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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Fuzzy willows make me happy

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ok, so it doesn't roll off the tongue like John Denver's more famous song, but anyone who's lived here in the Grand Valley of western Colorado  for more than a couple of years understands what I mean. I was out taking pics the other day and I saw these:

Now, I don't want a globe willow tree in my yard, nor do I want my next-door neighbor to have one, since its leaves and  branches would end up in my yard. But I do love seeing them in early spring. Crocuses start blooming in late winter, but once I see the fuzzy, greenish yellow willows, I know that spring is here. 

I think this photo this yard has both a weeping willow and a globe willow in it. These homeowners must enjoy picking up branches. The first year we lived here, I was convinced that I wanted a globe willow tree in my yard. I'm glad we never got around to planting one, but I do appreciate the ones that are in somebody else's yard. (Who lives at least three houses down from me!) 


More greenhouse improvements

By Penny Stine
Monday, March 12, 2012

My insane gardening pal and I decided it was time to start the tomatoes. We decided to go buy another grow light at Lowe's so we could put all the tomatoes under it, as well as a few other plants that needed better lighting. While at Lowe's we also went to Hobby Lobby (who knew it was a gardening supply store?) and got multi-colored popsicle sticks so we could color-code our tomato varieties.

I thought we had 10 different kinds of seeds, but it turns out that number was only nine. Our popsicle sticks only came in six different colors, so we had to use the same color more than once. We did write our color-code down on a piece of paper. Now it's my job not to lose it between now and summer, when we'll actually be picking tomatoes. It will probably go somewhere so safe that I can never find it again. 

The number of seeds we could start was limited by the number of plants that would fit under the grow light. I won't say how many tomato plants we started. If I did, you'd know why I'm now calling Jan of the awesome garden my insane gardening pal. Let's just say we have plenty of plants in case half of them die when we transplant them. 

I have the mechanical aptitude of an earthworm, but I was able to figure out how to assemble and hang the lights from this plant shelf. So far, the broccoli is still too droopy and spindly, but I'm hoping it will start standing up straighter any day now.

I have some extra Kellogg Breakfast and Virginia Sweet seeds left over (they're ones I collected from what I grew last summer) so please let me know if anyone wants them. I'll be happy to share.  


Seedlings sizzle - or at least grow appropriately

By Penny Stine
Thursday, March 8, 2012

I started some of my slower-growing seedlings at the end of February with high hopes that this year my peppers wouldn't be microscopic when I transplanted them outdoors. I also started cauliflower and broccoli, which don't need to be started indoors, but are fun simply because they're easy to grow. 

The cauliflower is looking pretty good, as are the herbs on the tray next to it. They're both in a prime window spot.



The broccoli, however, is on a lower shelf due to my crazy tomato plant. It's getting a bit too spindly.

At least the tomatoes are happy (and pretty tasty, too). I'm thinking I need to buy another grow light and move the broccoli under it so it won't keep reaching for the light coming in the window. I have one grow light that I bought at Lowe's that I haven't set up yet, but it's reserved for tomatoes. 



I'm trying a new tactic with peppers and eggplant. Some of them are under this desk lamp. They appear to be fairly happy and are already taller than the ones I grew last year with only the light and heat from the window. There's also basil on this tray, for any eagle-eyed gardeners who are scoping out the blog for accuracy.






Although the pepper seeds I started under the biodome didn't pop up as quickly as the ones under the desk lamp, I'm still fairly pleased with their progress. I took the lid off to spritz the top (which was totally unnecessary, but it gave me a good excuse to see what was going on inside the dome) and could see that most of the pepper seeds are sprouting. 


I'm convinced that this will be the year that I'll finally grow an abundant crop of peppers. Of course, I've been telling myself that for a couple of years now. 


Some people  may question the sanity of gardeners who take over the living room for a few seedlings. After all, plants at the greenhouse aren't that expensive. In the few years that I've been doing this, however, I've discovered that there are thousands of plant species out there and the nurseries carry a limited supply. Buying seeds allows you to try varieties that you'd never see anywhere else. 

