Category Archives: Coe Farm

Spring Garden 2011 – Synopsis

This is my spring garden wrap up for 2011.  It has been a fun spring with some booming successes, a few minor failures and a lot of weird and challenging weather.

The Big Winners:  The big winners this spring were the butter crunch lettuce, Cincinnati Market radishes and Colorado onions.  All three produced phenomenally providing many healthy meals.  Also, I harvested over three pounds of garden (snap) peas which was certainly more than I’d ever had before, due mainly to the large areas I planted with peas at TFF.

The Big Losers:  A couple of notable failures this year were several spring plantings that did not germinate.  They include habanero peppers that were sown indoors in heated beds – zero germination – and salsify (or oyster root) which was sowed outdoors and had a less than one percent germination rate.

Weather  We had both hot and cold extremes this spring.  A late cold snap crushed our hopes for apples and peaches but also helped us by quelling the early grasshopper hatch, according to my friends at Hillside Seed and Feed.  The biggest weather challenge was rain.  In May we got a total of 1.5″ at Turkey Foot Farm and at the beginning of June we were 5″ below average for the year.  Hot/cold, windy and mostly dry is the weather synopsis for spring farming 2011.  We were saved to some extent by 4.5 inches of rain that fell in the latter weeks of May.

Harvest  Despite the weird weather, the harvest was not bad.  The table below shows planting dates and harvest amounts.  The harvest amounts may be low estimates since not everything was weighted, but the numbers are a pretty good approximation.

Notes on Varieties

Collards:  these seeds were given to me by my Uncle Tub.  I think they were supposed to form heads but mine did not. However, they formed a lot of nice leaves.  I both transplanted from early indoor plantings and direct sowed.  The indoor plantings worked well and yielded the best.  In late June I harvested the remaining leaves and froze about a pound of them.   I left several of their “stumps” in the garden and as of July 1, they are beginning to leaf back out nicely.

Mustard:  I planted Red Giant from Morgan County Seeds.  I started them indoors and then moved them outside in late May or early April.  The variety lived up to its name, producing a large number or very big leaves and did not bolt until very late in the spring.  We had some early hot spells where the mustard would wilt terribly.  This is definitely a cool-weather, early-season crop.

A fresh garden salad featuring sugar snap peas. When peas are fresh, young and tender it is hard to bring yourself to cook them so a salad provides a good alternative.

Swiss Chard:  We planted Burpee Ruby Red variety.  Unlike mustard greens, chard thrives well in both cool and hot weather as do collard greens to a lesser extent.  As of July 1, our chard is still going strong with the earliest plantings giving us a second yield.

Spinach:  This year I again planted the Burpee Salad Fresh spinach.  The seed was at least two years old but germinated fine.  Yields were good but most was gone by early June due to hot spells and bolting.  I used up the seed and have now switched to a different variety that was suggested by my friends at Hillside Seed and Feed.

Arugula:  The variety was Oriental Greens from Morgan County Seeds.  I started these indoors and only planted three or four in the garden.  They are nice to have in salads mixed in with spinach/lettuce to provide some zest.  They are heat tolerant but bolt very early.  I find you can continue to harvest good leaves even as they bolt.

Radishes:  This year we planted three types of radishes.  Burpee Crimson Crisp Hybrid, along with two heirloom varieties from the Seed Savers Exchange – French Breakfast and Cincinnati Market.  The Burpee hybrids were the first to go in the ground and were ready in a remarkably short time – 28 days.  The heirloom varieties went in later and took a little longer to mature.  My new favorite variety is the Cincinnati Market.  This heirloom variety grows long like a carrot but has the traditional radish flavor.  It is much better than conventional globe radishes for slicing.  I made two big jars of refrigerator pickles with them.  After I ate the radishes, I made pickled hard-boiled eggs in the  remaining red brine – delicious.

Picked on May 25th, here are some garden fresh onions and Cincinnati Market radishes ready to cut up for a salad. These are my new favorite radishes.

 Salad Onions:  I planted the Colorado variety which I got from Hillside Seed and Feed.  They were a HUGE success, maturing quickly and growing very large.  We ate a lot of these in spring salads and continued harvesting them into the heat of the summer.

