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 email@example.com.
By Penny Stine
Friday, April 5, 2013
As the person whose name is the contact for this blog, I get all kinds of e-mails from people and companies who would like us to feature their products or services on our blog. Usually, I ignore them, as I'm more interested in posting pictures of tiny tomatoes than plugging someone's pest control solutions.
I got something the other day, however, from somebody trying to sell something and here is a sample of their e-mail: "Spring is here! And so begins another year of planning and planting. For others, it means self-picking of peaches in June, strawberries in July, and apples in September on farms across the country. "
Seriously, has this person ever grown peaches, strawberries or apples? Maybe somewhere else, but probably not here. Although local orchards are getting earlier and earlier varieties of peaches, I don't think anyone has a variety that's ready to pick by June. And I don't know about you, but the strawberries in my yard are usually done by July - even the Glenwood Springs Strawberry Days are held in June.
As for apples, although some might be ready by September, some of the best local apples aren't available until October.
That's why it's important to go to local sources for gardening advice and plants. Don't buy plants that won't like our soils, our weather and our growing zone because you'll just be disappointed that you can't grow blueberries like the ones you had in Michigan.
Ask the professionals at the local nurseries, not the big box stores or even online sites and blogs (yes, I get the irony... THIS is a blog!). So if you do read a lot of blogs, pay attention to where the blogger lives - if a blogger writes how easy it is to grow lettuce in Colorado, but she lives at 9,000 feet, understand that your experience won't be the same.
Most of the local pros at local nurseries are in the business because they're passionate and knowledgeable about gardening and horticulture, not because the paint department was slow and they had to help out in the garden area.
And if you hate to ask when you're not planning on buying anything, you can always call the master gardening desk at the CSU extension office! The number for Mesa County is 244-1836.
Joan Clark, pictured above, has been a master gardener for seven years. She moved here from the Front Range several years ago and discovered that what she knew about gardening in the Front Range didn't necessarily apply to our weird micro-climate and challenges, so she took a lot of the master gardening classes over again.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, April 4, 2013
I used a biodome for peppers and tomatoes this year (and herbs, leeks and celery root) and discovered that starting leeks in a dome is a silly idea. Leeks shoot up like a green onion and quickly outgrow the dome.
Although most of the tomatoes germinated pretty well in the dome, they too outgrew it and had to be transplanted. So now I have peppers and celery root (and a couple tomato plants that were puny) still in the dome, where they will remain until it's time to plant them outside.
I replanted all of the tomatoes in individual pots and stuck them under the grow light. I think they're pretty happy. Now the trick will be keeping them happy and growing inside for another month until it's safe to plant them outside.
I want happy plants that will be well-adjusted so they can get serious about producing early tomatoes! Is that too much to ask?
Yes, I know... I could probably buy happy well-adjust plants from a local nursery, but what would I have to do in early spring without my obsession?
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
The warm temperatures may be luring you out and tempting you to plant, but resist the temptation to plant some fruits and veggies early. I have learned the hard way that not only will a spring frost kill the tender young seedlings, some seeds just don't like it when you stick them in the cold hard ground.
I found this great website full of helpful information, including a chart that shows optimal soil temperature not only for germination rates, but also for the best production. It may save tears later when you wait impatiently for the watermelon that never comes up.
This year, I'm practicing patience and I will not plant green beans until almost June.
I did plant peas and kale over this last weekend, because I know they like it cold and I had to go plant something.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, March 28, 2013
I've been trying to do more year-round gardening in the last few years, or at least plant a mid-season crop in a bed that's just produced an early season crop like peas or spinach. Last year, I thought I dug all the garlic out of this particular bed by July, so I planted carrots and beets, hoping that I could dig them up by October.
Obviously, I didn't get all the garlic.
But the carrots and beets were so small I decided to mulch them and leave them in place during the winter. The green tops disappeared, but both the carrots and the beets were sending out new tops underneath the mulch. And the garlic started growing by February.
I dug some of the beets a week or so ago, and they were still pretty small.
I dug up one carrot, and it was about two inches long, so I decided to leave the rest in the ground and see what happened.
My mom tells me that when they're left in the ground over the winter, carrots get pithy. I suppose I'll find out for myself when I pull these in another month or two. This year, I found a carrot seed from Territorial Seed company this that's supposed to be planted in July with the intention of leaving it in place all winter and picking delicious carrots in May and June, so I'm already trying to figure out which bed I can use for that.
I left a few beets in the ground, too, so it will be interesting to see how they taste compared to beets I plant in April.
Although I now have garlic growing in four different places in my gardens, I'm not really too sad about that. We eat a lot of garlic, and garlic scape pesto is one of the best-kept culinary secrets of home gardeners.
Don't worry, as soon as I make my first batch, I'll share the recipe and make you wish you had planted garlic in November!
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I have learned all sorts of ways to kill tiny seedlings when I try to harden them off as they go from their pampered and privileged upbringing on my plant shelf, under the grow light to the harsh reality of life outside in Grand Junction.
I have killed tomatoes after exposing them directly to the sunlight before they were ready. I have killed lavender and other herbs when the tray on which they were sitting completely blew over in the spring wind. I need a code similar to what first responders use so I can communicate clearly to my fellow gardeners, yet one that allows me to not sound like a heartless plant-killer.
"Yeah, my seedlings suffered a 2-97 the other day...."
I put broccoli plants out over the weekend. I didn't kill them, but they got a little beat down, thanks to the wind on Sunday.
I'm begging their forgiveness and allowing them the privileged position directly under the grow lights in hopes they will learn to stand up straight and tall and we can start the hardening off process all over this coming weekend.
I've promised them I won't leave them out there if the wind starts howling, at least not for another week or two.