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!**

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Week 8: April 7, 2018

Brrrr! We experienced what seems to be the last breath of winter during our work day last Saturday. The high was about 50 degrees while we worked in our beds. It was so cold that there weren’t even any bugs out!

The cold didn’t ruin the happy mood, though, when some gardeners got to….(drumroll)…harvest their broccoli!! Fresh, home grown broccoli is THE BEST. And now our young gardeners get to take some home. Well done, friends!

 Week 8:

Like always, before we plant anything, the first thing we do is check on our current plants. One of the things we look for are any new sprouts – our beans from week 6 should all be sprouted by now – reseed if any haven’t popped up yet. Do we see any squash sprouts yet? It’s probably time to reseed if you still don’t see any sprouts after two weeks. Another thing we look for in the garden is WEEDS. Some people love weeding, some hate it – like it or not it’s got to be done. Weeds take precious nutrients away from the veggies that we work so hard to grow, so be sure take some time and make sure your garden beds are weed free.

Jumbo Jalapeño and Oriental Eggplant are the plants we added to our garden today. These guys are pretty straight forward to plant: make your hole deep enough for the plants to be level with the soil and then firm them in. We made sure that our plants were about 2 feet away from our cucumber and about 18 inches away from each other. Once we got them in the ground, we added cages for support. We also added stakes to help the little stems remain upright. We added our stakes at a 45 degree angle (just like we did the cucumbers) to make sure that they remain propped up while the stake doesn’t get tangled into the root system. The last thing we did was hand water the petunias and our new plants very well, and then fertilize all the plants with liquid Hasta-Gro. Easy peasy!

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**A very special thank you to Dana Drury for sharing her awesome pictures with us for our blog this week! **

Be sure to check back next week to see how our Fiesta tomato cage decorations turned out!

 

Week 7: March 31, 2018

Hi friends! Hope everyone had a great holiday if you celebrate Easter. We had a really sweet little egg hunt last week – kudos to our awesome volunteers for helping make the garden even more fun than it already is. Y’all, last week in the garden was awesome! Our seeds have sprouted, our tomatoes are flowering and the good (and bad) bugs are on the prowl!

^^Bean and Squash Sprouts!!^^

We saw plenty of ladybugs and lacewings (our garden insect friends) but also a bunch of harlequin bugs, cabbage loopers, cucumber beetles and leaf-footed bugs (the bad guys of the garden).

GOOD BUGS WE SAW IN THE GARDEN THIS WEEK

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You’ll recognize some fabulous ladybugs, and then the harder to spot lacewing and lacewing egg. (I couldn’t actually get any lacewings on camera, so I used the above picture of an adult lacewing from the TAMU website). Ladybugs are considered beneficial because they feast primarily on aphids, and sometimes other soft-bodied insects and caterpillars. Lacewings are considered beneficial because their larvae are raging carnivores and will eat soft-bodied, insects, mites, eggs, caterpillars – you get the idea. You’ll notice the egg in the picture is laid on a stalk that extends out from the plant – this is so the lacewing larva don’t eat each other when they emerge. (Kids, amiright?)

BAD BUGS WE SAW IN THE GARDEN THIS WEEK

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Gotta take the bad with the good, and so it goes for the garden. The slideshow above details pictures of all the bad guys we found in our garden this past weekend. Starting out the wanted list is the cabbage looper. These guys will eat holes in all your cole crops, so if you find the little green worms on the underside of your leaves, pick them off and squish them. Hand removing them is actually a fairly good way to control their population. Next up is the leaf footed bug (the one in the napkin pictured above). You’ll notice some of their legs have a leaf like formation on them – hence the name. These guys like potatoes and tomatoes. Next is the infamous cucumber beetle – the small green and yellow striped one. Again, their name says it all – these guys like cucumbers – but also squash, melons and pumpkins. Finally, rounding out our garden villains we’ve got the harlequin bug. This bug may look like a pseudo-ladybug but don’t fall for it. They’ll eat tons of crops that you might grow in your garden so definitely give these guys the boot.

Week 6

After checking up on our current plants – and looking for any sprouting seeds!! – we moved on to planting our ‘Sweet Slice’ Burpless Cucumber. Our garden beds have support trellises for the cucumbers to climb up – they’re vining plants and do well growing vertically. Before we planted, we scratched 1 cup of organic fertilizer into the middle and front of our trellis. Plant your cucumber 2 inches away from the middle of your trellis, plant it even with the soil line and then firm-in the soil in and around your plant. Finally, we put in a support stake at a 45 degree angle to help train the plant toward the trellis – we placed it on an angle so the part of the stake that’s in the dirt won’t get involved in the root system.

Take a look at our fertilizing/Spinosad schedule for this week:

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That’s all for now, friends! Be sure to check back in next week to see how our eggplant and and jumbo jalapeño planting went!

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.