Butter Crunch Lettuce:  I’m uncertain of the specific variety, but I bought the seed at Hillside Seed and Feed.  This lettuce did terrific in our raised bed, producing lush delicious heads that made great salad.  We only had a short double row 2-3 feet long but it fed us salads for over a month.  We hated to see it go.

Garden Peas:  We planted several varieties – two were hybrids Burpee Sugar Snap and Shumway’s Experimetnal Lot 10-F-A.   We also planted an heirloom variety, Amish Snap Pea from SSE.  We had a pretty good harvest but did not put any by due to the fun of eating them fresh.

 Potatoes:  We planted three varieties of potatoes Kennebec, Bison and Yukon Gold.  The only ones harvested in the spring were the Kennebec and that was only a single vine.  These are delicious white potatoes that did fairly well at the Coe farm.  We’ll write more about this year’s potato harvest when all the results are in.

Garlic:  Last fall we planted two varieties of garlic, Georgia Fire and Ajo Rajo.  Both were mail-ordered from the Potato Patch.  We harvested 15 bulbs from the plants that made it to maturity.  Most were on the small side but some were rather large and all are delicious.  Both varieties did well.

Tomatoes:  I started a lot of tomatoes inside at the beginning of February.  We had one vine that produced two spring tomatoes.  The two tomatoes had set when the plants were still indoors.  The same plant now has a lot of green toms but the two early ones were clearly an anomaly.  The variety that set early was Shumway’s Experimental Lot 11-F-A.


Fall Garden Plans

The last of the Granex onions.

I keep digging potatoes at the Coe Farm and this is leaving some unused garden space.







 As I harvest my potatoes and onions, I leave empty spots in the raised beds.  Reluctant to leave ground fallow, I began thinking about a fall Garden.  Most sources say to count backwards from your first frost date to determine appropriate planting times for fall crops.  This raised the question of when our first frost occurs  I found a useful site where you can check first and last frosts by zip code: 

Here is the report for my zip code. 

“Each winter, on average, your risk of frost is from October 26 through April 12. 

Almost certainly, however, you will receive frost from November 13 through March 29. 

You are almost guaranteed that you will not get frost from April 26 through October 8. 

Your frost-free growing season is around 197 days.” 

Based on this frost report, I will count back from November 1.  Here is what I have planted so far: 

Early Butternut F1 Winter Squash – June 19 –  6 seeds-Coe, June 25 – 3 seeds – Coe, June 27 6 seeds – Derby.

Golden Acre Cabbage – June 30 – a short row in raised bed at Derby and planted a few in some starter pots for transplant later Derby. 

 Blue Lake Bush Beans – July 15 – 30 seeds at Derby in raised bed 2.

Chinese Michihili  – July 17 –  a short row at Derby in raised bed 1.

Ferry Morse Kentucky Blue Pole Beans – July 17 – 24 seeds.

Peaches are almost ready at Derby. These peaches are from a branch that broke from the load and the wind.

These are my first really nice tomatoes. The two biggest ones came from a volunteer plant that must have grown from seeds in my compost at Coe.

Eating Kansas

Nothing like new potatoes to usher in the summer garden harvest.  June 12 was the date for first potatoes at the Coe Farm this year.  They are the Bison variety from Ronniger’s and are considered an early potato.  They were planted on March 11, so they were harvested 90 days after planting.  Not bad.  They are a beautiful potato with red skin.  So far each plant is yielding about 1.3 lbs per plant.  That seems light but maybe it will improve for the later plants.  

Bison potatoes and onions fresh from the garden.

I used these potatoes to make creamed potatoes with onions.  This recipe involves boiling the potatoes with onions until done and then thickening with a mixture of flour and adding lots of pepper.   

Boiling up some potatoes and onions.

Creamed potatoes after thickening with flour.

 We ate these potatoes with burgers made from bison raised by our friend Jerry Schmidt along with a homegrown salad of arugula and radishes.  Here is a photo of our Kansas Grown Meal.  The Bison potatoes have a wonderful creamy texture and a nice mild earthy flavor.  I planted 1 lb of these seed potatoes so we will be eating them for a while.   

Bison burger, arugula salad and creamed potatoes - all Kansas grown.

Another good Kansas-grown farmer’s market staple is chicken from Phil’s Farm.  The next photo shows a Kansas Grown Meal, featuring one of Phil’s fryers that we baked.  Along with the fryer we had fried potatoes (Bison variety again) and a very nice curried squash dish.  The squash is a variety from Burpee called Burpee’s Sweet Gourmet Hybrid.  It is quite tasty and remains sweet and firm when fried.  

