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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Over wintering experiments in the garden

By Penny Stine
Thursday, March 28, 2013

I've been trying to do more year-round gardening in the last few years, or at least plant a mid-season crop in a bed that's just produced an early season crop like peas or spinach. Last year, I thought I dug all the garlic out of this particular bed by July, so I planted carrots and beets, hoping that I could dig them up by October.
Obviously, I didn't get all the garlic.

But the carrots and beets were so small I decided to mulch them and leave them in place during the winter. The green tops disappeared, but both the carrots and the beets were sending out new tops underneath the mulch. And the garlic started growing by February. 



I dug some of the beets a week or so ago, and they were still pretty small.






I dug up one carrot, and it was about two inches long, so I decided to leave the rest in the ground and see what happened.

My mom tells me that when they're left in the ground over the winter, carrots get pithy. I suppose I'll find out for myself when I pull these in another month or two. This year, I found a carrot seed from Territorial Seed company this that's supposed to be planted in July with the intention of leaving it in place all winter and picking delicious carrots in May and June, so I'm already trying to figure out which bed I can use for that.  



I left a few beets in the ground, too, so it will be interesting to see how they taste compared to beets I plant in April. 

Although I now have garlic growing in four different places in my gardens, I'm not really too sad about that. We eat a lot of garlic, and garlic scape pesto is one of the best-kept culinary secrets of home gardeners. 

Don't worry, as soon as I make my first batch, I'll share the recipe and make you wish you had planted garlic in November!


What’s the code for broccoli down?

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I have learned all sorts of ways to kill tiny seedlings when I try to harden them off as they go from their pampered and privileged upbringing on my plant shelf, under the grow light to the harsh reality of life outside in Grand Junction.

I have killed tomatoes after exposing them directly to the sunlight before they were ready. I have killed lavender and other herbs when the tray on which they were sitting completely blew over in the spring wind. I need a code similar to what first responders use so I can communicate clearly to my fellow gardeners, yet one that allows me to not sound like a heartless plant-killer.  

"Yeah, my seedlings suffered a 2-97 the other day...." 

I put broccoli plants out over the weekend. I didn't kill them, but they got a little beat down, thanks to the wind on Sunday.
I'm begging their forgiveness and allowing them the privileged position directly under the grow lights in hopes they will learn to stand up straight and tall and we can start the hardening off process all over this coming weekend.
I've promised them I won't leave them out there if the wind starts howling, at least not for another week or two.  


Pics from other people

By Penny Stine
Friday, March 15, 2013

I must be gaining a reputation... I've noticed that people have a tendency to talk to me about their gardens, which is just fine with me. I was chatting with someone about scheduling an interview for a story and we veered off into the subject of gardening. Duh! How can you not veer off into the subject of gardening when you're trying to schedule an interview?


She asked me if I'd ever grown artichokes and said she'd send a photo of the ones she grew.  Isn't that beautiful? I think she said she should have picked it before it bloomed, but it's worth planting in the yard for looks even if you don't have time to pick it for the taste. 


Here's the other photo: 

If I had more sunshine in my yard, I might be tempted to try and grow one, but since I have more shade than sun, heat-loving plants like tomatoes, melons and peppers get the prime sun positions.  These are quite pretty. 

Thanks to Deborah Thomas with Illumination Designs for sharing the photos with me!


Yardwork beckons… Yay!

By Penny Stine
Thursday, March 14, 2013

Do you see this planting bed?


Yes, it's full of leaves from the neighbors' trees that I never raked last fall because I decided they'd make a lovely mulch. It also has dead broccoli stalks that not even the visiting deer would touch this past winter. And it has tulips, daffodils and onions sprouting all over the place. I've been eyeing the weather forecast and keeping my schedule clear so I can spend all day working in my yard and garden on Saturday. I'm more excited than a collie with a frisbee.

I'm going to toss my compost with my favorite pitchfork! I may even go haul a truckload of compost from the landfill. I'm going to rake, pull weeds and dead broccoli stalks, clear pathways and spend the entire day sweating, getting dirtier by the hour and relishing the chance to be outside, playing in the dirt. I'm even going to let my little broccoli seedlings, which I've been tenderly nurturing in the house, sit outside in the shade for a few hours in the afternoon. 

Am I sick and twisted or are there other people out there like me who can hardly wait to head outside with a garden trowel?


What’s up?

By Penny Stine
Monday, March 11, 2013

I did a quick inventory to see what survived the cold winter this past year. Not only did the garlic I planted last fall do just fine, but the garlic I thought I had pulled did well, too.


Look at this bed! I really thought I went through in July last year and pulled every last bulb out. Obviously, I missed a few.  I'm pretty sure I was raking this patch with a salad fork, trying to make sure I cleared it of garlic, because I planted beets and carros here last July. I was hoping for a fall harvest, but they weren't very big, so I just covered them all with straw as a mulch and decided to leave them there all winter.  I'll probably uncover and pull a few this weekend to see how they look.
I've been slowly expanding the number of herbs I grow, and I was pleased to see the burnet and lovage (which I planted sometime in the middle of last summer and which are supposed to be perennials) looking just fine. I sampled them both, and they tasted like dirt, with a faint hint of something else. Not sure how to use either one, but I'll figure out something!

Rosemary is a tender perennial and can grow quite large in places like Texas or Mexico. I bought this one at Bookcliff last summer, and it was supposed to be a hardier type. I can't tell by looking at mine if it's alive or dead. While I'll grant you that it looks pretty dead in this pic, my lavender looks equally lifeless, and I'm sure it's alive. I have been giving the lavender and the rosemary (and everything else that looks alive out in the garden) water all winter.





Same with this kale - it looks kinda dead, but I'm guessing if I cut it back, it may

come back to life, especially on the stalks that still have a little green on them.This is a blue dwarf kale. I also have a red Russian kale patch that looks half-alive, too, so I'll trim both back this weekend in hopes of prompting the kale to come back to life. 






Still not picking the spinach yet, but if this week is as nice as the forecast is promising, maybe I'll harvest the first few baby leaves this weekend just so I can say I did.



Here's another reason not to rototill everything into the garden at the end of the season. This is chamomile, which I use to make tea. There are two kinds of chamomile - the Roman chamomile is supposed to be perennial (and not sweet enough for tea) while the German chamomile is an annual. I'm pretty sure this is German chamomile, and it's obviously not dead. One website said it's a self-sowing annual.  

In our climate, I have become a big believer in year-round gardening. True, I wasn't outside doing much for a good three or four months, but there's no reason not to plant in the fall around here for an early spring harvest.

Oh, and I had to take a picture of this. Yay! Happy spring!  

Page 73 of 147


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