Tomato Contest

Tomato

A contest can be a lot of fun so we are challenging you to grow tomatoes, and we want to see pictures.  Take pictures of your first tomato of the season.  The person with the first outdoor tomato, not in a greenhouse will win a pack of heirloom tomato seeds. Send your photo with the date into ediblesanmarcos@gmail.com

There is another contest for the plant with the most tomatoes on it at one time, take photos.  Count the tomatoes, and take pictures we want to see how many you have on the plant at one time.  The deadline for the number of tomatoes will be Deadline is July 30.

At another point this summer we will do the biggest and best tasting tomatoes where we will have a judging downtown. So stay tuned.  As you can tell we are interested in your garden.  We want to get pictures and see how your garden is growing. Send in pictures so we can share your garden with others.

Recycle Your Pots For a Fundraiser

Recycle Pots

Edible San Marcos is working on a fundraiser and we can use your help.  We can use your old pots from vegetables and flowers.  This will help in two ways. First off it will keep them out of the landfill and second we will be reusing them.

If you want to wash them out first in a 10 percent bleach solution that would be wonderful.  If not that is fine too.

You can bring the pots to the monthly meeting or to the community garden.  Just email us first.   Or we can meet you at a coffee shop or at your house.  Just email us at ediblesanmarcos@gmail.com and let us know what would work for you.  If you are interested in helping us raise plants let us know.  You can be part of the fundraiser in other Ways too!

Seed to Table – Kale

Kale is a superfood packed with nutrition.  Vegans are very familiar  with it because it supplies great amounts of calcium, magnesium and b vitamins that they are lack from consuming dairy products.  Whole food vitamins are made with kale as the have a storehouse of nutrients ranging from Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. It is very complete on the amino acid scale as well.  In kale there are Isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from glucosinolates, these are healthy little guys that block cancer causing disease from attacking us.  It has been shown that kale has been an effective against 5 different types of cancer.  To read more about this follow this wonderful link.  One more amazing fact about kale is that it has the highest concentration of xanthophyll carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin out of all the vegetables.  That is great news for your eyes.  It is like sunscreen for kale and it helps protect your eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration.  Wow, just one more reason to eat kale!

History

Now, for a little history on our friendly healer.  It is said that kale was brought to Europe by around 600 BC by Celtic travelers. Kale was brought to the US by English settlers in the 17th century.   Kale is actually a descendant of wild cabbage, which is in the cruciferae family. You are fond of many other vegetables in this family such as brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, and kale. There are two species of kale; Brassica napus includes such kale as Siberian kale and Red  and White Russian kale and they are of the Pabularia group.  These kale are frilly and softer than the Brassica oleraceae group.  Those in the latter group include collards and Dinosaur kale. Dinosaur kale was discovered in italy in the late 19th century and has become very popular.  Kale is a cool weather crop. Kale tastes better in the winter because the cold nights turn the starch into sugar in the leaves making them sweet.  So when the nights start dipping down into the 40’s start running out and harvesting your kale and it will be sweet!    That is why collards or dinosaur kale form the group Brassica Oleraceae are grown in the south in the summer more palatable than kale of the Brassica napus group.

Let me interject one very important thing about harvesting greens of any kind.  This is the most important thing you will ever read, especially when it comes to harvesting greens in the summer.  you must harvest your greens early in the morning when it is cool.  I am sorry if you are not a morning person, I didn’t mean to ruin your day!  Let me explain why and it will make perfect sense.  There are bitter oils in the plants and they stay in they stems at night as the day progresses they go from the stems into the leaves of the plants.  This will turn your kale, chard , lettuce and other greens bitter more and more as the day goes on. So we go back to that age old phrase “the early bird catches the worm!” If you practice this you will find your greens much sweeter. It is like harvesting an entirely different plant!

