Archive for the ‘dirt’ Category

Mom’s all ears Monday, August 9th, 2010

My mother and father did their most intensive veggie garden bed yet, this year. I’m not talking every veggie under the sun, but moreso the care they took with amending the soil (compost, peat, garden soil), laying down weed barrier (cardboard), mounding the beds so they are naturally raised and planning and thinning and staking and watering and . . .  It’s a lot of work they put into it but they are now reaping the returns.

A couple weekends ago I helped my mom wrangle anther level onto her tomato cages. It was like (my new favorite phase) wrangling PJs onto an octopus. They were huge and loaded with green ‘gold’ just aching to turn ripe yellows, burgundies, reds and purples. And, the corn, ugh I’ve tried to grow corn a couple years and had 1 raggedy looking ear to show for it. But my mother’s are towering over her, golden tassles whispering the wind’s directions. It goes to show, if you put in the work can get huge rewards.

Bedding down Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

raised garden beds

It’s June 1 and most of the garden is in. The Hubs is supposed to turn a corner of it yet for squash, pumpkin and beans.

In the 3 raised beds:

  1. Onions (Vidalia & Walla Walla?), buttercrunch head lettuce, Okra and soybean (edamame).
  2. Tomatoes, 8 (or whatever seedling survivors I had), purple basil, globe basil, parsley seeds.
  3. Peppers, 6 (some hot, some not?), with a little room leftover to plant . . . ?

The other ground level part of the garden has potatoes (red and yellow), watermelon, cucumber, louffa gourd and a couple volunteer squash/pumpkin (it’s fun to see what makes it through on Mother Nature Alone).

It my daughters bed we’ve been able to harvest radishes and a few salads worth of spinach. The sweet peas, chard and carrots are coming up too, along with a few more heads of buttercrunch.

What I’m concentrating on this year:

  • Weeding a little every day. My scuffle hoe is the best with little weeds, it just scrapes them to smithereens.
  • Sowing, planting in succession. Staggering planting times helps stagger harvest times too.
  • Thinning. Hadn’t done a lot in the past but it really helps with plant health, shape, harvest and weeding. So I’ve kept a buffer zone in between plants.
  • Turning the compost. I usually go with a long composting schedule – I just let it lay and only use it once a year. This year I’m trying to increase its turnover by actually turning it. The better circulation increases it’s breakdown speed.
Monday, February 15th, 2010

MARCH 13, 2010

Registration—8:45 A.M. Registration fee- $5


  • 9:00 A.M.:  PRESERVING YOUR HARVEST – Marjorie Zastrow, SDSU Extension Educator—FCS
  • 10:15 A.M. TREE AND SHRUB PRUNING MADE EASY – Aaron Keisz, Aberdeen City Forester
  • 1:00 P.M. TIPS FOR DIVIDING AND MOVING PERENNIAL PLANTS – Glenda Oakley, Extension Master Gardener
  • 2:00 P.M. SMALL COMMERCIAL GARDEN, MAKING/USING COMPOST – George Piper, Extension Master Gardener
  • 3:15 P.M. FLOWER ARRANGING – Cindy Carlson and Renita Kainz, Lily’s Floral Design & Gifts

Angerhofer Concrete Products; Beadles Floral and Nursery; Gary’s Engine and Repair; Harvest Garden Center; Lily’s Floral Design and Gifts; Parkview Nursery; Boston Fern; RDO Equipment; Scentsy; The Happy Gardener; Prairie Partners Master Gardeners

Prairie Partners Master Gardeners
South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service

Itchy Friday, February 5th, 2010

How can one stave off that garden itch. The temp got above 30F today and I’m already feeling it. My naked hands need some dirt.

  • If you haven’t already, you can force bulbs like paperwhites, tulips, daffodils, crocus and amarylis.
  • Clean-up your houseplants, they’ll be getting thirstier now that the days are getting a bit longer. Trim off dead leaves and branches. Yellowing bottom leaves may mean time to repot. Use a pot only 1-2″ wider in diameter than the original and make sure there is a drain hole.
  • Make a terrarium. This is a great project to do with kids. Pick a clear container – anything from a clear glass cookie jar to a large clear vase will work. Layer from the bottom: pebbles, active charcoal (if enclosed), moss, screen or fine mesh (to keep soil from washing into pebbles) potting soil (or cacti specific if those are the types of plants you wish). Next plant small, slow growing plants, cuttings or seeds. Plant them using a spoon, fork, chopsticks, etc. (good tool options). Add decorative stones or figurines if desired. Water when top of soil is dry.
  • Start herb seeds in pots for trimming into dishes.
Budgets, building up and barrels Friday, January 29th, 2010

