Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
I'm very disappointed in my green bean fence. I planted green beans along this whole fence and you can see how many plants survived. I suspect I had watering issues (one of my sprinklers was only spitting water & I didn't pay attention), which is why so few came up. So far, I think I've picked two beans from these puny plants.
Fortunately, I planted them on this pallet, almost as an afterthought. The pallet was supposed to be for the cucumbers on the other side, but since I had about a dozen green bean seeds, I stuck them in the ground. I've picked a lot of beans from this pallet.
They tend to hide in the jungle, however.
I've also got them on trellises and they're doing well here. I've been picking beans from this trellis for a couple of weeks.
One of the cool things about growing your own veggies is that you can freeze and preserve them in small batches. If you're going to make the effort to go find a farmer, buy beans and freeze them for winter, then you feel like you should buy a big bunch of beans. When you're picking three times a week and eating them only once or twice a week, then you can freeze what you don't eat. And then the process of freezing veggies doesn't take near as long to actually do.
In fact, you can do it in a few minutes. I picked some green beans this morning (I picked more than two, but didn't actually take a picture of the pile of freshly picked beans) then steamed them in this pot, arranged them on the pie platter to put in the freezer where they will turn into little individually frozen beancycles. After several hours, I'll put them in the gallon-size freezer bag.
I may be losing a few nutrients to the air by doing it this way, but I like the fact that I don't end up with a frozen glob of green beans that are all stuck together. I'm sure they're still more nutritious than canned beans.
I'm hoping to have two or three gallons of frozen green beans by the time the season is over. They're not quite as wonderful frozen as they are fresh, but they're better than anything you can buy in January.
By Penny Stine
Monday, August 5, 2013
Anyone who has ever grown tomatillos knows that this statement may often be viewed with as much alarm as the British invasion during Paul Revere's ride. Tomatillos love the climate of the Grand Valley, or at least the climate of my garden. They sprout in this bed, year after year, even though I don't plant them. Because I compost, they also sprout all over other sections of my garden. I didn't plant the cosmos, either, but like tomatillos, cosmos tends to plant itself if you let it.
Although I like tomatillos and I love various versions of tomatillo sauce and tomatillo salsa, I can't keep up with the plants. They produce hundreds/probably thousands of tomatillos.
Before Sunday, they'd just been producing a handful at a time and I've been putting them in our morning smoothies, where they added a lemony tang. On Sunday, I thought I had enough to make my first tomatillo sauce of the season. I roasted the tomatillos with garlic, then added some coarsely chopped pumpkin seeds and a pkg of frozen green chiles that are still leftover from last year.
I forgot to take a photo of the final sauce, but it was pretty good. The flavor of the tomatillos was overshadowed by the roasted garlic. The garlic I grew is getting stronger every day and I added a bit too much. At least we had no problems with vampires.
I still have six jars of tomatillo/peach salsa from last year, two pints of tomatillo relish and one quart of tomato/tomatillo sauce. I don't want to have multiple years' worth of home-canned goods gathering dust on my shelves, so I guess I better make some Mexican food this week and use up the last of my tomatillo stockpile.
By Penny Stine
Friday, August 2, 2013
I've been sick this week, which is why I haven't posted much of anything new. I have, however, spent all of my free time lounging on the couch watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy and blowing my nose. I did venture out to pick ripe cucumbers, and I discovered that I have been too hasty. A common but lamentable fault, if you listen to the ents. (I told you, I've been watching Lord of the Rings)
See what I discovered in my cucumber patch. I believe this is the Sikkim cucumber, which is supposed to be reddish in color, with a hard rind that gets that mottled, crusty look and allows the cucumber to be stored for quite a while.
A week or so ago, I posted pics from what I thought were two different plants, but may have been just Poona Kheera cukes.
If all the cukes I've been picking are Poona Kheera, then that's got to be the most prolific cucumber plant I've ever planted. The taste is pretty sweet, although they have a tendency to be bitter at one end. I haven't picked or tasted the Sikkim yet. This one was dark green before it started to turn reddish and most of the young cukes (that I think are sprouting from same plant) are lime green, so maybe one plant produces two very different looking cucumbers.
