Let's Get Dirty

A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.

Send stories and pictures of your horticultural adventures to letsgetdirty@gjsentinel.com.

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Harvesting roots

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Some of my potato plants had died down and had turned brown, so I decided to dig potatoes over the weekend. If the plant had any green or new growth on it, I left it in the ground, hoping that it would keep on forming more potatoes. Or that the ones underground would get bigger.



Plus, I figured what’s the point of digging all the potatoes at one time if I don’t have to? It’s not like we’re going to eat 15 pounds of potatoes in a week.
I tried a different purple potato than the one I had last year, because last year, they were all pretty small. I can’t remember the name of the one I planted this year, but as you can see, they’re pretty good-sized potatoes. I also planted a few red potatoes and some Yukon Golds. Last year, I planted this yellow fingerling potato, and I must have missed a few when I dug potatoes, since some of the potatoes I dug this year were yellow fingerling potatoes.
Because I had planted red onions near one potato spot, I ended up pulling those, too. Even though they weren’t as big as I was hoping, the stems were turning brown, which is a sign that the onions were ready to come up, too.
And then, just because I was pulling root crops, I decided to go ahead and pull a few more carrots, too.
The onions are supposed to store well, so I decided to let them cure in hopes that they will last until November. Not that I couldn’t use them before then, but I have boatloads of Egyptian walking onions, which do not store well at all, that I’ve been using all summer.
The directions for curing onions and garlic say to leave them in a warm (75-degree) dry place for a few weeks to a month. I just leave them on a tray on my picnic table on the back deck. They don’t get any direct sunlight, and although they do get rained on occasionally, we don’t get that much rain, so it doesn’t interfere with the curing process.
The garlic that I cured that way last year (and stored in a canvas bag in the fridge) was still good (and I still had some) in late June, when I started pulling this year’s garlic.  


Tiny tomatoes offer a colorful twist

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Every year, I like to try something new, whether it’s a new plant entirely that I’ve never grown before or never heard of, or a new variety of an old favorite. Usually, I do both.
This year, when we chose tomato varieties, I wanted an unusual-looking cherry tomato variety. I’ve grown sungold and we did a black cherry one year, and I liked them both, but wanted to try something new. So we found a variety called indigo cream berry. It’s a yellow tomato with a dark purple top.
Unlike many other types of cherry tomatoes, this is not an early-producer, which made me crazy in July when other people had loads of cherry tomatoes.
It’s finally starting to go into high-production mode, and I’m happy to say that it was worth the wait. Not only are they pretty, but they taste good, too.  


Mystery tomato

By Penny Stine
Monday, August 8, 2016

So I have this unknown tomato growing in my garden. I honestly have no idea what kind of tomato it is, since I didn’t plant anything that was supposed to look like this.

In case you can’t tell by the shape, this looks to me like a classic oxheart tomato variety. And I didn’t plant any classic oxheart tomato varieties. It's also huge, although I haven't taken a tape measure out to the garden, I'm guessing it's at least four or five inches long. 

I did, however, plant a bunch of different types of heirloom varieties in several different colors, so I’ll wait to see what color this turns, although color alone won’t tell me what it is. I’ve got at least two with big oxheart tomatoes, so I’m rather curious.

In the meantime, the entire front quarter of my west garden has turned into a tomato jungle. There are also sweet pepper plants out there, a squash plant, some melons and raspberry bushes. Wish me luck when I venture out there to find ripe tomatoes! I’m sure I’ll miss any that are down low, since I can’t see very well through the jungle and it's a little hard to wade my way out there to pick.  


Peaches on my tree

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, August 3, 2016

I planted a dwarf Red Haven peach tree about three or four years ago. It’s an odd shape because one of the main branches froze the first winter I had it, so I encouraged a side branch to grow. The weight of the peaches is dragging down all of the branches.

Last year was the first year it had any fruit (about 30 peaches), and the birds ate every last peach on the tree.

This year, it had tons of little green peaches on it and I have thinned at least three times. It’s still pretty loaded for such a little tree. My peaches are quite a bit smaller than the ones I've been buying from Palisade, and I don't know if it's because my tree is so tiny, I didn't thin enough, or they're just not ready to pick. 

I tied the reflective strips in the branches, which I got at Wild Birds Unlimited, in an effort to keep the birds from eating the peaches. So far, it’s working, but the peaches aren’t quite ripe.

I realized this morning, however, that I’m not really sure how to tell when they are ripe. I read something that said you could smell them when they’re ready to pick, and that they should also be a little soft to the touch. So far, the peaches aren’t smelling delicious and they’re hard as rocks. I'm hoping that they will also grow to be at least twice the size they are now, but I don't think that's realistic.  

I think I need to check on an almost-daily basis at this point, however, especially if I want to beat the birds.  


Hot August bed

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Every yard has problem areas and mine is no exception. This is a corner of my garden that gets shade until noonish and then it bakes in the afternoon and setting sun.
I planted beets in the back bed, closest to the property line, in the springtime, hoping they’d enjoy the cool nights and warm afternoons. I think I had two germinate.
I have tomatillos that do really well in the bed closest to the driveway. I planted them one year and they re-seed themselves every other year, which is my kind of gardening. They don't mind the baking heat of July and August.
I got some raspberry bushes established, and while the bushes are growing like gangbusters and don’t seem to mind the afternoon heat, they’re not producing any raspberries. At all. I’ve been fertilizing like crazy and am giving them one more chance to change their ways and give me a fall crop of berries. If I don’t get any, it’s Roundup for the raspberries.

There's also a couple of potato plants that I planted in the spring, and they're kind of holding their own, but aren't really thriving. 

Unfortunately, weeds do really well in the space, so I have to get in there periodically and pull everything.
After realizing that the beets weren’t going to grow, I ignored the space and let the weeds take over, then I felt bad, so I pulled all the weeds and wanted to try to grow something that would thrive in the hot, hot, hot conditions in the afternoon. I saw pumpkin seeds at Bookcliff, so I decided to see if I could get one to grow in the time we have left before it freezes. I think I planted them in mid-July, and the package says 100 days to harvest, but we all know that seed packages are unreliable at best, especially in conditions that are less than ideal.
Even if it doesn’t have enough time to produce this year, I’m thinking this might be a good corner for a rambling type of squash/melon/pumpkin that will thrive in the heat next year. It’s kind of sad (or exciting, depending on your perspective) that I’m already planning my 2017 garden…  

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