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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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? 


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. 

Page 86 of 147


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