Let's Get Dirty

A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.

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Go figure

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I planted in this straw bale on three different occasions before finally giving up. Every time something would sprout, some critter would come along and chomp it. The last time I planted in the straw bale was probably early July. The other day, I saw this.


I tried both melons and squash in the bale, so it could be either one, but I'm leaning toward squash. I think it’s interesting that the seed was there, not germinating at all during almost the entire month of July. It wasn’t until we got the big rain at the end of the month that it finally sprouted.
The bale gets plenty of water, so it wasn’t a lack of water. Perhaps it just didn’t like the heat.

 

In all the seed catalogs or on the seed packets themselves, many of the directions say to sow in early spring, and then say that they can be sown again in mid-summer for a fall harvest, if you live in an area with a long growing season.
I think we have a pretty long growing season (especially compared to the rest of the Rocky Mountain Region), and I’ve been attempting to do fall crops for several years, without much luck.


I planted Swiss Chard, carrots, a lettuce mix and beets sometime in mid-July, and this is the only plant that came up. It’s a Fordhook Giant Swiss chard. At the time, I didn’t realize how much the ground cherries would grow and crowd everything else. Swiss chard can get pretty huge, so I think this one will hold its own. 


Last week, I decided to use up the rest of my seeds (and I even went out and bought a few additional ones) and try one more time for a fall crop. I planted on the last Monday in July, and we got soaked with rain on both Monday and Tuesday night of the same week.
I bought some kohlrabi seeds Tuesday after work and planted those when I got home, so those got a nice soak, too.

 

So far, the only sprouts I can see are these, which I’m pretty sure are beets.


I’m sure all the little seeds underground appreciated this week’s rain, too. We’ll see if any more begin to sprout now that the sun is returning.


I’m not sold on the idea of mid-summer planting for a fall crop. Maybe it works well in other areas, but so far, I’m not seeing stellar results in my garden.

 

Btw, ever since my rototiller broke, I’ve decided to be a non-rototilling gardener, which means I often have stuff that grows where I didn't plant it, but where the plant from the previous year went to seed or where the compost sprouted.


Here’s the healthiest kale I have in this year’s garden, growing where I certainly didn’t plant it last spring.I only planted one new variety of kale last spring and it didn’t sprout at all. Good thing it comes up on its own.

 

 

 

This potato plant is growing in a bed that’s overrun with columbine, overgrown wild kale, some weeds and flowers because it's too shady to grow many vegetables. How that potato got there, I certainly do not know, because I’m fairly certain that I didn’t put it there! 

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For the adventurous: Green beans with peaches

By Penny Stine
Monday, August 4, 2014

Last week, someone who knows I love unusual produce gave me two long Asian green beans and said that she likes them stir-fried. Two wasn’t enough to make a meal, so I went out to see what I could find in my garden to add to it. More green beans, a long green chile, some ground cherries, and of course, tiny onions and garlic.


Hubby still wasn’t home, so that was enough for just me.

 

 

I started by sautéing the onions and garlic until they were crispy, because everything is better with crispy onions and garlic. Except maybe peach cobbler. That would just be weird.

 

 


 

 

 

 

Then I tossed in all the other veggies and got them on the crispy side, too. Because I was going for an Asian theme, I added finely chopped Thai basil, too.


Finally, because I was working on the peach section last week and read that peaches originated in China and China is the world’s leading grower and consumer of peaches, I decided to add a peach to my stir-fry.
The peach was somewhat overwhelming, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It wasn’t so sweet that it was weird, and I left it in the pan until it was warm, soft and delicious.
Not a bad Friday night dinner at all.  

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Looking for something interesting with peaches?

By Penny Stine
Friday, August 1, 2014

Last night, my darling hubby wasn’t home for dins, which meant I got to cook something that he probably wouldn’t be thrilled about. So I experimented with roasted beets (he’s not a fan) and peaches.

I had some leftover grilled chicken, so I diced that and threw it in my salad bowl, too. I diced the roasted beets and the peaches, then I went out in the garden in search of greens. I was hoping to find some arugula (because I had looked at a couple recipes online and they said to serve roasted beets and peaches over a bed of arugula), but my arugula had all grown two feet tall and went to seed. I think I managed to find about five decent leaves.

I did find some baby kale, and then went and picked some lemon balm. After scrounging around my ground cherries, I found about a dozen ripe ones, so they went in the salad, too.