Growing Conditions

Plant about 4 plants of kale for the average person. Kale likes a PH between  5.5-6.5   Kale is a very heavy feeder.  Make sure to incorporate a lot of compost and fertilizer before you plant kale, as it will be in the ground for a long time.  Make sure to put it in a spot where you don’t want to move it.  I once had kale in the ground for 5 1/2 years, they were wise old plants. It takes 5-10 days for kale to germinate at it’s optimal soil temperature of  70 to 75 degrees. Mid January and Mid August are going to be your direct seeding or seed starting times for kale.

We have two seasons here as kale does not like the heat.  It will limp along in the summer though.   Plant kale 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep, with a spacing of 12 to 18 inches apart. It is important to have room between plants so you have plenty of air circulation and do not get whiteflies in the fall. Keep the ground moist while you are waiting for the seeds to sprout.  Kale only takes about 60 days before it is ready to eat once it is planted. Companion Plants for kale are Dill, Garbanzo, Garlic, Hyssop, Onion, Marigold, Mint, Nasturtium, Sage, Pennyroyal, Wormwood, Thyme, Radish, Southernwood, Celery, Peppermint, Beets, and Chamomile.   Kale dislikes Mustard, Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant, Nightshades, Strawberries, and Pole Beans.

Make sure to give your kale a side dressing of compost or an organic fertilizer every month as it is a heavy feeder.  It will also benefit from seaweed tea once and awhile.  I strongly suggest giving your kale side dressing of  amendments with calcium and magnesium as they are heavy feeders and they will produce more and stay in the ground longer, hence the kale that I had that lasted 5 years. Here is a good break down of some amendments to help you.  Ellen at Garden-Ville will always be glad to help you if you are confused, just go in and talk to her. She is as sweet as pie!   A good source of magnesium and sulfur is Epsom Salts,  Greensand  supplies magnesium as well as potash, iron and 30 trace minerals and loosens clay soils, gypsum delivers calcium without raising the soil ph.

Insects and Diseases

These are the common insects and diseases that effect kale.  There are links to some of these  on our web site.

Diseases

Damping-Off Disease A soil-borne fungus that affects both seeds and young transplants.Do not keep the soil too wet when seedlings are young.

Downy Mildew A disease that is caused by a fungus Peronospora parasitica attacks both seedlings and mature plants.

Alternaria Leaf Spot This fungus is frequent during warm moist conditions and is caused by Alternaria species.

Black Rot is caused by a bacterium, Xanthomonas campestris pathovar campestris.

Black Leg is caused by the fungus, Phoma lingam.

Wirestem is caused by the fungus, Rhizoctonia solani.

Fusarium Yellows A fungus that causes the leaves to turn yellow and die.

Clubroot a fungus that attacks the root of the crops.

Bacterial Soft Rot Healthy plants are the first line of defense.  Many times the plants are stressed or either drought stricken.

Turnip Mosaic Virus(TuMV) a Potyvirus spread by aphids.

Cauliflower mosaic virus(CaMV) one of the Pararetroviruses.

Insects

Aphids follow our link

Cabbage Looper follow our link

Cutworm use Bt

Flea Beetles follow our link

Harlequin Bugs follow our link

Whiteflies follow our link

Seed Saving

To save seed you must isolate your kale 1/4 mile from any other members of the brassicas family. Tree lines, wood lots and buildings may be used to separate varieties. Harvest after the kale has flowered and the seed pods have dried and the seeds have become black. Be careful as the pods will shatter easily.

Cooking

Try kale raw in salads, braised, sautéed, boiled or steamed.

My favorite way to make kale is kale chips, I make them every week, sometimes twice a week because they are such a hit with my friends, click here for the recipe.

