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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The battle against the bugs… or the birds

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I’m extremely annoyed at whatever has been nipping all of my squash plants as soon as they come up. Not only did it get all six plants that had germinated in my straw bales, it’s taken out all but four of the squash I planted in the ground. I had three different types of squash, but, of course, I didn’t bother marking which was which, since my three squash were pattypan, spaghetti and butternut. I can tell those apart by looking at the squash itself.
So now I have four little squash plants scattered around in the garden, but no idea what they actually are.

I also ordered new squash seeds from Park Seed, which I got in the mail last Saturday and promptly planted. One is called poquito; it’s a small green summer squash that looks like a baby watermelon. The other is enterprise hybrid; it’s a yellow squash that’s supposed to be ready in 41 days.
When I planted again on the straw bales, I decided to put a paper towel across the soil until the seedlings emerge and get big enough not to be bird food. It won’t keep water or daylight out, but if the birds don’t see the seedlings, perhaps they’ll leave them alone.
On the off chance that it’s squash bugs and not birds that are decimating my plants, I researched a few homemade remedies. I saw one online that combined water, a little soap, some garlic juice (aka strained, strongly garlic flavored water), vegetable oil and baking soda. I can’t find the blog post now (of course) or I’d include the link.
I’ve already been spraying my broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts with soapy water to keep the aphids away (and it’s been working beautifully). Since there’s nothing in my new concoction that would harm them, I decided to spray it on those, too. I also gave the beets a couple of spritzes, hoping it would deter the bug that’s sucking all the green out of the beet leaves.
Since I’m not sure what ate the squash in the straw bales, I’ve been spraying around the paper towel (on the straw) with my soapy, garlicky water.
With sprays like that, you have to spray often, (or at least after every time you water) but that’s OK. There’s nothing particularly toxic in the ingredients and it keeps you out in the garden, on the lookout for suspicious bugs. Of course, it might make everything slightly garlic flavored…
 

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Overwintering works (sometimes)

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My garden is part grocery store, part science experiment. I love to try new things, whether it’s a type of plant that I’ve never heard of or a a new way of growing.
Because we live in such an odd climate, with fairly cold winters (at least for a month or so in January), but long, hot summers, a lot of the recommended gardening advice (even for Colorado gardens) doesn’t necessarily work here.


I’ve been experimenting with overwintering for several years. I always plant spinach and garlic in November, all of the garlic in this photo was actually planted in November, 2012. I didn’t pick it early enough last year and couldn’t find it by the time I finally got around to it. Obviously, staying in the ground another year didn’t hurt the bulbs at all. I have never grown garlic as big as some of those bulbs.

 

 

Last year, I planted some beets in this bed in late October (after I'd pulled up the cucumbers and whatever else had been there), hoping for a final harvest sometime around Thanksgiving.


It didn’t happen. Some came up, but once irrigation season was over, they kind of fizzled.

 

However, I had a few beets in this bed that started growing this spring. I’ve been eating the beet greens for weeks and last night, I decided to pull the beets because I found an interesting recipe online and wanted to try it.

 

I pulled two beets from that bed and one beet from this bed. There’s a type of bug (I forget what it’s called) that sucks away at spinach, beets and other leafy greens, causing them to do what mine are doing. Obviously, I haven’t sprayed anything for it.


I tossed out the nasty leaves, but saved the ones that looked edible for another night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ended up with three beets, which is what the recipe called for. I didn't actually pay attention to the recipe after I'd read it once, I just used it for inspiration because it combined beets and rosemary. In years past, my rosemary has always died, whether planted outside or in a pot that I brought into the house. This year, it survived and is looking mighty fine. 

I love rosemary and am quite happy that mine will live another year. 

 

 

 

 

Although all the beets were supposed to be Detroit dark red ones, once I started chopping, one looked like a chioggia, with the cool bulls-eye design.
 

I chopped the garlic (the recipe didn't call for garlic, but I love garlic and had some lovely fresh stuff) and rosemary, and then put all the chopped stuff in a foil packet (after generously sprinkling salt and pepper on it all) and then roasted it at 400 for 30 mins and then turned it down to 350 for another 15. I think in the recipe, it says only 35, but I've learned that beets take a long time. 

I got it out to take a picture (which didn't turn out well at all) and decided it needed a little bit of feta cheese. So I sprinkled feta on it and then stuck it back in the oven at 300 for about five minutes. 

