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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What’s up, Doc?

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bugs probably wasn’t referring to spinach or carrots when he used to ask that famous question, but since he’s a big-time herbivore, perhaps he should have been.
I took a stroll around my yard to see what was up, what survived the winter and to assess what my early summer harvest will be.
I’m pretty excited about the spinach. I anticipate that it will be big enough to eat sometime in April. Last night, I fertilized it with Alaska fish fertilizer, which I’ve never used before, but wanted to try. I’ve been trying to water this spinach about once a week. It’s not hot enough for the soil to dry out too badly, and if we get snow or rain, then I don’t water. When in doubt, I just dig down into the soil a little and see how dry/moist it feels.
I planted this spinach either at the end of October or the first part of November.

 

I planted this Swiss chard last summer, but it was in the bed with my ground cherry bushes, which grew quickly when it got hot and overshadowed the chard, which stayed tiny all summer. I left it there when I pulled everything else out in the fall and didn’t even cover it during the coldest part of winter. I’ve watered it pretty faithfully if we don’t get moisture. I might be picking chard in another two weeks.

 

This is the elephant garlic I planted in October or November.

 

I’ve never grown it before, so I have no idea how tall it will get. Research tells me that’s it’s a closer relative to leeks than to regular garlic. I love both leeks and garlic, so I’m happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These little green dots are the lettuce seedlings that I scattered in my front flower bed, which gets fabulous sunshine all the time.I planted lettuce in pots in mid-February, when we had the week or two of really mild weather and had seed left over, so I scattered it in this bed, which is where I had such great peppers and ground cherries last summer. I figure both peppers and ground cherries are heat lovers, so I’ll do a double crop here.

 

The seeds I planted in pots aren’t doing a thing, but it’s because the sun hasn’t climbed high enough in the sky yet to actually hit any of my planters. This is what a north-facing deck looks like all winter long. As you can see, the sun is almost high enough to hit the planters on the edge of the deck. 

 

I uncovered my carrot bed long enough to take a photo and was pleased to see so many carrots had overwintered nicely. I have no idea if they would have survived had our winter been more similar to the two previous ones, but it wasn’t, and they look lovely.
I’ve also got a few beets that have overwintered and appear to be doing fine. It’s kind of rewarding to think I’ll have to many things to pick while I’m busy planting everywhere else.
 

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My quest for the best in fertilizers led me to Glade Park

By Penny Stine
Monday, March 9, 2015

I am determined not to do something stupid this year that will render my garden unproductive, and I’m trying to make up for putting a bad soil amendment on it last year, so my search for something that would really help the soil led me to Alpaca Gold, up on Glade Park.
I remembered reading about the men who started the company in The Daily Sentinel back in November in this story, so I gave them a call when my gardening buddy (and our husbands, who did the heavy lifting) had time to go pick up poop.
I just hope our veggies are as cute as the alpacas.
Rather than simply dump it in our truck, Rusty Brouse with Alpaca Gold put it in these convenient large, heavy duty bags. They each weighed a little more than 40 pounds. I think he said we had about 500 pounds of alpaca poop, which we split between the two of us.
It will be much easier to spread a little bit at a time, since it’s in large bags, rather than one big pile that we’d have to shovel.
I’m going to use fish emulsion fertilizer in some areas and the alpaca poop in others. Hopefully, I’ll either write it down or remember where I used what, so I can compare during and after the growing season.

If my veggies are as cute as the alpacas, I’ll have the best-looking garden ever.  

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Heating mats work for seedlings

By Penny Stine
Friday, March 6, 2015

A few years ago, I got to interview Joe Cocker because he wanted to talk about tomatoes. He was a lovely person and he had read some of my old Stine’s Lines columns, where I had written about the frustrations of starting seeds. He gave me a seedling heat mat, which I treasure because how many people can say they have gardening supplies given by Joe Cocker? The man definitely knew his way around a tomato plant.

When we started seeds a few weeks ago, we filled one of our bio-dome (as Park Seed calls their seed-starting planter) with only peppers and put that planter on the heat mat. You can see by the photo that most of the seeds have germinated and some plants have their first two little leaves.


Because we’re growing a variety of sweet and hot peppers, we had more seeds than would fit in this one bio-dome, so we put pepper seeds in domes that had other types of seeds in them. In addition to peppers, we also started broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and kohlrabi. Unlike peppers, they don’t really need to be started indoors, we just like to do it because it means we’re planting seedlings in early April in the garden as soon as we have water. We also started several types of basil because basil is an extremely slow grower at first.


As you can see by this pic, whatever cole crop is planted in this dome (which is not sitting on a heat mat) has germinated and is doing nicely (it’s the tall stuff on the left). Even the basil is up (it’s the little stuff on the right). That leaves the rows in the middle with nothing germinating. Those are pepper seeds that didn’t fit in the dome on the heat mat.

The moral of this story for me is: buy another heat mat and make sure that all of my heat-loving plants are in the same planter.  

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Harvesting pitiful Brussels sprouts

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I took a quick garden stroll to check out the Brussels sprouts, which are continuing to overwinter in my garden. As you can see, the little sprouts on this portion of the stem have started to open up like little flower petals, which is a sign that I should have picked them weeks ago.
I didn’t want to pick them because they weren’t very big. I kept hoping they’d get larger.

 

 

 

As you can see by this pick,there were other little sprouts on the plant that still look like teeny tiny little cabbages. I decided they probably weren’t going to get any bigger, so I picked them.

 


I also pulled a couple of green onions and decided to do a veggie medley with some purple cabbage, orange sweet peppers, mushrooms and garlic. I sautéed some of the veggies and roasted the cabbage and the Brussels sprouts. I had to combine the sprouts with a bunch of other veggies in order to make enough to bother eating. If all that was standing between me and starvation was my overwintering veggies, I would have been dead several months ago.  

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Get ready, set, grow

By Penny Stine
Thursday, February 26, 2015

I got some of my seeds started over the weekend. Because peppers grow so slowly at first, my gardening buddy and I started those and we also started some cold-weather loving plants. We could have direct-sowed the cold-lovers in April, but we wanted to give them a little head start.

 

This year, I’m growing a giant kohlrabi variety that my mom recommended (which has already sprouted, as you can see in this pic) as well as an orange cauliflower, a normal broccoli and a weird broccoli variety that has stems like asparagus. We’re also trying a new kale variety that’s supposed to be sweeter than regular kale, some leftover Brussels sprouts seeds and a purple savoy cabbage. Oh, the excitement of new varieties… be still, my beating heart.


Most of the cole crops have already sprouted in my southern window.
We ordered several different types of pepper seeds, and we also used some left over pepper seeds from previous years. My friend, Jan, wants purple jalapeños, which we had leftover, while I want to continue growing the hot Fresno peppers, which were leftover. We’re trying one new hot pepper called a cayennetta, which is supposed to grow well in a pot.
We’ve got a combination of new seeds and old seeds for peppers, too. I’ve got my planters with peppers sitting on my heat mat, but so far, none of the peppers have sprouted.
 

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