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, May 30, 2012
Yes, we gardeners live dangerously. I thought everyone knew that. We create jungles in our garden spaces in August because we're incredibly impatient at the end of May. Plus, there's the aura of mystery inherent in every springtime garden when seeds are used.
Will it come up? Did it die? Did a critter chomp either the seeds or the seedlings?
I planted six sweet potato plants - only two look like they'll survive. Still not thriving, as you can see by the picture, but looking somewhat Gloria Gaynor-ish.
Here's the one that's got me living on the edge of danger. It looks dead, right? I gave it a huge space because my mom said sweet potatoes need it. So now that I've got the huge empty space with nothing growing in it but a maybe-dead sweet potato, I'll be tempted to plant even more seeds because an empty space in a garden is worse than a cookie jar with no cookies. It must be filled!
I will sow a jungle. My sweet potato plant will miraculously not die, but will compete with the squash, beans or tomatillos I plant in its place. Everything will grow and I'll need a machete to find whatever produce my jungle produces.
If that's not living dangerously, I don't know what is.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
I should be putting the finishing touches on the 20+ stories I'm trying to write (that were due yesterday) for the Summer Music Festival. I am, however, going stir crazy and need a break. So due to popular demand, I'm going to host a quick episode of Name that Squash!, the always fun, interactive game in which I post a picture of a squash growing in my garden and you, dear blog reader, try to guess the variety.
Ready? Here goes...
Hint: I'm giving this one a lot of room. My mom gave me one last year that filled my entire oven when I cut it in two and baked it.
If you guessed hubbard, give yourself five points.
I bought a package that had five different kinds of pattypan squash seeds in it, so it's a scalloped squash of some kind. The seeds weren't marked or color-coded, so even if I was the kind of gardener who took notes or carefully marked everything (I'm not), I wouldn't know whether this is a moonbeam, a sunbeam, a total eclipse, a partial eclipse or a lunar eclipse. It could also be a hybrid scalloped called a G-Star. No, that wasn't G-string. It's a squash, not an adult toy.
Ditto for these. Where do they get the names? Of course, these do look like little spaceships when they're grown, so maybe that's why they chose the extra-terrestrial names.
OK, here's one I actually know, and you should, too, since I blogged about planting spaghetti squash in my straw bales.
Last but not least, here are two mystery squashes that came up on their own. I don't know whether they're coming up because I spread my home compost on the ground or because I planted something in these spaces last year and they've been thinking about growing for a year.
If you actually think you know what these mystery squash are, let me know. Your prize will be an actual squash from not one, but both plants!
OK, so no one really demanded it, but I'm sure you would have if you would have known how much fun it was or the fame and glory that could be yours if you guessed them all correctly.
Perhaps the real question should be, why does anyone need to plant so many squash?
Now I gotta get back to work...
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
It's amazing what you can find after you've had a decent night's sleep. Here is the picture of the battery-operated pump put together by one intrepid straw bale gardener. The hose is connected right to it and they've attached a small sprinkler which can hit about half of their plants in one watering. It takes about 10 - 20 minutes to thoroughly soak everything. Pretty good solution to no electricity and low water pressure.
I also included a photo of my straw bales at home. These are about 10 days ahead of the ones in the community plot. It took about a week for the seeds to sprout in this bale. I've got spaghetti squash in back and some sort of melon in front. I haven't been watering my bales at home daily now that I'm no longer conditioning or waiting on seeds to sprout. The bales seem to stay moist for a couple of days, which is what is supposed to happen. So far, this experiment gets a thumbs up.
By Penny Stine
Monday, May 21, 2012
As part of the community straw bale garden at Northeast Christian Church, I wanted to help the preschoolers at Kids of the Kingdom plant a few pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and melons in straw bales close to their perimeter fence.
They conditioned the bales by watering them faithfully twice a day for the last two weeks, so I went over on my lunch hour and helped them plant. I could tell the bales were ready because they were damp, they had started to turn brownish black once we dug into them, and they'd started to sprout.
I had leftover tomatoes and pepper plants that I'd grown from seed to share with them, and we also planted pumpkins on the western edge of the bales and cucumber and Kazakh melons on the eastern side so they could climb up the fence.
Although almost the entire class wanted to come and help plant, most of them got bored and wanted to go back and play. These four are the Future Farmers of America - preschool edition. They stayed with me until every last seed was put in a hold and covered with dirt.
Here are a couple of the other straw bale plots at the garden. Most of us planted a combination of plants and seeds. Although most of us are using a drip system (we took skewers and poked holes in hoses - very fancy), one couple rigged together a cool battery-operated pump that they use to run a sprinkler over their bales. I took a photo of it, but now I can't find it.
We're all feeling optimistic that this will work and we'll have lovely melons, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers.
Forget about growing another row, I'm growing a whole 'nother garden to share!
By Penny Stine
Friday, May 18, 2012
I'm always trying something new in my garden. This year, I'm going for a southern theme, with the addition of mustard greens, okra and sweet potatoes. I didn't know anything about growing any of them before I ordered them all from the seed catalogs.
When you order sweet potatoes, this is what comes in the mail.
Well, the plants didn't come exactly like that. They came in some sort of cardboard container with a weird moisture-holding material. The towel came from my linen closet. I wrapped them in a damp towel to keep the roots moist when they first came to me on a Saturday.
My friend and I ordered 25 (that was the smallest number possible) and we have been selling a few to friends and coworkers, since neither she nor I wanted to plant 12 1/2 sweet potato plants.
I planted four plants right away and stuck the other few roots in a bottle full of water and let them soak for a few days while I figured out where else to put them.
I put one in a straw bale, and it actually looks pretty good.
Half of the other ones I planted look like they died, but I'm confident that the root is still alive and that the plant is merely mustering up enough energy to burst forth and multiply. See, they have little tiny leaves that are waiting for the right conditions to emerge.
From what I've been reading, I'll need to cure the sweet potatoes by putting them in a hot, humid place for two weeks after I harvest in order to get the sweetest flavor. Don't really know how I'll pull that one off, but I'll worry about that after the plants actually grow and produce.