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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Pretty in pots

By Penny Stine
Thursday, August 6, 2015

Because I have a tendency to be cheap, sometimes my flower pots don’t look as pretty as other people’s pots do. I tend to use seeds and smaller plants rather than buying decent-sized plants at the beginning of summer. If I get volunteer plants that come up in a planter, I usually let them, which is why this planter has amaranth in it.

I also experimented with growing veggies in pots this year, which is why this pot also has Swiss chard in it. I kind of like the way this particular planter looks right now, which is more of an accident rather than design.

The basil in my garden isn’t doing well, so I bought a couple of basil plants and decided to put them in two pots that had housed lettuce that went to seed. Not only had the lettuce gone to seed, it got huge and bitter before it did, completely overcrowding these little petunia plants I stuck in the pot in late May. Once the lettuce started getting bitter, I quit picking it, and also quit watering it (because I forgot about the poor, overcrowded petunia plants).

When I pulled out the dead lettuce, I discovered the petunia plants. They looked pretty dead, too, but I decided to leave them and stuck the basil in the pot. The soil was dry as dust, but I had improved my soil and added an expensive brand that Mona at Bookcliff Gardens recommended because plants potted in this soil didn’t need to be watered as much.

I was going to take a photo of the dead petunias before I planted the basil, but since they looked dead, I didn’t.

Oh me of little faith. Those petunias weren’t dead after all. I’ve been watering the pots and the basil continues to look happy and the petunias are coming back.
I looked through my notes, and the soil is called Ocean Forest, and it’s packaged by FoxFarm.  


What a harvest

By Penny Stine
Monday, August 3, 2015

I checked on my peach tree a week or so ago and picked one peach, which was slightly green and hard as a rock, so I figured they were still too green to pick. My husband and I were out of town over the weekend, and I was looking forward to coming home and picking the peaches on my little tree in the backyard, which had maybe three dozen peaches.

Instead, I came home and discovered that the birds didn’t wait for the peaches to get ripe. 

At first, I thought they had pecked at every peach on the tree, then I found two that weren’t half-eaten. I promptly picked them, even though they were still a little hard.

It’s a good thing I can go buy peaches grown by those who know what they’re doing. If I had to survive on what I could grow, I’d starve.

Unless, of course, I figured out a way to eat the birds.  


The squash that ate the garden

By Penny Stine
Friday, July 24, 2015

Check out this spaghetti squash. Julie from the Sentinel’s online department gave me a few seeds to try and I’m loving it. It’s a smaller squash, perfect for two people. I planted it on the side of one of the trellises my husband built and hoped it would climb up and around. Instead it wanted to wander to the south, so I stuck a spare tomato cage in front of it to give it something to climb and keep the squash off the ground.

As you can see, the plant is a sprawler, but unlike some squashes, which sprawl and take up tons of space without actually producing much squash, this type seems to be putting on lots of squashes.






I planted this one in my front garden, where it had lots of room to sprawl south. It went west instead and crawled across a tomato cage (which already had a tomato in it).

It also got tangled up on my cucumber trellis, and now has an arm crawling up that particular trellis. I thought it had smothered the cucumber, but then I noticed the cucumber was simply sprawling on the squash.

The spaghetti squash sent another arm out wandering and it’s about to start climbing one of my big tomato trellises. It will be interesting to see just how far it sprawls and how many squash it produces in one season.

I’m not sure, but I think this squash may be the small wonder hybrid from Park Seed, which I tried last year, but didn’t grow, since nothing much was growing in my garden last year.
I was really looking forward to a variety I planted called lemon squash, which I tried because it’s supposed to be resistant to squash bugs. Although I have one yellow squash plant that has produced one squash, it doesn’t look anything at all like the photos of the lemon squash. I’ve got a couple other lemon squash plants that I started very late, so it will be interesting to see what they produce.  


First harvest of Beira Tronchuda

By Penny Stine
Friday, July 17, 2015

I purchased a new type of kale seed to try this year called Beira Tronchuda. It’s Portuguese, and the description said it does well in the heat and is a little sweeter than regular kale. I either lost a lot of the seedlings or something ate the seeds because I planted more than three or four seeds at the back of this particular box, but I only have three or four plants growing in this box, tucked away behind a tomato and some pepper plants. 






The plant doesn't look like other types of kale, and in fact, some seed catalogs call it a cabbage, but it doesn't form a head like most cabbages do. It seems to be slower-growing than other types of kale, and I’m bummed about that because I didn’t plant any other seeds, and we usually eat a lot of kale every summer. I was counting on my kale to over-winter, which it did, and then the other three varieties that I had out in the garden went to seed.







Here’s a small patch where more of the seedlings survived. I should probably thin it out, but I’ll probably do that by periodically picking some of the leaves instead of the entire plant.

I wanted to do something interesting with it, so I Googled Beira Tronchuda recipes, and that’s when I discovered that one of my favorite soups, the potato/sausage/kale soup that I love to make in the fall, is actually a famous Portuguese dish and this particular type of kale is supposed to make it even better. Woo-hoo, it gives me something to look forward to in the winter.
I picked up some blue dwarf kale seeds at a hardware store and planted some a few weeks ago, hoping for a fall crop, and not a single one has germinated. I have no idea why. I planted them the week that it turned a bit cooler and rain almost every day, so I was expecting them to pop right up. I’m rather disappointed about that.
I was not disappointed with this, however. It’s the sautéed kale I made with the first harvest of Beira Tronchuda. I put tons of little onions, along with some elephant garlic and tangerine balsamic vinegar in it. I loved it. Hubby said it was too sweet, thanks to the balsamic. Dang, I’ve got to find one he likes…  


The first kohlrabi

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 15, 2015



I picked the first kohlrabi of the season out of my garden the other day. I’ve planted quite a few seeds, but I’ve had pretty low germination rates in most areas, so I’m not sure what the problem is.

My mom always grew kohlrabi when I was a kid in Wyoming, and she still grows it in her garden in Nebraska, so I know it can take the heat. We always just ate it raw. 

This is what they look like as a plant when they're about ready to harvest. Kohlrabi is a cole crop, like broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. I started a few in the house in the spring, but I don’t think that’s necessary.

I wanted to cook, so I used a recipe for roasted kohlrabi, which was delicious. I forgot to take a photo of the finished goods. I simply poured a bit of olive oil on chunked up kohlrabi, added salt, pepper and garlic and then roasted at 425 until it was turning golden.

I planted more kohlrabi in a now-vacant space in my garden a week or so ago. So far, nothing has germinated, and I'm starting to lose hope! I’m really hoping for a large fall crop of them.  

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