Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Friday, July 19, 2013
Next year, I will buy tomatoes early. Oh, I'll still start my favorites from seed simply because it's a great way to keep my mind off winter, but I refuse to wait until the end of July or the first of August for ripe tomatoes.
My gardening buddy, Jan, bought tomato plants with tomatoes already on them in May and she's been eating ripe, red tomatoes for weeks. She shared a couple with me last week, and they were delicious. I enjoyed every mouth-watering bite and felt foolish for being too stubborn to buy tomatoes that I didn't start myself.
Because this is what the tomatoes I started from seed still look like. I fear that I will turn completely gray and need both dentures and crutches before they ripen.
Of course, so many of my tomato plants died at transplant this year that I ended up buying a couple plants in early June, after the good ones had already been picked over. This is one of the plants I bought in June.
I'll have to wait even longer for it to give me tomatoes.
I'll be gray, in dentures, on crutches and wearing Depends before I get my first BLT out of these!
By Penny Stine
Thursday, July 18, 2013
It's so lovely when someone catches the gardening bug. And no, I'm not referring to squash bugs, I'm referring to that wondrous sense of how cool it is to stick a seed in the ground, give it some water, talk to it in encouraging ways and have a plant that you want begin to grow. I got this e-mail from Julie Norman, the Sentinel's online coordinator, who is growing her first garden:
"Look! A zucchini! I don't remember what kind... Erin McIntyre gave the seeds to me. I fought off squash bugs and eventually raked ALL the mulch away from the plant so they had nowhere to hide (I didn't have that many but was finding 2-3 bugs a day)."
Ah... welcome to the club, Julie. Did you ever think zucchini could be so exciting?
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Tomatoes are so versatile and essential to the way I cook that they always get the coveted, prime sunshine spots in the garden. Of course, I should mention that the coveted, prime sunshine spots in my shady garden probably get the bare minimum amount of six hours of sunshine required for most garden veggies.
Since I killed half of them while they were trying to establish themselves (or at least allowed them to be cruelly devoured by something), over half of my tomato plants are newcomers, thanks to my mom's generous donation of tomato plants over the 4th of July, which is pretty evident by the size of the plants on this trellis. Notice only two plants are halfway up the trellis while three others don't even reach the bottom of the netting.
Most of the transplants are looking pretty good, thanks to the rain we've had in the last week and a half. This one is on my sunniest trellis, showing very little trauma from its recent relocation.
The amaranth, which I decided to let live because of it's unusual appearance, is looking fine, too.
I've also got tomatoes in traditional cages, although I tried to beef up my flimsy cages by putting pounding rebar or wooden stakes into the ground to help keep the cage upright when the plant gets enormous. Even though my tomatoes are slow to grow and produce, I know that by next month, this plant will be overflowing its cage.
After years of losing the first few tomatoes to blossom end rot, I decided to follow the advice of the CSU extension office and mulch with straw around all of my plants. So far, the green tomatoes are showing no signs of blossom end rot, but it usually doesn't show up until the tomato is ripening and I still haven't had a ripe tomato from my shade garden yet!
Maybe next week.
By Penny Stine
Monday, July 15, 2013
I was watering my flowerpots on Sunday with the irrigation hose, really drenching a couple of my biggest pots. After I soaked this pot with at least two inches of water and had moved on to more shallow pots, my husband told me there was a baby bird in the flower pot that couldn't seem to get out.
I hadn't seen it because the leaves are too thick and the bird is the color of shadows.
When I went to check on the bird's progress, he/she/it had managed to hop to the rim of the pot, but it didn't seem real inclined to go anywhere else. I wasn't using a particularly strong zoom to get this shot - the bird didn't act like it wanted to fly anywhere.
Maybe it's wings were waterlogged.
When I went out and checked a half hour later, the bird was gone. It made an unusual flower for a little while, but I hope it managed to fly away. There are plenty of cats in my neighborhood that would have thought this bird made a tasty snack.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Since I'm growing a couple weird things this year, I thought I'd give an update. First, the poona kheera cucumber. Or maybe it's a Sikkim cucumber. I planted both in this little planting box and don't remember which is on the right and which is on the left. One's supposed to be a whitish color that turns yellow when ripe, while one is a reddish color that turns brown when ripe. This cuke is green. Lime green, but still green.
In addition to being red, the Sikkim is also supposed to be big and fat. This looks like one lean pickle, which makes me think it's the poona kheera.
Both varieties are supposed to be incredibly sweet and good keepers. I'm waiting to pick until it starts turning a different color. Both vines are loaded with cucumbers. I've got lemon cucumbers, too, because I love the way they taste, although they don't keep at all.
Here's a photo of the malabar spinach I took on Monday. As you can see, it's still pretty tiny. Everything I've read says it likes the heat and really takes off once temperatures are consistently above 90 or 95.
Temps have been above 90 for weeks and it's still tiny. It's native to the tropics of Asia, however, so I'm hoping the higher humidity this week, along with a littler higher temps in the evening, will make it grow. Perhaps I should learn to speak encouraging words to it in an Indian dialect.
Here's a pic I took on my phone this morning (Thursday) before work. I tell myself that it's a lot bigger than it was on Monday. Of course, I still tell myself that I'm only approaching middle age, too!