Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Earlier in the spring and summer, I tried all sorts of tricks to get carrot seeds to germinate. I prepared the soil, I pampered them, I was diligent about keeping them moist. I begged and pleaded and planted at least three packets of carrot seeds. I got three carrots.
I had a few carrot seeds left and when I was planting kohlrabi in hopes of a harvest in late October, I threw the spare carrot seeds on another patch of ground where nothing was growing. I did not prepare the soil. I have not watered consistently and the spot doesn't get a lot of sunshine.
Yet look at this. The kohlrabi has yet to sprout, but the carrots are going wild.
Why, why why? Why wouldn’t they grow before? Why are they taking off now? Is it the extra humidity? Is it the fact that I ignored them?
I planted a purple Brussels sprouts this year that’s a long season grower, so I’ve been content to just watch the few plants that are doing well. For some reason, this plant died quite suddenly. It was looking good, and yet within a week, it just sort of shriveled up and died.
Yes, I know I need to weed, but I don't think the surrounding grass and weeds choked the life out of the plant. Trust me, I've got just as much grass and weeds in other areas of my garden.
I watered it about the same as I watered every other area of my gardens, so I have no idea why that one died.
The rest of them growing in other areas look like this.
The more I garden, the more I realize I don’t know much about gardening, plants and the mysteries of why plants do what they do.
I'm glad I don't make my living by what I can grow. I'd starve.
By Penny Stine
Monday, August 18, 2014
I started growing walking onions several years ago and now I’ve got boatloads of them. They’re a pretty spicy, faintly purple onion that will spread all over the garden if you’re not careful. They’ll also spread all over even if you are careful.
See the little bulbs at the top of the stem? Every onion produces them and they fall to the ground and replant themselves. Hence the name “walking” onions.
Last year, instead of simply letting them plant themselves wherever they want to, I replanted the bulbs in three
different areas, and planted them about half an inch deep, hoping the onions would be bigger. It worked in some areas, but they were still small in others.
I started picking green onions in March or April, and then started pulling some of the onions underground sometime in June.
Usually, I simply pulled whatever I wanted for that day’s dinner and left the rest in the ground. They stay firm and just get bigger all summer, but by mid-September, they start to get mushy.
The other day, when I took that photo, I decided to pull a bunch of onions and try freezing them.
I’ve been collecting the little bulbettes that form at the top. I’ll figure out where I want to plant them for next year and get them in the ground sometime in October.
These onions aren’t great keepers. They’ll stay firm for a month or so in the fridge, but they’re not one you can dig up and store (and use) all winter.
That's why I decided to try freezing them. Onions are mushy after you cook them, so it won’t matter if they get mushy during the freezing process.
Because they always make me cry (they’re a really strong little onion) , I use my handy-dandy chopper if I’m chopping more than one or two onions. Then I put them in small, snack-size ziploc bags and put the small bags into a larger, gallon-size freezer bag.
If I had kids at home, I would never do this. I would never have time to do this, but since we don’t have kiddos at home, I’ve got a lot more time to spend puttering around in the garden or in the kitchen with whatever I’ve picked from the garden. Any onions that don’t get picked by mid-September will stay in the ground all winter - they start getting too mushy to use at that point if left in the ground.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
This has been a tough gardening year. I had a lot of seeds that didn’t germinate and a lot of plants that died, so it’s good to see an area that’s thriving, like this one.
This bed used to be too shady to grow much of anything other than shade-loving perennials, mint and parsley, but since we cut the big tree down in the front yard, I decided to see what I could grow in here. The bed has good sunshine from about 9 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. which is more than almost anyplace else in my yard.
I planted three sweet pepper plants, and as you can see, they’re full of peppers. They’re supposed to be orange when ripe. I’m getting extremely impatient for them to turn orange. One turned almost completely yellow, and I decided that was good enough, so I put it in a salad with cucumbers, basil and a couple of tomatoes.
The peppers are starting to drag the limbs to the ground (which means some of the peppers are also on the ground), so I'm hoping that's not an invitation to the bugs to come and make a nice dinner out of my unripe peppers.
I also planted three different types of melons in this bed, which was probably too many. I stuck a couple of tomato cages (and two shoe racks) in the bed in an attempt to get the melons to grow up instead of spreading out into the lawn. It’s kinda, sorta successful. I need a sturdier, taller support for them. A stepladder would be perfect, but I just can't see my husband agreeing to put a small stepladder in the middle of a planting bed.
