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
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Gardening is such a humbling experience. There’s so much to learn, so many ways to make mistakes and so many ways how not to grow a tomato.
And yet, it ain’t rocket science. Farmers have been growing crops for thousands of years.
This is my second year for starting seedlings in the house. Such a perpetual exercise in patience. I’m like a two-year old when it comes to starting seedlings. I plant on Saturdays, and I’d really like to see something sprouting by Monday, at the latest.
The Thai hot peppers I planted had a lousy germination rate. I planted at least 16 back in February (I’m planting extra for a friend) and only three measly little plants sprouted! So I began to research and learned that it’s not a lousy germination rate, just a long germination period.
Look, a fourth one finally sprouted in this six-pack planter – see the tiny one just starting to unfold? And another finally sprouted here. (Can you see the tiny sprout in the back?)
Some peppers, especially the hotter ones, can take a month or longer to sprout.
So now I’m waiting on the rest of the seeds and wondering why I thought I needed so many Thai pepper plants. I'm also waiting on poblano peppers, which aren't particularly hot, but they are rather slow to germinate.
Columbines also teach patience. I thought it would be great to start several six-packs from seed. In the photo below, the three six-packs with nothing but dirt are the columbines. The other is full of petunias.
After all, I had started petunias and they popped right out of the ground.
Just when I was about to give up on the poor seeds, I decided to read a bit.
Columbines can take up to 30 days to germinate. Guess I’ll be patient and try not to drown the little suckers. (Why do I think I can make them grow if I continually spritz them with water???)
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
My mom, who’s lived and gardened in the Nebraska Panhandle for the last 17 or 18 years, but who has also gardened in Wyoming, Alaska and Oklahoma, gives me good gardening tips.
So when Mom recommended I try planting spinach in the late fall, I took her advice. This is now the second spring I’ve reaped the benefits of planting in November. Because our winter was milder than last year, I noticed my first few sprouts clear back in January. I wasn’t sure they’d survive February.
Although they didn’t grow much, they survived. Now that we’re enjoying warmer weather, the spinach is actually starting to grow.
Obviously not big enough to eat yet, but maybe by late April.
Last year, I picked spinach for two months before it finally bolted when it got hot. One week we ate it six times, in six different ways. I also froze some and just ran out about a month ago.
When I saw the spinach back in January, I noticed a mystery plant in another bed that I don’t remember planting. Now that it’s gotten a little bigger, I’m fairly certain it’s lettuce.
Although it’s hard to muster up the enthusiasm for planting in late fall, it’s way cool to have something coming up in the garden so early in the spring.
Sadly, I still can’t seem to muster up enthusiasm for cleaning the house…
Monday, March 7, 2011
I found the new "in" place to hang and it's not The Ale House. Saturday at Bob's Garden was a busy place with neighbors and volunteers helping to plant more than 80,000 seeds in the shop. Some come for dirt therapy, and I suspect that many come for Bob and Darla Beasley's congenial company.
They were planting Beef Steak tomato seeds last Saturday. Already growing were thousands of peppers and tomatoes, eggplants and asparagus they have been planting since shortly after the New Year.
Offering a wealth of knowledge peppered with casual conversation, Bob offers tips and helpful suggestions while he keeps in mind your likes and garden needs. Knowing Olan loves okra, he gave us a packet of Cajun Delight hybrid seeds which he says yields pods down the whole stock and provides more okra than you could eat in a year from just a few plants. Perhaps an improvement over the ONE okra pod we produced last year.
One of Bob's favorite peppers is the pimento, that red pepper you find stuffed in green olives, (my only experience with it). He says they are sweet and addictive right out of the field. He offered us any seeds we wanted to try, as well as asparagus and Yukon Gold potato starts.
With no room left in the shop they moved trays of seedlings down to the greenhouse, which he says is really a hoop house. Galvanized pipe bent into a roof with huge sheets of plastic over the top.
"Really just a huge cold frame you can move in," Bob says. He keeps an old air conditioner running at all times to bring oxygen into the space. An electric heater provides warmth in the evenings. If the sun is shining in the day the temperature can quickly approach 100 degrees without any heat. The first year he used propane and lost 5,000 plants because the propane tank malfunctioned in the cold. The poor seedlings froze.
Bob is working on aquiring a greenhouse which has all the temperature, oxygen and humidity controls that make our local greenhouses grow the full, stocky transplants you buy in the spring. They are adding herbs to this years offerings and are pouring over seed catalogues to bring us the very best.
The only fertilizer that Bob uses is Ag Grand Fertilizer. An all natural organic fertilizer that smells like a combination of dead fish and bonemeal. His gardens are wholey organic and include many heirloom varieties.
Churning with thirty years of garden wisdom and suggestions, I am reminded to buy a tape recorder to capture this wealth of knowledge for our next visit. Tips on watering seedlings and how to plant tomato transplants up to their first true leaves. Memories of growing up in SW Colorado in broom corn country where the native americans cut the stocks.
When the produce stand opens 3334 E 1/4 Road please tell Bob you first learned about him on this blog so he will keep letting me hang out!
"Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."
Friday, March 4, 2011
First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us.
And now, before the eye can focus,
- Lilja Rogers
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I am frugal. Some would say I’m cheap, but frugal sounds nicer.
I start quite a few plants indoors in the early spring to save money and to create greater variety in my garden. You just can’t find Cajun Belle peppers or Aunt Ginny’s purple tomatoes at the local nurseries.
A friend and I split the cost of the seeds. Because she moved into a smaller house and has nowhere to start seeds and nowhere to put her awesomely wonderful plant shelves, she gave them to me so I could start seeds for both of us.
And boy, have I started a lot of seeds. I’ve also learned that when you start seeds indoors, serving trays are a must-have gardening implement. Not only do they help with crop rotation (i.e., giving each tray a day in the prime sunshine location) but they also help when it comes time to transition the plants to outdoor life. It’s much easier to carry 10 trays of plants outside every morning than 115 baby plants.
I’ve discovered that Goodwill is a great place to pick up spare serving trays. They may be delightfully tacky, but who cares? I use them in early spring, then stack ‘em and store ‘em until I need them again the following year. Ones like the one in this picture work well because you can pour water into the tray and water from the bottom, just like the seed packet advises.
Some people buy the bio-dome systems for starting plants. My frugal nature made me try using plastic wrap. It works. Once the plants sprout and have their first two little leaves, I remove the plastic wrap and make them fend for themselves.
Otherwise, it’s easy to inadvertently tear off a leaf when lifting the plastic wrap to water (or to just peek to see if anything’s sprouting.)
Because I keep my house so stinkin’ cold (see frugal nature, above), I’ve learned that I’ve got to give plants a couple of weeks longer than what the seed packets say in order for them to get big enough to transplant.
The Chitzen Itza, Flavorburst and Big Jim hybrid peppers are looking good, as are the lavender and basil plants. Hopefully, I won’t kill anything before it gets planted outside.