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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Frailty, thy name is asparagus

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, April 17, 2012

People who grew up around here talk about picking wild asparagus on the ditch banks in the springtime when they were kids. I assumed that meant that asparagus was relatively easy to grow, so I bought some rootstock several years ago.

When I bought it, the prevailing wisdom said not to cut it the first year, so I let it grow wild and free. By the second year, the prevailing wisdom said it's best to cut it, beginning the first year, so some of my asparagus must have gotten wind that I'd mistreated it and it refused to come up. In fact, every year, I have fewer and fewer stalks of asparagus coming up.


Oh well, perhaps it's because I forget to pick them when they're perfect and let them get stringy and woody, like the one that doesn't fit in the frame of this picture.
I don't remember what kind of asparagus I bought, but it's a pretty purple color, which makes it hard to see against the early spring dirt. It turns green when cooked.
Although the really tall one wasn't worth eating, the other two were tender and delicious. Not exactly enough to make a meal, however.

So what am I doing wrong? I've got no idea, so if you grow fabulous asparagus by the boatload, please enlighten me.  


More pre-planting work

By Penny Stine
Monday, April 16, 2012

We got a call at the Master Garden desk last week from someone who wanted to plant tomatoes outside already. We tried to discourage it, since there's a good chance we could get a killing frost in the next two or three weeks, but I don't know if the caller took our advice or not.


Although it is too early to plant tomatoes, melons, green beans or any other warm weather-loving fruit or veggie, it's a fine time to continue getting your garden ready. I've already spread compost, so decided to break up my bag of biochar and spread it in a few beds. I figured I had the right tool for the job.

After laying the bag out flat on the driveway, I took a swing with my sledgehammer. I was hoping to be able to break the char up into little bitty bits in the bag. Instead, the bag burst open on the first swing. Oops.
OK, not a problem. I poured it into my wheelbarrow, where it looked like a pitiful amount of soil amendment for $15. Then I tried whacking it into small pieces with my sledgehammer. I'm not sure how small the pieces should have been. During the master gardening class, the instructor who taught about biochar said not to pulverize it.



The amount in the wheelbarrow looked pretty miniscule, so I decided to spread it in only two areas. This bed is in the middle of my lawn (where it shouldn't be, but I couldn't resist, because it's so sunny and I wanted just a little more room to grow things). I added biochar to this bed because biochar is supposed to improve the soil's water handling capacity and this bed doesn't always get as much water as it should because of my irrigation system. I'm going to plant cowpeas, cucumbers and maybe a Kazakh melon in this bed, all of which are supposed to be climbers, so I'll put one of my trellises here, too. 



I also added it to this bed because I decided to put my tomato trellis here, and I want big, honking tomatoes. Although I broke the biochar into smaller pieces in the wheelbarrow, once it was in the bed, I continued breaking it into smaller pieces with the shovel when I worked it into the soil.



With my husband's help, I put my trellises set up, even though I'll use them for warm-weather plants and won't be planting anything to climb on them for another three or four weeks. I'm rearranging things in the garden this season and wanted to see how much room I had with them in place. My husband thinks this looks kinda Beverly Hillbilly-ish there in the front yard, but I assured him that once green growing things covered the trellises, it would be the envy of the neighborhood. And if tomatoes climbed to the top of the tomato trellis he would be in hog heaven, and tacky would no longer be an issue. 


The After Work Dirt Work

By Nola Svoboda
Friday, April 13, 2012


First garden graze

By Penny Stine
Friday, April 13, 2012

When it comes to meal planning, is there anything better than coming home from work and deciding what to eat for dinner based on what's available in the garden?

Last night, I picked some spinach, which I had to wash thoroughly due to recent rain (yay!) which made it dirty.












Then I decided to add some green onion tops (from my walking onion patch) and some garlic scape (which is simply the green part of the garlic & is quite delicious). If you plant green onions and garlic in the same bed (which I did, in a couple places) you can tell them apart because the garlic is flatter.




I chopped the garlic & onion tops, as well as the spinach, then sauteed the green stuff with some leftover ham from Easter.







I was hungry & decided to go for simple, so I just scrambled some eggs and searched the fridge for interesting cheese. I was going to go for parmesan, but found some blue cheese that was a bit old, so figured I should use that. But seriously, what happens when blue cheese gets old? It's already moldy & smelly!

I love blue cheese and probably got too carried away with it. My scrambled eggs were a bit flavorful, to say the least, between all the garlic & the blue cheese. But they tasted great with the cheesy cornbread that was still left over from Easter.

I didn't use all the spinach I picked, so I told my son, who came home hungry later, where to find it in the fridge. He was impressed that it came out of my garden & used some on a ham sandwich. 

If you haven't planted spinach yet, it may be too late, especially since we seem to be having an early, warm spring. Spinach doesn't like hot weather. In addition to planting it in the fall, I keep experimenting with planting it in semi-shady areas in hopes of having it last beyond June. So far, it hasn't happened, but at least I get to enjoy it often before the weather hits 90.  


Radish or mustard?

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Since it's been so warm in early spring, I was lulled into planting a few more things before our irrigation water came in, even though it meant dragging a hose was in my future.
Clearly, I didn't drag a hose around enough, because the cress, which came up so quickly, also died just as quick.
I had two new seeds I wanted to try this year - rat's tail radish and a burgandy mustard. Both of the seed packets said to plant in early spring, so I did. I also planted lettuce, which didn't come up.
Now that my irrigation water is in and I've got the drip system in place, I decided to replant. That's when I discovered this.

I actually have two of them coming up. It's either the mustard or the rat's tail radish. When I replanted, I was certain it was the radish, so I planted a few more rat's tail radishes in the vicinity. Now I'm convinced it's the mustard. Just as an aside, since you normally cook the leaves of mustard (well, OK, I have never in my life cooked them, but I will this season) and call them mustard greens, would I refer to these as mustard burgandies?

I googled to find out more about the rat's tail radish, and I learned that they grow all season, producing a seed pod that looks like a bean, which is supposed to be spicy and delish. They also grow 3 to 5 feet tall. Oops... I spaced them like you would a normal radish.

This is why I love gardening and cooking. There's always something new to learn.  

Page 92 of 147


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