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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The case of the disappearing garlic

By Penny Stine
Thursday, June 21, 2012

I've been trying to grow garlic for a couple of years. The first year, I got garlic seeds (yes, they exist) from my mom, who had planted some garlic even though she didn't like it.

I know, right? How can someone not like garlic? How can I be related to someone who doesn't like garlic???
Her garlic was out of control, getting bigger every year and threatening to take over her garden. I think she originally planted it because it was supposed to deter bugs. She just let it flower and go to seed every year. So I snagged some seeds and planted them in the fall two years ago.
I began to doubt that my seeds would do the trick, so I bought a few garlic bulbs and also planted those. Last year, the garlic that I planted in bulb form got large, made the lovely garlic scape and made tiny garlic bulbs. The garlic I planted from seed came up, but remained so pitifully small that I didn't do anything with it besides let it grow.
Last fall, I bought more garlic bulbs and planted a huge garlic bed. Although it came up and looked good early in the spring, none of the garlic formed the curly scape that's so tasty and delicious. Instead, it all just started to wither and dry up.
The garlic I started from seed more than two years ago, however, formed a few scapes and is still looking good. Or at least visible.









The garlic in the bed I planted is withering and drying so much it's hard to find the plants. I did manage to find one and dig it up. This is the result:
Pitiful, huh?


I also dug up one of the bulbs that's had two years in the making.
Much better.
The good thing about garlic and onions is that if you miss one and leave it in the ground, it will just get bigger the following year. I doubt that I'll be able to find all the garlic I planted in my garlic bed, so I guess that means I'll have more next year.

Does anyone who's been doing this longer have a little wisdom to share? 


Got tomatillos?

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, June 20, 2012

If the water holds out, it looks like this is shaping up to be a really great garden year. My tomatoes are looking good (I might have lost 2 or 3 to that dratted curly top virus - too early to tell), melons, squash, peppers and other warm-weather loving plants are starting to bloom.

Nothing, however, is looking as good as my tomatillos. This is both a blessing and a curse. Unlike their tomato cousins, tomatillos are kind of weird to eat raw (trust me, I've tried). They're great in sauces, salsas and soups, but that requires work. Sometimes, it's nice to just go out to the garden and find something to eat that's easy.
Tomatillos are native to Mexico and Central America, but they really thrive in the Grand Valley. Once you grow them, you never have to buy seeds again. I've never had a problem with insects or disease. If they sprout in an inconvenient location, they don't mind being transplanted to a better spot.
As you can see from these photos, at least on one plant, mine have already started forming husks. I've never had them do that so early in the season. I'm going to have a lot of tomatillos to give away this year...
I have a few plants too many in a couple areas, so if anyone in the Grand Valley would like to try growing them, I'd be happy to share a few plants. I'm sure they'd survive transplanting. Contact me at penny.stine@gjsentinel.com. 


June bloomers

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I love perennials because you don't have to plant them every year. I didn't know until I took the Master Gardener class that you're supposed to divide your perennials every three or four years. (Some gardener I am!)

I've got various perennials growing in my yard and have never divided any of them. Perhaps that's why they seem to go in decline every few years and then perk back up a year or so later.
I started a bunch of different types of perennials from seed three years ago and this year they are truly gorgeous, so I thought I'd share.

Gaillardia, or blanket flower, is a fairly common flower around here. It's drought tolerant and does well in the heat. It also blooms all summer long, especially if you remember to deadhead. It does well in sunny locations, although it blooms in partial shade, too.

This is Canterbury bells, a variety of Campanula or bellflower. It's supposed to be a biennial, meaning it takes two years to complete its life cycle. It didn't bloom the first year I grew it, but looked beautiful last year.  I was afraid it wouldn't bloom this year (since it's a biennial), but here it is, blooming away and looking fab. Obviously, in spite of the master gardening class, I don't have a handle on the meaning of the whole biennial thing.

It does really well in shady areas. 

You can find blanket flower at lots of different nurseries. I don't know that I've ever seen Canterbury bells for sale anywhere.  I bought seeds from Park Seed, and the plant grew well from seed. 


Guest columnist Joy Pope writes a book review

By Penny Stine
Friday, June 15, 2012

Great Book for Container Gardens!

The book title ‘Fruit & Vegetables In Pots’ by Jo Whittingham caught my attention so I just had to pick it up and take a look. To my pleasant surprise, this book is simple, straight-forward & uses items that most weekend gardeners already have. It also gives you great ideas for creating a visually beautiful garden in small areas using their “recipes” for planting vegetables & flowers together. There are lots of photos & easy instructions to follow. They even dedicate several chapters to the care of your garden as well as dealing with pests, diseases & disorders. Again there are lots of photos showing sick plants & what to do to fix the problem. I am all about visual aids.







I was particularly intrigued with the idea of using a large trash can to plant a small crop of potatoes.So my husband & I decided to give it a try.





As you can see, thepotato seed starts are growing after only a week or so. The thought of boiled new potatoes and peas makes my taste buds & stomach very happy.








Using an extra trash can for this project inspired me to repurpose a 3-basket hanger that used to hang in my kitchen. I no longer wanted it there but I didn’t know what to do with it. We went to our local greenhouse & bought some coco liner by the sq foot. We cut it into strips of the appropriate size for each basket, filled each one with potting soil & planted hanging strawberries. As you can see it doesn’t take up much space & it is very pretty to look at. Only time will tell if our hard work & ingenuity along with tips from this book will give us the harvest we are hoping for. Three words come to mind after checking this book out - easy, easy, easy!


Carol’s revenge

By Penny Stine
Thursday, June 14, 2012

I know Carol doesn't believe in voodoo or my ability to speak and have it be so. Nonetheless, she blamed me (in print, no less!) for causing bugs to infect her beautiful tomato plants with what she suspects is curly leaf virus.
In that same spirit, I think I'll blame Carol for my poor, dead tomato plant.





One day, it looked like this:









The very next day, it looked like this.






On closer examination, I noticed the main stem looked like it had been chewed. I suspect Carol has been raising an army of trained, mutant, miniature beavers for nefarious reasons too dreadful to contemplate. She brought one to my house in the middle of the night and set it loose to gnaw on a tomato plant.

A tall tale? An unlikely story? Who knows what hidden desires lie behind Carol's always pleasant demeanor and smiling face?

You decide.  

Page 76 of 137


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