Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Friday, May 22, 2015
Just when I say I’m done with lettuce, I take a nibble and change my mind. I planted the lettuce in this pot back in late February. The red leaf lettuce grew quickly and was big enough to pick long before the green was. I picked it and it was disgusting. Bitter, vile and nasty.
The green leaf stuff was quite a bit smaller, but I sampled it and it was OK. The other day, I was picking spinach for a salad, so I decided to try the green stuff again now that it’s a little bigger. It was actually good! So I picked a bunch to put in my salad and a bunch for my morning smoothie.
The red stuff was still awful. At least it’s pretty in my container.
I discovered this lettuce growing out where I’ve transplanted raspberries and am expecting the tomatillos to take over later in the summer. It’s called Trout’s Back lettuce, and I planted it last year. It must have gone to seed, since I have more this summer. Last year, it was just OK. I sampled a tiny bit (since it’s not quite big enough to pick) and it wasn’t too bad, so I’ll leave it be in hopes that all the cool, wet weather will help it taste better than it did last year.
Back in February when I planted the lettuce in the containers on my deck, I had a few seeds left over, so I scattered them in a southern flower bed. Although I watered, they didn’t germinate. Until just a few weeks ago, and now here they are, looking ready to produce greens for the next month or so. Good thing it’s the green leaf and not the red leaf, or I’d just yank it out.
There’s also a zinnia starting to grow next to the lettuce. I like to scatter zinnia and giant marigold seeds in this bed, where I also have sweet peppers and melons. It’s right out in front of the house, so the flowers make it seem more like a cheerful flowerbed than one more vegetable plot.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Since I don’t know where I can find asparagus growing near an irrigation ditch, I had to plant some in my garden. I decided to scatter it and plant it in several areas, like I do with almost everything else I grow in the garden. That was a really stupid idea.
For one thing, I tend to forget from year to year where exactly I planted it, and since it grows in the spring and then disappears, occasionally I have dug or chopped into the roots by accident later in the summer or fall or the late winter before it starts growing.
When I’m checking for asparagus, I pretty much have to do a full garden stroll, since it’s now growing in four different areas in the yard. It is kind of like looking for buried treasure, except that it's not buried. It is easy to miss, however, when it's growing and surrounded by something else, like the mint in the photo. Sometimes, I’ll forget to check one area and then go out a few days later and discover a beautiful stalk of asparagus that’s now two feet tall, stringy and inedible.
I do love having asparagus in the yard, and since I’ve been fertilizing it this year with the Alaska Fish Fertilizer, I’m getting a lot more. It tastes so much better than anything I’ve ever purchased. Plus, it’s one of those spring crops that provide inspiration to get out there and plant.
I bought the roots at Bookcliff Gardens, and this is a variety called Purple Jersey, I think. It seems expensive when you buy it, but it's a perennial plant that will continue to produce for years. Worth the money if you like asparagus.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
I always check the number of day until harvest listed on the seed packets when I plant stuff. I’m not sure why, since the number on the seed packet is NEVER the number in my garden, but it’s fun to dream that it could happen.
See this little tiny tomato? It’s called Glacier, and the seed packet said 54 days. Since I planted it on May 2, that means I should be harvesting tomatoes by June 25.
Ha ha ha… I just don’t see it happening.
I didn’t mark all my tomatoes - just the orange/red tomato ones, since I figured I could tell the different color and shape tomatoes apart by the tomatoes themselves.That means that this little guy could be a Chef’s Choice Orange Hybrid, a Banana Legs Roma or a Black Pineapple heirloom. Whatever it is, it appears to be adapting to outside life in my cool, damp May garden much better than the Glacier variety. Which is kind of funny, because the Glacier variety was developed in the Pacific Northwest where cool damp gardens rule.
I’m also expecting great things for this squash. What, you don’t see the squash? I planted it on Saturday, and the seed catalog said 38 days. If it’s really gonna produce in 38 days, I think the squash should be sprouted by now. It’s a zucchini type, but it’s supposed to be a small, compact plant, perfect for containers and small garden spaces.
