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 28, 2011
Although I’ve yet to see an actual tomato on any of my tomato plants, I’m feeling hopeful about this year’s crop. I’m also trying a few new techniques, including growing two large tomato varieties in huge pots on my sunny patio and growing these Viva Italia plum types on a trellis.
I’ve also got plenty in traditional tomato cages. Every year, I tell myself I’m going to buy those expensive metal cages that don’t fold under the weight of the tomatoes, but every spring, my frugal nature wins and I use these cheap, lightweight ones. I curse my frugality in late August. Oh well, at least some things are consistent.
After reading about trellised tomatoes, I’ve been pinching off the sucker branches and the blossoms in an effort to get the tomatoes to grow up the trellis. I don’t know if they’ll reach the top of the trellis, but I read that pruned tomato plants often produce bigger tomatoes. I’m doing the same thing to the big tomatoes in the pots, hoping they’ll twine around the pole. It's a testament to my desperation for good tomatoes that I'm willing to be so cruel to my babies - it practically causes me pain to pinch off blossoms and branches!
I’m letting some of my other plants do whatever they want to do in the cages. My sincere hope is that what they want to do is give me plenty of tasty tomatoes very soon.
Oh, I also have these little cherry tomatoes in pots on my deck. I’m neither staking nor caging these – I’m going to let them fall over the back side of the deck, kind of like a tomato growing in one of those topsy-turvy containers, without actually being planted upside down. At least these Sungold hybrids are blooming. Now, if only they’d get with the program and form tomatoes…
Thursday, June 23, 2011
When it comes to gardening, I don’t.
I’ve managed to avoid it for many years now. OK, honestly I’ve avoided it my whole life. I just don’t do “yard work.” I hate it. It’s hot, buggy, sweaty and hard labor.
I do love other people’s gardens though and I am more than happy to shamelessly profit from their hot, buggy, sweaty, hard labor. Witness to this fact is that several times a week I return to my office and find lovely green things on my desk, as if they just dropped from some magic plot in the sky.
I’ve found garden cress, dill, sage, chives, bib lettuce, leaf lettuce, baby romaine lettuce, parsley, snow peas, snap peas - the list goes on – wrapped in paper towels, baggies or just plain naked on my desk. I think this is a great gardening system, and one that works well for me!
I don’t do flower gardens either. My sister came over last year and planted a bunch of things in my back yard. I gave her fair warning that if they didn’t take care of themselves, they would perish. Luckily for her, they are managing to survive with whatever water they get from the sprinkler system. They look really good so far! My mom came earlier this year to prune and fertilize the rose bushes. I think this is a great gardening system too.
I prefer to let Mother Nature do the gardening. On our Twisted WL Ranch above Cedaredge (I call it a ranch because there are cows that roam through there) Mother Nature has provided us with the most perfect garden of all. When the snow had barely melted, our meadow was a carpet of teeny, tiny white flowers. I marveled at how something could survive buried under 6 feet of snow for months and poke their pretty heads up the moment they could.
Last weekend there were all kinds of lovely flowery things flowering. I could identify wild iris (although I couldn’t get one in focus)
These beautiful yellow flowers
I love these purple/indigo ones
These look like tiny daisies
Could these be some kind of snapdragons?
Even the bears seemed to wander by and enjoy the flowers
The meadow was full of other wonders too
Now this is my idea of a flower bed!
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
There is nothing better than a bucket of rotting garbage, especially when flowers are blooming in it.
I was surprised when I went to add scraps to the kitchen compost bucket and there was a beautiful blooming radish.
Strangly enough, it has been amazing watching my garbage turn into rich soil. We started an outside compost heap in a plastic trash barrel last year by drilling holes in the side every couple of inches. The lid snaps on and we simply roll it every time we add to it. We keep adding, and adding, and adding and it never gets full as billions of tiny micro organisms feed, grow, reproduce and die.
Since we put our coffee grounds and banana peels into the heap, we are adding rich nutrients from all over the world that will eventually benefit new garden plants.
