Let's Get Dirty

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

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Planting cool season veggies

By Penny Stine
Monday, April 6, 2015


Over the weekend, I decided it was time to put the cool season veggies I had started in the ground. I also planted other cool-weather tolerant seeds.
My goal was to plant two different types of broccoli, (one forms a regular head and the other one forms long asparagus-like shoots with tiny heads on top), orange cauliflower, purple cabbage, shallots, leeks, baby bok choy, kale and beets. Oh, and I had some carrot seed tape that I wanted to plant, too.



I have two gardens in my front yard. This one, on the east side of the house, gets a lot of morning shade and some sun in the afternoon.The sun gets diluted by shade as the sun goes further north during the summer.

Yes, there are seat cushions in this garden. I saw someone’s garden in the Redlands where she had used old carpet on pathways as a way to keep the weeds down and to also have a smoother surface for walking and kneeling. I don’t have any old carpet, but last year when we bought new cushions for the chairs, I put the old cushions in the garden to keep the weeds away on my pathways. It looks tacky, but it worked.
I decided that most of the plants would go in this garden, rather than my west garden, which enjoys more sunshine.


If the carrots don’t grow with the seed tape, I may have to just give up. Carrots are cheap. The seed tape is pretty cool, though, since the seeds are at the correct intervals so you’re not supposed to need to thin the carrots. It’s expensive, though. One packet of seed tape was $5.95. No, this isn't the entire packet - this is about a third or fourth of the seed tape in the packet. 
After arranging my seed tape over the ground that had already been dug up, irrigated, fertilized and was nice and soft, I sprinkled some of my seedling mixture that I had leftover over the top, and then watered them again with a watering can, just to keep the seedling mixture from blowing away.



I planted baby bok choy in several areas in both garden areas. Last year, I discovered that the baby bok grew quickly but then bolted as soon as it got hot, so it didn’t matter if I planted it in my tomaillo bed or in an area where I wanted to grow peppers and melons, since the bok choy will be long gone before the tomatillos and melons start growing well.
I used most of the leeks and shallots as edging plants around other planting beds, but after lining an area that I set aside for melons with leeks and a potato area with some shallots, I still had a bunch of shallots to plant. So I planted them in this bed where my spinach is growing. Like the baby bok choy, spinach will go to seed by early June, which will leave all kinds of room for the shallots to grow.



A neighbor rode by on his bike as I was finishing all of my garden chores (which took well over three and a half hours) and told me I’m a farmer at heart. Too true, and since I was wearing a t-shirt, I've got the beginnings of a good farmer's tan to go with it. 


At least the peas weren’t hurt by the cold weather

By Penny Stine
Friday, April 3, 2015

I planted peas in containers on the deck and along a fence line a little more than a week ago. Although there’s nothing happening along the fence line, they’re starting to sprout in the container. They don’t appear any worse for the cold we got last night (NOAA said 25 degrees), and I didn’t cover them, bring them in, or do anything to help them survive the cold.

I hope my peach tree’s beautiful blossoms also survived. We covered the tree last night and will cover it again tonight. And then keep our fingers crossed. 


Compost management

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, April 1, 2015



Although I bought a bunch of alpaca poop to use as a fertilizer in my garden, I didn’t have enough to spread everywhere, so I decided to see if my compost bins have been doing what they’re supposed to. I have this tall black one that I stir with a pitchfork every now and again. During irrigation season, we have a drip hose with a small spray emitter that keeps it continuously moist, which speeds up the compost process, as does the heat.




When I stuck my shovel in the bottom, I was quite pleased to find quite a bit of decomposed material at the bottom of the bin.I spread it by the shovelful all over that portion of the garden. Using compost from my garden and from the kitchen waste has been a great way to spread seeds all over the place, which is why I get tomatillos sprouting everywhere.





My husband built me this open air compost bin a few years ago after I saw one that a local gardener used. She did a better job of managing her compost than I do, and had one bin that was all nice and decomposed. Mine has sat there, looking like a holding container for dead grass.
I dug into it, however, and discovered that underneath the grass, branches and sticks, there was some decomposed matter, which I promptly shoveled out and used to condition the soil where I was planting potatoes.  


A cool new (but extremely old) way to water beds that have no built-in irrigation

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When I was at Bookcliff Gardens last week taking photos for our Spring Home and Garden section I saw these ollas, which are watering clay pots that haven’t been glazed. It’s an old-school method of watering a small planting area (like a raised bed), which I thought was pretty cool.

The pots are buried in a planting area and then filled with water. Because the clay pots aren’t glazed, the water slowly seeps out into the surrounding soil. The trick, according to the experts at Bookcliff, is to have decent soil to begin with (not clay), so the water will actually move through the soil and reach plant roots. You don’t lose any water to evaporation, which is supposed to make it effective.



Although all of my planting beds have water, the plants in this one in the back yard never seem to get enough water. I try to water with a hose, but get busy and forget. So I bought an olla to bury in the bed, fill with water and see what happens.

There are a few asparagus plants in this bed that have yet to produce any asparagus that’s suitable for eating. I’ve also planted a bunch of my walking onions here and will probably plant a squash in here, too and maybe a cauliflower plant.

I filled it all the way to the top with water, then stuck the lid on it and left it there. It’s been a couple days since I buried it, and when I’ve taken off the lid, I can see that the water is slowly seeping out. The soil doesn’t feel wet, but it’s not as dry as it was when I buried the olla.

In a bed this size, I should probably bury 3 or 4 ollas, but since my lawn sprinklers also hit it, I figured I’d bury one in the driest corner and see what happens.
You’re supposed to dig up and remove the ollas for the winter at the end of the season to help them last longer.
It’s an interesting concept for a planting area that has no irrigation system or an irrigation system that's just not working well. I'll report on it as the season progresses. It will be interesting to see how often I have to replace the water in the olla.

Mount Garfield Greenhouse also carries ollas.  


My spring salad is growing

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I planted salad fixings like lettuce, radishes and carrots in pots on my patio back in February when the weather was beautiful. Of course, I forgot where I planted things, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw carrots sprouting in this pot. I planted these little round ones that are supposed to be ready earlier than others.




This radish sprouted a week or so ago. I think I have more radishes in other pots.



I’m pretty sure there’s lettuce somewhere in this pot, with perhaps more radishes.








I left a long planter empty; my plan was to plant peas and let them dangle over the side of the deck. It’s about a five foot drop to the ground, so I figured they could grow down instead of up. Then I remembered that we always clear the deck and refinish it in May, right when the peas would be draped all over the back of the deck.
As you can see, I still scattered pea seeds in the planter. I figure I’ll harvest them as pea shoots, rather than letting them drape over the side of the deck. They're much closer together than they would be if I was going to let them get big, but since start cutting shoots as soon as they're a couple inches tall, I can cram them all together. Rather than poking them in the ground, I simply covered the entire planter with seedling starter mix soil and gave it a good water.

I also planted a row of peas along the fence out in the garden, so I should have plenty of peas this spring.
I should also have plenty of lettuce, radishes and carrots for salad, too. I just hope they’re all ready to harvest at the same time.  

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