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, July 1, 2011
Katie Coleman is one of the advertising sales reps here at the Sentinel. She shares a cubicle with Carol Clark, one of our loyal dirty gardeners. She's been listening to Carol and I talk about ordering seeds, starting seeds in late winter, transplanting itsy bitsy seedlings and bemoan the bugs, the weather and the forces of evil that are keeping our gardens from producing tasty tomatoes. She decided to get in on the gardening action, too.
First, she bought a garden box. Carol and I both bought them, too.
Then she got her husband, John, to build the box for her and fill it with dirt. Neither Carol nor I have a husband, John, to build our boxes and fill them with dirt.
Carol does have a husband, Olan, who not only built the box for her, he made special dirt with a secret formula found only in the pages of a book that's widely available to anyone. OK, the formula's not so secret, but still, he mixed all the stuff together to make an extra special planting mixture.
I built my own box and filled it full of dirt from the hardware store. My husband promised to eat all the tomatoes I could produce.
Next step in Katie's garden: She went out and bought plants. Big plants. I think the tomato plants she bought already had tomatoes on them when she bought them in late May. She got them from Okagawa, where the saleswoman advised her to leave them in the plastic containers, but cut the bottom out of the container. It was supposed to keep the tender little plants from going into transplant shock.
Brook is obviously very excited by her mom's garden. The dog? Not so much.
In addition to the garden box, Katie also bought a zucchini for a pot.
Well, here it is the first of July. My tomato plants, those ones that I've been babying since March, are just starting to bloom, Carol's are struggling with bugs or blight.
Katie's plants are doing quite well, thank you very much. She thinks it's because she followed the advice from Okagawa and buried them in the plastic with the bottom cut away. I pulled everything out of the plastic containers (because I'm being frugal and saving 50 cent containers for next year!) and sent my babies into shock for weeks.
Katie and her family have already eaten their first tomato from their garden. And she's so sweet and excited about her gardening success that we can't even accuse her of bragging!
I'm not jealous, not at all.
And I can even muster up some sympathy for the blossom end rot on her first tomato.
She says her zucchini are almost big enough to pick. I'm sure mine will start flowering any day now.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
I have never liked golf - too frustrating. Sadly enough, gardening is beginning to feel like golf - a perfect science that nobody can get right, (except co-workers with beginners luck).
After killing half my seedlings with cold then heat, they started to grow nicely. Then, one day, one of their leaves began to curl and turn yellow. Oh, well, it's probably nothing.... The next day, the yellow is spreading and leaves are getting spots. The next day, leaves are turning brown and crispy.
Fine, I can spare one plant......
A few day's later the next tomato plant's leaves start curling and turning yellow. Alarmed, we took infected leaves to the experts at the CSU Extension Service. As the expert peers into the microscope she says, "aphids," - little tiny aphids too small to be seen with my aging eyes. She let my husband peer into the microscope - he calls them a bad name, (the aphids, not the nice lady). She suggests insecticidal soap, applied to the top and bottom of the leaves...
"It's safe," she says.
We apply the soap that same evening and check back daily......another plant is infected, turning yellow and parts are looking dead. A week later I am at Bookcliff Gardens with a line of people who have the same problem. Uuugggh! The unstumpable Dennis Hill is stumped. He suggests we may have "late blight," an infection normally found in humid England, the dreaded disease that caused the potato famine in Ireland.
What is happening???
He says the environment has not been conducive to late blight here for the last several weeks and it should go away, shouldn't spread, but I can rip out the plants that are effected from top to bottom. There goes two of my nursery plants. Since he saw a dead insect, he also suggests continuing the insecticidal soap another two weeks on all the plants, healthy and not.
With visions of my own tomato famine, I am preparing myself to pull out the third dead tomato plant - triple bogey gardening. Can anyone can help? I am out of experts and I think I see another yellow leaf!
What if the Hokey-Pokey really is what it's all about?
