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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The solution for squash bug problems

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I think I’ve solved the dilemma of the squash bug problem here in the Grand Valley… if you don’t want squash bugs, the trick is to only grow squashes every other year. Which totally stinks, if you’re a big fan of summer squash.
Last year, I tried to grow squash, but because of problems with my soil, not a single one grew. The squash bugs must have hit the road and found some other place to overwinter.


This year, I ordered two new squash seeds, the Astia zucchini, which was supposed to give me squash in 42 days and lemon squash, which are supposed to be squash bug-resistant.




I also planted whatever squash seed I had in my stash of seeds, as well as a few spaghetti squash seeds that Julie, the Daily Sentinel’s online coordinator, gave me. The spaghetti squash are doing well, and are taking over the world. I haven’t picked any yet, but this one that crawled across one of my tomato cages looks like it will be ready soon.


The Astia has also been great. While it wasn’t quite ready to pick in 42 days, it was fairly early and has consistently given me squash.

As you can see by the top photo, there’s a little watermelon-type of squash that’s also growing next to the zucchini. I’m fairly certain it’s a poquito hybrid squash from Park Seed, which I planted last year (and hovered over until I resigned myself to its non-growth). I must have had at least one seed in my left over stash and dropped it there.






I’m also growing this cute little yellow squash, which I have no idea what it is or where it came from. Too bad, since it’s pretty tasty. As far as I can remember (which isn’t saying much), I’ve never purchased a yellow squash seed like this.




Because I don't know what it is, I'll call it my baby bowling pin squash, since it resembles little tiny, yellow bowling pins. 




This is the lemon squash plant. From the description and reviews, I thought it would be more of a rambler. It’s also supposed to be extremely prolific.

So far, I’m disappointed. It’s been flowering for several weeks, and it has just one little squash on it.

I also planted about 15 seeds, and had poor germination the first time I planted and then had something chomp on the entire plants when I re-planted. The tiny plants were there one day, with several true leaves, and gone the next. They may be squash-bug resistant, but they weren’t resistant to whatever ate them. I’m thinking it was the rolly-pollies, aka pill bugs or sow bugs.
In fact, I was so certain that it was rollie-pollies that were eating all of my fall-harvest seedlings that I went to Bookcliff to get some sort of insecticide dust that would deter them. Mona from Bookcliff had never heard of sow bugs eating non-diseased new seedlings, but I’m still convinced. And I bought a powder that includes sow bugs as one of the target pests it eliminates. I replanted some of the fall harvest plants (but figured it was too late for the heat-loving ones), but haven’t seen any sprouts yet, so I don’t know if the powder will prevent the seedlings from getting gobbled.  

In the meantime, I should have plenty of summer squash to eat. 


The wait is over for tomatoes

By Penny Stine
Friday, August 7, 2015




Although I picked a few tomatoes here and there in July, most of my tomatoes remained green, so I’m just now starting to get a few more. I’ve had my eye on this big reddish one for at least a month. It’s called Big Beef Hybrid, and I got the seed from Park Seed. It grew large fairly quickly and then stayed green for quite a while.


I picked it at noon, along with a few green beans and a zucchini.Once I picked it, I could tell it wasn’t quite as ripe as it looked while it was still on the vine, but I wanted to pick it simply to prevent anyone or anything else from picking it.

(Did I mention that the birds ate all of my peaches before I could pick them???)

I’ll let it ripen on the counter and have BLTs in a couple of days.




This plant is the Banana Legs Roma tomato. I bought it for the novelty of growing a yellow Roma. I think I got the seeds from John Scheeper’s Kitchen Garden.



I picked these two a couple of days ago. I was going to wait and taste them after my husband got home, but then curiosity got the best of me, especially when I realized that one of them was perfectly ripe. So I ate it. I had the salt shaker standing by, but frankly, it didn’t need it. It tasted pretty good to me, but since I haven’t had boatloads of tomatoes yet, maybe its simply the deliciousness of the first few tomatoes.

Time will tell if I still think they’re wonderful when I have other tomatoes to taste and compare with. The Banana Legs variety is a determinate, and I have two plants. I think both of them have set all the tomatoes they’re going to, with about two dozen per plant.




