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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First sprouts of 2015

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I went out to my garden to see if I had any spinach sprouts yesterday when I went home for lunch. As you can see, I do! Those little green blades that look like grass are actually spinach sprouts. 
I know from experience that these won’t grow much over the next two months, but even if it gets really cold, it won’t hurt them. Last year, in spite of the cold inversion that came in December and didn’t leave until mid-January, I still had spinach up in late January that did just fine through multiple freezes and snowstorms in Feb. and March.
Hopefully, I’ll be picking fresh spinach by mid-April.
I planted some kohlrabi seeds last fall in about September, hoping for a fall crop. I had marginal germination, but here’s one that came up, but didn’t form a kohlrabi. I left it in the garden, wondering if it would do something this spring. Time will tell.
I’ve noticed onions and garlic are perking up in places from leftover bulbs that never got pulled last year, but I’ll go do a more thorough search in places where I planted them both in the fall later this week to see if anything else is up and getting a start on the 2015 gardening season.  


Garden planning: Curbing the squash bug invasion

By Penny Stine
Thursday, January 8, 2015

I'm sure I will write a few more posts talking about garden planning, because frankly, that's all about all a gardener can do in January and February! I've been looking at catalogs, thinking about last season's garden and googling info to try and figure out new varieties I may want to try this year. Because squash bugs are such a problem in the Grand Valley and have killed squash plants in my garden, I looked for squash-bug resistant squash plants. I knew from my master gardening class that Waltham butternut was fairly resistant, but I wanted a summer squash. Fortunately, I found one! www.rareseeds.com/lemon-squash/

I've never grown lemon squash before, but I'm willing to give it a go. I love summer squash and hate squash bugs, so it would be wonderful to find a squash plant that those nasty little critters didn't like. 

Needless to say this squash variety will get a prominent space in my 2015 garden. 


Does gardening really save any money?

By Penny Stine
Friday, January 2, 2015

Since mid-January last year I’ve been keeping a running tally of my garden expenses compared to the value of the food I get from the garden. I did it just because I often hear people say that gardening doesn’t really save any money by the time you buy seeds, plants, fertilizer, supplies, etc.
Trying to calculate the expense was easy - I just looked at every debit or check I wrote. Trying to calculate the value of garden produce was not so easy, since I don’t have a kitchen scale to weigh everything and I don’t usually know offhand the price per pound of various vegetables, anyway.
Plus, I grow some weird things that you can’t find at the grocery store, at least not here in Grand Junction. Some were just unique varieties (Kellogg breakfast tomatoes, purple potatoes, Romano green beans and peppermint Swiss chard, to name a few), while others are just not found on local grocers shelves; i.e., like the pineapple ground cherries in the picture (which also shows these incredibly sweet oblong yellow pepper I grew, but which can't be found on local shelves). I did the best I could.

I kept a spreadsheet at work and used my phone to track on weekends. I’m sure I missed some things, too, since it was easy to go pick a handful of herbs for dinner and forget to log it.

Here are my numbers:
Value of garden goods           Cost of garden supplies

Jan. - April: 116.03                        $119.97
May - June: 126.25                       $140.43
July - Aug.: 113.35                        $28.38
Sept. - Oct.: 175.70                       $87.45
Nov. - Dec.: 77.65 (thru Dec. 29)       0

total value: 608.98               total cost: $376.23

total savings: $232.75

This doesn’t take my time into account, which would make the cost astronomical, but it also doesn’t take the health benefits of gardening or eating so much fresh produce into account, which increases the value.

Just as a note, the only reason my September and October costs are so high is because I bought a portabella mushroom box, which cost about $40, with the cost of shipping. My overall garden expenses were on the high side this year, because I did something stupid and did some damage to my soil, which meant I had to replant some things several times and spend extra money trying to undo the damage. (As an aside, don’t put fresh wood chips in your garden soil thinking they’ll decompose quickly and give you more organic matter - they won’t!)

Bottom line: gardening saves money, but it’s a ton of work. It’s also incredibly rewarding for those who love to cook, enjoy being outside and don’t mind getting dirty, sweaty and occasionally sore. And it’s good for those who want to know more about the food they eat.  


Winter garden

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Here’s my east garden covered in snow. Last year, the sight of it in late December sent me into a tailspin of sadness, but this year, it's not as cold, nor has the snow been there that long, so I'm not as sad and can appreciate the snow. It's actually good for the garden, since I have garlic, onions and spinach all planted and waiting for the right time to germinate. I’ve seen spinach sprout at the end of January, as soon as the snow is gone, so I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

In the meantime, I’ve been getting seed catalogs in the mail. One of the companies that I’ve purchased from in the past must have sold my name, since I’m getting catalogs from a bunch of companies that I’ve never ordered from. Normally, that would annoy me, but since it gives more garden porn to peruse, I’m OK with it!  

The only bad thing is that it makes me want to tear out more lawn in the spring so I can plant more, and my hubby says no. Actually, I can't handle a bigger garden, either, but it sure is fun to dream about room for more melons, different cucumbers and lots of tomatoes in the middle of winter. 


Something’s still alive in the garden in December

By Penny Stine
Friday, December 19, 2014

I went home for lunch today and decided to check on some of the plants that I left still doing their thing out in the garden last month. It’s been fairly mild, so I wasn’t surprised to see that they’re doing just fine.

This is the Swiss chard that I found when I was going to pull the broccoli. It looks like it’s grown since last time and is doing quite well. The broccoli is pretty sad. I really should have yanked it out. If I think about it, I’ll pick the chard and eat it this weekend. Yes, I know there's not enough to eat much, but still... I'm picking Swiss chard in December. How cool is that?








This is the Brussels sprouts that never produced anything.  Maybe I’ll have sprouts by Valentine’s Day. And maybe it will freeze next month and I'll pull out a dead plant in February. 






The kale surprised me, because out of everything that I left out there, it’s the one thing I know that can survive, no matter how cold it gets. All the kale I picked this summer was from kale that I had planted two to four years previously.
This kale certainly looks dead as the proverbial doorknob. I have a feeling that when I cut it back in mid-February, it will start growing again, which is what usually happens.


I had a bunch of carrots that were coming up from seed I scattered quite some time ago. They weren’t big enough, so I just covered them all in straw. It looks like they’re alive and well under the straw. I’ve read that they’ll overwinter just fine like that, but sometimes they become a target for bugs looking for something tasty.
I’m sure we’ll get some colder weather in January, but so far, all of this bodes well for my early spring garden.  

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