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, March 18, 2011
The Everly Brothers got nuthin’ on me. Now that the weather is teasing us occasionally with promises of spring and hints of gardenable weather, my imagination is soaring. I want to plant! I want to harvest! I want to eat delicious food, picked right in my front yard!
I’d really like to stay home and cheer on my seedlings and turn my compost or plant something else in the garden, but those pesky utility providers and grocery stores expect to get paid. In actual cash. And gas isn’t getting any cheaper, so I’ve got to earn a paycheck.
In the meantime, I allow myself to daydream about the wonderful food I’ll eat once everything is producing. I Googled pineapple tomatillos and found an incredible pineapple tomatillo salsa with ginger, limes and cilantro. The recipe called for plain tomatillos and included fresh pineapple, but I’m willing to try it with pineapple tomatillos.
But mine aren’t quite ready for picking. If you look real hard, you can see them just starting to sprout. Last year I grew Cisneros and purple tomatillos, and I don't remember them taking so long to sprout. I hope the pineapple tomatillos are as prolific as the ones I planted last year because I really want to try that salsa.
I found a mouthwatering recipe for a pasta sauce with Sun Gold tomatoes, chives and basil. But I don’t think I’ll be harvesting tomatoes for at least another few months.
I found an exotic idea for pickled cucumbers with perilla leaves, but I haven’t even got my perilla seeds in the mail yet! I’m pretty sure you’ve got to plant the seeds before you can use the leaves.
In the meantime, all I can do is dreee-eee-eamm, dream, dream, dream.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Like a lot of gardeners, I want to be able to compost. I not only want to be able to make compost using lawn and garden waste, I want to make it and actually be able to use it, too. That’s been the tricky part.
I’ve got this tall, honking bin that seems like it should make great compost, but the bin is so tall that it’s difficult to turn the contents. Plus, I’m always adding fresh stuff to the top, which slows down the decomposition of everything down below.
My mom uses a couple of the drum models, but they’re not very big, and I’ve got a large pile of materials waiting to compost.
So I asked my husband to build a bin. The materials cost about $60 (I think… it could have been higher) and it took him several hours last Sunday. But I got exactly what I wanted.
The bin will have two compartments. (He forgot to put the divider in when he built it, but got the additional supplies last night, so it should happen any day now.) I can work one side, turning the contents and letting everything decompose while adding new kitchen scraps and yard waste to the other side. It won’t get as hot as the black bin in my other garden, but I’m hoping it works well when the weather turns hot.
In the meantime, I better get busy and chop up that compost pile and decide which half of the bin to put it.
The bin is wood and sits in the irrigated portion of what will be my new garden area, so it will get sprinkled when I water, but I’m hoping it holds up. If not, then I’ve learned another valuable lesson in what not to do.
By Carol Clark
Monday, March 14, 2011
If you are a square foot garden fan, new to gardening, or wanting to expand your existing garden, check out the Greenland Gardener Raised Bed Garden Kit at Sam's Club. The perfect size at 3 1/2' x 7' so you never have to step in and compact the soil.
The kit is made out of recycled material so it won't decompose like wood and the price is right at around $40.
We bought one to add onto our raised garden collection. This is the fifth raised bed and we have learned to love this type of gardening. You can raise a wheelbarrow load of vegetables this way, because the plants are more compact and don't take as much room as traditional row gardening.
In our dry weather compact plants mean less water evaporation, and you aren't watering dirt where nothing is growing which means fewer weeds. A lot less weeds, because you add new soil to the bed when you start. Last year, I didn't pick more than five weeds - the whole season! We normally put down weed barrier since we placed the beds over grass. This kit comes with a black tarp to keep the grass from coming up and taking precious resources from your veggies or flowers.
If you have a 4x8 space that is yours, you now have NO excuse to not garden. Just try it, you'll like it! And no - I don't work for Sam's Club.
Here are some of the reviews online:
FANTASTIC product - I bought 4 of these last spring and stacked them 2 deep to make 2 beds, filled it with the square foot gardening soil mix and we are enjoying daily fresh gorgeous produce - with so little effort it is shocking to think how much work I used to put into my garden! highly recommend these. Looked at the other brands and nothing compares to the quality of this product that I have found. A tip though - get your ground level before installing. I didn't do a good job of this and wish I had.
I am single female and wanted to do a raised garden. This was so easy-no cutting - snaps together. very easy....in fact I'm ordering 2 more. can't wait for the vegetables to grow...
Put 6 of these together in very little time. They assemble easily even for those not very skilled in assembly - need to apply medium force to get some corners to go together. Excellent product - excellent price.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Gardening is such a humbling experience. There’s so much to learn, so many ways to make mistakes and so many ways how not to grow a tomato.
And yet, it ain’t rocket science. Farmers have been growing crops for thousands of years.
This is my second year for starting seedlings in the house. Such a perpetual exercise in patience. I’m like a two-year old when it comes to starting seedlings. I plant on Saturdays, and I’d really like to see something sprouting by Monday, at the latest.
The Thai hot peppers I planted had a lousy germination rate. I planted at least 16 back in February (I’m planting extra for a friend) and only three measly little plants sprouted! So I began to research and learned that it’s not a lousy germination rate, just a long germination period.
Look, a fourth one finally sprouted in this six-pack planter – see the tiny one just starting to unfold? And another finally sprouted here. (Can you see the tiny sprout in the back?)
Some peppers, especially the hotter ones, can take a month or longer to sprout.
So now I’m waiting on the rest of the seeds and wondering why I thought I needed so many Thai pepper plants. I'm also waiting on poblano peppers, which aren't particularly hot, but they are rather slow to germinate.
Columbines also teach patience. I thought it would be great to start several six-packs from seed. In the photo below, the three six-packs with nothing but dirt are the columbines. The other is full of petunias.
After all, I had started petunias and they popped right out of the ground.
Just when I was about to give up on the poor seeds, I decided to read a bit.
Columbines can take up to 30 days to germinate. Guess I’ll be patient and try not to drown the little suckers. (Why do I think I can make them grow if I continually spritz them with water???)
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
My mom, who’s lived and gardened in the Nebraska Panhandle for the last 17 or 18 years, but who has also gardened in Wyoming, Alaska and Oklahoma, gives me good gardening tips.
So when Mom recommended I try planting spinach in the late fall, I took her advice. This is now the second spring I’ve reaped the benefits of planting in November. Because our winter was milder than last year, I noticed my first few sprouts clear back in January. I wasn’t sure they’d survive February.
Although they didn’t grow much, they survived. Now that we’re enjoying warmer weather, the spinach is actually starting to grow.
Obviously not big enough to eat yet, but maybe by late April.
Last year, I picked spinach for two months before it finally bolted when it got hot. One week we ate it six times, in six different ways. I also froze some and just ran out about a month ago.
When I saw the spinach back in January, I noticed a mystery plant in another bed that I don’t remember planting. Now that it’s gotten a little bigger, I’m fairly certain it’s lettuce.
Although it’s hard to muster up the enthusiasm for planting in late fall, it’s way cool to have something coming up in the garden so early in the spring.
Sadly, I still can’t seem to muster up enthusiasm for cleaning the house…