When I assembled the salad, I ended up chopping both the arugula and the lemon balm fairly fine, while tearing the kale into bite size pieces. The ground cherries were tiny, but I halved most of them anyway, in hopes of getting the juice to mingle with the rest of the ingredients.

I tossed in a little bit of goat cheese, then squeezed a small slice of lime over my salad, letting it sit for about 5 minutes to allow all the flavors/juices to interact with each other. Fresh lime juice also takes some of the extreme bite out of kale. 

As you can see by the photo, letting it sit also let all the colors mingle. Well, they didn’t all mingle - almost everything but the kale got influenced by the beets and turned pink. I thought it was kinda pretty.


It was also very tasty. The combination of the roasted beets and peaches is one I’ll continue to play with this summer. Maybe I’ll even get my hubby to like it.

I haven’t decided if I love gardening because I also love to cook, or if my enjoyment of cooking has increased because I love to garden. What do you think? Or is it like asking whether the chicken or the egg came first?  

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Wanted squash, got a snake

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I was poking around in my garden last night, trying to see if I could figure out what kind of squash plant was in a corner. With all my squash trials this year, I have no idea what survived. I was tickled pink to see this, since that little flying saucer means that this gigantic, healthy plant is a pattypan squash plant.


I love pattypan squash. It’s so versatile and tasty. You can use it in place of any type of summer squash, and one good pattypan plant should produce plenty of squash.
I decided to go scrutinize the squash plant growing in my small, backyard garden area to see if I could see any type of squash forming, so I’d know what kind was growing out there. When I got close to the garden box, I heard a rustling and saw a quick flicker of serpent skin gliding through the onions.
I did not scream like a little girl (although I was tempted). Instead, I decided to go back for my camera and a small stick, which I threw into the onions and grass, in hopes of making the snake come out and pose for a photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, I was successful, although the snake refused to smile.
The snake did not appear to be in a hurry to go anywhere, and kind of moved out, stretching across my small backyard garden box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided the squash would wait for another day.  Needless to say, I will toss a small rock or piece of wood into the weedy/grassy/onions before I get close to the garden area, since the squash is also spreading in that direction, where the snake has no doubt made a nest and has hatched kazillions of little baby snakes in my garden. 

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Tomatillos vs ground cherries

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I grow tomatillos every year because I like to use them in Mexican cooking. I made Howie pose in front of the plants so you can see how tall the plants are. As you can see, he’s somewhat anxious about his modeling career, hence the laid-back ears.

 


This year, I’m also growing pineapple tomatillos or ground cherries (I’m pretty sure they’re the same thing) just because I was curious about them.
They’re related to tomatillos, and as you can see, the plants look similar. They’re a little lower to the ground, however. I took this picture a week or two ago, and in that time, the plants have seriously gone bonkers.

 

 

They’re much more overgrown and jungle-like.

 

 

 

The little ground cherries seem to grow on the underside of the leaves, which makes them difficult to see. You’re supposed to wait and harvest them after they fall to the ground, and according to one website, it said that the paper-like covering protects them from bugs while they’re sitting on the ground patiently waiting for the gardener to come along and find them.


This is a lie. The first ground cherry I picked from the ground had an earwig inside the outer covering. I haven’t found any earwigs since then, however, so perhaps the covering slows the bugs down a little.


The taste is hard to describe. They don’t taste like tomatillos much at all. They don’t really taste like pineapples or cherries, either. They are sweet, however, and can be eaten raw. They’re supposed to be good in salsa, too.

 

As you can tell by this pic, they are a lot smaller than tomatillos. I didn’t realize I had any tomatillos that were ready to harvest until I saw these ones lurking under the leaves. Every year, I wonder what else I can do with the tomatillos besides cook them in salsa (or soup, stew, sauce for fish/chicken/pork) and last night, I found a slew of recipes here, although many of them are for soups, stews and sauces for fish,chicken and pork. 

I also found a recipe somewhere else that mentioned a salad with watermelon and raw tomatillos (I think, although I don’t know where it was) and something else that sounded interesting. I'll have to experiment with that. The sweetness of the melon might make up for the tartness of the tomatillos, although I'm not sure. 
I put one of the tomatillos in my grilled veggies, added one to my morning smoothie and put the others in the freezer for canning sometime later, when I have more tomatillos.

 

I used the ground cherries raw in a cucumber/peach salad. I also added some cilantro and goat cheese. I thought it was pretty tasty.  

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