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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Italian minestrone soup is a good fall choice (and a good way to use garden produce)

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I had random things that I’d picked from the garden in the last few days, and yesterday was a soupy kind of day, so I decided to make Italian minestrone soup for dinner. I looked at several recipes, but of course, I didn’t really follow any one in particular.

I used both blue dwarf kale and Portuguese kale instead of the savoy cabbage that one recipe called for, since I had both kinds of kale, but no savoy cabbage. I also used yellow squash rather than zucchini for the same reason.


Minestrone usually has some sort of beans in it, too.I didn’t have a can of garbanzo beans, or a can of any kind of beans, but I had a bag of dried Anasazi beans. They take less time to cook, so while my hubby was at yoga and I was chopping and simmering all the veggies in the soup pot, I was also cooking a small sauce pan of beans. By the time we were ready to eat, the beans were soft. (It probably took an hour and a half.)




I also had some leftover tortellini, so, of course, I threw that in the soup pot at the end, too. When I served it, I chopped up a little parsley to throw on top, just because it’s growing out in the garden, too.
My tomatoes are so incredibly sweet that the soup tasted weirdly sweet rather than savory, in spite of all the onions and garlic that are also in it.
Nonetheless, it was delicious. I will miss my garden when it freezes, since I won’t be able to go see what’s available in my front yard to cook for dinner.  


Classic marinara with fresh tomatoes

By Penny Stine
Monday, October 19, 2015

I have a neighbor down the street who was just done with her tomatoes. They’d grown like crazy, she’d eaten them until she was tired of them and she just left the rest on the vine. So, of course, I asked if I could pick a few of hers… because it’s almost a physical pain to see gorgeous tomatoes falling to the ground because no one is there to pick them.
Graciously, she said yes.
In my defense, I’m not growing any cherry-size tomatoes this year, and they really roast well, so that’s what I did with all the sun gold cherry tomatoes I picked from my neighbor’s garden.
The rest of the tomatoes were so ripe that I had to do something with them right away, so I decided to make a classic marinara sauce, with nothing more than tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil, salt and pepper, along with a few sprigs of parsley and a very small amount of anchovy paste.
The sauce was delicious, but so ridiculously sweet because the tomatoes were so ripe. We had it with tortellini last night, and I also had a quart to freeze and some leftover for minestrone soup sometime this week.  


Carrot management

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I had a few carrots go to seed this summer, so I cut the stalks off and threw them on my husband’s work bench. It really bugs him, so last night, I shook off all the seeds I could into a couple of envelopes for planting either later this fall or sometime early next spring.

Gardening experts do not advise this. Almost all carrots are hybrids, which means whatever grows from the seed won’t be whatever you planted that went to seed. I do not care, however, what kind of carrot grows, I simply want to grow carrots. They all taste the same to me.

I have a hard time growing carrots for reasons I cannot fathom. The best carrots I ever grew were ones that came up on their own after a carrot went to seed the previous year, which is why I always try to let at least one plant go to seed.

I sprinkled some of these on the ground in mid-summer, simply because I was curious to see if they’d get big enough to pick before the ground freezes.
So far, they’re not, but that’s probably because I planted them in a partly shady area.
I’m going to get a bale of straw and spread it around the seedlings later this fall and see what emerges next spring.  


October cabbage

By Penny Stine
Thursday, October 8, 2015

I’m growing purple savoy cabbage this year, and since this is my first year to grow it (and I’ve never seen it in the store), I’m really not sure when it’s ready to pick.


Whaddya think? This one has a little head on it and I’m not sure how much bigger it will get. 

My mom grows traditional cabbage in her Nebraska garden, and she was picking enormous heads of cabbage by the Fourth of July. 

Here’s another one, which is actually slightly smaller than the first one.  I planted these early, probably in April. It's not that this particular variety takes longer than traditional cabbage, merely that my garden is in a less than ideal spot.They’re both in a section of garden that gets morning shade and afternoon sun for about 5 or 6 hours. I know, an ideal garden would get either all day sun or morning sun and afternoon shade to keep plants from frying during our summertime heat, but if you’ve got a suburban garden, surrounded by fences, trees, bushes and shrubs, you gotta plant in less-than-ideal places sometimes.

I think I’m going to wait and see if the actual head of cabbage gets much bigger.  


Planting in October

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Look what came in the mail!




I like to order garlic and spinach online just for the variety. I can’t remember exactly what kind of garlic I ordered, but I know that one type was a hardneck and one was a soft neck.




When I ordered the spinach, I figured one packet would be perfect, but I noticed that this variety said it was a 37-day spinach,so I decided to try it and see if I could get fresh spinach in November if I planted it in early October.




I had a spot in my garden that I had cleaned up a few weeks earlier, and I had some bone meal in the garage to give the over-worked soil a little help, and since it rained yesterday, I figured it was a perfect time to plant. So last night, after I got home from work, I planted a little bit of spinach just to see if it will grow this late in the season.
I saved most of the packet, as well as the entire packet of another variety, to plant later this month or early in November, after I’ve cleaned up other areas in the garden. It will sprout whenever God tells it to, and it does just fine no matter how cold it gets. Seriously, remember that winter where it didn’t get above 10 degrees for a month? My spinach sprouted as soon as it warmed up a little and it wasn’t bothered by subsequent freezes or snow.
If March is warm and dry, I take a watering can out to the garden and give the tiny little spinach sprouts a few sips. I’m usually picking and eating spinach by late April and into May. It’s great.
I’ll plant the garlic whenever I plant the spinach. It will also do just fine no matter what kind of winter we have and I’ll be picking garlic scape in June and digging the bulbs sometime in July.  

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