There is something about turning your scraps back into the earth that it originally came from that is satisfying. Decaying matter bringing new life. It's the circle of life.
He gives beauty for ashes
Strength for fear, Gladness for mourning
Peace for despair
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Sorry for the cutesy alliteration, I just can’t help myself. Gardening makes me corny. (I’m powerless to stop the puns, too.)
I know I blogged about these walking onions a month or so ago, but they’re so cool, I had to take another picture.
I’ve been judiciously harvesting them – plucking a few bulbs growing mid-stem and chopping some of the greens. Yesterday, I buried one of the tiny bulbs in a different planting bed in hopes of starting more onions.
This bed gets too much shade for most veggies. I had some garlic in there that didn’t do the cool garlic thing. Rather than grow and curl, it just seemed to die. Then I noticed a little tiny garlic bulb poking above the dirt and remembered that the time to harvest some root/bulb crops is when the top portion begins to die.
Another Doh! moment brought to you by a Dirty Gardener.
As you can see by the pic, there are several dead-looking garlic plants to dig.
This is the cool garlic thing going on in a sunnier spot in my garden. So even though the bed was too shady for the garlic scape curl, I dug the bulb anyway anyway.
True, it’s an itsy-bitsy bulb, but it’s my first garlic ever. Of course, I didn’t realize my garlic in the garden was ready to pick and just bought some at the grocery store over the weekend.
Since my husband and I use garlic like some people use salt, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Tiny garlic bulbs and tip-toeing onions are better than nothing in this particular bed. Maybe I’ll add a shade-loving perennial and call it good.
Although onions and garlic are a recent addition to my gardens, I've got some chives in my wildflower area that not only provide great topping for baked potatoes, they look cool when they're blooming.
Last year, I started some garlic chives in another garden. They don't look very chivish to me.
They do have a good garlic flavor, though, so maybe they've morphed into a full-flown garlic-flavored onion.
Cool! Now, if only I can get them to walk like the other onions...
By Penny Stine
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Growing lots of flowers is relatively new to me, but seeing them bloom makes me happy, so I decided to share the joy. I’ll pass on a few tips while I’m at it.
This is a penstemon (I think). It’s a perennial, so it will get larger every year. There are a bunch of different types of penstemon and they don’t look alike at all. This one has gotten quite large, and has reddish leaves so it adds color and interest even when it’s not blooming.
I think both of these are also penstemon.
I planted them too close together. I’ve seen the red one take up a three-foot square space in the yards of people who know what they’re doing and they’re quite beautiful.
I love the snapdragons in my veggie garden. I’ve read that you can cut them back to encourage blooming in the fall or you can let them dry and produce seeds where they stand. I’m hoping they reseed, because I want them back next year.
Speaking of reseeding, this is borage. I’ve heard that once you plant it, you can never get rid of it. I planted it last year and it came back this year. It will get unruly by the season’s end. The flowers are edible and taste slightly of cucumbers. An interesting addition to salads.
This is bellflower. It’s a biennial that I started last year. It didn’t bloom last year, and now I’m trying to figure out how to make it act like a perennial, because I want it back next year.
Coreopsis. Easy to grow, gets bigger every year, blooms for a long time. It doesn't get a lot of water where it's planted, and it doesn't seem to mind. A great addition to the raspberry patch.
The official name for this is gaillardia, but it’s also known as blanketflower. I started a bunch from seed last year and was disappointed when they didn’t get very big, nor did they bloom. This year has been a pleasant surprise because I’m finding the plants in a couple of places that I’d forgotten I put them. They should bloom all summer with very little help from me, but these two will be overshadowed by the tomatillo plant next to them by August or September.
Starting perennials from seed is great when you're on a budget and you've got enough patience to wait a year or two to see them in their full glory. It can be tricky if you don't know how big a plant has the potential to grow, so perhaps my flower power tutorial has been helpful. I'll do a July update when later season specimens start to bloom.