Kale Recipes uk, mariquita, kale

Carrots- Seed to Table

Carrots in my house are one of the essential ingredients to cooking anything good.  They are so versatile I seem to cook them in anything, even in eggs.  Yes, I did say eggs.  The next time you are cooking up an omelet, while cooking your green peppers, onions, tomatoes and garlic toss a few carrot slices thinly and you will be surprised at how the sweet flavor adds a yummy touch of splendor to your eggs.  Of course I am the kind of cook that throws in the pot whatever I have in the garden.  Could you imagine soup without carrots?  Of course it seems carrots are always in the garden, as we have two good growing seasons in Central Texas.  Carrots are also a great keeper in the fridge.  They also dehydrate, freeze and can well. So won’t you try growing some today.

Growing Conditions

Carrots love cool weather.  As a matter of fact they are one of the crops that you can throw in the ground as soon as it can be worked.  They only take about 65 to 75 days to mature depending on the variety that you plant. The optimal temperature for carrots is between 60 and 70 degrees.  Carrots prefer a Ph between 6.0 and 6.8. Carrots demand an ample amount of moisture.  If you do not supply them with an ample amount of moisture they will be woody.  On the other hand when the temperatures dip below 55 degrees for extended periods of time the carrots will turn pale in color and just get longer and skinnier.  You will notice the carrots at the farmers markets in the spring are paler in color as they have been in the ground over the winter!

Companion plants for carrots are radish, peas, sage, lettuce, onions, leeks, rosemary, wormwood, tomatoes, marigolds, and scorzonera.

Do not grow carrots near fruit or nut trees, grapes,dill and parsnips.

Planting your carrots along with radishes help to mark your carrots and suppress the weeds.

Try planting two or three rows and mulching it with newspaper and straw in between the rows to keep out the weeds.

You want to make sure that the area you are planting your carrots in is free of stones and debris or your carrots will end up forked or misshapen.  Carrots do not like heavy or clay soils.  If you have heavy or clay soils it is good to mix a good amount of compost in with the soil to lighten it up.  Carrots also grow well in raised beds.  Wherever you are growing these tasty morsels make sure to dig your beds deeply first so that the carrots will be able to reach down deep and grow deep roots, because after all that is what the carrot is!

Mix a low nitrogen fertilizer in with the soil before planting the seeds.  Always use a low nitrogen fertilizer or the roots of the carrots will develop fine little hairs. Plant the carrot seeds 1/4 inch deep, and about 2 inches apart and then use a watering can to water them in.  Keep the soil moist for the seeds to germinate.  Don’t loose heart, they may take 10 days or longer to germinate.  Fertilize again when the carrots are three to four inches and once again when the carrots are six to eight inches tall.

When the shoulders of the carrots become exposed cover them up with soil so they do not turn green.

When your carrots are mature loosen the soil with a digging fork so you do not break the roots.  The lift or pull them out.  Be careful not to leave them in them in the ground too long as there are many bugs that like to eat these tasty morsels just as much as you do! You can leave summer sown carrots in the ground longer if you remove them before it freezes.

History

Amazingly enough our first carrot was purple! And it originated in Afghanistan about 5000 years ago. In the 1500’s the mutant yellow carrots were bread to form the wonderful sweet orange carrots that we know today.  by the 1600’s carrots came to north america.

Varieties

There are five main varieties of carrots here in North America.  Of course there is species crossover, however I will cover the basics.

Nantes – Sweet and crisp 5-7 inch roots . Does not store well. Loose, sandy soil or raised beds. 55-70 days in spring; 60-75 in fall

Chantenay – Rich sweet flavor, stores well. broad shoulders and rounded tips.  clay soil or fertile loam. 55-70 days in spring; 70-110 in fall

Imperator -Slightly fibrous texture, long tapered roots with stocky shoulders, stores well. deep sandy loam. 55-100 days in spring, 80-110 in fall.

Danvers– Shorter and stockier, may have yellow core, stores well, good for juicing. Deep sandy loam. 55-100 days in spring, 80-110 in fall.

Baby & Miniature – Sweet roots are less than 5 inches long, round, cylindrical or tapered. Does not store well. 50-60 days in spring, 60-70 in fall.

