow release one, and our liquid fertilizer is more immediate, so the combination of the two is great for the plants as they will have a steady amount of fertilizer at an important part of their growing cycle.  Also we do have a short growing season at the CVG program –  we will finish up in early December – so we also like to help things along as much as we can.  (Don’t overdo fertilizer recommendations, though…too much of a good thing really does apply to overenthusiastic fertilizing!)

At the end of the day, we had our first plants of the Fall season settled in their beds and all nicely lined up too!  Fantastic job, gardeners!


Talk to you next week…

Lyn Komada

Bexar County Master Gardeners

Ah, yes…my extra pic this week is a view from the garden…as a native New Yorker, I am still amazed by Texas skies, and you can also see the two gorgeous huge rosemary plantings in the perimeter beds.  Yep, they are taller than the fence.  An easy, decorative, and useful herb to consider for your yard.  Your local nursery will have a variety of selections for you to choose from.


Children’s Vegetable Garden – Week 14 & 15: The Harvest  (May 23 & 30)

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Weeks 14 and 15 in the Spring Children’s Vegetable Garden can be described in two words: rain, and harvest. We have been harvesting the last few weeks but these two weeks we REALLY harvested. And rain, well, we all know what the weather’s been like lately, hmmmm?  The nice thing about lots of rain is that the weeds pull up much easier than in a parched, dry soil. Of course, there are more weeds, too, but let’s see the glass as half full!

Over the last two weeks, we have done our normal maintenance: squishing bugs, picking up dead leaves, and removing weeds. It’s so important to keep up with this to ensure that the plants perform as well as possible.

It’s also important to maintain good airflow around the plants, to reduce the risk of diseases like powdery mildew.  Here we are attaching some stray ‘Diva’ cucumber vines that were running along the ground back onto their trellis with a little twine. The tendrils will grab on quickly once they are near the trellis.  Check out that great looking cucumber hidden among the leaves.


We had a great time digging up the remaining potatoes and removing the plants.  By the way, all the green material we remove goes on our compost pile. (More about that next time.)


We’ve dug up all our remaining onions.  See how nicely the ‘White Stream’ Lobularia at the end of the bed is doing, and how pretty the violet carpet petunias are.


The yellow squash are continuing to produce.  Next week, our gardeners may want to take some of the blossoms home and make fried squash blossoms.


The ‘Provider’ bush green beans were removed. They had stopped producing flowers so there would be no future beans, and the remaining beans were large enough to pick. We cut them off at ground level and held each one upside down, checking for remaining beans to make sure we got them all. The beans blend in so well with the stems and foliage that they can be hard to see.

The cherry tomato ‘BHN 968’ is still producing like mad, and the Tycoon tomatoes are blushing enough that we are picking those as well.


There was a fun Junior Master Gardener (JMG) activity on the 23rd…loofahs that were grown at the CVG were used to make decorative planters. Each Saturday there is always a neat educational activity going on at the CVG in addition to gardening. (P.S. Loofah are very easy to grow!)


We also do regular maintenance of the beds around the garden plots, and it was time to prune back the Chocolate Mint.  If any of you think you don’t have a green thumb, try growing mint. Here’s before and after pictures of the bed:


Yep, we had a WHEELBARROW full of mint when we were done.  Everyone who wanted some got to take some home.

As we finished up for the day, and our gardeners left, the garden quieted down and other visitors started appearing.  Grackles? What are they doing here?


Well, when we removed the potatoes, and cut down the beans, we disturbed the soil and raked it level. In doing so, we uncovered a few bugs. The grackles came to do us a favor and eat the bugs. You can see them carefully inspecting the soil in the second picture above.

So, as we left for the day, it’s starting to look a little empty with onions, beans, potatoes removed. There is still some production going on, but the heat is upon us and it is slowing down.


And for our last picture of the post, can you guess what this is?


Coriander!  If you are growing cilantro and let it go to seed, those seeds are the spice called coriander. Actually, in some places, the plant is called coriander also. There always seems to be multiple common names for plants, which is why it’s always a good idea to use the Latin name for a plant if you want to be really clear. (coriandrum sativum, in case you’re curious.) Besides, some of them are fun to say. J


Lyn Komada, Bexar County Master Gardeners