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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More fun with frozen tomatillos

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I know I said it a month ago, but I’ll say it again. If you’re planning your 2015 garden, leave some space for tomatillos. You’ll need a lot of space, because you need more than one plant for pollination and a couple of plants tend to spread out and want to take over the world, or at least their corner of the garden.

When I first started growing tomatillos, I had no idea what to do with them besides make green salsa. We don’t eat a lot of salsa, so I started canning them with tomatoes. This year, I simply peeled and washed them, then stuck them in gallon zip-loc freezer bags.

A couple of days ago, I wanted to try a recipe I’d seen online for eggs baked in halved avocados. It’s supposed to be a light breakfast or brunch, but it was going to be our dinner. I wanted something hearty, but not necessarily time-consuming or meaty to go with it, so I settled on lentils with tomatillos.




I googled lentils and tomatillos and found a recipe, then decided not to follow it. Instead, I sautéed onions, garlic and a tiny amount of chopped red hot chiles in olive oil. While the onions were cooking, I chopped about 15 frozen tomatillos into smaller chunks, then added them when the onions got soft. I rinsed a cup of red lentils, then tossed those in, too, with at least a cup of water.




As the lentils cooked, I added another cup or so of canned beef broth (chicken or vegetable would be fine, too, I just had a carton of open beef broth), as well as an additional few shakes of garlic seasoning salt. I used red lentils just because I had them. I bought them at Sprouts because they look more appetizing than regular lentils. I have no idea if they're any different nutritionally. 

While the lentils cooked, I halved an avocado, put in a few drops of Tabasco-like sauce, then broke an egg into each avocado half. Because the eggs were large and the avocados were small, the white spilled over the side. I baked the eggs for about 5 minutes at 425 degrees, scooping up the whites as the eggs baked and piling them on top.
To serve, I put a generous helping of the lentils on the plate and then nested the avocado and egg on top. The yolk was still runny and it was delicious. Kind of like hash, only not.
There were quite a few lentils left (it’s amazing how one cup of lentils turns into 2 - 3 cups of lentils), and they were good leftover, too.  


First sprouts of 2015

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I went out to my garden to see if I had any spinach sprouts yesterday when I went home for lunch. As you can see, I do! Those little green blades that look like grass are actually spinach sprouts. 
I know from experience that these won’t grow much over the next two months, but even if it gets really cold, it won’t hurt them. Last year, in spite of the cold inversion that came in December and didn’t leave until mid-January, I still had spinach up in late January that did just fine through multiple freezes and snowstorms in Feb. and March.
Hopefully, I’ll be picking fresh spinach by mid-April.
I planted some kohlrabi seeds last fall in about September, hoping for a fall crop. I had marginal germination, but here’s one that came up, but didn’t form a kohlrabi. I left it in the garden, wondering if it would do something this spring. Time will tell.
I’ve noticed onions and garlic are perking up in places from leftover bulbs that never got pulled last year, but I’ll go do a more thorough search in places where I planted them both in the fall later this week to see if anything else is up and getting a start on the 2015 gardening season.  


Garden planning: Curbing the squash bug invasion

By Penny Stine
Thursday, January 8, 2015

I'm sure I will write a few more posts talking about garden planning, because frankly, that's all about all a gardener can do in January and February! I've been looking at catalogs, thinking about last season's garden and googling info to try and figure out new varieties I may want to try this year. Because squash bugs are such a problem in the Grand Valley and have killed squash plants in my garden, I looked for squash-bug resistant squash plants. I knew from my master gardening class that Waltham butternut was fairly resistant, but I wanted a summer squash. Fortunately, I found one! www.rareseeds.com/lemon-squash/

I've never grown lemon squash before, but I'm willing to give it a go. I love summer squash and hate squash bugs, so it would be wonderful to find a squash plant that those nasty little critters didn't like. 

Needless to say this squash variety will get a prominent space in my 2015 garden. 


Does gardening really save any money?

By Penny Stine
Friday, January 2, 2015

Since mid-January last year I’ve been keeping a running tally of my garden expenses compared to the value of the food I get from the garden. I did it just because I often hear people say that gardening doesn’t really save any money by the time you buy seeds, plants, fertilizer, supplies, etc.
Trying to calculate the expense was easy - I just looked at every debit or check I wrote. Trying to calculate the value of garden produce was not so easy, since I don’t have a kitchen scale to weigh everything and I don’t usually know offhand the price per pound of various vegetables, anyway.
Plus, I grow some weird things that you can’t find at the grocery store, at least not here in Grand Junction. Some were just unique varieties (Kellogg breakfast tomatoes, purple potatoes, Romano green beans and peppermint Swiss chard, to name a few), while others are just not found on local grocers shelves; i.e., like the pineapple ground cherries in the picture (which also shows these incredibly sweet oblong yellow pepper I grew, but which can't be found on local shelves). I did the best I could.

I kept a spreadsheet at work and used my phone to track on weekends. I’m sure I missed some things, too, since it was easy to go pick a handful of herbs for dinner and forget to log it.

Here are my numbers:
Value of garden goods           Cost of garden supplies

Jan. - April: 116.03                        $119.97
May - June: 126.25                       $140.43
July - Aug.: 113.35                        $28.38
Sept. - Oct.: 175.70                       $87.45
Nov. - Dec.: 77.65 (thru Dec. 29)       0

total value: 608.98               total cost: $376.23

total savings: $232.75

This doesn’t take my time into account, which would make the cost astronomical, but it also doesn’t take the health benefits of gardening or eating so much fresh produce into account, which increases the value.

Just as a note, the only reason my September and October costs are so high is because I bought a portabella mushroom box, which cost about $40, with the cost of shipping. My overall garden expenses were on the high side this year, because I did something stupid and did some damage to my soil, which meant I had to replant some things several times and spend extra money trying to undo the damage. (As an aside, don’t put fresh wood chips in your garden soil thinking they’ll decompose quickly and give you more organic matter - they won’t!)

Bottom line: gardening saves money, but it’s a ton of work. It’s also incredibly rewarding for those who love to cook, enjoy being outside and don’t mind getting dirty, sweaty and occasionally sore. And it’s good for those who want to know more about the food they eat.  


Winter garden

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Here’s my east garden covered in snow. Last year, the sight of it in late December sent me into a tailspin of sadness, but this year, it's not as cold, nor has the snow been there that long, so I'm not as sad and can appreciate the snow. It's actually good for the garden, since I have garlic, onions and spinach all planted and waiting for the right time to germinate. I’ve seen spinach sprout at the end of January, as soon as the snow is gone, so I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

In the meantime, I’ve been getting seed catalogs in the mail. One of the companies that I’ve purchased from in the past must have sold my name, since I’m getting catalogs from a bunch of companies that I’ve never ordered from. Normally, that would annoy me, but since it gives more garden porn to peruse, I’m OK with it!  

The only bad thing is that it makes me want to tear out more lawn in the spring so I can plant more, and my hubby says no. Actually, I can't handle a bigger garden, either, but it sure is fun to dream about room for more melons, different cucumbers and lots of tomatoes in the middle of winter. 

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