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, April 1, 2015
Although I bought a bunch of alpaca poop to use as a fertilizer in my garden, I didn’t have enough to spread everywhere, so I decided to see if my compost bins have been doing what they’re supposed to. I have this tall black one that I stir with a pitchfork every now and again. During irrigation season, we have a drip hose with a small spray emitter that keeps it continuously moist, which speeds up the compost process, as does the heat.
When I stuck my shovel in the bottom, I was quite pleased to find quite a bit of decomposed material at the bottom of the bin.I spread it by the shovelful all over that portion of the garden. Using compost from my garden and from the kitchen waste has been a great way to spread seeds all over the place, which is why I get tomatillos sprouting everywhere.
My husband built me this open air compost bin a few years ago after I saw one that a local gardener used. She did a better job of managing her compost than I do, and had one bin that was all nice and decomposed. Mine has sat there, looking like a holding container for dead grass.
I dug into it, however, and discovered that underneath the grass, branches and sticks, there was some decomposed matter, which I promptly shoveled out and used to condition the soil where I was planting potatoes.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
When I was at Bookcliff Gardens last week taking photos for our Spring Home and Garden section I saw these ollas, which are watering clay pots that haven’t been glazed. It’s an old-school method of watering a small planting area (like a raised bed), which I thought was pretty cool.
The pots are buried in a planting area and then filled with water. Because the clay pots aren’t glazed, the water slowly seeps out into the surrounding soil. The trick, according to the experts at Bookcliff, is to have decent soil to begin with (not clay), so the water will actually move through the soil and reach plant roots. You don’t lose any water to evaporation, which is supposed to make it effective.
Although all of my planting beds have water, the plants in this one in the back yard never seem to get enough water. I try to water with a hose, but get busy and forget. So I bought an olla to bury in the bed, fill with water and see what happens.
There are a few asparagus plants in this bed that have yet to produce any asparagus that’s suitable for eating. I’ve also planted a bunch of my walking onions here and will probably plant a squash in here, too and maybe a cauliflower plant.
I filled it all the way to the top with water, then stuck the lid on it and left it there. It’s been a couple days since I buried it, and when I’ve taken off the lid, I can see that the water is slowly seeping out. The soil doesn’t feel wet, but it’s not as dry as it was when I buried the olla.
In a bed this size, I should probably bury 3 or 4 ollas, but since my lawn sprinklers also hit it, I figured I’d bury one in the driest corner and see what happens.
You’re supposed to dig up and remove the ollas for the winter at the end of the season to help them last longer.
It’s an interesting concept for a planting area that has no irrigation system or an irrigation system that's just not working well. I'll report on it as the season progresses. It will be interesting to see how often I have to replace the water in the olla.
Mount Garfield Greenhouse also carries ollas.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
I planted salad fixings like lettuce, radishes and carrots in pots on my patio back in February when the weather was beautiful. Of course, I forgot where I planted things, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw carrots sprouting in this pot. I planted these little round ones that are supposed to be ready earlier than others.
This radish sprouted a week or so ago. I think I have more radishes in other pots.
I’m pretty sure there’s lettuce somewhere in this pot, with perhaps more radishes.
I left a long planter empty; my plan was to plant peas and let them dangle over the side of the deck. It’s about a five foot drop to the ground, so I figured they could grow down instead of up. Then I remembered that we always clear the deck and refinish it in May, right when the peas would be draped all over the back of the deck.
As you can see, I still scattered pea seeds in the planter. I figure I’ll harvest them as pea shoots, rather than letting them drape over the side of the deck. They're much closer together than they would be if I was going to let them get big, but since start cutting shoots as soon as they're a couple inches tall, I can cram them all together. Rather than poking them in the ground, I simply covered the entire planter with seedling starter mix soil and gave it a good water.
I also planted a row of peas along the fence out in the garden, so I should have plenty of peas this spring.
I should also have plenty of lettuce, radishes and carrots for salad, too. I just hope they’re all ready to harvest at the same time.
By Penny Stine
Friday, March 20, 2015
When I first started gardening, I didn’t grow either onions or garlic because both are relatively inexpensive at the grocery store, and I didn’t think home grown onions or garlic would taste that different from store bought.
I was intrigued by the Egyptian walking onions, however, so I started them several years ago. I now have hundred (perhaps thousands) of them growing all over my gardens.
I also changed my mind about garlic and have planted both seeds and bulbs in various locations. Although I try to dig them all up in mid-summer when it’s time, it’s easy to miss, so now I have garlic in several locations, too.
Two years ago, I decided to grow leeks just because they are kinda pricey at the store and I wanted to see if I could.Although I pulled most of them late in the fall, I had a few that weren’t very big, so I left them in the ground. They survived and have now started growing again. I don’t know if they would have survived a harsh winter, but because we were so mild, they did just fine.
I imagine that once they start getting regular water in early April, they’ll grow quickly and I’ll have some fresh leeks in May.
The leek seed package had hundreds of seeds, and I’ve saved unused seeds from year-to-year. I should probably freeze them, but I don’t. It doesn’t seem to hurt their germination rate. This tray of seedlings was started in late February. I decided to start hardening them off so I can transplant them in early April.
Because shallots are expensive, I wondered if we could grow them here. A little research revealed that most experts say they’re easier to grow than regular onions, so my friend, Jan, and I bought a packet of shallot seeds and got them started a few weeks ago.
They look just like the leeks.
Interestingly enough, some websites say you can’t grow shallots from seed and you must get them started by planting a bulb. Obviously, the seed will grow (witness the little seedlings in my photo); perhaps the plants started by seed won’t produce as many shallot bulbs.
When I was in the master gardening class, one of the instructors said that you can’t grow garlic from seed and it had to be started with a bulb. I had collected garlic seed from my mom’s garden and grew all kinds of garlic with it, but I noticed that the garlic that sprouted from seed didn’t form those big heads of garlic, just the curly scapes and a single little bulb below ground. Since I love garlic scape, I never bothered digging them up, I just left them there and cultivated them for the tops.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Last year, I got this cool catalog with all these unique fruit trees and berry bushes that had fruits I’d never heard of. While some of them won’t grow in our soil conditions, there was one that sounded promising.
The honeyberry or haskap berry, as it is known in Japan, is supposed to be a berry that grows well in alkaline soil and needs some shade in a hot location. Oh boy, have I got alkaline soil and shade! So I ordered two, which promptly died.
Then I bought two plants from Bookcliff Gardens (I think last year was the first year they got the plants) and planted them.
The bushes survived, but they didn’t look great last summer. By the end of the season, I wasn’t even sure that they were still alive.
But as you can see by the photo, the plant looks quite happy and healthy this spring.
They’re an early berry, with a crop that comes in before strawberries.
They’re an edible honeysuckle, and this is what the flower looks like.While I was out there taking a photo, I saw a bee buzzing around. Yay bees!
I will post more information regarding the flavor of the berries when they form and ripen later this spring.
I believe the plants get about four to six feet high and produce for decades.
I just hope I like them. If not, I can always put them in my morning breakfast smoothie.