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 15, 2015
I’ve got quite a few perennial herbs planted in my gardens. I use a few of them often, and I forget about most of them a lot. I’ve learned that many herbs have weed-like tendencies - they’ll grow almost anywhere and spread where you don’t want them. Mint is probably the most notorious in that way.
I bought a tiny lovage plant from Bookcliff Gardens a few years ago just because I was curious about it. I’d never heard of lovage and never had a desire to cook with it, but given the chance to grow something unknown, of course, I said “Yes!”
Although it hasn’t spread new little lovage plants all over the place (like the salad burnett I bought at the same time does), it has grown. As you can see, it’s pretty big for mid-April. Last year, I think it grew at least four or five feet tall.
I haven’t quite figured out what to do with it. Lovage is related to celery and parsley, and tastes similar to both, only stronger and greener. I have a tendency to go overboard when trying new flavors - you know, if a little bit is good, then a lot is even better - especially when I have a plant or plants that produce like crazy.
Last year, I tried lovage in potato salad. A little bit was good. Too much was not. My husband begged me not to ever use lovage in anything again. I never agree to such harsh restrictions, but I promised to be more judicious in my use of the lovely herb and didn’t use it again last year.
But come springtime, when there’s not a lot of anything else in the garden, my pickin’ fingers want to go back to the weird perennial herbs. This time, I used just a couple tablespoons of diced lovage when I roasted some potatoes. The result was good and the roasted lovage was less intense, yet it still gave a subtle, fresh flavor to the roasted potatoes.
I’ve got a few leeks left in the garden from last year that are almost ready to pick, and I think I’ll make a leek/lovage/potato soup. I expect it will be delicious, if I can manage to not turn it into a LOVAGE!LOVAGE!LOVAGE!/leek/potato soup.
By Penny Stine
Monday, April 13, 2015
The most difficult part about starting plants from seed in the house is not killing them when you transition them to life outside. Because this spring has been so unseasonably warm, I decided to start transitioning my tomatoes early. I thought that perhaps by putting them in real sunshine, it would help the tomatoes get stronger stems and prevent them from getting leggy.
Normally, I don’t think about putting them outside until the end of April/first of May, but on Saturday afternoon, I set my trays of tomatoes, peppers, basil and celery outside in a spot where they got late afternoon dappled shade & sunshine. Since it wasn’t supposed to freeze, I left them outside all night.
As you can see from the above photo, they weren’t happy Sunday morning.
They weren’t dead, but they were definitely in shock.
I left them outside all day on Sunday, but decided to bring them in Sunday night at about 7 p.m.
This morning, I put them outside again by about 6:30 or 7, and as you can see, they’re much happier with a night inside.
It’s supposed to be windy tomorrow and much colder by Wednesday, so I’ll look for a place where they won’t get windblown tomorrow and probably put them back under my grow lamp Wednesday and leave them there until Friday, when I will start the transition process all over.
I also decided to move my perennial herbs back outside after nursing them all winter in pots by a southern window. As you can see, the rosemary looks fine. The perpetuo pesto basil looks like it’s about half dead. I’m hoping that it will get healthier now that it can be outside. Both of these are tender perennials, which usually means they can tolerate some frost. Since they’ve been inside all winter and the pots are right by my back door, I think I’ll bring both in on Wednesday night just in case.
By Penny Stine
Friday, April 10, 2015
We’ve have an area of vegetation right outside of our fence where our irrigation cistern and pump sit. It’s not technically my yard, but since it’s right in front of my yard, I’ve been trying for 15 summers to make it look attractive. In early spring it looks fine, but as the weeds and the grass take over, it changes from a wildflower area to a weedflower area.
I’ve scattered a wildflower mixture; I’ve tried smothering the weeds and grass with newspapers; I’ve planted perennials and strawberries, I tried straw bales, I stuck a ton of iris bulbs out there and I let the mint grow crazy. My latest thing was to dig up some raspberries and put them out there. Most of the plants I've tried to start out there are still there, growing alongside each other with the grass in an overgrown jungly way.
My husband burned the entire area with our newly acquired weed torch in an effort to kill the grass a month or so ago. Needless to say, it didn’t work. It didn't kill the iris, either, which is a good thing since they'll start to bloom in the next few weeks.
