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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Penny Stine
Monday, May 21, 2012
As part of the community straw bale garden at Northeast Christian Church, I wanted to help the preschoolers at Kids of the Kingdom plant a few pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and melons in straw bales close to their perimeter fence.
They conditioned the bales by watering them faithfully twice a day for the last two weeks, so I went over on my lunch hour and helped them plant. I could tell the bales were ready because they were damp, they had started to turn brownish black once we dug into them, and they'd started to sprout.
I had leftover tomatoes and pepper plants that I'd grown from seed to share with them, and we also planted pumpkins on the western edge of the bales and cucumber and Kazakh melons on the eastern side so they could climb up the fence.
Although almost the entire class wanted to come and help plant, most of them got bored and wanted to go back and play. These four are the Future Farmers of America - preschool edition. They stayed with me until every last seed was put in a hold and covered with dirt.
Here are a couple of the other straw bale plots at the garden. Most of us planted a combination of plants and seeds. Although most of us are using a drip system (we took skewers and poked holes in hoses - very fancy), one couple rigged together a cool battery-operated pump that they use to run a sprinkler over their bales. I took a photo of it, but now I can't find it.
We're all feeling optimistic that this will work and we'll have lovely melons, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers.
Forget about growing another row, I'm growing a whole 'nother garden to share!
By Penny Stine
Friday, May 18, 2012
I'm always trying something new in my garden. This year, I'm going for a southern theme, with the addition of mustard greens, okra and sweet potatoes. I didn't know anything about growing any of them before I ordered them all from the seed catalogs.
When you order sweet potatoes, this is what comes in the mail.
Well, the plants didn't come exactly like that. They came in some sort of cardboard container with a weird moisture-holding material. The towel came from my linen closet. I wrapped them in a damp towel to keep the roots moist when they first came to me on a Saturday.
My friend and I ordered 25 (that was the smallest number possible) and we have been selling a few to friends and coworkers, since neither she nor I wanted to plant 12 1/2 sweet potato plants.
I planted four plants right away and stuck the other few roots in a bottle full of water and let them soak for a few days while I figured out where else to put them.
I put one in a straw bale, and it actually looks pretty good.
Half of the other ones I planted look like they died, but I'm confident that the root is still alive and that the plant is merely mustering up enough energy to burst forth and multiply. See, they have little tiny leaves that are waiting for the right conditions to emerge.
From what I've been reading, I'll need to cure the sweet potatoes by putting them in a hot, humid place for two weeks after I harvest in order to get the sweetest flavor. Don't really know how I'll pull that one off, but I'll worry about that after the plants actually grow and produce.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
What a blessing to be able to pass on the thing you love to do to a younger generation. You may remember Bob and Darla Beasly with Bob's Garden from last year. Two of my favorite people to hang around, Bob has a world of farming/gardening information he loves to share. Well, a fortunate twenty-three year old man named Zay is getting the opportunity to be Bob's protege. The following is a note I received from Darla telling me about this special relationship in her own words.
"Just wanted to share the activities that have transpired at Bob's Garden this year. We have created a great relationship with a nice young man by the name of Zay Lopez, aka The Produce Peddler! Zay is 23 years old and is a graduate of Mesa State where he played football for four years. Zay came out to the farm to look at the tractor that we had listed to sell and a "blooming" relationship took off from there. Bob and Zay hit it off from the get go and have been working together ever since.
Bob is not physically able to do the heavy and continual work that farming requires and Zay is wanting to learn how to farm, so we have donated our field to Zay this year to grow veggies with Bob being his mentor. It is truly a match made in heaven as Bob still gets to be involved and give guidance to a young man who wants to learn to farm.
Just thought you might be interested to know that "Bob's Garden" still will exist except under the new name of "The Produce Peddler!" We are really excited to be able to help Zay with this project. Zay hasover 700 tomatoes & peppers already and has been working the field and he "LOVES IT." - Darla
The Produce Peddler will have several spaces at area farmer's markets. Fruita will be one of the lucky markets to be graced by this new young farmer who's living his dream.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Look! This is why I plant spinach in November. Mine always, always, always goes to seed early like the spinach in this photo. When I used to plant it in April, I got maybe three leaves before it went to seed. By planting in November, I get a good month of picking spinach several times a week and then it goes to seed.
Speaking of picking spinach, here's a tasty salad made from spring greens, herbs and the last of my spinach. I went out to the garden and picked anything that was there, which was mostly spinach, a few mustard leaves (for a hot bite), a bunch of garden cress (for a peppery bite), and a handful each of kale and mint.
Then I tore up all the leaves, tossed them with cut up strawberries, blue cheese and toasted walnut. I made a simple dressing out of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Delish.
If you don't have quite as many assorted greens, you can make a similar salad out of just spinach, but the other greens give a few surprising flavors that are kind of fun.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, May 10, 2012
No, I'm not weighing in on the fight between Chick-fil-A and Vermont folk artist Bo Muller-Moore (what, you haven't heard of the Eat More Kale controversy??? Check it out here), I'm merely encouraging my fellow gardeners to plant kale. It is tasty, it is delicious and it grows in the heat.
Plus, if don't pull it up at the end of the season, sometimes it over-winters and gives you lots of lovely kale early in the summer, like this:
It's so nice to be able to pick and eat something from your garden in May, while you're still planning and planting.
Then you can take your lovely kale, toss it with olive oil, kosher salt, garlic and red pepper flakes and roast it in the oven.
I did not know this last year, but I have since learned that if you put roasted kale in an air-tight plastic container, it will keep for a couple of days, giving you tasty kale chips the next day. Unless of course, you can't resist eating just one more and end up eating all of the kale on the baking sheet.
I was going to bring some in to work to sample and share, but someone ate them all before I could do so. Besides, I can't eat roasted kale without getting little green bits stuck in my teeth, which is not such an attractive look for the office.
Maybe next time. I'll just have to bring my toothbrush, too.
All this gives yet another reason not to routinely rototill your garden in the spring.