They were delicious. Even my husband, who does not like beets, said they were good. He didn't want seconds, but that simply meant more for me. 

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Critters like the convenience of eating on my straw bales

By Penny Stine
Friday, June 20, 2014

I decided to park a few straw bales out in my weedflower area in an attempt to smother some of the weeds and grow something in the straw bales. Can you see the straw bales hidden underneath all the mint, dandelions and iris leaves? 


I wanted to grow squash, since I know from experience that it works well in a straw bale. I had three different types of squash seeds - pattypan, butternut and spaghetti squash. I decided two plants per bale would probably be good spacing.
I conditioned the bales like you’re supposed to, then when they were sufficiently water-logged and beginning to decompose, I dug a hole for the potting soil and planted two types of squash per bale. I didn’t bother marking which was which, because I figured I’d be able to tell, based on whatever grew.
The only problem is that birds or some other critter nipped more than half of my plants as soon as they sprouted.


 

I now have three straw bales, but only two plants. I planted at least two seeds in every hole, and  in this pic, it looks like something chomped one plant and left the other one for tomorrow.

 

Luckily, I have at least one plant that looks too big for the critters to kill in one bite and more seeds coming in the mail, so I can plant more squash as soon as they get to my doorstep. I found seeds for a zucchini that looks like a watermelon and a yellow hybrid that’s supposed to be ready in 41 days. If I can prevent the critters from eating it at Day 5, I may have something to show in my bales.  

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Soylent? Count me out

By Penny Stine
Thursday, June 19, 2014

I broke my Vitamix blender due to my own carelessness about three weeks ago and have been missing it ever since. The company is fixing it, but it feels like it’s taking forever and I miss my morning smoothies. I am not, however, ready for Soylent.
Has anyone else heard of this? It’s been in the news on and off for months. A California engineer decided food was a waste of time and money, so he developed a formula for a nutritional shake that’s supposed to replace food and be cheaper - he launched his company through a crowdsource fundraiser and touts it as a way to combat global food scarcity issues. The website asks, "What if you never had to worry about food again?" and touts the benefits of no more meal preparation or shopping. 
This is the review I read a few weeks ago and I couldn’t agree more. I wouldn't necessarily miss grocery shopping, but I love to cook - with real food. Even making a smoothie in my Vitamix involves putting in real fruit, veggies, nuts and yogurt. 
Food is more than simple energy for the body. It’s cultural, it’s experiential, it’s an art and it’s a hobby. It’s also an incredible social experience, and when you grow a vegetable garden, it magnifies all of that.
My favorite thing to do in the summer as a way to wind down from work is to walk out in the garden and figure out what I’m going to pick for dinner. Going to the fridge for my Soylent shake wouldn’t be the same. Sure, I’d have more time if I didn’t wander around out in the garden and then fuss with it all in the kitchen, but I believe time spent in the garden and the kitchen is time well spent.  

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Garden carbonara is a tasty treat

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I was chatting about garlic scapes with Carol Clark, who works here at the Sentinel as an advertising sales rep, and she sent me a link to a recipe for carbonara with garlic scapes. I didn’t actually follow it last night, but it did give me inspiration for dinner.


I also decided to pick some fresh peas and onions and put those in the carbonara, too. As you can see, it looked like a lot of peas while they were still in the pod.

 

 

 

Once I started shelling the peas, I realized I’m no good at figuring out which pea pods had decent-sized peas and which had puny peas. Some of the pods seemed nice and fat, but the peas inside were still small. Of course, the smaller ones are also the sweeter ones.

 

 

Once they were shelled, it didn’t seem like a lot of peas, but it was enough since they were going in the pasta. After I sautéed the bacon, I took it out and cooked the onions and garlic scape until they were tender and turning brown, I put the raw peas in the sauté pan with a little tiny bit of water. The burner was a little hotter than medium, and as the water evaporated, the peas steamed.

 

Then I tossed the cooked pasta with the egg and cream mixture (to which I had added the crumbled bacon), added some parmesan cheese and all the veggies.

 

 

 

Isn’t it pretty? It was pretty good, too. I thought they were the best peas ever, but my husband said he couldn’t tell the difference between my fresh-picked peas and the frozen ones from the store!


How insulting…  

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Page 6 of 114




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