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
Friday, March 25, 2011
Don't you hate it when you're on the cutting edge of a hot new trend and you don't even know it?
It seems that while I've been piddling around, digging in the dirt for the last decade or so, trying to grow a decent tomato and keep the lettuce from bolting so I can have just one perfect BLT in the summer, I've been riding the wave of a movement. Yes, the hot new trend that I didn't know I've been part of is referred to as urban farming or urban homesteading. Our very own Richie Ashcroft has joined the movement (you don't have to pay dues or declare allegiance - sticking some seeds in the ground and hoping they grow is good enough) and tells the story of her first foray into animal husbandry here in "Haute Mamas."
For a look at some serious urban homesteaders, check out this movement, they're a family that decided to homestead in the city. They bought a run-down house in Pasadena, California and turned it into a micro-farm. They go a little farther than I care to, since their urban farm includes goats, and my life will be complete and full if I never have to milk another goat in my life, but it makes for interesting reading.
I've got no plans to get chickens or ducks on my urban farm, but I'm expanding my potager this weekend and will have photos of my efforts next week. If I can lift a camera to take them, since the upcoming weekend workout includes shoveling two yards of trail mix for garden pathways, six yards of gravel for parking area, and one truckful of manure. Whoever said gardening was a leisure activity???
By Carol Clark
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I never knew gardening could be fun. When I was a young, I grew up on a farm in Loma where my mother was not fond of gardening or chickens! She had her hands full cooking for the hired help every day. During hay or beet season she would get up early in the morning, make breakfast for the six of us, clean the dishes, start lunch for all the men working in the field, clean the dishes, throw in a couple loads of laundry, make dessert for the next day, and start cooking for dinner. A few planters of petunias was all the gardening she had time for.
My Grandma Beede worked harder than I have never seen ANYONE work. She was widowed in her 40s with a homestead and four children, one only two years old. Fortunately, she was a forward thinking woman and had a degree in home-ec. She got a job teaching at the Loma Elementary School, made sure the farm was taken care of, gardened and baked for the WHOLE community. Any holiday brought stacks of cookies and candies all over her house, on beds, on couches and on any other flat surface that wasn't the floor.
This picture is of my Grandma and Grandpa (taken sometime around 1940, before their fourth child came along) with my Aunt Margaret, Aunt Joyce and my dad.
We lived across Q Road from her and visited her daily. The garden was where I saw her work the hardest. With sweat pouring off her face she would work in the hot sun all day with a long sleeve shirt, pants and a straw hat. All I wanted to do was stay as far away from that garden as possible. I would help her bake in the kitchen, (which I am sure I was more trouble than I was worth), but don't EVEN ask me to go out to that sweat shop of a garden.
When I had children the farmer genes sprang out and I wanted a garden. My husband would always say, "No, we have way too much going on for a garden," and we did. We had baseball, softball, soccer, gymnastics, piano, etc. etc. The kids grew up and we had more time for gardening.
Now, however, I am disappointed that my children never experienced what a joy it is to grow your own food. I wish they could have eaten peas and strawberries right out of the garden, and I wish they had been able to taste a salad made with ingredients they grew themselves. They both want to live the big city life in concrete sky scrapers. Makes me feel like a failure!!
My hope is those farming genes that got me gardening are alive and well in them and someday their children can eat peas while they play in garden dirt.
By Penny Stine
Monday, March 21, 2011
If you’re tired of reading about my attempts to whip my garden into shape, then join our blog and write a few entries yourself. Otherwise, read below for the continued saga of my struggle against the evil grass that wants to take over the world.
As I wrote last month, I hate grass. It grows beautifully where you don’t want it (note how lush and full the grass is here in my strawberry bed) but grows spotty in places where you’d like it to be worthy of a golf course.
On one of my frequent visits to Bookcliff Gardens, I asked about ways to get rid of grass without killing everything in a bedding area and starting over. They pointed me in the direction of this little bottle from Fertilome. It’s supposed to kill just the grass, not fruit, flowers or vegetables.