I have this grass-killer that I got from Bookcliff Gardens a couple years ago that I thought was semi-effective in years’ past. So far, I’ve sprayed the grass twice. Doesn’t it look healthy in spite of my best efforts to kill it?
The mint is also starting to grow again and soon, the sunflowers will sprout…
I guess I could make sure that no irrigation water hits that area and simply rock the whole thing, but I think I’d miss the color and the annual challenge to try and tame the space.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
There comes a time in every yardkeeper’s life that she just has to say no to patching the old hose one more time. I don’t know how many times we’ve patched this hose, but it had sprouted another leak and it was old, heavy and cumbersome to drag around the yard.
Since I didn't know any cool, fun and useful ways to repurpose an old hose and turn it into something else, it ended up in the trash can.
We used it at the front spigot, which is the only spigot we have with house water. Our spigot in back is connected to our irrigation water system. Although most of the front landscaping and garden areas are covered by irrigation sprinklers, I water with the hose if I have plants that need a drink when the irrigation water isn’t running.
My husband also uses the hose when he washes the cars or his motorcycle. He’s the kind of motorcycle rider who thinks he can’t hop on the bike and go for a ride unless his bike is shiny, so he washes it a lot.
I got a Gardener’s Supply catalog in the mail that had a slim hose with great reviews, but I wanted to to buy local, so I looked for a different hose at one of the hardware stores. I couldn’t find anything other than the standard, heavy hoses, so I ordered a new one from the catalog.
It came in purple and green, and I ordered purple just because. I got a 100-ft hose because sometimes I have to water at the far end of the yard and I am completely blown over by how lightweight it is. I think the old green one was also 100-ft, and it completely filled the hose reel. It was also quite a chore winding it back up onto the reel. The new one winds up considerably easier.
Although it's skinnier than the old hose, the volume of water coming out didn't seem any less. In fact, since there weren't multiple leaks, it actually seemed higher than the bigger hose.
By Penny Stine
Monday, April 6, 2015
Over the weekend, I decided it was time to put the cool season veggies I had started in the ground. I also planted other cool-weather tolerant seeds.
My goal was to plant two different types of broccoli, (one forms a regular head and the other one forms long asparagus-like shoots with tiny heads on top), orange cauliflower, purple cabbage, shallots, leeks, baby bok choy, kale and beets. Oh, and I had some carrot seed tape that I wanted to plant, too.
I have two gardens in my front yard. This one, on the east side of the house, gets a lot of morning shade and some sun in the afternoon.The sun gets diluted by shade as the sun goes further north during the summer.
Yes, there are seat cushions in this garden. I saw someone’s garden in the Redlands where she had used old carpet on pathways as a way to keep the weeds down and to also have a smoother surface for walking and kneeling. I don’t have any old carpet, but last year when we bought new cushions for the chairs, I put the old cushions in the garden to keep the weeds away on my pathways. It looks tacky, but it worked.
I decided that most of the plants would go in this garden, rather than my west garden, which enjoys more sunshine.
If the carrots don’t grow with the seed tape, I may have to just give up. Carrots are cheap. The seed tape is pretty cool, though, since the seeds are at the correct intervals so you’re not supposed to need to thin the carrots. It’s expensive, though. One packet of seed tape was $5.95. No, this isn't the entire packet - this is about a third or fourth of the seed tape in the packet.
After arranging my seed tape over the ground that had already been dug up, irrigated, fertilized and was nice and soft, I sprinkled some of my seedling mixture that I had leftover over the top, and then watered them again with a watering can, just to keep the seedling mixture from blowing away.
I planted baby bok choy in several areas in both garden areas. Last year, I discovered that the baby bok grew quickly but then bolted as soon as it got hot, so it didn’t matter if I planted it in my tomaillo bed or in an area where I wanted to grow peppers and melons, since the bok choy will be long gone before the tomatillos and melons start growing well.
I used most of the leeks and shallots as edging plants around other planting beds, but after lining an area that I set aside for melons with leeks and a potato area with some shallots, I still had a bunch of shallots to plant. So I planted them in this bed where my spinach is growing. Like the baby bok choy, spinach will go to seed by early June, which will leave all kinds of room for the shallots to grow.
A neighbor rode by on his bike as I was finishing all of my garden chores (which took well over three and a half hours) and told me I’m a farmer at heart. Too true, and since I was wearing a t-shirt, I've got the beginnings of a good farmer's tan to go with it.