Kansas Grown Meal - baked chicken with Bison potatoes, Granex onions and Burpee Sweet Gourmet squash.

This is Trigger checking out what the humans are eating.

Grow baby grow… (or potatoes, potatoes, potatoes…)

A bed dominated by potatoes that used to have other stuff in it too - which has now been eclipsed by potatoes.

Days of rain followed by hot sunny days equals growing season in south central Kansas during June.  My garden has gone nuts.  The potatoes have become particularly unruly, crossing boundaries into areas planted with radishes, spinach and beans.  Here is a photo of a bed full of potatoes.  I’ve  been harvesting onions, radishes and the last of my spinach which had bolted in a failed effort stay above the potatoes.  On June 3, I went to visit a local nursery that my friend likes.  It is called “Treetop Nursery”.  It’s pretty nice and while I was there I happened to see sweet potato slips, so I bought four of them ($0.25 per slip).  I’ve never grown sweet potatoes.  Here is a photo of the slips.  

Sweet potatoe slips ready for planting.

 It was hard to find a place in the beds for even four slips, but I managed, and so far they are holding their own.  We’ll see what happens. 

 Other activities in the garden include, watching the okra, bush beans, and pole beans slowly succumb to rabbits.  The rabbits seem to eat these plants about as fast as they can grow, so beans and okra are not looking too hopeful this year.  Here is a list of plants that rabbits leave alone in my garden: 

 1)  Rabbits don’t eat potato vines. 

 2)  Rabbits seem to hate arugula. 

 3)  Rabbits will eat radishes, but not too much. 

 4)  Rabbits don’t eat onions but they do trample the tops. 

 5)  Rabbits (surprisingly) don’t bother my spinach or the few carrots I have. 

 6)  Squash – rabbits don’t seem to bother it. 

Here is a list of veggies in descending order of rabbit preference, starting with their most favorite:

 1)  Garden peas

 2)  Bush beans

 3)  Okra

 4) Pole beans

 5)  Spinach 

I will use these lists to help me decide what to plant at the Coe Farm next year.  It will be helpful since I am not there very much and the rabbits pretty much have the run of the place.

By the way I am submitting this post from Brussels where the weather is warm and sunny and the days are long with intermittent rain.  It gets light around 5:00 AM and dark about 10:00 PM.  Those are some long days for growing but I did not see any vegetable gardens while I walked around Brussels.  However, I did see lots of greenery including the nice garden pictured below which appeared to have some ornamental onions or garlic in it.   

Garden in Brussels near my hotel.

When I get back to Kansas, I look forward to harvesting potatoes, onions and squash.

Spinning Spring Salad

I’m not a big fan of Ron-Popeil-type gadetry, although I do understand that spray-on hair was a tremendous boon for  balding men in the 80’s.  Having said that, I will admit that I once purchased the Ron Popeil “set it and forget it” rotisserie cooker for three easy payments totalling twice as much as the same item was selling for at the local Best Buy store.  I used it three or four times and then sold it at a garage sale for about 1/4 the price that the same item was selling for at the local Best Buy store.  More recently, urban farmer gal introduced me to another novel kitchen gadget – the Salad Spinner.  I approached the salad spinner with skepticism and some scornful mirth.  I don’t think this plastic gadget came from the infamous Ronco, but it looks like it might have.  Despite its kitschy good looks, it works remarkably well.   Using it requires 5 easy steps:  1)  Wash and insert wet salad.  2) Attache lid.  3)  Spin by turning handle. 4)  Remove dry and fluffed up salad greens. 5)  Supplies are limited so order before midnight.

Wet Salad in Spinner

Assembled Salad Spinner.

Dry Salad in Salad Spinner


If you don’t have one of these, you should get one.  I’m going to see if I can buy a few of them and give them out as gifts.   I never thought I would appreciate dried lettuce so much!    

The garden is doing fine, though I have been so busy lately that I have not been to the garden for a few days.  Last time I was there, I picked the spinach shown in the photos above along with some radishes and onions.  These onions are called Granick and were planted around March 7. 

First onions of the year! They were delicious sliced and sauteed along with their tops in olive oil.