I have a couple watermelons, a couple of cantaloupe and a few honeydew melons in the bed, so I’m pretty excited about that. I'm not very good at determining when they're ripe, so I'm going to leave them on the vine until I just can't stand it.
There are also three or four ground cherry bushes in there somewhere. So far, they’re not producing very many at a time, so beyond putting them in salads, I haven’t experimented with them much. I found a great coffee cake recipe, so as soon as I accumulate two cups of them, I plan on making it. (Of course, that requires me to quit eating them as soon as I find them, which may or may not happen!)
By Penny Stine
Friday, August 8, 2014
When I was out in the garden last night, I saw some enormous green beans, so I decided to pick all I could find. Seriously, I picked all the large ones I saw, in all the places where my green beans are growing.
This morning, I went out to see what was interesting and would make a good blog entry, and what did I spy with my little eye?
Yes, this honking green bean!
How did I miss it?
So then I went around to all the other places where I’m growing green beans to see if I could find a few more misses.
When I planted, I had more seeds than what would fit along the fence where I wanted them to grow or on the trellis, so I stuck a few tomato cages in the ground and planted pole beans around them.
I’m happy I did, since for reasons I can’t figure out, the beans on the fence didn’t do well. Most of them didn’t even sprout. There are only two sad little bean plants growing along this fenceline, which is at least 12 feet long, and where I planted easily two dozen seeds.
To add insult to injury, these plants are just starting to flower!
Ditto for the beans on this trellis. More than three sprouted, but they died, so this is all I have on the trellis.
When Becky at work gave me three tomato plants, I put them here on this trellis, since the beans were a no-show. At least I had someplace to put the tomatoes, and they appear quite happy.
Luckily, I had quite a few unused tomato cages and planted beans in random places, where they’re doing fine. These ones are a yellow, Romano-style pole bean, which I’ve never tried before.
They’re a little slower to produce, since I’ve picked green beans several times, but until last night and this morning, I didn’t have any yellow ones big enough to pick.
In my quick search this morning before work, this is how many I found.I probably picked about twice that many last night, when I thought I picked every bean that was big enough to pick. Obviously, they’re really good at hiding.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
I planted in this straw bale on three different occasions before finally giving up. Every time something would sprout, some critter would come along and chomp it. The last time I planted in the straw bale was probably early July. The other day, I saw this.
I tried both melons and squash in the bale, so it could be either one, but I'm leaning toward squash. I think it’s interesting that the seed was there, not germinating at all during almost the entire month of July. It wasn’t until we got the big rain at the end of the month that it finally sprouted.
The bale gets plenty of water, so it wasn’t a lack of water. Perhaps it just didn’t like the heat.
In all the seed catalogs or on the seed packets themselves, many of the directions say to sow in early spring, and then say that they can be sown again in mid-summer for a fall harvest, if you live in an area with a long growing season.
I think we have a pretty long growing season (especially compared to the rest of the Rocky Mountain Region), and I’ve been attempting to do fall crops for several years, without much luck.
I planted Swiss Chard, carrots, a lettuce mix and beets sometime in mid-July, and this is the only plant that came up. It’s a Fordhook Giant Swiss chard. At the time, I didn’t realize how much the ground cherries would grow and crowd everything else. Swiss chard can get pretty huge, so I think this one will hold its own.
Last week, I decided to use up the rest of my seeds (and I even went out and bought a few additional ones) and try one more time for a fall crop. I planted on the last Monday in July, and we got soaked with rain on both Monday and Tuesday night of the same week.
I bought some kohlrabi seeds Tuesday after work and planted those when I got home, so those got a nice soak, too.
So far, the only sprouts I can see are these, which I’m pretty sure are beets.
I’m sure all the little seeds underground appreciated this week’s rain, too. We’ll see if any more begin to sprout now that the sun is returning.
I’m not sold on the idea of mid-summer planting for a fall crop. Maybe it works well in other areas, but so far, I’m not seeing stellar results in my garden.
Btw, ever since my rototiller broke, I’ve decided to be a non-rototilling gardener, which means I often have stuff that grows where I didn't plant it, but where the plant from the previous year went to seed or where the compost sprouted.
Here’s the healthiest kale I have in this year’s garden, growing where I certainly didn’t plant it last spring.I only planted one new variety of kale last spring and it didn’t sprout at all. Good thing it comes up on its own.
This potato plant is growing in a bed that’s overrun with columbine, overgrown wild kale, some weeds and flowers because it's too shady to grow many vegetables. How that potato got there, I certainly do not know, because I’m fairly certain that I didn’t put it there!