This is a plant that has yet to set any tomatoes at all. It’s either a Roma that my mom gave me seeds for or a Virginia Sweet, which I love. I’m happy either way, especially since this plant in particular was only about an inch and a half tall when I planted it and I wasn’t sure it was going to live.  


Pretty in pots

By Penny Stine
Thursday, August 6, 2015

Because I have a tendency to be cheap, sometimes my flower pots don’t look as pretty as other people’s pots do. I tend to use seeds and smaller plants rather than buying decent-sized plants at the beginning of summer. If I get volunteer plants that come up in a planter, I usually let them, which is why this planter has amaranth in it.

I also experimented with growing veggies in pots this year, which is why this pot also has Swiss chard in it. I kind of like the way this particular planter looks right now, which is more of an accident rather than design.

The basil in my garden isn’t doing well, so I bought a couple of basil plants and decided to put them in two pots that had housed lettuce that went to seed. Not only had the lettuce gone to seed, it got huge and bitter before it did, completely overcrowding these little petunia plants I stuck in the pot in late May. Once the lettuce started getting bitter, I quit picking it, and also quit watering it (because I forgot about the poor, overcrowded petunia plants).

When I pulled out the dead lettuce, I discovered the petunia plants. They looked pretty dead, too, but I decided to leave them and stuck the basil in the pot. The soil was dry as dust, but I had improved my soil and added an expensive brand that Mona at Bookcliff Gardens recommended because plants potted in this soil didn’t need to be watered as much.

I was going to take a photo of the dead petunias before I planted the basil, but since they looked dead, I didn’t.

Oh me of little faith. Those petunias weren’t dead after all. I’ve been watering the pots and the basil continues to look happy and the petunias are coming back.
I looked through my notes, and the soil is called Ocean Forest, and it’s packaged by FoxFarm.  


What a harvest

By Penny Stine
Monday, August 3, 2015

I checked on my peach tree a week or so ago and picked one peach, which was slightly green and hard as a rock, so I figured they were still too green to pick. My husband and I were out of town over the weekend, and I was looking forward to coming home and picking the peaches on my little tree in the backyard, which had maybe three dozen peaches.

Instead, I came home and discovered that the birds didn’t wait for the peaches to get ripe. 

At first, I thought they had pecked at every peach on the tree, then I found two that weren’t half-eaten. I promptly picked them, even though they were still a little hard.

It’s a good thing I can go buy peaches grown by those who know what they’re doing. If I had to survive on what I could grow, I’d starve.

Unless, of course, I figured out a way to eat the birds.  


The squash that ate the garden

By Penny Stine
Friday, July 24, 2015

Check out this spaghetti squash. Julie from the Sentinel’s online department gave me a few seeds to try and I’m loving it. It’s a smaller squash, perfect for two people. I planted it on the side of one of the trellises my husband built and hoped it would climb up and around. Instead it wanted to wander to the south, so I stuck a spare tomato cage in front of it to give it something to climb and keep the squash off the ground.

As you can see, the plant is a sprawler, but unlike some squashes, which sprawl and take up tons of space without actually producing much squash, this type seems to be putting on lots of squashes.






I planted this one in my front garden, where it had lots of room to sprawl south. It went west instead and crawled across a tomato cage (which already had a tomato in it).

It also got tangled up on my cucumber trellis, and now has an arm crawling up that particular trellis. I thought it had smothered the cucumber, but then I noticed the cucumber was simply sprawling on the squash.

The spaghetti squash sent another arm out wandering and it’s about to start climbing one of my big tomato trellises. It will be interesting to see just how far it sprawls and how many squash it produces in one season.

I’m not sure, but I think this squash may be the small wonder hybrid from Park Seed, which I tried last year, but didn’t grow, since nothing much was growing in my garden last year.
I was really looking forward to a variety I planted called lemon squash, which I tried because it’s supposed to be resistant to squash bugs. Although I have one yellow squash plant that has produced one squash, it doesn’t look anything at all like the photos of the lemon squash. I’ve got a couple other lemon squash plants that I started very late, so it will be interesting to see what they produce.  

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