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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Winter herbs

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, December 3, 2014

When I planted herbs in the spring, I made certain to put the rosemary and the pesto perpetuo basil in pots. Rosemary is a tender perennial, which means that it grows best in places where it doesn’t get as cold as we get here in Grand Junction, and may survive if you bring it inside when it gets sub-zero. In previous years, I've brought in pots of rosemary, only to have them die in the house, but I planted it in this big planter last spring with high hopes in spite of my history. 

As you can see, the rosemary is looking quite healthy. The flowers in the pot have powdery mildew (and should have been pulled a couple of weeks ago, but I'm a lousy indoor gardener), but the rosemary looks good. I’ve got it in a sunny spot on the floor in my living room. The south-facing window is also a pop-out, which means that there’s no crawl space and not much insulation under the window, so the floor stays cold all the time, while the sun coming in the window keeps the air relatively warm.

Pesto perpetuo basil is a variety that’s supposed to be a perennial, too, so it didn’t try to flower and go to seed at all in the summer. I can't tell any difference in taste between this type of basil and the traditional Italian basil I also grew over the summer. 

I also have high hopes for this basil, which appears to be pretty healthy and happy in my living room. It's about 18 inches tall. Probably if I stripped every leaf from the plant, I'd have enough basil to make one or two little batches of pesto. Since I want it to last all winter, I haven't actually cut enough leaves for pesto.

I have, however, used both the basil and the rosemary for cooking, which makes me happy. Walking to the living room to pluck a few leaves before cooking isn’t quite the same as a good garden stroll in the evening, but you do what you gotta do in December.

I’m also still using sage from this plant, which is outside on the south side of my house, rather than inside, near a south-facing window. As the winter progresses and the plant gets chilled and dehydrated, the leaves will start to not look as good and fresh, but they’ll still be flavorful for cooking.  


Beautiful beets make tasty spread

By Penny Stine
Monday, December 1, 2014

Look at this stuff! Isn’t the color amazing? There is nothing artificial in it to give its color, either.
Ever since I made pickled beets from beets grown in the garden, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with them. I’m not much of a pickled eater and my husband already said that he didn’t like pickled beets.
Then I found one last beet in the garden before Thanksgiving and knew I had to do something tasty, so I roasted the beet, then peeled it and put it in my blender, along with some gorgonzola cheese, a little fresh rosemary (from the plant in the living room), a few pickled beets and some sour cream.
I blended it all together and voila! Seriously good beet and blue cheese spread for crackers. I took it to Denver when we went for Thanksgiving and everyone (even my hubby, who doesn’t like pickled beets and isn’t crazy about regular beets) liked it.
My son even said it tasted like something his restaurant would serve (he works at a fancy schmancy restaurant in Cherry Creek.)
Yay! Score another point for the garden! 


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.  

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