It was pricey… I can’t remember exactly, but I’m thinking it was more than $40 for this bottle of concentrate. This is a concentrate, however, and mixes eight gallons of spray. One gallon is supposed to cover 1,800 square feet. The grass killer must be used with horticultural oil, which Bookcliff conveniently carries.
I mixed the grass-be-dead and the oil in my gallon sprayer bottle and off I went in search of offensive grass: You have to wait for the grass to come out of its dormant stage and be green, but since I had lots of green grass in my strawberry beds and along the edge of the new garden area, I found plenty of target areas to spray.
I used up the entire gallon of spray. Don’t know if the area was 1,800 square feet or not, since I was wandering all over my yard with my sprayer, eager to pounce on any errant blades of grass growing where I didn’t want them.
I will update in another week or two to report on the success of my grass-killing mission. I’m hoping it didn’t damage the iris, yarrow, chives or vinca that are also starting to come out of the dormant stage, but are completely overshadowed by all the stinkin' grass.
Yes, I know I’m no longer an organic gardener, but I refuse to hang my head in shame. I’ve pulled more grass than seven herds of sheep, and that was just last year.
By Penny Stine
Friday, March 18, 2011
The Everly Brothers got nuthin’ on me. Now that the weather is teasing us occasionally with promises of spring and hints of gardenable weather, my imagination is soaring. I want to plant! I want to harvest! I want to eat delicious food, picked right in my front yard!
I’d really like to stay home and cheer on my seedlings and turn my compost or plant something else in the garden, but those pesky utility providers and grocery stores expect to get paid. In actual cash. And gas isn’t getting any cheaper, so I’ve got to earn a paycheck.
In the meantime, I allow myself to daydream about the wonderful food I’ll eat once everything is producing. I Googled pineapple tomatillos and found an incredible pineapple tomatillo salsa with ginger, limes and cilantro. The recipe called for plain tomatillos and included fresh pineapple, but I’m willing to try it with pineapple tomatillos.
But mine aren’t quite ready for picking. If you look real hard, you can see them just starting to sprout. Last year I grew Cisneros and purple tomatillos, and I don't remember them taking so long to sprout. I hope the pineapple tomatillos are as prolific as the ones I planted last year because I really want to try that salsa.
I found a mouthwatering recipe for a pasta sauce with Sun Gold tomatoes, chives and basil. But I don’t think I’ll be harvesting tomatoes for at least another few months.
I found an exotic idea for pickled cucumbers with perilla leaves, but I haven’t even got my perilla seeds in the mail yet! I’m pretty sure you’ve got to plant the seeds before you can use the leaves.
In the meantime, all I can do is dreee-eee-eamm, dream, dream, dream.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Like a lot of gardeners, I want to be able to compost. I not only want to be able to make compost using lawn and garden waste, I want to make it and actually be able to use it, too. That’s been the tricky part.
I’ve got this tall, honking bin that seems like it should make great compost, but the bin is so tall that it’s difficult to turn the contents. Plus, I’m always adding fresh stuff to the top, which slows down the decomposition of everything down below.
My mom uses a couple of the drum models, but they’re not very big, and I’ve got a large pile of materials waiting to compost.
So I asked my husband to build a bin. The materials cost about $60 (I think… it could have been higher) and it took him several hours last Sunday. But I got exactly what I wanted.
The bin will have two compartments. (He forgot to put the divider in when he built it, but got the additional supplies last night, so it should happen any day now.) I can work one side, turning the contents and letting everything decompose while adding new kitchen scraps and yard waste to the other side. It won’t get as hot as the black bin in my other garden, but I’m hoping it works well when the weather turns hot.
In the meantime, I better get busy and chop up that compost pile and decide which half of the bin to put it.
The bin is wood and sits in the irrigated portion of what will be my new garden area, so it will get sprinkled when I water, but I’m hoping it holds up. If not, then I’ve learned another valuable lesson in what not to do.