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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Independence Day - and pumpkins!

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.

And pumpkins.

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!



Planting chicken food

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.


Hot summer nights

By Carol Clark
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it created romance." — Bern Williams

I happened upon this adorable rustic tiki torch online. After shopping every plumbing and hardware store in Grand Junction, my husband found the galvanized hardware at Lowe's. We promptly drank three bottles of wine for the project, (just kidding).

TIP: To remove labels from wine bottles place bottle in a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes. Labels will peel off easily with a razor blade.

The torches help keep the mood-killing mosquitoes away and add evening ambiance to your garden parties, or have fun creating a romantic secret garden for those hot summer nights. The best part may be drinking the wine for the torch!

Here is the link so you can get started tonight!






‘Joy of the Mountains’

By Carol Clark
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

With the second year in our herb garden the oregano and thyme have turned predatory, seeking to take out every other living thing in our small garden. We transplanted the thyme into its own pot where it could do no more harm. Cutting back the oregano, I didn't want to waste the extra, but did not yet want to dry for winter. (Can't admit that summer will come to an end). So with the extra we cut small bouquets which we tied with jute to share with our Greek friends. Totally irresistible.

Since your herbs will not stay forever ready in your garden, cut stems and have them ready in a canning jar filled with water. These will stay fresh for up to two weeks in your fridge. I like having them out on our kitchen table where they make the house smell like an Italian bistro and where I can be reminded to use them while preparing the next meal.

Make sure to dry enough for winter. Try drying leaves and stems in the refrigerator. After washing and patting dry, store in a brown paper bag in the fridge for three or four weeks. This way they are out of the dust and bugs way.

Greeks call oregano "Joy of the Mountains" and it is said to banish sadness.

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