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, September 14, 2012
I started all my tomato plants from seed this year, and I think I'm growing at least eight different kinds of tomatoes. My goal was to grow enough of my own to can so I wouldn't have to go buy any from Rettig Farms in East Orchard Mesa. Although, really, the farmers at Rettig are perfectly lovely people and their prices for U-pick are beyond reasonable (last year, I think they charged $11 for a bushel), so a sane person would wonder why I bother.
But my fellow gardeners (who probably aren't quite sane, either) know that there is nothing like picking YOUR OWN TOMATO from a plant IN YOUR YARD that you have watched grow from tiny seedling to big, honking plant knocking over the cage.
Before I wander too far away from the point... thanks to the boatloads of plants that I'm growing, I decided to try different types of tomato plant supports. I've got two trellises that my wonderful husband built for me growing tomatoes.
This trellis was actually supposed to be for the beans.
In that deep jungle of stuff, there are dozens of Anasazi beans intertwined with cucumbers, a strange melon and two tomato plants. I strung up netting from the bottom of the trellis to the top on both sides and just poked the tomato between strings as it grew.
As you can see, the tomato plant was quite happy with my treatment and is huge.
I saw this technique on some internet site for secrets to tomato growing success. Same type of trellis except that I run a single piece of twine from the bottom support beam to the top beam. This should work, because tomatoes are supposed to do well when you train them up a central leader.
Mine did not do so well. I should have mulched and monitored their water better.
I think the heat in June really stunted these tomatoes' growth, too. (Mulching and monitoring probably would have helped)
If we had two more months of growing, I'm sure I'd get plenty of tomatoes. Since we only have a month or so, I'm not sure how many I'll get.
I also have tomatoes in cheap cages. Usually, my plants get big enough to make the cage fall over, but this year, I pounded stakes in the cages before I even planted the tomatoes. It looked silly in early June to have four-feet cages and stakes with four-inch tomatoes, but the stakes did their job and held the cages upright.
I haven't counted every last green tomato I can find, so I'm not sure whether or not I'll have enough (eventually ripe) tomatoes to fulfill all of my pasta fantasies over the winter, but I'm hoping for the best. In the meantime, this is the time of year to begin thinking what to do to make it even better next year.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
What do you do when you've got tons of this?
These are the tomatillos that come up every year in this spot. I only planted them once, but they come back. And they produce like crazy. I've also got them in two other areas...
I tried experimenting with new peppers this year.
This is a fatalii pepper, which originated in Africa and is supposed to be the sixth hottest pepper in the world. When ripe, the seed catalog said they turn yellow. Mine turned orange.
I forgot to take a photo of the orange ones before we used them for canning tomato/tomatillo sauce, so this picture will have to do.
Fatalii peppers have a flavor very similar to a habanero; so they're both kind of smoky, with hints of citrus. Also very hot. I have one habanero plant in my garden, too.
The best thing about growing really hot peppers is that a little bit goes a long way.My friend and I made 26 pints of peach tomatillo salsa. We used a little less than a cup of chopped habaneros.
We made 21 quarts of tomato/tomatillo sauce and used five fataliis. Our sauce was plenty hot. We hope it will remind us of summer every time we eat it.
By Penny Stine
Friday, September 7, 2012
I stopped by my friend Jan's house to snap a photo of her gigantic amaranth, which is quite appropriately called "Golden Giant."
These all came up from seeds that last year's plants dropped. She asked her husband to whack off the top of the amaranth this weekend, before it scatters a kazillion seeds all over her garden. It does make a lovely pole for the morning glory to climb.
I also snapped a photo of her kale, which could easily be mistaken for elephant ears. Except the leaves are probably larger than most elephants' ears. My kale, which is planted in a semi-shady area, is about 18 inches tall. Hers is easily three feet tall.
Last, but not least, I took one last photo of the amaranth, along with the tomatoes, which are also climbing on the amaranth.The tomato plants are more than five feet tall. She's picked a few tomatoes that are almost as big as footballs.
What is the secret to Jan's gardening success? Her space has sunshine all day, every day. Her garden gets watered automatically twice a day, at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. for seven minutes. (Oh, for an automatic watering system!)
She also added about five yards of compost to her gardening beds in the spring.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, August 30, 2012
I like flowers in my vegetable garden, but I'm learning that with certain ones, you have to be ruthless about yanking them out before they reseed themselves all over the place. Believe it or not, I didn't actually plant any flowers in my garden this year, with the exception of three dahlia bulbs that someone gave me.
Everything that's growing in my garden came up from seeds that last year's flowers dropped. I kind of like how the amaranth lines the pathway in my garden this year. It was actually coming up everywhere, and I pulled most of it except for the ones that bordered the path.
I need to start pulling flowers out now, before they goes to seed or I will have nothing but amaranth growing in next year's garden.
It's hard to pull when it looks so cool.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
My gardening buddy and I love to grow new, tasty things, and when we find one that's a keeper, I like to share it with the world. Or with whoever reads this blog.
This year, we tried several different types of beans. We ordered all the bean seeds from Park Seeds, although we also ordered a cow pea seed (which look like gigantic pole beans) from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
We tried a yellow bush bean called a soleil. My reaction? Meh.
We ordered two different pole beans, Kwintus and Smeraldo.
Our reaction? Oh, my gosh, these are the best beans we've ever tasted! They are almost as sweet as a snap pea and three times as large. I love to eat them raw and they're delicious cooked. They're great in stir-fry, they're totally awesome with bacon and garlic. I LOVE THESE BEANS!
OK, so maybe I'm getting carried away... The only bad thing is that we cannot tell them apart. Both of them are long, flat and seriously delicious. I think the kwintus continues to produce and produce and produce some more, but the photo above is a smeraldo, so it's no slouch in production, either.
Jan's beans are doing much better than mine, but she has raised beds and she amended her soil a lot more than I did. Soil temperature in a raised bed is higher than in a plot in the ground, so although the temp in her raised bed was warm enough for bean seeds, the temperature in my garden wasn't quite there yet, which is why I had a much lower germination rate.
Next year, I'm using more compost and I'm going to wait until at least June before I plant green beans. Yes, I'm planting kwintus and smeraldo again.