This weekend, my gardening buddy, Jan, and I plan to start our tomatoes. We're trying 10 different varieties this year, which is probably eight too many, but neither one of us could resist trying a few new ones and both of us wanted to grow some of the same varieties we tried last year. If you're considering starting tomatoes from seed, try to get your hands on some Kellogg Breakfast seeds. They produce huge, low-acid tomatoes that are unlike anything I've ever tasted. Virginia Sweet is also a tasty option that you won't find in the nurseries. 

I'll admit that perhaps I go a little overboard buying seeds. It's still cheaper than therapy. 


Be it ever so humble

By {screen_name}
Friday, March 2, 2012

Every January and February I feel the same way, like sticking my head in a gas oven... or...getting in the car and driving south never to return. The problem is, every season I love being outdoors - except winter. I don't like cold unless it is Christmas.




This year we decided to escape with high school friends to Las Vegas. Well, it wasn't much warmer there and it was a bit windy, but we did enjoy laying out in lawn chairs at the landing deck and watching brave folks jump from the Stratosphere.


The best of Vegas, however, was the Bellagio Botanical Gardens. As soon as we stepped in the front doors you could smell fresh flowers, a welcome change from the accosting smell of smoke in most casinos. Every season the Bellagio changes its flower display.

Eariler in the winter they had giant polar bears decorated with white carnations.




Right now they are featuring the Chinese New Year. Chinese children and dragons decorated with fresh flowers of all kinds surrounded by water fountains, such a beautiful, peaceful site in the dreary final days of winter.

Sunshine poured through the greenhouse roof and blown glass lights shone in the lobby of the hotel.

After four days we were thanking God we live in beautiful western Colorado and anxious to start home where spring will be peeking its head out any day now.



The right tools?

By Penny Stine
Monday, February 27, 2012

The catalogs came and I drooled appropriately. Even better, my gardening buddy and I ordered seeds. Waaaay too many seeds, but who can resist a seed catalog?

On Saturday, we decided it was time to get the chiles, the peppers, the eggplant and the herbs started. We washed out all the planting pots first and assembled our tools.



Jan gave me a cool seed tool, but as you can see by the photo, the tool was discarded (see the little red dispenser?) when it spilled seeds all over the counter. Amazing what these fingers of ours can do.

I've been starting seeds indoors for a couple of years and I have learned that putting peppers and eggplants in a southern-facing sunny windows doesn't work, at least not when you keep your house a balmy 62 degrees at night. 


So I bought help in the form of this cool biodome, which came from Park Seed and has these nifty little plugs that fit into a styrofoam block, which sits in the plastic dome. I don't know what the plugs are made of, but they're kinda spongy, and they have a tiny little hole for every seed.
The reviews were excellent, so Jan and I decided to trust the biodome with all our peppers. There are 60 holes in the dome, and we bought 6 different kinds of peppers, so we planted 10 of each in the dome.



I also have a cool desk lamp that's flexible and can be twisted into different shapes, so I adjusted it to hit the eggplant, basil and Thai basil. The lamp generates a little heat, which focuses on the seedlings below and the biodome above, thus doing double duty in my frigid living room. Cool, huh? Well, actually, it's supposed to be warm, not cool. 
I'm using this heat mat under other assorted herbs (and maybe a few more peppers.) Joe Cocker (yes, the Joe Cocker, who lives in Crawford and has that delightful gravelly voice and who grows lovely tomatoes) gave it to me when I interviewed him about his greenhouse and tomatoes. Some days I truly love my job. The day I got the chance to meet and chat with Joe Cocker was one of those days.


We also started broccoli and cauliflower so it would be big and ready to transplant by the first of April. We should have started petunias, too, since they take forever to get going, but we forgot to buy any petunia seeds.

Tomatoes don't take as long, so we're planning on starting them in a couple of weeks. I'll be using the grow light I bought at Lowe's and will put them on a plant shelf in another southern-facing window.
Believe it or not, it took three hours to create my living room greenhouse. (That includes the time it took to drive to Bookcliff Gardens to get the herb seeds and the seedling mixture.) Now, if I can only resist the temptation to lift the plastic wrap (which we stretched loosely across the containers to retain both moisture and heat) a couple times a day to see if anything has sprouted yet!

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