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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Tough year for beans

By Penny Stine
Monday, July 18, 2016

I’ve had some bad bean luck this year. I set up a trellis in a new area and planted both sides of it with a variety called tenderstar. Half the seeds got washed away by an irrigation problem, and those that came up got chomped by an unknown bug.

I reordered from Vermont Bean Seed Company, and got two different types of pole beans, blauhilde, which is a purple-podded pole bean and a long bean called liana. Both germinated well, and in spite of a liberal sprinkling of Sevin, something chomped on the tender first leaves of almost all of the liana and some of the blauhilde. I'm hoping to get quite a few of the purple ones even though fewer than a third of the seeds I planted seem to have survived. Pole beans produce a lot of beans. 



Yes, I know there are a lot of weeds and grass in there. There is not enough time in my life to grow a weed-free garden. 


I had a few tenderstar bean seeds that I planted along this tomato cage, and as you can see, they’re looking pretty good.The flower on these is red, but the bean is green. It’s a cross between a scarlett runner bean and some type of bean that’s supposed to have delicious flavor.









I also have my coat rack, which I always use for beans and this interesting teepee-type of support that I built when I cut branches off the neighbor’s annoying Russian olive tree that hangs way, way, way over my garden. I planted a variety called northeastern, which is a flat-podded Roma. I love flat-podded Roma-style beans.




Look what I found when I did a quick garden stroll at lunch time! I’m going to have to do more careful searching after work today. Perhaps I actually have enough to eat with dinner.  


New squash variety is a keeper

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I love growing summer squash, although here in the Grand Valley it can be a challenge due to the presence of squash bugs. I hate squash bugs. They have no redeeming qualities. After they chomped several of my squashes and destroyed them as soon as they got out of the ground, and I found two more squash bugs cavorting on a tiny summer squash, I decided to get serious about pesticides and bought a spray bottle of Sevin, along with a shaker can of Sevin dust.
It worked, and the plant survived. I could see little squashes forming before the plant had even bloomed. As they got bigger, I could tell they were a new variety I’m trying this year, Bossa Nova hybrid. It’s supposed to produce earlier than other varieties (it did!) and last longer in the season, after the other ones have quit producing. The light green color with darker mottling is also interesting, although it may make it trickier to find the squash once the plants get bigger.
I had two that were 8 to 10 inches long, but I forgot to take a photo of them on the vine, or even on the counter after I picked them. The photo is the portion of one that didn’t get used in my summer squash lasagna.
I sampled some raw just to see what it tasted like, and I was very impressed. I don’t usually enjoy chomping down on raw squash, but this was pretty tasty. It was also delicious in the lasagna.
The plant has a couple more little squashes forming, and I’m looking forward to eating them. I’ve also got some of the yellow enterprise hybrid forming on a different plant, which I grew last year, with very favorable results.


The seed catalog company didn’t get it right

By Penny Stine
Thursday, July 7, 2016

I hate to accuse the seed catalog of lying, so I'll just say that perhaps in an ideal garden, the Clear Pink Early tomatoes really are ready 58 days from setting out transplants. Mine, clearly are not. Although these are not a cherry tomato variety, they are on the small side. I don't think the largest one in this pic will get much bigger, so perhaps it will begin to ripen. I know a watched pot doesn't boil, but I firmly believe that the more times I wander out to inspect the tomatoes, the more the plant will make an effort to get them ripe. 


I’m digging this garlic

By Penny Stine
Friday, July 1, 2016

I’ve been digging up my garlic in the last month, starting with the Korean red garlic and then continuing with the other varieties (and I can’t remember what they are). The Korean red was an early variety, and it was definitely ready to dig. I thought my other garlic was, too, since it was starting to dry up, with the tops turning brown.

When I dug it, however, the papery husk wasn’t quite formed, and that’s what helps the garlic stay good for months, so I decided to leave the rest of it in the ground for another week or two. Now I just hope the tops don’t turn brown and wither away, since I won’t remember where exactly, I planted the garlic.
I’m not too worried, since I have quite a bit already.


So far, I like the flavor of the Korean red, although to be honest, I can’t really tell it from any other garlic.


I like to leave the garlic out on my picnic table without washing it for several weeks (and sometimes a month, if I get lazy), which allows it to cure. Then I can brush away the dirt and either braid it, if the tops are soft and pliable, or just chop off the top and store it in a canvas bag in the fridge.  


When they said shade, they meant shade

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I ordered South American oca plants from Territorial Seed this spring. Oca, for anyone who didn’t read the earlier post, is related to a common weed, but grown as a staple by indigenous people of the Andes. It forms little potato-like tubers late in the season, which can be eaten raw or cooked like a potato.

The oca plants came at the beginning of June, and planting instructions said they do best in cool, wet climates with longing growing seasons. They also said that gardeners in hot climates should plant their oca in the shade. 

I have a lot of semi-shade and shade in my garden, and in my experience, most veggies don’t do well in complete shade, so I chose six different places in my garden for my six oca plants. Three places were in my east garden, where they get morning shade and varying amounts of direct sun for periods in the afternoon and into the evening. I also planted them in shadier spots in the west garden, where they get morning shade, a small amount of direct sun at mid-day and lots of late afternoon and evening shade.

So far, the west garden locations are proving to be much better for oca, with the exception of one spot where the sprinklers weren’t hitting it (and I didn’t realize it for at least a week), and the poor little plant bit the dust. The other two plants, however, are looking pretty healthy.
I’ve read quite a bit about oca, and what I read said that they don’t seem to do much for the first month or two after planting, but they’re supposed to take off in late summer. 


In my east garden, the oca is really struggling. It’s not putting on additional leaves and it seems to get spindlier by the day. I think the late afternoon sun is just frying it.

I had one that was getting quite a bit of sun, so I moved it to a shadier spot. Yesterday, when I got home, I discovered that it was still getting direct sun between 5 and 6 p.m., which is pretty brutal here, so I rigged up a shade barrier with an old sheet.


Yes, my garden now looks like a home for Caspar the Friendly ghost. I don’t care, I really want the oca to survive.

The plants were fairly pricey ($40 for six of them), but if I save some, then I can just start my own plants indoors next year in about February or March, using one individual oca tuber as a starter, like you do with potatoes. I want to grow more than six next year (provided we like the taste), since I have lots of shade. The only reason I didn’t plant them all in the shade this year was because I assumed that the ones in the shadiest places wouldn’t do as well.

Gardening is such a constant and ongoing experiment.  

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