Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I neither read the book nor saw the movie, so I hope any die-hard fans of “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” will forgive me, but the name stuck somewhere in the back of my mind and I wanted to borrow it.
Seriously, though… what’s up with this?
I thought marigolds were supposed to be a bug deterrent, not an appetizer for the main course, which seems to be all of my basil plants that are scattered throughout my garden. Most of them now look like this:
But to show that whatever is munching my marigolds and basil is an equal opportunity devourer, it’s attacking the zinnias, too.
I don’t usually spray or use any kind of herbicide or insecticide in my garden. It’s not that I’m a die-hard organic kind of gal, since I rarely buy organic produce at the store, it’s just that it would be one more thing to learn about and one more chore, and I find myself already overloaded.
Anybody have a clue what’s eating everything in my garden? I haven’t actually seen any type of creepy-crawly out there, but whatever it is also ate a couple of squash and melons right when the first came up and destroyed them.
By Penny Stine
Monday, June 28, 2010
Every year, I like to plant something I’ve never grown before in my garden, which is how I discovered pattypan squash, kale and tomatillos. Much to my delight, I discovered that all grow quite well in our climate and my family enjoys eating all three, which makes it even better.
This year, I tripled my garden space, so I added a lot of plants I’d never grown before, like borage, which is an herb that’s supposed to be a good companion plant for strawberries. It’s also supposed to give you courage or lift your melancholy spirits. Both the leaves and the flowers, which have yet to appear on my plants, are edible.
After 10 minutes of Internet research, I learned that the leaves supposedly smell like cucumbers and are good infused in vermouth and can also be eaten in a salad. Being the adventurous gardener and cook that I am, I picked some to sample before putting it in my Asian shrimp salad.
Personally, I think you have to display courage to eat borage because it’s one of those plants with a weird texture. While it does smell faintly of cucumber, the leaves are not fuzzy like peaches. They’re hairy like gorillas.
I tasted it anyway. Hmmm, interesting. Maybe you’re supposed to eat it only after you’ve drunk a bottle or two of borage-infused vermouth. Maybe then you’ll agree that it tastes more like cucumber and not fish oil.
Regardless, I put it in my salad anyway. Since I also put in home-grown arugula and other salad greens, along with mint, basil and cilantro, I figured the hairy texture and fishy flavor would be masked.
My husband loved the salad, but thought he detected a faint taste of dirt, which could have been the arugula. He’s not a big arugula fan.
I brought borage leaves to work and had a few courageous people sample it. They all agreed it smelled like cucumbers. Some thought it tasted like cucumbers; two people detected a fishy after-taste and one woman thought it tasted like watermelon. She’s always upbeat and positive and sees the good in everything, though, even hairy, fishy edible herbs.
I doubt that I’ll be eating any more borage, even when it flowers. It should look pretty, though, which counts for something in my book.
By Laurena Mayne Davis
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Happy Fourth of July. Don’t forget to celebrate our nation’s independence with patriotic displays of flags and fireworks.
At least pumpkin seeds. Years ago I interviewed a local farmer who grew acres of pumpkins for a pumpkin patch. He told me the Fourth of July is the right time to plant pumpkins in order for them to be mature just in time for jack-o’-lantern carving come Halloween.
It’s an easy date to remember and we’ve planted them around Independence Day ever since.
My kids like to grow ginormous pumpkins for carving, and I like Sugar Pies for canning. Most pumpkin varieties mature in 85 to 100 days.
So plant now for a summer of lush, vining tendrils (give them lots and lots of room) and a fall harvest for pumpkin carving or pies.
(Thanks, Haute Mamas Robin, for the photo illustration.)
By Geri Anderson
Saturday, June 26, 2010
I suppose no gardener is immune from weeds. Mine are quite healthy! This morning I worked about two hours in the yard, edging, trimming, but mostly weeding! In the early to mid morning, it was pleasant work. Why I put it off so long I can’t really say.
My three favorite weed controls: mulch (straw and small cedar bark or shredded bark are my choices), my husband who weeds better than I do!, and newsprint. I’ve used newsprint before, 4 layers thick, overlapped 8”, and it does a great job of suffocating grass and weeds if covered with a generous topping of cedar bark--works especially well in the fall, as in when turning a section of grass into a flowerbed in the next season.. The newsprint will decay, though, and if uncovered, will litter your yard as it decays.
This year we tried getting a free roll of newsprint ends from where else, The Daily Sentinel, and we spread it three layers thick where we were planting our garden. Then we cut 3” round holes, roughly, where we planted marigolds or zucchini seeds, etc. or we left a 6” wide swatch for planting peas or beans. The jury is still out. Because we planted in furrows it was/ is hard to get the mulch to stay in place on the slopes of the furrows. So some paper shows. But, the plus side—it did keep the weeds very limited around our cucumbers and squash and tomato plants for the first six weeks of gardening. And is still somewhat effective. Here you see a cucumber coming up-
The cedar bark does keep the moisture in the soil well, between waterings. And the newsprint keeps light from weeds at least for awhile. This is the" as is" view--and some paper shows!
Anyway, here’s my pulled weeds from this morning, headed via wheelbarrow to my shaded compost pile—literally a pile between a lilac and an evergreen. I add fresh vegetable and fruit trimmings from the kitchen, weeds, some grass clippings at times, overripe fruits and vegetables (or forgotten items from the vegetable bin).
Getting the weeds to the compost pile--what a rewarding feeling!
A mum and iris still on the to-be-weeded list!
By Laurena Mayne Davis
Thursday, June 24, 2010
I first was intrigued to add chard to the garden after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life,” which chronicled her family’s efforts to eat mostly locally produced food. (Haven’t read it yet? You should.)
To illustrate the fact children can get excited about fresh, wholesome food, Kingsolver writes in “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” that her young daughters held a blind taste test to see if the different-colored rainbow chard stalks — pink, orange, yellow and red — had different tastes.
Chard is a beautiful plant, grows quickly and — best of all for high-desert gardeners — tolerates heat. This year I had zero motivation to garden early, missing the planting window for cold-loving lettuce and spinach.
Chard to the rescue for our leafy greens Jones. It’s not too late to plant.
Chop chard leaves fresh in salads, or blanche or sauté and use leaves and stems as you would spinach. Chard has one more distinctive characteristic: It’s prolific. Cut stems at ground level and more will grow, Hydra-like, all season long. No one can eat that much chard. I still have quart bags of frozen blanched chard from last year. I don’t like it to bolt, though, preferring to harvest throughout the season.
Luckily there are other residents of the Davis Ranchette who love leafy greens: chickens. So when we’ve had our fill and the chard is getting tall, I chop it down and throw it in the chicken pen.
No word yet if they’re holding their own taste test.