The minimal time I’ve been gardening at my home (7 years) I’ve learned to have, if not a strict budget, at the very least a focus of what I wanted to accomplish that season. The first year or two I was buying and collecting with abandon. It was a good start (but I did burn a hole in my pocket book). The best choices I made didn’t come from nurseries but through collecting and trading. I’ve acquired some tried and true specimens that I already knew would work well in this corner of our world. Hostas, daylilies and iris from my mom, roses I’d known grew well from childhood memories at my grandmothers’, native grasses, mints, sedums and thyme.

Now that I’d found some stuff to work with I moved onto more foundation plantings like shrubs and trees. Having all of ours wiped out by dutch elm, blight and scald those became the focus the next couple years. To save money we went to the nearly-annual city surplus sale and donated to the Arbor Day Society – for a minimal donation you get quite a few trees, though tiny, it’s worth it even if only a couple survive. We only splurged on the two trees planted the day our kids were born. Investing in perennials, trees and shrubs will always be a better deal as they, hopefully, come back year after year needing less and less maintenance as they become established.

Last year (and the year before) we put up a fence to enclose the backyard both for our kids’ and dog’s sake and to keep rough-n-tumble kids from breaking, beating and stomping the stuff we had planted. There is just something way too appealing about breaking branches.

Bringing us to this year’s focus:

  • Dirt — basically building up the veggie garden, raising or mounding the beds. This will help them heat up faster, drain better and hopefully provide more of a path to get to things. I’d love all raised beds as it would make the work easier but the building materials would probably be out of our range. By bringing in a mix of compost, dirt, peat etc. we will improve the soil quality. Before all of this I should finally get soil samples sent into the extension office so that I know where I’m at as far as pH and basic nutrient needs.
  • Water conservation — rain barrels and soaker hoses. Our old soaker hoses need replacing and they really are the smartest way to water. I’ve been talking about rain barrels for a few years and have never tackled the project. To buy one premade will cost a minimum of $150 from what I’ve perused in catalogs, but there are easier ways to make your own. I just need to find large plastic food-grade barrels that have never held any chemicals. They could be used as is by dipping watering cans into, or I can add spigots and drain hoses for greater ease with some strategic holes, faucet and hose attachments. Not only do you end up with free water, it’s actually much better water for your plants. City water around these parts is more alkaline and will increase soil pH. Just remember a couple mosquito dunks to kill the larvae.
  • Lastly, another tree splurge as there is another Pharris on the way to make his/her appearance in April. We haven’t nailed down the type of tree we want yet but I’m leaning towards an evergreen of sorts or an oak. I’ll have to call the nurseries and check on the availability of bareroot vs. container in early April.
Blight Bites Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Tomatoes have succumb to late blight in large numbers. The culprit: cold and wet. Leaves and stems are covered with blackish spots. Leaves shrivel and fruit either molds on the vine or gets riddled with grey, inedible, corky spots. Early blight – a common tomato ailment usually affect the bottom most leaves initially which can be removed and many times the fruit goes unharmed. Early blight is due to using the same spot for growing tomatoes too many years in a row and because of poor cleanup in between seasons. This late blight will also stay in the ground so it’s best to find a new spot next year. Both blights come from a fungus in the dirt – the dirt gets splashed up the plant during rain or overhead sprinkling. Mulching can also hasten splash-up. Fungus has really loved this cooler, consistently-wet summer. I’m just glad The Hub decided to yank all but 1 tomato plant because of slugs – another lover of cool and wet. Now our unharmed tomatoes wait patiently in the sun to warm their skins to rosy, red, orange and yellow.

