Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Last night, I decided to tackle this bed. It’s my front flower bed, and before we cut down the large, dying silver maple in the front yard, it got too much shade to grow anything but shade-loving flowers and herbs that will grow anywhere. It was overrun by parsley and mint.
I tore out most of the mint and parsley, saved the perennials that I liked to plant somewhere else and decided to plant a few melons, some peppers and my pineapple tomatillos in this bed, since it now gets a good amount of sunshine.
I did not add any wood chips to this soil last fall or this spring, which means the plants are faring better than plants elsewhere in my garden. Boy, did I learn a lesson about adding non-decomposed wood to garden soil… (in case you’re new to this blog - don’t do it!)
As you can see by the pic, there were plenty of volunteer plants in this bed, too, like cosmos, more mint and a pretty spreading ground cover that I dug up (or at least thought I dug up) and established elsewhere. The bed was also overflowing with bindweed.
It took me quite a while to pull everything and bust up the clods of dirt, which was important, since I decided to plant a mini fall garden in this bed.
In the empty spaces between the tomatillos, melons and peppers, I liberally sprinkled carrot, kale, Swiss chard and beet seeds.
I’m having trouble with this particular zone in my sprinkler system (of course, it’s the zone with the largest amount of garden space, which is also causing me additional problems this garden season) but this bed is right next to the hose spigot, and I’m willing to water with domestic water.
I’ll have to be vigilant about the bindweed, but I’m hoping the Swiss chard and kale like it and decide to sprout. Although I’ve got enough of both to eat a couple of times a week now, I don’t have enough to freeze, and I really like having frozen garden greens to eat all winter.
I’ll be curious to see how well seeds germinate in this bed, since they haven’t germinated very well at all anywhere else!
By Penny Stine
Monday, July 7, 2014
We were in Denver over the past weekend, and our sons have a pie cherry tree in their back yard. The youngest asked me if I wanted to help him pick the cherries. Of course I did.
The tree was loaded, and because it’s in Denver, where there aren’t many fruit trees (and therefore, not as many pests like the cherry fruit fly), the cherries weren’t buggy or wormy.
We picked two large bowls of cherries and made a cherry cobbler. He wanted me to teach him how to bake a cherry pie, but he didn’t have a rolling pin, white flour or corn starch, so we had to go for cobbler. We also had plenty left over to freeze, which he said he’d either turn into cherry preserves or just eat plain.
If you’ve never eaten frozen pie cherries, you should try them. They’re tart, but somehow extremely delicious and not near as tart as when they’re fresh.
He was happy that I was there to help him pick cherries, and I was pretty tickled pink to be picking cherries with my son, who’s becoming quite the gardener. His squash is doing so much better than mine...
There were still quite a few green cherries left on the tree, which he said he would pick as they ripened.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
I bought a bunch of flower seeds in January or February when I was trying to combat the winter blahs, determined that I would plant all my flowers from seed this year. But some of them got nipped by a late spring frost when I forgot to bring them in, so I ended up planting cucumbers in this planter, which also has a few flowers (I don’t know what, exactly), some red-veined sorrel and a watermelon.
I don’t know why I stuck a watermelon seed in the soil… Perhaps I thought the cucumber would be lonely.
Now the pot is probably too crowded, but I just can’t bring myself to tear out either the cucumber or the watermelon. The cucumber plant (which is a compact variety that's supposed to be perfect for containers) has cukes that are about two centimeters long, and look what I saw on the watermelon vine!
I planted watermelon in two other big pots, plus in a front flower bed and in a couple of places over in my west garden. It’s one of the few melons and/or squash that doesn’t seem to be getting chomped by bugs or rodents or whatever is killing them by eating all the leaves off a week or so after the seedlings come up.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
I’ve been trying to grow raspberries for years. The bushes in my yard look extremely healthy and they send suckers and spread like crazy. They even flower. But those flowers don’t produce fruit. I have moved them around my yard to three different places. (And even though I tried to dig out all the non-productive bushes when I was moving them, I didn’t succeed, so I have raspberry bushes that don’t produce berries in three different places.)