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Although I’ve yet to see an actual tomato on any of my tomato plants, I’m feeling hopeful about this year’s crop. I’m also trying a few new techniques, including growing two large tomato varieties in huge pots on my sunny patio and growing these Viva Italia plum types on a trellis.
I’ve also got plenty in traditional tomato cages. Every year, I tell myself I’m going to buy those expensive metal cages that don’t fold under the weight of the tomatoes, but every spring, my frugal nature wins and I use these cheap, lightweight ones. I curse my frugality in late August. Oh well, at least some things are consistent.
After reading about trellised tomatoes, I’ve been pinching off the sucker branches and the blossoms in an effort to get the tomatoes to grow up the trellis. I don’t know if they’ll reach the top of the trellis, but I read that pruned tomato plants often produce bigger tomatoes. I’m doing the same thing to the big tomatoes in the pots, hoping they’ll twine around the pole. It's a testament to my desperation for good tomatoes that I'm willing to be so cruel to my babies - it practically causes me pain to pinch off blossoms and branches!
I’m letting some of my other plants do whatever they want to do in the cages. My sincere hope is that what they want to do is give me plenty of tasty tomatoes very soon.
Oh, I also have these little cherry tomatoes in pots on my deck. I’m neither staking nor caging these – I’m going to let them fall over the back side of the deck, kind of like a tomato growing in one of those topsy-turvy containers, without actually being planted upside down. At least these Sungold hybrids are blooming. Now, if only they’d get with the program and form tomatoes…
Thursday, June 23, 2011
When it comes to gardening, I don’t.
I’ve managed to avoid it for many years now. OK, honestly I’ve avoided it my whole life. I just don’t do “yard work.” I hate it. It’s hot, buggy, sweaty and hard labor.
I do love other people’s gardens though and I am more than happy to shamelessly profit from their hot, buggy, sweaty, hard labor. Witness to this fact is that several times a week I return to my office and find lovely green things on my desk, as if they just dropped from some magic plot in the sky.
I’ve found garden cress, dill, sage, chives, bib lettuce, leaf lettuce, baby romaine lettuce, parsley, snow peas, snap peas - the list goes on – wrapped in paper towels, baggies or just plain naked on my desk. I think this is a great gardening system, and one that works well for me!
I don’t do flower gardens either. My sister came over last year and planted a bunch of things in my back yard. I gave her fair warning that if they didn’t take care of themselves, they would perish. Luckily for her, they are managing to survive with whatever water they get from the sprinkler system. They look really good so far! My mom came earlier this year to prune and fertilize the rose bushes. I think this is a great gardening system too.
I prefer to let Mother Nature do the gardening. On our Twisted WL Ranch above Cedaredge (I call it a ranch because there are cows that roam through there) Mother Nature has provided us with the most perfect garden of all. When the snow had barely melted, our meadow was a carpet of teeny, tiny white flowers. I marveled at how something could survive buried under 6 feet of snow for months and poke their pretty heads up the moment they could.
Last weekend there were all kinds of lovely flowery things flowering. I could identify wild iris (although I couldn’t get one in focus)
These beautiful yellow flowers
I love these purple/indigo ones
These look like tiny daisies
Could these be some kind of snapdragons?
Even the bears seemed to wander by and enjoy the flowers
The meadow was full of other wonders too
Now this is my idea of a flower bed!
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
There is nothing better than a bucket of rotting garbage, especially when flowers are blooming in it.
I was surprised when I went to add scraps to the kitchen compost bucket and there was a beautiful blooming radish.
Strangly enough, it has been amazing watching my garbage turn into rich soil. We started an outside compost heap in a plastic trash barrel last year by drilling holes in the side every couple of inches. The lid snaps on and we simply roll it every time we add to it. We keep adding, and adding, and adding and it never gets full as billions of tiny micro organisms feed, grow, reproduce and die.
Since we put our coffee grounds and banana peels into the heap, we are adding rich nutrients from all over the world that will eventually benefit new garden plants.
There is something about turning your scraps back into the earth that it originally came from that is satisfying. Decaying matter bringing new life. It's the circle of life.
He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear, Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair