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 email@example.com.
By Erin McIntyre
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
I view hollyhocks as a bit of an oxymoronic flower. The almost exotic-looking blooms are reminiscent of hibiscus and some have double flowers, with frilly tutu-like petals. Although hollyhocks are most known for edging English cottage gardens, out West we know them as the signal pointing to the outhouse. These showy flowers thrive on neglect, don’t need much watering, and grow tall enough to lean up against the privy. Strange that such an elegant flower is a beacon for the toilet.
Hardy hollyhocks don’t mind our hot summers, clay soils or lack of precipitation, for the most part. Spires of their blooms tower over the rest of my garden. It’s wise to plant them along a fence or something else tall for a little support in case of strong winds, as they easily grow 6 feet tall. These beauties bloom mid-summer to fall here in the valley, and can overwinter (and often re-seed themselves anyway). You have to be a little patient, though, as the most hollyhock plants will not bloom the first year you plant them (there is a variety called “majorette” that is supposed to bloom the first year, but I’ve never tried growing it). I think they’re worth the wait, though, as they reward you with spectacular blooms until fall. I’ve also heard that planting hollyhocks in the fall can help you get a head start for next year, so it might be a good time to think about that now.
One of our close family friends and neighbors had an entertaining trick for turning a hollyhock flower into a hula doll with a toothpick, which my sister and I loved as children. I can’t seem to get it quite right. According to Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service, hollyhocks are edible. I have no idea who would want to eat them – the texture is a bit repulsive with all that fuzz on the outside and the sliminess of the inside. Then again, lots of people like okra.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
I’ve planted four packets of carrot seeds. One was a multi-color pack from Bookcliff that promised to give me tasty carrots in strange colors. I can’t remember the second packet, but I know my cat was delighted with the carrot patch and decided it made a fine litter box, so those ones didn’t come up.
The third packet was for tiny globe carrot seeds. They were an heirloom variety from Bookcliff and supposed to be good. It’s been more than three weeks and not a single one came up.
I got a fourth packet of little globe carrot seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds last week as a thank you for ordering seeds. I planted some of those on Saturday, because hope springs eternal in the mind of a gardener and I’m sure that they’ll come up.
The other day, I was poking around the patch from the multi-color pack and discovered the carrots were big enough to pull. They weren’t enormous, but I remember from my mom’s garden when I was a kid that the small carrots were sometimes the sweetest.
Sadly, these carrots, while colorful, are not tasty. The white one tasted how I imagine a young sapling would taste. The yellow ones were bitter, and the purple one was boring and tasteless. I didn’t know that until after I’d cleaned them up, cut them into sticks and put them on a plate with an orange carrot from a package that had been in my fridge for weeks. Maybe even decades.
I took one bite and declared that the carrots were nasty. My husband, who didn’t know the orange one was from the fridge said, “this orange one’s pretty good.”
So much for tasty, fresh vegetables from the garden. Maybe it’s the soil, maybe it’s the shade (I gave the sunniest spots in the garden to tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, tomatillos and peppers) and maybe it’s the seeds. All I know is that I’m glad only a few of these multi-color carrots came up, because they’re a waste of valuable garden space.
By Laurena Mayne Davis
Monday, July 11, 2011
Last year my husband hastily fashioned a small cabana out of plywood and spikes to pamper the drooping green peppers and withering eggplant. The results were big, healthy plants and plump fruit.
This year, Scott went all out.
The frame is PVC sections and joints, 10 feet by 10 feet. Nothing is glued, so we can break it down at the end of the season and reconfigure any way we see fit in the future. The shade fabric is ziptied on. Spikes serve as anchors. We probably spent about $50 for everything.
With the addition of leftover pavers to weed from and chips as groundcover, this year’s peppers, eggplants and basil are thriving, even after being planted late. I hope that soon everything will be happily yielding the raw ingredients of stuffed peppers, eggplant parmesana and pesto.
The shade fabric is supposed to lower temps by up to 15 degrees, a welcome respite for finicky plants. Heat-loving tomatillo (newly replanted from their feral start in the flowers) and chili peppers are outside the shade frame, where they can soak up rays like a Quartzsite snowbird in February.
By Erin McIntyre
Saturday, July 9, 2011
One of my favorite things to grow in the garden is garlic – because you plant it in the fall, it sprouts out of the ground in the spring, and grows into an impressively tall plant by mid-summer. It takes up very little room in the garden, so I’m willing to dedicate the real estate to the bulbs even though I have to wait to dig them up at the end of the summer.
For the most part, garlic is very low-maintenance. I’ve never had problems with bugs, and it actually repels deer in the garden. There is one thing you should do with garlic this time of year, though. The green shoots that grew out of the top of the bulb should be trimmed off, so the plant doesn’t waste energy on creating a flower instead of growing the garlic bulb in the soil. This part of the garlic plant is called the scape.
Just because we cut the curly tops off doesn’t mean they have to go into the compost pile. Garlic scapes are actually delicious, as edible as the garlic bulb, and they taste milder than you would think.
Yes, there’s definitely a hint of garlic, but they’re sweeter than garlic cloves. You can roast them, grill them and pickle them, but my favorite way to use them up is to make pesto.
Quick Garlic Scape Pesto
¼ c. toasted almonds
¾ c. chopped garlic scapes
½ c. extra-virgin olive oil (break out the really good green stuff here)
¼ c. grated parmesan and a few grinds of fresh black pepper
Salt to taste
In a food processor, process the almonds and garlic until they form a fine paste (probably about 20 pulses). Stream in the olive oil with the processor running, until everything is mixed well. Put the pesto in a bowl and stir in the cheese (do NOT do this in the processor, because it will make the cheese gummy). Then add the pepper and some salt to taste (the cheese is really salty so you might not need any salt). Use as a sauce with pasta, to top bruschetta, or make a really delicious mayonnaise spread for Panini sandwiches. If for some crazy reason you can’t eat it all at once, it freezes well.
Erin is the newest Dirty Gardener to be roped into this gig. She's a former reporter with The Daily Sentinel and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Annie LeVan
Friday, July 8, 2011
I have withheld participating in the blog until now for a number of reasons, the biggest being that I’m just a little intimidated. Gardening over the course of the years has for me been less than successful. During the busy years of raising kids, the garden consisted of a few tomatoes, lettuce and onions. Because the dogs took a liking to green tomatoes and trampled much of everything else, despite my best effort to fence them out of the garden, we never got to enjoy the "fruit " of our crops. Plus the city water cost factor just made it much easier to take the short drive to the farm markets and enjoy garden fresh without the labor.
Last year, the new area, new (very poor) soil and too, too many weeds left me far too discouraged to blog.
This year, with much manure, chicken coop roughage, and delicate planning, the harvest is going to be bountiful.
Truthfully, it has been bountiful so far.
We have been enjoying lettuce, spinach, zucchini, kale and green onions so far, but wait.... I see purple.
The eggplants have started producing fruit.
Even the artichoke is growing with vigor.
As a matter of fact I have already replanted lettuce to replace the overgrown bunches which are starting to turn bitter. This week should start the overabundance.
As the greenhouse experts tell us, “amend, amend, amend the soil,” was the trick this year, with great contributions from the trees, horses and chickens. Alas I finally have a garden I am happy to spend time in, pull weeds and, as my husband calls it, enjoy "garden therapy."