Hope springs eternal, however, and I think I’ve identified a place that might work. This is a little bed next to my weed flower area that had some onions and a broccoli plant. It doesn’t get full sun, so it can be challenging for some plants, but may be a good thing for raspberry bushes. It's also in a part of my yard that I can control the water a little bit better. I can also fertilize easily.
After sending my question out to the universe via Facebook (ie., why don’t my berry bushes actually produce berries?), I think the answer lies in the amount of water and/or fertilizer they get.
So I pulled most of the onions out of the bed, left the broccoli in place and tried to pull out all the weeds, too. Then I shoveled up some raspberry plants that were in their first year (i.e.., non-fruit-bearing year) and replanted them.
They don't look real happy in this pic, but I'm hoping they'll recover.
Next spring, I will give them plenty of fertilizer and water and see what happens.
Of course, the weeds will also come roaring back, so it will be a struggle to keep them out, but since raspberry bushes are fairly weed-like in their persistence and tenacity to spread, I think they’ll hold their own.
I’ve been checking on all the raspberry bushes in my yard. So far, all the flowers are drying up and turning into brown little non-berries. So sad…
By Penny Stine
Monday, June 30, 2014
It’s the last day of June, and I wanted to include an update of the cost vs value project I’ve been doing this year for my garden. Since mid-to-late January, I’ve been paying attention to how much I spend on my garden (seeds, irrigation water and materials, fertilizer, plants, etc) vs how much value I get out in terms of food.
Because I started this in January (when I wasn’t harvesting much of anything out in the garden) I decided to place a value on stuff as I used it. So I counted all the produce I grew in last year’s garden and either froze, canned or dried and use throughout the year. Obviously, I won’t count stuff from this year’s garden that I preserve in some way but won’t actually get around to using until 2015.
I did this out of curiosity, since I often hear that it’s cheaper to just go out and buy produce or that gardening is an expensive hobby. I wondered where those ideas came from, since back when I was a kid, and especially when my mom was a kid, it was “country folk,” or basically the poorer people who had to grow their own food rather than buy it at the grocery store.
So I made this handy spreadsheet and used my smarty-pants phone to help record what garden goods we consumed every day.
From January through the end of April, I spent $225.97 on my garden, which included a December charge for half of the irrigation water we use for the season. I used $109.94 worth of produce, which didn’t include anything that I used for the first three weeks in January, since I didn’t start this experiment until Jan. 22. Based on the average value of garden produce I used per week during the winter and early spring ($7.85 per week), the value of the produce should probably be about $133.49.
There’s a difference of $100, give or take (depending on whether I use the $109.94 recorded value or the $133.49 estimated value), meaning that my garden cost me about $100 more than it gave me from January through April.
Not surprising, since that’s when I start buying stuff for the upcoming gardening season, and I'm not picking much from the garden yet, although according to my spreadsheet, I started using onions from my garden in March.
As an aside, just because we need a photo here... I grow these crazy walking onions. They sprout their own bulbs, so once you get them started, you never run out, nor do you ever need to buy starts again. They'll grow anywhere, even this horrible west-side bed, which is shady all morning and hotter than a firecracker all afternoon, but sort of shady most of the time. I haven't purchased onions since March. They're not a good keeper, however, and will turn mushy in the ground, so I'll pick a bunch before September, which will probably last until Thanksgiving. Then I'll have to start buying onions again until next March, when I can start picking my walking onions. They're a small onion, so instead of using one, you might need three, but I've got lots of onions.
I had a separate spreadsheet for May and June (because I used a lot more garden stuff in May and June). I’m also still in buying mode, as evidenced by the $140.43 I spent on my garden. The value of the produce I used in two months, however, jumped to $125.40, since by May and June I’m usually consuming a fair amount of stuff right out of the garden. So the deficit is $15.03, meaning that I spent $15.03 more than the calculated value of my garden returns.
So far, the garden has cost me about $115 - $125 more than what I’ve gotten out of it, but I expect those numbers to start skewing in the opposite direction, since I won’t be buying much more from here on out, but I will continue to consume produce from my yard.