I planted some in containers and some in small corners of my garden. I think I read somewhere that it needs to have some sort of flower nearby for optimum production, and it specifically mentioned borage or cosmos, and since I've got both sprouting in many different places in my garden, I transplanted some to this pot. I also scattered zinnia and marigold seeds. I think my pot is going to be crowded...
If it really produces in 38 days, I could have squash from my garden by June 17, which will be lovely with the tomatoes I'm expecting to be ready by June 25.
Hmmm… I don’t think either one is going to happen.
Oh well, it’s always nice to dream.
By Penny Stine
Friday, May 15, 2015
In the past, I’ve never used much fertilizer on my garden. I always thought that if I was adding compost to it every year, I didn’t need to add much of anything else to the soil.
Boy, was I wrong.
Since the 250 pounds of alpaca poop I purchased in early March only covered part of my garden, I decided to run a test and fertilize the other parts of my garden with some kind of fertilizer I purchased at a nursery.
I grabbed a gallon of Alaska Fish Fertilizer, which is highly concentrated (and highly stinky), and immediately began using it in places that didn’t have alpaca poop, like this bed that already head spinach and rhubarb sprouting when I got the alpaca poo.
The fish fertilizer has done wonders for the spinach, although as you can see, the rhubarb behind it is the world’s second-most stunted rhubarb, right behind my other patch of rhubarb, which is the world’s most stunted patch. I fertilized that bunch with alpaca poop, which did absolutely no good whatsoever.
I planted broccoli, cauliflower, broccolini and cabbage in several places (and can't tell which is which yet).It seems to be equally content with the fish stuff or the alpaca poop. It’s much happier than it’s been in years’ past when I haven’t used any fertilizer.
bok choy is in several places in the garden and appears to like the fish fertilizer better than the alpaca poop. These ones are in an area that got the fish stuff.
These peas along the fence are in an area that got alpaca poop,and they look quite happy. They’re not blooming yet, but with this continuous cool, damp weather, I expect they will soon.
While this tomato isn’t looking fabulous yet, it was incredibly tiny when I planted it. Considering how cool it’s been, I’m actually kind of pleased with the way it looks. It’s in a bed with a lot of alpaca poo.
When I was at Bookcliff, I was lamenting the fact that I’ve got these raspberry bushes that grow like weeds and don’t produce a single berry. Mona Dyer suggested I feed them with a fertilizer that has phosphorus in it, and said bone meal would work, so I have spread a little bone meal around all my raspberry plants. I hope it works, because as you can see, they have plenty of flowers. There have also been lots of bees and I have been trying to give them extra water, so I hope I get berries this year.
While I haven’t figured out which fertilizer works best yet, it has become very clear to me that fertilizing your garden is a good idea. Gee, what a novel thought.
It goes without saying that the weeds are happy with whatever fertilizer I use.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, May 14, 2015
When you buy an existing house, you spend quite a bit of time, money and effort getting rid of plants that you don’t like. When you make a plan to replace the plants you don’t like (or that eventually die, like the silver maple tree in our front yard), you have a plan that always looks fabulous in your mind.
Sometimes, it looks pretty fabulous in real life, too, like this sensation boxelder tree we planted in the front yard, surrounded by an 8-foot square border filled with flowering bulbs. Earlier in the year, both the tulips and daffodils that I transplanted from other areas flowered, and it was pretty. Later this summer, I hope the day lilies that I transplanted will take over as the stars of the show.
Then you have areas and plants that just won’t cooperate, like this one. See the red roses? They’re climbing roses that refuse to die. They were completely overgrown in this bed when we bought the house, and my husband and I spent a lot of time hacking the plants and digging out the roots. Then we planted something else. One of the other plants we chose was an apricot-colored rose. The bad thing about planting a different rose in a place where you once had a climbing rose is that the stupid climbing rose refuses to go quietly into the sunset. Although I tried to clip, nip and snip it whenever I saw it, obviously, I was unsuccessful, and it managed to masquerade as part of the apricot rose last year when it started growing again.
Seriously, it’s been years since we cut that plant out, and yet here it is, blooming like a braying rooster on a quiet morning.
The main reason I dislike climbing roses is that they’re pretty for about a week and then they go back to being a highly invasive, thorny weed.