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.

Page 113 of 115

Slimy Slugs

By Geri Anderson
Friday, June 18, 2010

I am not intimidated by most garden bugs, but the slug gets to me. You know the slimy critter that is basically the inside of a snail, minus the shell. Their looks bother me. And worse yet—last year slug appetites claimed about a third of our strawberries. Just about the time a strawberry became red, ripe, and juicy, a slug would climb onto the berry to have a feast! It might eat it all, or leave a gaping cavity where it had devoured part of my next fruit topping! Or even have the audacity to be chowing down and attached to the berry when I went exploring for berries under the large leaves. Aaghh!

I know that they appreciate my strawberry bed most of all the spots in my yard because it’s generally damp and there are large leaves and the straw mulch to hide under—since slugs can’t handle direct sunlight or lack of moisture for long.

Here’s my favorite way to rid the garden plot of slugs. Diatomacious Earth. It’s not a chemical. It’s ground up seashells. Ground so that the edges are still sharp against the soft slug or other crawling insect body. These sharp edges cause the bugs to lose their interior moisture and dehydrate.

Works great. Here’s our strawberry bed up close; it’s in a raised bed.

And here’s the product that we got at a local hardware store to remedy the slugs. Last picking of a pint of berries, the slugs had gotten to only two berries. And I haven’t seen a slug or encountered one under the leaves in weeks!

The downside—the powder/ dust does wash off. We normally soak the strawberry bed from a slow running hose laid in the bed. However, if it rains, or if we use a sprinkler to water, then we need to reapply the Diatomacious Earth. We sprinkle a medium coat on the leaves around the edge of the bed and then dust maybe a fifth of the remaining leaves.

There are no chemicals to worry about. But, two cautions. It’s not recommended you breathe the powder and it can irritate eyes, so I sprinkle gently at arms length. And I keep it out of reach of children and pets.

Has anyone else found they like this method?


Just Grow Already

By Melinda Mawdsley
Thursday, June 17, 2010

Gardening is humbling.

Flowers don't care what you look like, how much money you make or even how much you want them to grow. They just don't care. It hurts.

Flowers are among my most favorite things in the world, especially sunflowers.

I moved to GJ about three years ago into a home with a gigantic yard with lots of sun exposure and plenty of wonderful grass. Flowers thrived.

In April, I moved into a new home after I got married. Despite my life changes, I still wanted my flowers.

I bought the same sunflower seeds I used at my previous home. I started my seeds in pots, babying them in the sun and shade and watering them faithfully. They thrived just like at my old place. At about five inches, I moved the living, breathing, happy sunflower plants into the ground by the fence for support.

They died.

I was not happy and promptly blamed the cats I'm pretty sure peed on them and munched on them like Doritos.

My husband questioned me, not the cats. He wanted to know why anyone would plant sunflowers in pots. He called them weeds and told me to just throw the seeds in the ground.

I listened. I did that. The flowers are coming on strong.

I'm pretty new to this whole gardening/planting my own things, so I'm constantly learning lessons. I guess the biggest lesson I've learned is not all flowers grow well at the same places and in the same conditions.

It sounds silly, and I promise I'm not dumb. I just seriously didn't think the balance of sun, shade, potting soil, etc. would ultimately make that much difference between a plant living or dying.

I thought maybe the plants wouldn't grow as tall or something like that, but I never expected them to flat out die on me.

I'm humbled you silly flowers.

P.S. I planted more seeds in the same spot where the other sunflowers died to prove that I can get them to grow. What can I saw? I'm pretty competitive.


Does composting always translate into tacky?

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My mom’s been gardening a lot longer than me and has taught me several tricks over the years. She’s also been composting for years and uses a gallon-milk jug as a temporary container for kitchen scraps. Before I began composting I used to see the milk jug brimming with potato peels, egg shells and cantaloupe seeds and thought it looked tacky in Mom’s always-spotless kitchen.

So when I first started composting kitchen scraps I tried to take them out to my compost bin immediately. That worked until the snow was a foot deep in my garden. Then I got out a milk jug, cut off the top and started my own recycling program, just like mom. It looks tacky, but I don’t have any better ideas.

Does anyone have a better solution? I try to compost everything from coffee grounds in the morning to vegetable peels and melon rinds later in the day.

My compost bin is in the middle of the garden, in a shady area that wasn’t good for growing anything. Although it’s in the front yard, no one ever notices it because it’s sandwiched by a tree and a vine-covered fence, so I’m not crossing into tacky territory too badly by having it almost visible from the street.

However, I bought this compost bin online a few years ago before local stores started carrying anything, and haven’t been real pleased with it.

The idea is that you put kitchen and yard waste in the top, let nature do its thing and have lovely compost in a few months, which you can access from the doors in the bottom.

The problem is that the bin is about four feet tall - too tall to get in and turn the compost, so waste doesn’t break down like it should. It also gets stuck in the middle of the bin, so the bin seems full from the top, but has a void at the bottom.

My solution is to push it down from the top and wrestle it out through the bottom doors with a pitchfork and throw it on a compost heap next to the bin and let it finish decomposing, where it looks slightly tacky, but is hidden by both the tree and the actual compost bin.

Little did I know my compost pile would sprout.

I think it’s a squash, but it may be a cucumber. Should I transplant it to a sunny spot and see what grows?


Garden fauna

By Laurena Mayne Davis
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gardens support an abundance of obvious flora, but on close inspection there is a thriving world of fauna, too.

I saw this one morning, stuck to the corn rower, next to the chicken pen by the garden.


The shed snakeskin easily was 2 feet long — longer than most of the garter snakes I see skittering about. Curious, I went looking for information about my mysterious garden visitor.

The Colorado State University Extension Service offers guidance on “Coping With Snakes” both poisonous and non-poisonous. Because garter snakes eat insects, slugs and mice, I’m happy to have them around, and find “coping” with them quite easy, although I’d like them to leave the garden worms, frogs and toads alone.

The Colorado Herpetological Society provides more useful information, including the fact that what I generically refer to as garter snakes are probably blackneck garter snakes or western terrestrial garter snakes.

Although the snakeskin I found was longer than most of the garter snakes I’ve spotted, either of the above species can grow up to 42 inches long, according the Colorado Herpetological Society.

There’s one exception to the live food that garter snakes typically eat. They will sometimes eat eggs, which could explain the location of that snakeskin and what I thought was slackening egg production on the part of my hens.


Being raised around gardening doesn’t guarantee success!

By {screen_name}
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In order to feed a family of six, every summer my parents planted a really big garden. I admit that I didn’t appreciate the way the fresh produce tasted and actually resented spending my summer weeding.

One summer (sorry Mom and Dad) my sister and I actually “weeded” the green bean plants because, we had had enough green beans.Thirty years later I have come to not only appreciate the way fresh vegetables taste but also the peacefulness of weeding.

What I have also discovered is that being raised around gardens does not make one a gardener. After my husband and I spent two weekends building planter garden beds, I confidently planted the six tomato plants my father had lovingly grown from seed and trustingly gave to me. Within days I had managed to kill them all. Knowing my dad would be over to check on the progress of my garden, I had to come clean and tell him I had murdered his plants.

“Did you make them hardy-ready?” he asked. What? You don’t just stick them in the ground and give them water? Apparently, plants grown indoors do much better if you allow them to get used to being outside. My dad sent me home with more tomato plants and instructions to expose them to morning sun only for few days before planting them. I have followed his instructions and planted garden number two.

Newly constructed planter garden beds:


Now, with tomato plants:

Page 113 of 115


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