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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October cabbage

By Penny Stine
Thursday, October 8, 2015

I’m growing purple savoy cabbage this year, and since this is my first year to grow it (and I’ve never seen it in the store), I’m really not sure when it’s ready to pick.


Whaddya think? This one has a little head on it and I’m not sure how much bigger it will get. 

My mom grows traditional cabbage in her Nebraska garden, and she was picking enormous heads of cabbage by the Fourth of July. 

Here’s another one, which is actually slightly smaller than the first one.  I planted these early, probably in April. It's not that this particular variety takes longer than traditional cabbage, merely that my garden is in a less than ideal spot.They’re both in a section of garden that gets morning shade and afternoon sun for about 5 or 6 hours. I know, an ideal garden would get either all day sun or morning sun and afternoon shade to keep plants from frying during our summertime heat, but if you’ve got a suburban garden, surrounded by fences, trees, bushes and shrubs, you gotta plant in less-than-ideal places sometimes.

I think I’m going to wait and see if the actual head of cabbage gets much bigger.  


Planting in October

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Look what came in the mail!




I like to order garlic and spinach online just for the variety. I can’t remember exactly what kind of garlic I ordered, but I know that one type was a hardneck and one was a soft neck.




When I ordered the spinach, I figured one packet would be perfect, but I noticed that this variety said it was a 37-day spinach,so I decided to try it and see if I could get fresh spinach in November if I planted it in early October.




I had a spot in my garden that I had cleaned up a few weeks earlier, and I had some bone meal in the garage to give the over-worked soil a little help, and since it rained yesterday, I figured it was a perfect time to plant. So last night, after I got home from work, I planted a little bit of spinach just to see if it will grow this late in the season.
I saved most of the packet, as well as the entire packet of another variety, to plant later this month or early in November, after I’ve cleaned up other areas in the garden. It will sprout whenever God tells it to, and it does just fine no matter how cold it gets. Seriously, remember that winter where it didn’t get above 10 degrees for a month? My spinach sprouted as soon as it warmed up a little and it wasn’t bothered by subsequent freezes or snow.
If March is warm and dry, I take a watering can out to the garden and give the tiny little spinach sprouts a few sips. I’m usually picking and eating spinach by late April and into May. It’s great.
I’ll plant the garlic whenever I plant the spinach. It will also do just fine no matter what kind of winter we have and I’ll be picking garlic scape in June and digging the bulbs sometime in July.  


September harvest is great

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

There’s so much happening in our gardens right now that I haven’t had time to take a few photos and write about it. I did, however, snap this pic of some beautiful tomatoes in my basket on the kitchen counter.
In this photo, there’s a combination of black pineapple, banana legs and Virginia sweet tomatoes, as well as some of the mini-chocolate bell peppers that are producing like crazy. I made sure to plant various peppers in specific places so I actually know which ones are which, and while this mini-chocolate bell is prolific, it’s also thin-walled and not as tasty as some of the other ones I’m growing.
I love this time of year in the garden. Every day, I go out there and pick a basket of something. Dinner menus are all based around whatever I pick from the garden, and I haven’t purchased much produce from the grocery store since mid-summer. Yes, gardening can save a person money!
My garden is going to keep on producing until it freezes, and I have several spagetti squashes that are ripening on the vine, a couple of summer squash plants that are continuing to produce, all the kale any one family could ever want, cabbages, tomatoes, carrots, beets, Swiss chard, broccoli, peppers, tomatillos and probably a few other things out there that I've forgotten about. 


Experimenting with kale sauerkraut

By Penny Stine
Friday, September 25, 2015

My mom has an awesome garden and she grows a bunch of cabbage that usually ripens before mid-summer. When we visited over the 4th of July, she made sauerkraut with it, using just a large bowl and salt.


I have two heads of purple savoy cabbage that still aren’t quite ripe, but I have lots of Portuguese kale, aka beira tronchuda kale or cabbage.Here’s a couple of heads that I’ve been steadily picking since July and that are well-spaced. The leaves get large, but not gargantuan. The taste is mild, although I prefer it cooked to raw.




Here’s a bunch of plants that probably should have been thinned,but I left them all crammed into that one space in hopes that the smaller leaves would taste better than the ones that get enormous. And, truth be told, because I'm a lazy gardener who doesn't make the time to thin plants. 



Here’s a plant that I thought was a cabbage. It kept getting bigger and bigger, with more leaves, yet it wasn’t forming a head. I finally noticed that the leaves looked just like the ones on the plants that I knew were Portuguese kale. No wonder it wasn’t forming a head of cabbage.


So I cut the a few of the leaves to freeze last weekend. Then I decided to experiment and see if I could make sauerkraut out of all the kale I have in the garden, so I cut almost all of the upper leaves off the plant. I left the bottom leaves on it because they were thick and dirty. I figured they would taste extremely strong.
After I cut all the leaves off, I noticed that it looks like little tiny heads of cabbage are forming at the juncture where the leaf stem juts out from the stalk, which is what Brussels Sprouts does. So, while I’m 85 percent sure this plant is Beira Tronchuda kale, it could also be Brussels Sprouts, since I started the season with some Brussels Sprouts seeds and not sure what happened to the seedlings.

I also picked some leaves that I knew were Beira Tronchuda, then more or less followed my mom’s instructions and a recipe I found online.


After chopping all the kale, I put it in a large salad bowl, then sprinkled kosher salt on it to draw out moisture, 

which would start the fermentation process in a natural brine. I added more kale when I realized how much it was all wilting. I also added on large cayennetta pepper, just to give it a zing. A large cayennetta pepper is only about three inches long and maybe half an inch in diameter. They're pretty tiny peppers.

After about 40 minutes in the bowl, I packed it into a canning jar and covered it. The recipe I included a link to above said to leave it in a jar on the counter for seven days or so, so mine is covered with a cheesecloth that's secured with rubber band.





I did all that last night.This morning, I packed down the kale and discovered that the brine covered all the kale (which is what it’s supposed to do) and the kale had wilted down to less than a quart.

I’ll be curious to see what this tastes like. I’m sure my hubby will think it’s too hot, thanks to that cayenetta pepper, and I’m a little worried it might be too salty.

I will let you know in a week or two.  


Tomatillos: The gift that keeps on giving

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I don't have as many tomatillos as in previous years, probably because I was better about yanking out the volunteers that have a tendency to grow wherever I've spread my homegrown compost. I have them growing in two different areas in my garden and probably have a grand total of about eight plants. I freeze most of them in gallon bags to use all winter in soup and Mexican-inspired dishes. Last night, a friend came over to can tomatoes, and we decided to do one batch of tomatillo/tomato/green chile sauce. 


I had picked every tomatillo I could find the night before, but decided to go see if I could find a few that I may have missed. That's how many I got the second night, which is about the same amount I picked the night before. Those little suckers have a tendency to hide... they also ripen quickly this time of year, which means that with as many plants as I have, I'll probably be albe to go out and pick this many tomatillos two or three times a week. 

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