My hubby was gone when I came down with the cold, so I decided to try a homemade remedy for garlic soup that I found online at this site. I have dozens of garlic bulbs that I picked a few weeks ago, so I was happy to find a recipe that used 52 cloves of garlic. Yes, 52 garlic cloves, along with 2 1/2 cups of chopped onion and 1/2 cup of chopped fresh ginger. The soup was flavorful and hot, let me tell you.
I'm feeling better today. Don't know if it's because the cold ran its course or the garlic soup did what it was supposed to do.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
One crop that's really thriving this season is the bindweed.
It's in my flowerbeds, in my gardens and totally infesting my wildflower area. I was out in Palisade on Friday afternoon for a Peach Festival story, so I decided to stop by the insectary and buy a bag of bindweed mites.
The insectary raises beneficial bugs for local peach growers, and also raises bugs that do damage on invasive plant species, like tamarisk and bindweed. The bindweed mites are microscopic and live year-round. They go underground in the winter and gnaw on bindweed roots. Because they're microscopic, I didn't actually buy a bag of bindweed mites. I bought a bag of mite-infested bindweed.
According to the info from the insectary, the trick to getting a successful breeding colony of bindweed mites started is not to offer them red wine and non-stop Barry White music.
Instead, you're supposed to attach the bug-infested bindweed to the healthy bindweed in a small area and hope that the bugs migrate from the infected leaves to the tasty, tender and healthy bindweed leaves.
The instructions also say that the mites are most successful in areas that don't receive overhead sprinkling, as that tends to wash the little buggers away. So I spent 45 minutes attaching bug-infested bindweed to healthy bindweed with little twisty ties in areas of my yard and garden that don't get hit with the lawn sprinklers.
I found plenty of places. Also plenty of bindweed.
That was Saturday morning. On Saturday afternoon, it rained for an hour at my house.
Poor little bindweed mites... I hope they managed to hang on in spite of the downpour.
Although I'm hoping that a few managed to migrate before it rained and are now happily reproducing and procreating, I won't know until and unless I start to see deformed bindweed.
Who knew gardening would make me interested in the sex lives of microscopic bugs?
By Penny Stine
Friday, July 26, 2013
Just as Rene Descartes came to the conclusion, "I think, therefore I am," about himself, during this time of year, I cannot help but say, "I garden, therefore I eat."
Seriously, I grow things so I can eat them. I knew I had enough green beans to eat 'em for dinner last night, so even though I wasn't sure what else would be on the menu, I went out to pick green beans when I got home from work. Some were hiding, like the one in the photo on the left.
These are either Smeraldo or Algarve beans, both of which are Roma-style, long, flat pole beans.
I also saved seeds from last year, which means they could be the Kwintus variety, but I'm pretty sure I remember where I planted those particular seeds and it wasn't on this trellis.
These are seriously good green beans. After growing several different varieties of other bush and pole beans, I've learned my lesson. Stick to the Italian, Roma varieties. They grow like crazy and produce until it freezes. Plus, they're simply delicious, like nothing you can buy at the store. They freeze pretty well, too. They don't taste as good after freezing as they do right after picking, but they're better than frozen or canned beans from the grocery store.
And some of them are easy to find, especially when they're kind enough to grow so conspicuously.
While picking beans, I discovered I had a few more things that were ripe and should be picked, so I filled my basket.
I think I ended up with Thai and cinnamon basil, two Indian cucumbers, a yellow sweet pepper, purple and green broccoli sprouts, a bunch of green beans, some rat's tail radish, and a couple of tomatoes.
Once I brought the tomatoes inside, I discovered they weren't as ripe as I thought they were, so those got left in the basket on the counter.
Everything else went towards dinner. I grilled a salmon fillet that had been in my freezer for countless ages, added avocado, lemon juice, a peach and a couple other miscellaneous items from the fridge and tossed it all together for an extremely satisfying salad for dinner.
I can't grow lettuce here in the Grand Valley to save my life. Mine was always so bitter and nasty that I gave up after last year. But after eating my garden salad last night, I thought, "lettuce schmettuce... I don't need no stinkin' lettuce to make a salad!"