Pests and Diseases

Leafhoppers plant feeding insects from the family Cicadellidae.

Wireworms – beneficial nematodes and garlic extract are your cures for these feisty little critters.

Carrot Rust Worm Larvae – Do not leave in the ground too long or the carrots will be exposed to carrot rust worm larvae. Use floating row covers.

Aster Yellow –A viral disease caused by insects, primarily the aster leafhopper. There is no cure for the aster yellows so destroy your plant if you have this disease.

Leaf Spot – A bacterial disease treat seeds at 122o F for 25 minutes.

Soft Rot – A bacterial disease that causes soft watery decay.

Root Knot Nematodes -Interplanting your carrots with a lot of marigolds will help prevent the attack from root know nematodes.  It also helps to add diatomaceous  earth to the soil and mix in well at planting time.

Cooking

Of course you have enjoyed carrots raw and enjoyed their sweet flavor.  For and extra special treat try juicing them, the drink is super sweet and delicious.  If you like it a little more savory, juice it with greens and add some tomatoes for added flavor.

Carrots are lovely sauteed, pickled, or steamed.  Refrigerator type pickles that are made out of carrots are very good as they are sweet and sour at the same time.

Mint

Well, it has been a long hard winter for us Texans, many of you have been away from your gardens during this unusually harsh season, but the hands of time never stop and thankfully Spring is imminent! What better time to talk about another beloved herb that is especially helpful in the garden during the cooler months? Mint is a very useful plant for many reasons, some you already know and some that you may not be aware of . In this issue we will explore the many uses for this rugged beauty, if you don’t already have it, you will want to get some in your garden stat!

The mint family has about 25 species and hundreds of varieties. Peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, apple mint, and ginger mint just to name a few.

Cultivation

In general, mints not only tolerate, but thrive in a wide range of conditions. They prefer moist, shaded areas, but will do fine in full sun and drier conditions as well. It really doesn’t get much easier than that! In fact, mint can be downright invasive so that many gardeners omit it from their gardens altogether. However, with a little care, you can enjoy a serious bounty of this special herb without sacrificing order and space for your other garden buddies. Mint grows from rhizomes and sends out runners underground as well as branches that root when they come into contact with soil. To Keep it under control, simply plant it in a bottomless pot and bury in the ground that way. Keep branches trimmed enough to keep them upright by harvesting regularly. When the pot gets overcrowded, dig it up, divide the plant, and give someone else the gift of mint!   For those of you who have empty space that you would like to have filled with hardy, fragrant, flowering beauty, mint is perfect! Mint repels mosquitos, so I suggest you pop some in the ground where there is thick ivy growing since mosquitos LOVE to hang out there.

Pests and Diseases

Mint can be vulnerable to grasshoppers, caterpillars, whiteflies and rust.

Culinary Uses

In the kitchen, mint is widely used in both sweet and savory dishes from ice cream to lamb, with veggies and fruits. It imparts an earthy richness that is both refreshing and delightfully aromatic in all applications from sauces to soups, beverages and desserts. I suggest growing several varieties as you will find exciting uses for them all. Not the least of which will be to flavor refreshing summer drinks like chocolate mojitos, pineapple mint juleps and of course, good ol’ peppermint iced tea!

Medicinal Uses

Mint is commonly used as a digestion aid to relieve everything from gas, to stimulate appetite, and to relieve nausea. The oils can be used as a topical analgesic to relieve pain and increase circulation. When combined with rosemary in vinegar, mint can be used to treat dandruff. And of course, it is your best bet for fighting off bad breath!

Companion Planting

Mint is a great companion herb for brassicas, especially cabbage, as it repels cabbage moths. It also helps improve the health of tomato plants. It also repels ants, flea beetles, rodents, and aphids. Simply place cuttings or dried leaves in affected areas of your home or garden. You can crush the leaves and rub on your skin to repel mosquitos too.