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 email@example.com.
By Penny Stine
Friday, April 1, 2011
See these itty bitty plants? See the tiger lilies sprouting in between the snapdragons?
The peas sprouting in the garlic? The alyssum compacta that’s flourishing with the spinach?
Actually, you can't see the spinach from this photo - it's still too tiny. You probably can't see the peas, either. As I was strolling through my garden the other day and checking to see if my spinach had gotten any bigger, (sadly, no) the sight of the perennials popping up made me happy I’d decided to turn my growing efforts into a potager, which is just a French term for a kitchen garden that mixes veggies, flower, herbs, annuals and perennials in the same beds.
Before last year, I’d always planted a somewhat traditional garden in rows. I’d have a row of beans or peas or tomatoes, separated by straight pathways, which invariably got filled with weeds. I didn’t do too many flowers, and the garden was visually interesting for just a few months out of the year, when the vegetables finally got big enough to be noticeable.
Last year I experimented with potager gardening and liked the results, even though I started everything from seed, including perennials like lavendar, blanketflower and hollyhocks. Most of the perennials were so small they didn’t bloom.
I’m pleased that most of the perennials are back and looking good. I’m planning to mix in even more flowers in my new garden, just ‘cuz I like the way it looks. I’ve got a few columbines, some lavender and a couple coral bells that I started from seed, all of which will remain ridiculously small and probably won’t flower this year. So I’ll rely on zinnias, marigolds, nasturtium and my new fave plant, amaranth, for color this year. As the photo below shows, the amaranth is no slouch when it comes to adding visual appeal to a garden!
I collected seeds from the amaranth in this picture last fall before I cleaned up the garden. If anyone wants a few, send me an E-mail and I'll share.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The dog poo is so deep in the back yard you can't get to the garden without stepping in it.
You're walking down the road at a 45 degree angle.
You can't stop sneezing, have an allergy attack in church and have to leave.
Sunny one minute, propping up the fence in a horizontal snow storm the next, sunny that afternoon.
You are awakened in the morning by a bird singing at the top of it's lungs.
The grass in the yard is brown but the grass in the garden is green.
The dog is shedding ALL OVER!
You are excited about camping but there is still 4 feet of snow on the Mesa.
Cars around ditch banks are driving slow and erratically while the driver is looking for asparagus.
You have an irresistible urge to clean out closets and wear spring clothes even though the morning lows are still in the twenties.
Neighbors catch you kneeling in the garden staring at the dirt while you search for the first blade of spinach.
Apricot trees are bravely blooming.
Birds are busy building nests. I once saw a HUGE dead weed being tugged into one of our small birdhouse openings.
You smell the smokey burning fields.
Please add your own, "You Know It's Spring When".... comment.
"It's spring fever. You don't quite know what it is you want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so bad."
By Patty Hoisington
Monday, March 28, 2011
To me, gardening is a daunting endeavor. I've always loved the idea of having a garden, but never really got into the gardening part. The Zen of gardening always escaped me. It never was relaxing. Perhaps I'm just lazy and would rather have the beautiful vegetables from our garden magically appear on the kitchen counter, ready to be arranged into an artful soup or colorful stir fry.
This year will be different, though. In years past, we (my husband Jason and I) always started with the best intentions, doing everything we could to make our garden grow – and every year, sometime around the end of July, gardening lost its charm. The lovely greens faded, the unpicked vegetables fell to the ground, and the prairie dogs and raccoons feasted. I must say, though, our past gardens gave us some nice produce, and we were able to enjoy our veggies, flowers and herbs for a few months, at least (this being predominately the result of Jason's hard work).
This time, we are trying something new and different with our garden. This year, we planted seed rather than buying established plants. I bought some of the supplies, and a majority of the seeds, which I helped plant. I am now watching closely for the first signs of seedlings peeking through the soil, stretching toward the sun. I believe this is giving me a closer connection to the plants, thus to gardening. The whole process has given me a desire to see the plants live and thrive and give us food. In fact, I'm looking forward to planting herbs – and taking them on as my responsibility. I've enjoyed taking care of herbs in previous gardens, likely because I know what most of them are, and what they are used for.
My short history of past garden successes and failures has inspired me to get in the dirt, which I don't mind – except for the earthworms!
By Penny Stine
Monday, March 28, 2011
The garden is more my hobby than my husband’s, but he’s a good sport and helps me every spring when I decide to expand and create an even bigger area for gardening. I think he does it because he knows it will mean less grass for mowing. Plus, he really loves fresh tomatoes and we’ve yet to find the perfect place to grow them in our yard.
As you can see by the photo, I decided to expand one of my front yard gardens and bring it all the way to the street. This photo was taken after Kent rototilled the new area for me.
Next step in creating my potager, I got a can of marking spray paint and sprayed where I wanted the pathways in the garden to be. After taking a look at last year’s garden in full bloom, I realized I may as well have planted in rows, since that’s what it looked like I’d done at the end of summer. So this year, I made sure to make oddly shaped planting beds that would give me the wild look I love.
While I was creating pathways, the neighbor kids were curious and asked me why I was spray painting my yard. I explained about the pathways and urged them not to try this at home.
Last year, some of my beds were too small. I may have made some of my beds this year too big. I figure I can always strategically place a few square-foot paving stones if I need places to step.
Friday, I had two yards of rosy quartz trail mix delivered for pathways. We were getting six yards of gravel delivered Saturday morning for a parking area out by the street, so we tried to create all the pathways Friday evening before it got too dark. Plus, we wanted to lay weed barrier down where the parking area would be so we weren’t constantly killing grass in the parking area.
The pathways were in by Friday night, and we had enough trail mix left over to throw some down on some of last year’s pathways. I was cheap last year and used road base gravel for pathways. I like the rosy quartz trail mix much better.
It only took two hours to spread the gravel by the street and while we were doing that, a neighbor was cutting down a diseased globe willow that blocked the western sun from the garden area and constantly dropped branches on our yard.
Then it was off to pick up a truckload of horse manure to add to the new garden, come home and shovel it and then take a picture of the end result.
Whaddya think? I’m pretty happy with the new space, except that if I can’t grow decent tomatoes this year, I’ll have to concede that I’m just a lousy gardener, because finally, I’ve got a really great garden area.
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???