Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Monday, April 9, 2012
After chatting with other gardeners and hearing Curt Swift talk about irrigation, one of my goals in the garden this year was to change the way I water. We converted lawn to turn it into garden several years ago, but didn't change the sprinklers. I had oscillating lawn sprinklers spraying my garden and making my tomatoes unhappy.
Armed with a tiny bit of knowledge and a huge sense of purpose, I went to GJ Pipe a couple weeks ago and bought 500 feet of black hose, a bunch of bubblers and a bunch of micro-sprayers, along with a much-needed filter, which I promptly forgot to take with me and left on the counter. My husband finally had the time and the inclination to hook up the pump on Friday and he was going to install the new filter, too. That's when we discovered that although the receipt said there was a filter, there was no filter.
Fortunately, he called GJ Pipe and they remembered the woman who had no idea what she was doing but still managed to spend almost $300 and who walked away and left the filter sitting on the counter. I think they all got a chuckle out of the ditzy blonde.
So my husband picked up the filter and spent much of Saturday installing the pump and filters.
On Sunday afternoon, I asked him to help me take out the sprinklers and install the hose and micro-sprayers. Because my husband is the greatest guy ever, he did, even though he was hoping to go for a motorcycle ride.
I discovered that the bubblers aren't really going to work and we ran out of micro-sprayers before we ran out of garden. Fortunately, we had plenty of hose, so we were able to lay it out.
I also discovered that the micro-sprayers don't always spray, for mysterious reasons I'm sure I'll figure out. The nice thing about them is that it's possible to adjust them and otherwise mess with them while the system is running. You don't have to constantly run back and forth, turning the pump on and off while making small adjustments and trying to get it just right.
I was going to take photos of the process of laying out the hose, inserting the tubing for the sprayers and attaching the sprayers, but my husband was in work mode and I didn't want to annoy him by pausing for photos.
I've still got at least 20 micro sprayers to attach to all the hose that we laid out, but that should be a piece of cake compared to what we did over the weekend.
I can only hope my tomatoes will be happier.
By Penny Stine
Friday, April 6, 2012
During the Master Gardening session on growing vegetables, our instructor, who approached gardening with a very exact, scientific attitude, said it was essential to keep notes. While I agree that keeping notes is certainly helpful, I'm not convinced it's essential.
Which is why I didn't keep notes last fall when I planted spinach, tulips and daffodils or last July when I planted parsnips, or even two weeks ago when I planted peas. Which is why I'm always surprised when they come up, because I usually forget where I planted them. It was such a pleasant surprise when I went out to my garden and saw these peas coming up next to this kale, because the kale survived from last year and I'd forgotten that I planted peas next to it.
I guess my approach to gardening is more art than science. I want to be surprised and delighted by what I find growing in the garden. I like the sense of wonder that comes from planting a seed and having it come up not when I think it should, but when conditions are right and it will survive.
When I planted parsnips in July, I assumed they'd come up in a couple weeks and I'd have a fall crop that I'd let freeze at least once, digging them in December. Well, they didn't come up. Not a one. Until March. Now I have them coming up in at least three places.
For the last 3 or 4 years I've been planting spinach in November, knowing that it will be the first thing to come up as soon as the weather is warm enough. I remembered where I planted some of it, but I've been surprised to see it coming up in several other places. Although most of it is still tiny, I must have picked a sweet spot to grow these plants - I actually picked enough spinach to make a salad last night!
Sadly, conditions are right for weeds. They're doing quite well, thank you very much. At least my walking onions are equally happy.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Sorry for those who are bored by seedling news, but this is a gardening blog...
This year, I'm experimenting with two different ways of starting seedlings and I promised I'd report.
So far, I'm thinking the grow light works better than the biodome,although both are producing larger, healthier looking seedlings than anything I managed to grow last year with the light of my southern-facing window. I guess those medical marijuana people are onto something.
This is what my tomatoes and peppers looked like last year when I transplanted in May.
I think the ones I've started this year are already bigger than what I had in May last year.
Carol told me that she had talked to someone who had already transplanted tomatoes outside. It's too early for me, I don't care how warm it gets this week. I'm waiting at least until May.
