Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
My main reason for gardening is growing something tasty I can eat, so last night was a thriller at the dinner table. I had the first green beans of the season.
I grew two new types of pole beans, one was called Smeraldo and the other is Kwintus. Both beans are long and flat, and I got both kinds of seed from Park Seeds. I was disappointed in the germination and the way the bugs devoured them when they first came up, but I think part of that was my own dang fault. Beans like warm soil, but I'm always in such a hurry to plant in the spring that I think I plant them too early. Next year, I'll try waiting until mid-June to plant and I think they'll do better. The smeraldo beans are really sweet and tasty.
I've been reading various recipes for fried squash blossoms (and received a deep fryer for Christmas from my son) so I decided I had to try them last night, too.
I won't repeat the recipes since there are already a ton of them online, but I decided to not just fry them, but to stuff them with cheese and herbs, too. The only problem was I had to go to the grocery store after work, so by the time I got home, my husband was hungry and not willing for me to take my time thinking about herb combinations and the perfect ones to complement the ricotta cheese. I grabbed some basil while I was in the garden hunting for squash blossoms and called it good.
Which reminds me, if you know you want to try making deep fried squash blossoms, don't wait until the evening to pick them. Pick them in the morning, when they're open. At the end of the day, they're closed and wrinkled, making them harder to open, pluck the stamen out and stuff with cheese and herbs.
I stuffed with ricotta and basil, which was too boring. Next time, I'll try goat cheese and basil, rosemary and thyme.
I didn't take pics of every step of the process, due to the fact that my poor husband was wasting away from hunger. I used a sandwich bag as a pastry bag for the cheese, which made it easy to squeeze just a bit into each flower. I also dipped in an egg, and then a flour/corn meal mixture prior to plopping them in the deep fryer.
In spite of the boring stuffing mixture, the blossoms were pretty tasty. Of course, shoelaces would probably be tasty after dipping it in eggs and a seasoned flour mixture and then tried 'til golden.
By Penny Stine
Friday, July 20, 2012
As the main contributor to this gardening blog, I get plenty of unsolicited e-mails telling me about garden products, books and sometimes a few non-gardening items, as well. Occasionally, someone sends something to the newspaper, too. The latest product to come my way as keeper of the gardening blog was a box containing two bottles of fish rich fertilizer.
One is organic and the other is not. Frankly, when I see something all packaged, processed and pretty, but with an organic label, I'm immediately skeptical. From what I've read about nutrition, it's not the added fertilizers and pesticides that cause the most harm to our bodies, but the added processing and packaging. But I won't go there today...
I decided to give this fertilizer a try and let my readers decide if it did any good. I'm using my straw bales as test plots because they were looking puny, as you can see from the before pictures, which I placed on the left. I took the after pictures six days after applying the fertilizer.
This is my bale containing one sweet potato plant and one big Jim pepper.
This bale has one melon plant (I can't remember what kind of melon) and one sweet pepper plant. And no, I can't remember the exact type of sweet pepper, either. I think it's a gypsy hybrid.
And last, but not least, this one has a spaghetti squash in back and a big Jim in front.
Oops. Sorry, that was not the last photo. I mixed an entire gallon
of fertilizer and had some left over, so I decided to fertilize my straw bales at the community garden.
So, whaddya think? Are the results amazing, a-snoozing, astounding? I dunno. Stuff looks bigger, but whether that's simply because it's had an additional week of sunshine and extra water (I've been watering my bales at home almost daily) is anybody's guess.
The best-looking straw bales didn't even get the fish fertilizer.
They do, however, get lots of water, since the kids at Kids of the Kingdom preschool water at least twice a day.
At least we've got a definitive answer to the question of whether or not straw bale gardening will work in Western Colorado. Yes!
OK, so this really is the last pic for this post. Look! A baby spaghetti squash! This plant wasn't producing fruit before I fertilized with Fish Rich and now it is. The kids' pumpkins are loaded. Even without the fish fertilizer.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
My mom gave me a gigantic hubbard squash last fall. The squash was so big that I had to split it with an ax and a wedge. Half of it filled my oven when I cooked it. I froze it in ice cube trays and little plastic containers and used it to thicken soup, added it to sauces and threw it in casseroles.
It had very few seeds, but I saved them so I could plant them this spring. I planted hubbard squash in the middle of this 8 X 8 bed, and planted sweet potatoes in all four corners.
My mom warned me that the bed would probably be a little crowded.
Did I listen to my mother? Of course not.
Three of the sweet potatoes died, but since I used my own compost, tomatillos are now growing in their space. I also had marigolds, zinnias and at least one tomato plant re-seed themselves from last year or spring up from the compost. My surviving sweet potato is getting crowded by the squash and the marigolds.
The squash refuses to stay in the box. Since the only squash I've found so far on the gigantic, sprawling squash plant is in the grass rather than the planter box, I've asked my husband to not mow or trim too close to the planter. It makes him cranky, but so far, he hasn't cut off the trailing vines.
I'm wondering in what universe I would need more than one giganto hubbard squash to get us through the winter.
Over the years, I've read recipes for squash blossoms, but have never tried to cook them. I think this will be the year for deep-fried squash blossoms.
I do have a lot of them.
By Penny Stine
Monday, July 16, 2012
I dug up my garlic bed a few weeks ago. In the time since then, a good crop of weeds sprang up. I decided to try planting something else, since we probably have three more months until it freezes.
I had carrot seeds left over from the spring and decided to plant those, along with more beets, since they seem like a good crop to be picking in October. Had to go buy more beet seeds at Bookcliff Gardens Sunday afternoon.
As I was pulling weeds out of my garlic bed, I found more garlic. Lots more garlic, and a couple of onions (OK, the onions were obvious, since the green tops were still above-ground, the garlic tops were gone.)
I read more about harvesting garlic and discovered that I left the bulbs in the ground too long, which is why the protective skin that's supposed to be around the bulb is missing. The skin makes it possible to store the garlic.
No worries. Although I could try to eat all the garlic in the next week or so (I'm sure my coworkers would love me if I did), I was reading a book about medicinal herbs last night. It had a great recipe for pickled garlic, which I will try with all my unprotected little garlic cloves.
I got my bed planted right before the rain came down yesterday. Talk about perfect timing!
I don't know whether the seeds will actually germinate now, however. Usually, when I plant mid-summer with a hope of having a fall crop, the seeds refuse to cooperate and don't germinate until the spring.
By Penny Stine
Friday, July 13, 2012
Before last year, I never bothered growing onions or garlic simply because both are fairly inexpensive at the grocery store. I figured buying them was as cheap as growing them and I had a small garden. After expanding my garden last year, I decided to try my hand at both onions and garlic.
I discovered that if you don't pick them as soon as the stalks of either plants begin to turn brown, they have a way of disappearing, especially in a garden like mine where everything is fairly crowded together and nothing is in a neat and tidy row marked with a handy-dandy sign reminding me where I've put anything. Yes, my garden can be as complicated and convoluted as my sentence structure!
I planted red onions last year and harvested far fewer than I planted. The good news is that while the green onion top turned brown, withered and was hidden behind whatever plant was planted next to it, the bulb below the ground patiently bided its time, waiting for me to remember where I planted it. This spring, the bulbs sprouted green tops again and I paid attention and dug them before they withered and died.
So the $2.50 or whatever I paid for the bag of 50 tiny red onion bulbs in the spring of 2011 was actually a pretty good deal, giving me red onions for two years. I've also been scattering the seeds from the ones that have gone to seed in hopes that they'll give me more next year.
Onions... the crop that keeps on giving. I guess that's in more ways than one for onion lovers and the non-onion lovers who love them.