Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Thursday, July 17, 2014
The other night after work, I decided it was time to deal with the pile of dirty garlic sitting on my picnic table on the patio. I had dug it all up a couple weeks earlier and then left it in a pile to cure.
As I cleaned it, it seemed sufficiently cured (I actually have no idea what it means to cure garlic, just in case you’re wondering), but I was afraid I may have left it out there too long. The stems were all pretty stiff and unbending.
Of course, that could be because most of the garlic was the hardneck variety rather than a softneck variety. I planted both, but I seemed to harvest more of the hardneck.
Hardneck is supposed to have better flavor but a shorter shelf life and they also grow the curly scapes, which I love. Softneck is more pliable (go figure, right?) and can be braided easily and store longer.
I didn’t bother attempting to braid any of it. Instead, I kind of twisted some twine all around the stems to create culinary art and then hung it on my kitchen wall. It’s handy, accessible and will supply me with garlic for a year.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
I grow tomatillos every year because I like them in salsa, I like them in smoothies and I like them in tomato sauce and straight tomatillo sauce for Mexican food.
They grow well in this particular bed, and I haven’t had to plant them here in years. They tend to produce exuberantly and I can’t keep up with them. Some fall to the ground and reseed themselves every year, which is fine with me.
So I reserve this bed for tomatillos, and try not to plant anything else in it. Well, that’s not quite true - I scattered some lettuce seeds at one end and put in some onion sets in the front.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered an intruder in the bed.
(Gosh, that sounds a whole lot more dramatic than it actually was. It wasn't dark outside, the dog didn't bark and no one was trying to horn in on my pillow.)
The plant looks very similar to my tomatillos, but the flower is smaller and white and the leaves are just a shade deeper green.
I also found some berries on it.
I had no idea what it is. I googled tomato/tomatillo relative with white flowers and berries, and I came up with a noxious weed that’s not found in Colorado called the horse nettle. If that’s what it is, I don’t know how it ended up in my tomatillo bed.
Fortunately, there are a lot of plant people who know more than I do…
I wrote the first part of this blog earlier today, then I went home at lunch time and cut off a branch of the plant that had leaves and flowers, and another branch that had the berries and took it to Bookcliff Gardens. Mona took one look at it and said it was nightshade.
There are lots of types of nightshade, and we looked through her weed book and zeroed in on black nightshade. Mona said it’s toxic, but probably not deadly.
I warned my husband later not to make me angry and then accept a cup of homemade herbal tea from me. Just saying...
Mona said it grows everywhere and probably came from the birds. She advised pulling it and throwing it away, since I don't want to compost and recycle it. She also warned me to pull it right away, before the berries ripen and drop seeds for next year.
It's just coincidence that it's in my tomatillo bed, where it fits right in. I'm guessing that I probably would have pulled it if it were growing where I planted cucumbers, kale, beans or broccoli, since it's obviously not any of those.
On a somewhat related note,I planted pineapple tomatillos in this bed, and as you can see by the pic, they’re doing well. I have a feeling that pineapple tomatillos are the same thing as ground cherries, which are a close relative to both tomatillos and cape gooseberries.
This is what they look like on the plant. You’re supposed to wait for the husk to turn brown and papery and for the fruit to fall to the ground, which is how you know it’s ripe. I found two with brown and papery husks, so I picked ‘em and ate ‘em. I was surprised by how tasty and sweet they were.
Everything I’ve read said they produce prolifically, which is fine with me. They should also continue producing until it freezes and will store for a month or more after harvesting if left in their papery husk and put in a mesh bag in the fridge.
Perhaps I’ll have to dream up a kale/pineapple tomatillo salad for Thanksgiving, since it has become my tradition to pick the last of the kale right before Thanksgiving and make a salad.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Last weekend, I realized I needed to pull the rest if my garlic before it disappeared. I’m sure I left some in the ground, but that’s OK, it will just get bigger for next year, like this one that I dug a few weeks ago from a spot left over from last year.
I thought about attempting to braid these garlics, but decided the twine worked just as well. This small bouquet of garlic is now hanging in my kitchen.
Right now, all the garlic that I pulled over the weekend is laying in a big pile on a table on my back patio. I think it’s supposed to cure for a couple of weeks, so that’s what I’ll say it’s doing. One of these days, I’ll brush all the dirt off and attempt to braid or string it all together in some sort of fashion so I can it in the kitchen, too.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Last night, I decided to tackle this bed. It’s my front flower bed, and before we cut down the large, dying silver maple in the front yard, it got too much shade to grow anything but shade-loving flowers and herbs that will grow anywhere. It was overrun by parsley and mint.
I tore out most of the mint and parsley, saved the perennials that I liked to plant somewhere else and decided to plant a few melons, some peppers and my pineapple tomatillos in this bed, since it now gets a good amount of sunshine.
I did not add any wood chips to this soil last fall or this spring, which means the plants are faring better than plants elsewhere in my garden. Boy, did I learn a lesson about adding non-decomposed wood to garden soil… (in case you’re new to this blog - don’t do it!)
As you can see by the pic, there were plenty of volunteer plants in this bed, too, like cosmos, more mint and a pretty spreading ground cover that I dug up (or at least thought I dug up) and established elsewhere. The bed was also overflowing with bindweed.
It took me quite a while to pull everything and bust up the clods of dirt, which was important, since I decided to plant a mini fall garden in this bed.
In the empty spaces between the tomatillos, melons and peppers, I liberally sprinkled carrot, kale, Swiss chard and beet seeds.
I’m having trouble with this particular zone in my sprinkler system (of course, it’s the zone with the largest amount of garden space, which is also causing me additional problems this garden season) but this bed is right next to the hose spigot, and I’m willing to water with domestic water.
I’ll have to be vigilant about the bindweed, but I’m hoping the Swiss chard and kale like it and decide to sprout. Although I’ve got enough of both to eat a couple of times a week now, I don’t have enough to freeze, and I really like having frozen garden greens to eat all winter.
I’ll be curious to see how well seeds germinate in this bed, since they haven’t germinated very well at all anywhere else!
By Penny Stine
Monday, July 7, 2014
We were in Denver over the past weekend, and our sons have a pie cherry tree in their back yard. The youngest asked me if I wanted to help him pick the cherries. Of course I did.
The tree was loaded, and because it’s in Denver, where there aren’t many fruit trees (and therefore, not as many pests like the cherry fruit fly), the cherries weren’t buggy or wormy.
We picked two large bowls of cherries and made a cherry cobbler. He wanted me to teach him how to bake a cherry pie, but he didn’t have a rolling pin, white flour or corn starch, so we had to go for cobbler. We also had plenty left over to freeze, which he said he’d either turn into cherry preserves or just eat plain.
If you’ve never eaten frozen pie cherries, you should try them. They’re tart, but somehow extremely delicious and not near as tart as when they’re fresh.
He was happy that I was there to help him pick cherries, and I was pretty tickled pink to be picking cherries with my son, who’s becoming quite the gardener. His squash is doing so much better than mine...
There were still quite a few green cherries left on the tree, which he said he would pick as they ripened.