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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End of June straw bale progress

By Penny Stine
Friday, June 29, 2012

I promised I'd post a photo of my straw bale efforts after I posted the photos from the reader in Delta. I have to admit, I tend to neglect my straw bale garden. It has a very crude drip system that I can leave on indefinitely without making a muddy mess, so I leave it and go check on it every few days to make sure the water is still dripping.
I've got potatoes in the middle of the nine-bale rectangle, which are doing quite well. Everything else, with the exception of one pepper plant, is just looking OK. I think the holes in the hose can get clogged, so I'm not sure the plants are getting enough water. 

My bales at home are less than OK. Everything is still pretty small, although I do have a couple peppers forming on a plant in the straw bale and no peppers yet on plants in the ground. I've also had a problem with insects eating plants before they can get established on my home straw bales, which wasn't supposed to happen when you plant in straw. I also have tons of weeds surrounding my bales at home, since I plonked the bales down in the middle of my weedy wildflower area.  


Here are the bales of some of the other community garden growers. These gardeners made a cool irrigation pump that runs on a battery, so  they water with a tiny sprinkler every other day. They also don't have a garden at home, so are tickled to have a place to grow tomatoes and squash and put more effort into their growing efforts than I do. They have quite a few green tomatoes on their plants and their basil plant is producing like crazy.




Last, but not least, here are the Kids of the Kingdom preschool's bales. They get watered twice daily (or at least Monday through Friday) by the children when they're outside playing. Everything they're growing looks quite healthy and happy. I hope the pumpkins produce enough pumpkins so that each child can take one home in the fall. 


Readers respond to straw bale garden story

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, June 27, 2012

As a writer, I love it when people read something I've written about and take the time to write back. I wrote about straw bale gardening in the spring and in the summer home improvement sections, and since then, I've heard from several readers.
Yesterday, I received a letter and photos from a Delta man, who said he and his wife have been growing tomatoes in straw bales for several years. His trick to not using too much water was digging a hole about 10 inches deep, with an eight-inch diameter. He then places half of a disposable diaper at the bottom of the hole before filling it with potting soil and fertilizer. The diaper helps hold the water.

Of course it does, that's what they're designed to do. Well, they're designed to hold liquid, not necessarily serve as a reservoir for an inexpensive planter box. 

I thought it was a pretty brilliant idea, and as you can see from the photos he sent to me, his tomatoes grew very well.  


He and his wife also keep their bales much neater and tidier than mine are. I'll take a pic of my bales at home and the ones at the community garden to post tomorrow or the next day - mine are definitely weedier and somewhat neglected.

Next year, I'm buying diapers for my bales! 


Compost surprise

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Anyone who has a home compost system knows that the temperature doesn't get very high. In a good system, it will get high enough to break down plant material, but it usually doesn't get high enough to actually kill seeds.
That's one of the reasons I throw weeds in the garbage rather than the compost pile.
It also means that when you use your home compost, either in your garden or in your potted plants, you can get some unexpected results. The soil in my pots was looking a little dry and compacted earlier this spring, so I added several big scoops of compost.

I grow tomatoes and flowers in the same pots. This year, I'm also growing either cucumbers or melons of some kind, thanks to my home compost. Some melons and cucumbers come from the same plant family name (Cucurbitaceae), which is why they all look alike before they actually begin to produce fruit.

My mystery melons or cukes are just barely starting to flower and have yet to form fruit, so I can't tell what they are yet. I'm guessing my pots may be a little too crowded now, but I'm just going to let everything grow anyway.
Wow, the mystery, surprise and intrigue never end for a home gardener!


Disappearing garlic found

By Penny Stine
Monday, June 25, 2012

After I wrote the blog about the garlic, I went online to figure out when I'm supposed to harvest it. Oops... the sites I found recommended harvesting when the leaves were still partially green.

The leaves on most of my garlic had not only all turned brown, they'd also separated from the bulbs and were blowing away. It made it difficult to to actually find the garlic, since it was all underground.
I did get one handy tip, however. One site said to dig with a fork rather than a garden shovel - it keeps you from doing as much damage to the bulbs.
So I dug up some of my rapidly disappearing garlic yesterday.
One of the sites said never wash the garlic, which is why these all have clods of dirt still sticking to them. The soil was fairly moist around the bulbs so I'm going to let it dry and then do my best to brush it off.
Now I'm supposed to let it cure in a dry place (but not in the sunshine, because that changes the flavor) and then I should be able to store it in a cool place for four to six months. I don't think it will last that long... we like to keep the vampires at bay.  


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? 

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