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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South American oca in my garden

By Penny Stine
Friday, June 10, 2016

If you’ve read this blog at all, you’ll know that I love to grow the weird and wonderful. If I find something that I’ve never heard of before and have never seen, I’m game, especially if it can thrive in shade.
Oca is a perennial plant from South America that can be grown as an annual in colder climates. It’s a tuber that you leave in the ground until November, which I fought would be cool to have something to harvest just in time for Thanksgiving! I learned about it from my Territorial Seed catalog out of Oregon. Territorial only shipped live plants, so I bought some earlier this year, even though they were ridiculously expensive. 

I was impressed with the shipping. The plants all looked good when they got to me. I’ve ordered a live plant from another seed company on the other side of the country and it was dead on arrival.

Oca is hugely popular in New Zealand, too, where it’s known as New Zealand yam. (No, it doesn’t grow there naturally, it’s been imported, and no, it’s not related to yams at all.)

It is, however, related to a weed commonly called wood sorrel, which gave me high hopes that it would do well, since weeds themselves always do well in my garden.

Territorial sent directions with the plants, and the directions said the plants like cooler, wet climates, but will grow elsewhere if they’re in a spot that’s semi-shady. I don’t have a cool or wet climate in my yard, but I’ve got lots of semi-shade in my garden, so I’m willing to try.






I got the box on Saturday, let the plants sit out on the back deck in part-sun, part-shade until Tuesday night, when I found six spaces for them in my various gardens. From what I’ve read, the oca tubers come in a variety of colors. Territorial sent me three different ones, with different colored plastic labels, which I stuck in the ground so I’d know which were which.



I took the photos of the plants in the ground on Thursday night, after they’d been in the ground and after we’d had a ridiculously hot day. The heat didn’t make them croak, so I’m feeling hopeful.  


Finally warm enough

By Penny Stine
Friday, June 3, 2016

I have learned the hard way that pole beans really like hot weather and warm soil. In years past, I plant too early and end up losing half my seeds. Some seeds, if planted too early, will simply wait until conditions are right and germinate then. Beans won't, in my experience. If you plant when it's cold, they won't come up. Ever. 


I'm using this fabulous trellis for a new variety I'm trying called Tenderstar. It's a Park Seed variety that's supposed to combine the look of the scarlett runner bean with the taste of the romano pole beans I love. I planted it on both sides of the trellis, so if I have good germination, this should really look great once the beans start flowering. 








This is my coat rack that I picked up at a neighbor's garage sale several years ago.It makes an awesome bean tower. I think I planted a variety called Northeaster on it. I can't remember the name for sure. 






Because the coat rack wasn't quite large enough for all of the northeaster bean seeds, I made this wobbly looking structure that provides pole beans a place to climb. I had trimmed my neighbor's annoying Russian olive tree and was cutting up the branches into small enough pieces to fit in the garbage can, odd lean-to skeleton structure. To be honest, I kind of hope they make the jump from this thing to the fence behind it. 


Mystery plants are alive and well

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Earlier this spring, I figured this little planting area would be a perfect place for cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage. I bought all of these as tiny little plants at Bookcliff, and they’ve been pretty happy here along the fence.

I planted peas behind them, but the peas were not happy and for the most part, didn’t come up. So I planted onions. Now the onions are getting choked by bindweed, grass and other pesky weeds, but I’m sure they’ll be fine. Especially since I’ll probably spend an entire day weeding this weekend.




I had a few tiny little transplants of broccoli-types that I had started from seed and I planted them further down the row. When a little plant died right away, I used the spot for this eggplant,which is looking pretty happy. I love eggplant, but hubby’s not so thrilled with it. One plant should be fine. I think it’s a lavender eggplant, which is supposed to be less bitter.



There was something else growing here (I think), and it died. I don’t remember planting anything else in this spot after whatever was here died, but as you can see, there appears to be something growing here. In fact, there’s about four or five somethings, and I have no idea whatsoever what they are. I'm pretty sure they're not weeds, since I don't have it growing anywhere else in my garden. I'm also pretty sure it's not broccoli, kale, tomatillos, or the dozens of other plants growing somewhere else in my garden. 

If anyone has a clue about what this is, please let me know!  


Bloomin’ berries

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I have raspberry plants that are thriving, spreading and flowering like crazy. They’ve been doing that for years. What they have not been doing EVER is producing raspberries. Last year, I realized it was probably because I wasn’t fertilizing them enough. OK, make that at all, so I started fertilizing them. I used bone meal, and then I switched to a garden fertilizer.
As you can see by the pics, they’re blooming like crazy again this year. It’s too early to tell if the fertilizer made any difference and they will actually produce raspberries. I hope so, because next to peaches, raspberries are my favorite fruit. 


I also have two honeyberry bushes that bloomed like crazy in the early spring, and I was so excited about them. As far as I can tell, one bush didn’t produce any berries at all, while the other one produced exactly two. Woo-hoo… or should that be boo-hoo?
Honeyberries bloom way early, but have a great cold tolerance, so I don’t think it was a late frost that killed the berries. They grow them in Japan, Russia and Canada. I should be picking buckets right now. Instead, I’m just crying buckets.
You would have thought that while I was out fertilizing the raspberries last year, I would have just spread a little on the honeyberries, too, but I forgot, so I started fertilizing them this year. The two tiny berries I had were pretty good, although they were so small, and two wasn’t really enough to get a good idea of the flavor. Oh well, there’s always next year.
Gosh, it’s only mid-May, and I’m already promising myself that next year will be better. This doesn’t bode well for the raspberries.  


Happy transplants

By Penny Stine
Monday, May 16, 2016

I bought flowers in flats a week or so ago, but got busy and didn’t plant them. They were starting to look ridiculous in their little four and six-packs. They’re much happier in my pots on the deck, and I’m much happier having flowers in my pots rather than dry dirt.
I also scattered marigold seeds and zinnia seeds in the pots, since the hummingbirds seem to love both of those. So do it, and because they grow so well from seed, I didn’t want to buy flats of marigolds.

I’ve been keeping an eye on all the tomatoes and peppers I planted a week ago. 

So far, I’ve lost at least three pepper plants but only one or two tomatoes. A couple of my hot peppers don’t look happy to be out in the yard. They really love hot weather, which they aren’t experiencing right now.
My tomatoes, on the other hand, are doing really well. Most of them have brightened up and gotten that nice, dark green color and have decided they want to grow.
Perhaps I won’t have to wait until August for tomatoes. Most of the tomatoes I bought this year are 75 to 90 days, although I did plant one early variety that said 58 days, which would put them getting ripe on July 4th. We’ll see about that… I won’t hold my breath, but it certainly would be lovely to have tomatoes in July.  

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