Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Friday, November 1, 2013
Winter is right around the corner, but when I went home for lunch today, I decided to go see if I could find some flowers that were still blooming.
None of them looked as spectacular as they did a month ago, but they're all enough to make me smile and be glad for living in a place with a lingering fall.
Sunflowers like these are wonderful, as long as you remind them who's the boss. They tend to scatter seeds all over the place and will make their way to every cultivated bed or garden spot in the yard if you're not careful. But, hey, they bloom for a little while even after the first (or second!) frost.
This is a little poppy mallow that I started several years ago.
I think it's an annual, but it reseeds like sunflowers and cosmos, although it's not quite as persistent as either one. I have another one that's a darker shade of purple. Personally, I like this one better. The other one, of course, appears far more eager to rreseed and spread.
Snapdragons… aren't these just the best, most reliable flower? Once they're established, they seem to be one of the first things blooming in early spring and they're still blooming here in late fall.
Most of my zinnias are looking a little bedraggled and in some cases, downright dead due to the frost. This one, however, is still pretending it's late summer.
I checked the forecast and it looks like next week could be a little colder, with several nights down into the mid-20s. I may lose the flowers, which means the countdown for next spring will begin.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
It seems like it's taking me longer to clean up my garden this year. Although I've been working at it every weekend and have made a little progress here and there, I'm not done.
Of course, part of that could be that I still have things planted. See the little row of leeks at the end of this plot? Right in front of the dead marigolds and zinnias that have yet to go?
I've got a few beets, celery root and parsnips in the ground, and I haven't given up on my broccoli, either. And of course, the kale stays right where it is because it usually survives the winter and starts producing again by April.
I also had a tomato plant that didn't freeze even though we've had freezing temperatures, and all my other tomato plants bit the dust.
I thought the wind took care of it when it toppled the trellis, but after getting the trellis upright, look what I found!
I've got dozens of green tomatoes turning red on my kitchen counters, but they just don't taste the same as those that turn red on the vine, so I'm leaving these out there a little longer. It's hard to say no to a plant that just wants to live!
By Penny Stine
Monday, October 28, 2013
I planted several different types of carrots this year, and as always, had pretty terrible germination rates. I don't know why I keep planting them…
This year, I discovered carrots growing in an area where I definitely had not planted them - and they were growing tightly packed, as if someone spilled an entire packet or two of seeds in a small area. Did I have a random Johnny Carrot-Seed scattering carrot seeds in unusual places? Then I remembered that I had planted carrots near there a couple of years ago and one that I didn't pick in one season came back the following year and flowered and went to seed.
Everything I've read said that carrots that come up on their own from carrots gone to seed aren't any good, but since they were quite happy and I didn't have many of any other kind due to low germination, I thinned them and let them stay. I was going to leave them in the ground with a layer of mulch and pick them as needed throughout the winter, which is what many gardening experts say to do, but many gardening experts live in places that receive more moisture than we do.
As you can see, the ground near my carrots is already pretty hard. I was going to water one last time on Thursday night so I could pick them easily on Saturday, but the irrigation company had already turned off the water. So they stayed dry.
I've been digging carrots for the last couple weekends. Sometimes all I had to do was pull them, but sometimes, the ground was already too hard and they didn't want to come up, so I had to get my garden shovel involved.
Some of these carrots are ones I planted from seed and some of theses are the ones that came up from the plant that went to seed.
I'm guessing I have about four or five pounds of carrots in my fridge, most of which are from the one carrot that went to seed.
I probably don't need to say it, but yes, I deliberately left a couple in the ground in hopes they'll go to seed next summer. Sometimes, you just gotta take what you can get.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, October 24, 2013
I brought some mint in to dry and I hung it above my kitchen sink, where it annoyed my husband every time he did the dishes. If there's anything I've learned after 29 years of marriage, it's that you shouldn't make it annoying for your husband to do helpful chores around the house. I was going to simply move the mint and hang it somewhere he couldn't collide with it on an ongoing basis, but discovered it was dry enough to make herbal tea.
I spread out the rest of my tea-making ingredients, which I grow in my garden, and started crushing. I'm sure Celestial Seasons has a machine that gets the yellow part of the dried chamomile flowers out and crushes dried mint leaves, but my hands worked well, too. Probably not so well if I was making several thousand boxes of the stuff.
I make an herbal tea blend that I tell myself will help me sleep at night and keep me healthy in the winter. According to herbal lore, all the ingredients are supposed to be beneficial for all kinds of things.
I put the crush dried mint in a bowl, then gathered the dried lavender and separated the blossoms and buds from the stem.There was more mint than lavender.
After mixing the lavender and mint together, I turned my attention to the dried stalks of chamomile. At first, (for about two minutes) I was really careful about trying to separate the flower from the stems. Then I just got impatient and crushed them all in a pile, which went into the tea mixture.
For my final, not-so-secret ingredient, I crushed a bunch of dried red chiles in my coffee grinder and added them to my tea. I use the lavender and the chamomile for the relaxing promise of sleep, the mint because it smells good and the chiles because they're supposed to ward off winter colds, inflammation and be good for arthritis. Not that I have arthritis yet, but it runs in my family. Plus, it really warms you up when you drink a cup of chile-infused herbal tea before bed.
Yes, I know the pale yellow color is somewhat suspicious. I don't like mint tea by itself, nor am I fond of most edible things that are lavender-flavored and plain chamomile tea makes me think I'm grazing, but somehow when I mix them all together and throw in some red chiles, it's all good.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I was going to wait until I cleaned up my garden outside before I planted anything inside, but I had the means and the opportunity and the twisted, sick compulsion to plant seeds in the dirt so I can see green sprouts emerge. So, while my husband ran to the hardware store for something last weekend and I said I was going to tear out more in the garden, instead I grabbed that bag of dirt that I conveniently remembered to buy, along with the pots, and planted peas, arugula, lettuce and cucumbers in pots to place in my living room window.
I can't remember to clean the bathroom... I can't remember to feed the cat and I certainly can't remember to chase the dust bunnies out from under the couch, but I remembered to buy the pots and the dirt.
Usually, I need a break from gardening at the end of the season, but this year, I was just sad to see it all end. So I decided it doesn't have to end!
My husband hasn't noticed yet. I'm hoping he'll be giddy when he realizes that I can grow something in the winter and it requires no fixing of the irrigation pump, sprinkler parts or mucking about in the irrigation ditch.
I'm also the basil perks up a bit - I brought it in before we froze, but it still looks shell-shocked.