The start of the end Friday, September 11th, 2009

The Hub has started ‘wringing out’ the garden. A lot of our stuff has succumbed to slugs. Anything grazing the ground from pumpkin to tomato has been feast for the slimy buggers. Usually noted on a couple squash or hostas the sucking buggers can really do some damage. Their prevalence only made stronger by the wet, cool summer we’ve had. The Hub ripped out a few tomato plants leaving the good fruit to sit and ripen on a table in the sun. A couple pumpkins are ready to grace the front steps to welcome fall. A couple pie pumpkins, I can almost taste. Peppers have been picked. Strawberries have started to rest. Though it’s been 80 in the afternoons, the cooler evenings and mornings whisper of what will come soon enough. Carrots, cabbage-family and apples may stay as they sweeten with a light, gulp, frost. It’s a good idea to roll your gourd-family produce just to check you don’t have a hollow pumpkin from the slugs. I really like this time of year to jot down what hasn’t worked. It actually gives me hope more than anything. Lets just hope my memory stays strong enough to recall my mistakes when planning next year’s gardens. I’m hoping for: more raised beds, more weed barriers, new soaker hoses, and again more space.

Garlic grows on Thursday, August 6th, 2009
Garlic 'flower buds' in early july

Garlic 'flower buds' in early july

This year is the first time I’ve tried my hand, or thumb, at garlic. Last fall I planted some bulbs as well as some more this spring. Fall planting is the usual method but from my experiment so far it doesn’t seem to matter much. Though I haven’t dug any bulbs yet so truth is yet to come. The fall-planted bulbs had the jump start and sprouted very early. Spring bulbs are catching up and flowered just a week or two later than the fall ones.

The bulb of the garlic grows in the ground. There are two varieties – hard kneck and soft neck, the latter of which would be found on your grocers’ shelf. Hard neck differ in that they are a bit more hardy and a tough thick stem grows in the middle of the bulb.  Both varieties can be planted here.

There is some different schools of thought pertaining to the flower of garlic that starts in mid-summer. When a bulge just begins to start and the top is curled over on itself you can actually cut them off and saute this part. It gives a softer essence of garlic. When a bud is definite you can also just crimp the stem over just under the bud so that the plants energy goes back into making the bulb instead of the flower parts. Or, you can just ignore it completely.

Fall planted garlic in May

Fall planted garlic in May

Spring-planted garlic in May

Spring-planted garlic in May

Harvest comes when the plant has browned about 1/3 of the way up. Waiting longer can result in an inedible product. Dig the garlic so as not to damage the bulb. Brush off as much dirt as possible and keep in a cool dark place until you are ready to use it. You can cut the leaves off leaving a little stem or if you

have a lot you can leave the leaves on and braid them.

Sugarbowl Monday, July 20th, 2009

My Sugarbowl clematis, or Scottii wasn’t looking so hot. When I received it in the mail I planted it immediately in May. It kept getting more and more pale. It looks like a scraggly tough little plant but I may have been too late trying to save it. I stuck it in an all-day-sun spot with minimal mulch. Bad idea.

Now I’ve transferred it to the West side of the house among some much taller, therefore shady, perennials. Hopefully this unusually cool and wet July will help it along. The scottii is a non-vining clematis. Its nodding little blue-cupped flowers is what seduced me. Some day maybe I’ll have my own pictures to post here.

Clematis need, in general:

  • Some sun. Some can take more than others – the late-summer blooming varieties for sure. Seem most adaptable to this.
  • The bottoms and roots like to be cool so plant a groundcover or other plant by the base to offer shade.
  • Most are vining varieties. Some will do this readily others may need a little tying. Almost all will need extra support once matured.
  • All can use a good trim. Generally the early the bloomer, the later the pruning. Late fall to early spring is a good time. The later-blooming varieties do well with leaving little above ground. Earlier bloomers do ok with leaving 8-12″ above ground.
1 month Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I want to do a little comparison with our one raised bed. Almost exactly a month ago it was planted. Disclaimer: yes, I know, for the love of weeds!!! I need to get out there and pull. I swear this all happened in this last week of rain. The weekend was nice, but way too busy – all I managed to do was mow the front yard, that’s it. But i’m happy I did not have to water.cereliagarden5-2009cereliagarden6-2009

This is the reward of gardening. This raised bed is my, now 5-yr-old, daughter’s. When she wanted to plant seeds, I let her go (lettuce, radish). When we were at the nursery, I let her pick up whatever variety of flowers she liked (nemesia, double petunias, heliotrope, trollius). Then, the eggplant happened in there because it couldn’t find a home anywhere else. There are also a couple volunteer tomatoes from using our homemade compost. MishMash would be the appropriate term I believe.