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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What’s growing in my spring garden? Salad!

By Penny Stine
Friday, March 25, 2016

I’ve been pretty pleased with my spring garden. I’ve got Egyptian walking onions all over the place and have been picking them whenever I need onions. Although the spinach in this bed is still pretty small, I’ve been picking the largest leaves to add to salad. I’ve got it growing in another bed, too, and it’s slightly bigger.
I planted a broccoli plant in here, as well as a cauliflower that’s not in this frame. I figured by the time the broccoli and cauliflower grew to humongous proportions, as they tend to do, the carrots and nearby spinach would be long gone.
I haven’t done any experimental poking to see how big these carrots are yet, and I just bought a 2-pound bag of carrots, but as soon as those run out, I’ll probably pull a few carrots up to see how they look below the surface. I have carrots that overwintered in a couple of other places, and I also have another little section of carrots that I planted a month ago that just came up this week.
I’ve discovered that carrots seem to do best in my garden if I plant them in some area that gets a good amount of shade. Since I have plenty of areas that get shade, I should be able to find plenty of places to put carrots!
Here’s the lettuce in the flower bed. It’s still pretty small, but I’ve been picking it anyway. I suspect that we will eat a lot of green salad in April and May, when both the spinach and lettuce will be in full production mode.  


Protecting the berries

By Penny Stine
Monday, March 21, 2016

I planted some honeyberry bushes a couple of years ago and have yet to get a single honeyberry, which are oblong blue berries, otherwise known as haskap berries or edible blue honeysuckle. They’re extremely cold tolerant, and said to perform better in clay soils.
Last year, I think the birds got all of my berries, so this year, I bought some whirligigs at the dollar store that spin in the breeze, and I covered the entire bushes with netting.
As you can see by the pic, Howie the dog must be fooled by the whirligigs, as he stopped to sniff the strange flower.
The bushes are about to bloom, which is not too early for honeyberries. The buds can withstand temperatures down to 20 degrees, and they grow these in Japan and Canada. Anything that grows well in Japan and Canada and thrives in clay soil should do just fine here. If I can get the birds to leave them alone.  


Starting more seeds

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My friend, Jan, came over to my house over the weekend so we could get more of our seeds started. We planted eight different types of tomatoes, one eggplant variety and about six or seven different kinds of peppers - both hot and sweet.
We have four bio-domes from Park Seed, and we also had some cow-pots from Johnny’s that I wanted to use for some of the tomatoes. They’re made from 100 percent biodegradable fully composted manure, so you can simply plant the entire pot in the garden when it’s time. As it continues to decompose, it’s supposed to add nutrients to the soil around the plant. I ordered one five-package of six-tray cells, giving us room for 30 tomatoes.

That would give us 15 tomato plants each, but since we had 8 different varieties, and since we can them, freeze them, dry them and juice them, we decided 15 tomato plants was not enough, so we started some in a bio-dome, too.

I’m excited about several of the varieties we’re trying this year, especially the Black from Tula ones, which are a large, beefsteak-sized dark purple tomato. We’ve also got some clear pink early determinate tomatoes that are supposed to be ready in 58 days. I’ve never had a tomato ready by the time the seed packet says it will be, but I continue to try.

Tomato Growers had a couple of peppers that I just had to try. Trinidad Perfume looks like a habanero and supposedly has the flavor of the Caribbean, but with no heat. Lemon Drop is hot, but with lemon flavor. It’s supposed to be good for drying.
Who could resist those? They’re in one of the bio-domes.

We also have two heat mats, so the bio-domes on the bottom shelf are on heat mats, which should help with germination. The grow lights also put out a little heat, as well as lots of intense light. 

I planted some cool weather crops a week ago, and as you can see, they’re up and looking good.
No, they’re not growing toward the dark side of the room. They reach for the sun every day, and I try to rotate the bio-dome every day so they end up straight. Hopefully, these will be big enough to transplant in a few weeks when we have irrigation water.  


More greens in the garden

By Penny Stine
Thursday, March 10, 2016

I grew pak choi toy choi last year, or baby bok choi, which was great because I planted it in April, it grew quickly and then it went to seed and I could let some other plant take over the space where it was.
I loved the little bok choi leaves and picked it the same way I’d pick any other garden green - never the entire plant, but just a few leaves at a time.
After it went to seed, I picked a bunch of the seed pods to use this year.
When I was digging around in the garden in late February, I realized the soil was soft enough to work, so I decided to go ahead and scatter the seeds I’d saved from last year.
Look what’s up!  


Starting the seedlings

By Penny Stine
Monday, March 7, 2016

I took a look at the calendar and realized I had to get busy with seeds. My gardening pal, Jan, is coming over on Saturday and we’re going to get the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant started, but after seeing nice-sized broccoli plants for sale at Bookcliff Gardens on Saturday, I realized we were way behind on the cold-tolerant stuff.
We probably could have started most of this stuff directly outdoors, but since I won’t have any way to water (except by dragging around a hose or watering can) until April, I decided to go ahead and start them inside.
We are growing kalettes this year, which are a new cross between brussels sprouts and kale, and the catalog recommended starting those inside. One year, I noticed that the swiss chard I started inside did better than the swiss chard I direct-sowed, so I started those, along with the Portuguese kale, and a broccoli variety called di cicco. The di cicco is an Italian variety (surprise, right?) that forms one small-to-medium head and then it’s supposed to continue to produce smaller side shoots and heads until the first frost. It’s also supposed to be a good one to freeze.
Who could resist all that? Of course, I had to try it.
I started those in one of my Park Seed bio-domes, which are so very handy for certain veggies.
I also wanted to start leeks and onions, which can’t be started in the bio-dome, since the sponges get in the way of the forming bulbs and roots. We bought redwing onion seeds, which came with a recommendation to start indoors six to eight weeks before transplanting. It’s a red onion that’s supposed to keep all winter long.
We probably should have started all of these about a week or two ago, but we didn’t, so I started them over the weekend. I hope to be able to plant them all outside by mid-April, once the irrigation water is in and we’ve discovered and fixed all the problems.
Yes, there are always problems.
In the meantime, yay for the start of the 2016 garden season!

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