I haven't examined my electricity bill to see how much it's costing me to have my grow light on every day, but I don't care if it means I'll actually have tomatoes in July.
Yes, I know this is a lot of tomatoes and peppers. I'm starting plants for my gardening buddy, Jan, who doesn't have near as much room for an indoor greenhouse and who splits the cost of gardening supplies with me. I think we'll still have extras, but some plants always die when you transplant them outside, so we'll be prepared this year.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Anyone else get anxious about spring garden work you haven't done? Our young peach tree blossomed before we had a chance to put the dormant oil on it. We did get the pesticide applied, but now I am anxious that it won't get pollinated because we may have killed the bees! I may have to go out with Q-tips and help the process along.
Sorry, we are not organic gardeners. I know I am a perishable item and should live accordingly, however, I hate bugs and will risk poison to make sure they don't get to my fruits and veggies.
Other chores we are working on:
Compost in the garden beds
Trimming bushes and trees
Cleaning flower beds
Spreading bark in flower beds
Keeping the compost watered so it doesn't blow away
We all make gardening mistakes and since I don't have my grandparents here to show me how to do things right, mistakes are inevitable. I am reminded to enjoy the journey not just the destination. Increase your joy and decrease your expectations. Enjoy the best that spring has to offer....besides, hand pollinating your peach tree can be an exciting, stimulating experience!
Here is Bing Crosby's spring song:
Well now, the barnyard is busy, in a regular tizzy
And the obvious reason is because of the season
Ma Nature's lyrical with her yearly miracle
Spring, Spring, Spring
- Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul
By Penny Stine
Thursday, March 29, 2012
I haven't passed on too much information from the Master Gardening program because it's all left me feeling a bit overwhelmed. Attending the class merely opened my eyes to the wealth of information out there and all the things I don't know about gardening.
That said, I wanted to pass along this tip we learned in the last class on growing vegetables. Folks (researchers and gardeners) are starting to experiment with something called biochar. It's essentially pure charcoal, produced without oxygen and containing no added chemicals. It works as a soil amendment, increasing soil fertility and water retention.
There's a reason I make my living with words and not numbers or science (which, frankly, all seems like magic to me) so I don't understand all the science behind it, which is sad, because it's really not that technical. However, if you want to learn more about it, go to re-char.com.
In the meantime, our class instructor showed us photos of huge lettuce, Swiss Chard and lemons produced with the help of a little added biochar. It was enough to prompt me to go buy a bag of charcoal. Yes, a bag of charcoal from any hardware store will do, provided it's pure charcoal with no added chemicals (nix on the stuff that's easy to light because it's been dosed with something highly flammable). Our instructor had a photo of this particular brand, so that's what I bought.
It's supposed to be relatively easy to make your own biochar retort for creating your own biochar out of tree branches, grape vine cuttings and whatever other biomass you find in your own yard. I'm an idiot when it comes to anything that I have to build, so unless I can convince my husband that we need to find a 55-gallon drum so we can make our own furnace for converting dead tree branches into biochar, it ain't gonna happen in the Stine's backyard. The re-char website sells some of the necessary materials to convert a 55-gallon drum into a biomass burning, soil amendment making miracle.
Buying a bag of this particular charcoal was much easier. It was not, however, cheap. On large bag of charcoal was $15, counting tax. That's an expensive soil amendment. You don't have to add it every year, though, it stays in the ground for years and years.
I bought a bag with the intention of using it in certain beds. I'll keep you informed about the results. You're supposed to use it at about 20 percent in your soil... I'm just gonna smash it with a sledge hammer (but not into a pulverized, finely ground dust) and mix it in with the soil and compost before I plant in select areas. No, I will not be measuring the amount of soil, compost or charcoal so I will have no idea whether I'm adding 20 percent or two percent. Remember what I said about me and science?
BTW, do not add ash from your charcoal grill, woodburning stove or fireplace to your garden soil. Generally speaking, it has too high of a salt content. Our soils are pretty salty already and that could put them over the edge and make it impossible to grow some things.