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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Fertilizer works

By Penny Stine
Friday, May 15, 2015

In the past, I’ve never used much fertilizer on my garden. I always thought that if I was adding compost to it every year, I didn’t need to add much of anything else to the soil.
Boy, was I wrong.
Since the 250 pounds of alpaca poop I purchased in early March only covered part of my garden, I decided to run a test and fertilize the other parts of my garden with some kind of fertilizer I purchased at a nursery.


I grabbed a gallon of Alaska Fish Fertilizer, which is highly concentrated (and highly stinky), and immediately began using it in places that didn’t have alpaca poop, like this bed that already head spinach and rhubarb sprouting when I got the alpaca poo.

The fish fertilizer has done wonders for the spinach, although as you can see, the rhubarb behind it is the world’s second-most stunted rhubarb, right behind my other patch of rhubarb, which is the world’s most stunted patch. I fertilized that bunch with alpaca poop, which did absolutely no good whatsoever. 


I planted broccoli, cauliflower, broccolini and cabbage in several places (and can't tell which is which yet).It seems to be equally content with the fish stuff or the alpaca poop. It’s much happier than it’s been in years’ past when I haven’t used any fertilizer.




bok choy is in several places in the garden and appears to like the fish fertilizer better than the alpaca poop. These ones are in an area that got the fish stuff.








These peas along the fence are in an area that got alpaca poop,and they look quite happy. They’re not blooming yet, but with this continuous cool, damp weather, I expect they will soon.








While this tomato isn’t looking fabulous yet, it was incredibly tiny when I planted it. Considering how cool it’s been, I’m actually kind of pleased with the way it looks. It’s in a bed with a lot of alpaca poo.


When I was at Bookcliff, I was lamenting the fact that I’ve got these raspberry bushes that grow like weeds and don’t produce a single berry. Mona Dyer suggested I feed them with a fertilizer that has phosphorus in it, and said bone meal would work, so I have spread a little bone meal around all my raspberry plants. I hope it works, because as you can see, they have plenty of flowers. There have also been lots of bees and I have been trying to give them extra water, so I hope I get berries this year.
While I haven’t figured out which fertilizer works best yet, it has become very clear to me that fertilizing your garden is a good idea. Gee, what a novel thought.

It goes without saying that the weeds are happy with whatever fertilizer I use. 


When plants grow according to plans

By Penny Stine
Thursday, May 14, 2015

When you buy an existing house, you spend quite a bit of time, money and effort getting rid of plants that you don’t like. When you make a plan to replace the plants you don’t like (or that eventually die, like the silver maple tree in our front yard), you have a plan that always looks fabulous in your mind.


Sometimes, it looks pretty fabulous in real life, too, like this sensation boxelder tree we planted in the front yard, surrounded by an 8-foot square border filled with flowering bulbs. Earlier in the year, both the tulips and daffodils that I transplanted from other areas flowered, and it was pretty. Later this summer, I hope the day lilies that I transplanted will take over as the stars of the show.


Then you have areas and plants that just won’t cooperate, like this one. See the red roses? They’re climbing roses that refuse to die. They were completely overgrown in this bed when we bought the house, and my husband and I spent a lot of time hacking the plants and digging out the roots. Then we planted something else. One of the other plants we chose was an apricot-colored rose. The bad thing about planting a different rose in a place where you once had a climbing rose is that the stupid climbing rose refuses to go quietly into the sunset. Although I tried to clip, nip and snip it whenever I saw it, obviously, I was unsuccessful, and it managed to masquerade as part of the apricot rose last year when it started growing again.
Seriously, it’s been years since we cut that plant out, and yet here it is, blooming like a braying rooster on a quiet morning.
The main reason I dislike climbing roses is that they’re pretty for about a week and then they go back to being a highly invasive, thorny weed.  


Anyone have any tips for transplanting this?

By Penny Stine
Monday, May 11, 2015

I know this is too big for the container it's in, but I really don't know how I'm going to divide this particular perennial. I don't have any gloves that are thick enough to touch it without getting poked. 

It was pretty tiny when I planted it in this planter 15 years ago, and I love it in the springtime when it blooms. Once in a while, it drops a leaf or two into the flowerbed below, which can be painful, but overall, it's been a good plant for this particular container, which is in my front yard, but doesn't actually get hit by any of my sprinklers. 


So easy to love irises in May

By Penny Stine
Friday, May 8, 2015

Irises are so pretty in May when they're in bloom. They're a relatively easy flower to grow, but the bulbs do get a little root-bound after being in the same place for a decade or two. If you've ever dug out root-bound irises, you'll swear you'll never plant them again. 

I dug out root bound irises planted by the former owner ow my house (and was able to give the bulbs to the owner when she called on a whim and asked about them) and resisted the urge to plant irises anywhere in my yard for a couple years, then relented and planted them in this wildflower area out by the irrigation cistern. They make the area look really pretty in May, before the grass, weeds, mint and sunflowers take over. 


Who (or what) likes the rain?

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, May 6, 2015

While I had enough rain in the years that I lived in Seattle to last a lifetime, now that I've been gone 15 years, I don't mind it so much. There are plenty of living things that absolutely thrive in this cool, wet weather, however, and several of them are growing in my garden. 


The baby bok choy is quite happy...









as are the potatoes that recently came out of the ground and are growing like gangbusters.The beets that I left in the ground last fall are looking good, too.













The peas along this fence are thriving in the wet weather.










My perennial herbs are happy, although I'm not as happy with some of them, like this salad burnet.

It has a tendency to spread, so now I have little baby salad burnets popping up everywhere. I wouldn't mind it if the plant were particularly striking or delicious, but while it's kinda fern-like and interesting, it doesn't taste like much. So far, I'm letting it grow in shady spots, but I'm thinking I'm going to dig it out and plant other things. 




And of course, the weeds are delirious. Dang weeds...

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