Tomato Race

The Coe Farm beds are all planted now.  Lots of things are coming up.  I just hope the rabbits show some mercy on the vulnerable young pole beans in this photo as well as other tender young plants.  I think I am all through planting at the moment except as needed to fill in where previous plantings are thin or to refill areas after harvesting.   The rest of this post is about tomatoes.    

This photo shows some pole beans I planted from seeds I bought at Lowes and some arugula that I planted from seeds I got from Morgan County Seeds. Both were planted on April 25.


I ended up planting 4 varieties of tomatoes.  Here is what I have:   

Bush Early Girl – Matures in 52 to 54 days ($2.98 at Johnson’s Garden Center) Champion  – Matures in 62 days ($1.50 at Farmer’s Market)  

 Jet Star– Matures in 72 days ($1.50 at Farmer’s Market)  

 Cherokee Purple – Matures in 80 days ($2.98 at Johnson’s Garden Center)  

 I planted them all in the same week but I don’t really know how old the plants are.  The two I got from the Farmer’s market were much larger than those that Johnson’s was selling.  It will be interesting to see if they mature and produce fruit in the expected order above.  The Tomato Race is on.  Here is a photo of three of the plants.  I made this bed by putting down a sheet of plastic in the yard to kill the grass and cutting holes in the plastic where I planted the tomatoes.  The bed gets quite a bit of sun so I have high hopes for these tomatoes.  

Newly planted tomato vines.

Potatoes, Tomatoes and Lawn Rabbits

 A busy week in the Coe Farm gardens.  We have had a ton of rain over the last week and dodged a couple of tornadoes.  One thing I did was “earth up” my potatoes.   My early potatoes are a variety called Bison from Ronnigers.  I planted these in raised bed number 1 in early March.  This week I mounded about 3-6″ inches of dirt around each of them.  I was low on dirt at the Coe Farm, so I brought over some buckets of sandy soil that I dug from the shore of the pond behind our duplex in Maize.  The mounded up dirt will help keep the growing potatoes underground and add some extra soil for the plants to produce more potatoes.  According to popular potato lore, the stem and branches that are covered by the soil will convert to tuber-producing growth.  Here is a photo of the freshly earthed-up plants.       

Bison variety potato plants 55 days after planting as seed potatoes from Ronnigers.

 In the photo you can see a great big pea plant vine in the background near the upper left corner of the photo.  Those pea plants are all gone now, eaten by lawn a rabbit(s).  This week  I went to the Coe gardens to put in a tomato plant (see discussion below) that I had bought the week before and was shocked when I saw all of my pea plants decimated by something that I assume was the small rabbit I have seen darting in and out from under a brush pile near the raised beds.  Also, the rabbit has been snacking on some young radishes that I had recently thinned out.  I’m hoping the radishes recover, I think the peas are a lost cause.  Here is a photo of my once-proud pea vines that had held so much promise for peas to go with my new potatoes.      

What's left of my garden peas. One really maddening thing about rabbits is that they cut the plant down and then don't even finish it before moving onto the next!

The tomato plant I put in this week was one that I bought at the All-Kansas Farmer’s Market at 21st and Ridge.  This farmer’s market is the greatest farmer’s market I’ve ever been to.    If you live in Wichita, go there on Saturday mornings.  It’s a nice friendly place with great produce that is all grown locally.  The vendors are friendly and love to give helpful advice about everything to do with small-scale farming.  I bought two tomato plants there on May 8 for $1.50 each.  They have been riding around in my truck cab all week and I finally planted one of them during a brief break in the rain storms this week.  The truck cab was actually a good place for them, it provided a nice hot-house environment for them.  I think they grew quite a bit while they were in there.  Below, I have a photo of my first tomato planting.  This one is a variety called “Champion” that is supposed to mature in 62 days.  The other plant I got from the Farmer’s market is called “Jet” which is perhaps the most popular variety around Wichita.  I heard about another variety on a radio show called “Cherokee Purple” which I plan to find one of and plant it in the Coe gardens.   I’m not sure how many plants I will have this year, but at least three.      

These nice tomato plants cost $1.50 each at the local farmer's market. The varieties are Champion and Jet.

This is the first tomato plant I put in this year. It is a variety called "Champion" that is supposed to mature in 62 days. If it is already a month old, doesn't that imply that I will have tomotoes by mid June? I doubt it but let's see.