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.

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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!**

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.

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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.