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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The last harvest

By Penny Stine
Monday, November 24, 2014

I took this photo a few weeks ago, at the very end of October, when I was going to do a blog about the last harvest. I never wrote about it because I realized it wasn’t truly the last harvest in 2014. It was the final harvest of the warm-season stuff before the first frost, but I left quite a few things in the garden, like kale, broccoli, beets, carrots and onions. I left a kohlrabi out there, too.

These peppers are sweet yellow oblong peppers. Some actually turned yellow. I used most of them green. The watermelon and honeydew were tasty. 

I've been checking the broccoli for little florets and have managed to continue to find a few here and there. The kohlrabi, carrots and most of the beets never did get big enough to pick, so I covered them all with straw and will hope they survive the winter. The kale held up pretty well until the temperatures dipped into the low 20s and high teens, then it wilted and appeared to die in most places. 

I have some blue dwarf curly kale in a protected area that was still looking pretty good, so I went out on Saturday and picked enough to put in a risotto and perhaps add to my Thanksgiving stuffing. I usually make a kale salad with oranges and cranberries on Thanksgiving, but I'm roasting brussels sprouts with an orange honey glaze and dried cranberries instead, so kale salad with cranberries and oranges seems a little reduntant.

When I was out in the garden, I also found a beet that was big enough to pick. 

I'm pretty sure this really is the last harvest from my outside garden this season. Fortunately, my mushrooms are still going strong in the spare bedroom. 

And soon, I'll get the first seed catalog in the mail and can start dreaming about next year's garden!


These mushrooms are safe

By Penny Stine
Friday, November 21, 2014

I blogged about the mushroom box I bought from Park Seed back when I received it in the mail and got it started at the end of October. It took a couple of weeks, but once they got serious, they got serious about growing. This is what the mushrooms in the box looked like on Tuesday.


This is what I saw on Wednesday. I picked the one in the corner that was starting to look like an upside down umbrella.




The pic below is what was in the box on Thursday.

Holy cow, that’s a lot of mushrooms! We had a stir-fry with three portabellas, a couple of leeks and some broccoli, all of which came from my garden.

After I picked some of the mushrooms, I could see more little ones forming. I’m keeping track of how many I get from the box, so I’ll be able to tell whether it’s cheaper to just go buy mushrooms at the store or grow them in a spare room. I do know, however, that buying mushrooms isn’t this much fun. 


Time to give up

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Sad to say, but I’m pretty sure it’s time to give up on the Brussels Sprouts. I left them in the ground after I pulled most things because I read that they do well after a light frost. It’s supposed to make them sweeter.

The problem is that I needed that light frost to make them bigger.

As you can see, the plant is kinda big, but a closer look reveals that the little sprouts are not.

I’ve been giving them extra water ever since the irrigation water was turned off, in hopes that it would help them to grow.
It didn’t.
I think I’m going to leave them in the ground and see what happens next spring. Most likely, the entire plant will look kinda dead, but I’m wondering if maybe I cut the dead stuff off in the spring, perhaps a happy, healthy Brussels sprouts will emerge.
Like the myth of the phoenix, only knobby, purplish blue and tasting like cabbage.

These are purple Brussels sprouts that are planted in a bed that probably doesn't get enough sun.  


Late season leeks

By Penny Stine
Monday, November 17, 2014

I started growing leeks last year just because I was curious. They’re relatively easy to grow, although they take a long time. I start them as seeds inside in about March, transplant them outside in May and don’t harvest until November. Last year, I read that they’re supposed to taste better after a frost or two.

Although this stand of leeks are big, I have them planted in another area and they’re too small. I think they got overshadowed by something else. I’m going to have to plan more carefully when I plant next year, because it’s cool having something to pick this late in the year.
Besides that, leeks are tasty. They’re a sweeter, milder onion.

Leeks are dirty, however. You have to wash and rinse several times before you get all the dirt washed off. 


I found a recipe for pasta with leeks, mushrooms and bacon that I used as an inspiration, although I didn’t actually follow it.
But seriously, how could it be bad? Mushrooms, leeks and bacon - with cheese??? I opted for blue cheese,with a little cream and some broth.


Don’t the veggies and bacon look pretty sautéing in the pan?

I'm getting hungry just looking at it. 



I used whole wheat penne pasta and mixed it all together.


I served it with a kale salad (yes, I picked the kale from the garden) that my husband ate but said was a bit too tart. (I made the dressing out of lime juice and the juice from a clementine tangerine and forgot to add a touch of honey - oops. I liked it, even if it did make me pucker!)

I still have a few leeks left for leek and potato soup later this week. Life is good.


Got green tomatoes? Try this recipe

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, November 12, 2014




My tomato plants got serious about forming fruit sometime in October, which meant that I had a nice pile of green tomatoes when I did the final harvest a couple of weeks ago. Most of them turned red (or yellow, depending on the type of tomato), but there were a few that were just too young. I’m not a huge fan of fried green tomatoes, so I had to find some other use for them.

One year my gardening buddy and I made green tomato chutney, and it was OK, but not worth repeating.

I found this recipe for green tomato casserole, and thought it sounded delicious. Of course, I didn’t actually follow it. Instead of cooking it on the stovetop, I caramelized the veggies and browned the stew meat in the morning, then put everything in the crock pot to cook all day while I was at work.

The recipe said to use two green peppers, but I still had a yellow one from my garden and a red one in the fridge, so I used a little green pepper, a yellow pepper and some red pepper. The recipe only called for four green tomatoes, but I threw at least eight (maybe more). I also did sage and thyme instead of thyme and bay leaves.

When I got home, it smelled wonderful, although you can see the color made it look like dog food. Normally, we would have just eaten it straight from the crockpot as stew, but my husband went to yoga, so I decided to transfer it to a dutch oven and do the biscuits on top. The recipe said to make sweet potato biscuits, but I made oatmeal cheese biscuits instead. The biscuits baked on top of the stew, which thickened considerably. In fact, by the time we ate it, it was no longer stew-like. It was a lot thicker and probably could have been served on a plate instead of a bowl.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was good.
Now that I’ve found such a great thing to do with green tomatoes, I’m kind of sad that I won’t have any more. I do have tomatillos in the freezer, however, and I figure this recipe will also work for them.  

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