Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Friday, June 21, 2013
Because both like warm soil and hot weather, I planted my pole beans and malabar spinach on the same day, which I'm guessing was May 25.I planted both on this trellis, and as you can see, the pole beans are looking good.
It took so long for the malabar spinach to sprout that I ordered another packet of seeds from Park Seed and re-planted.
A week or two ago, I saw something sprouting under a different trellis where I had also planted malabar spinach and took a photo of it. I posted it and said it might be malabar spinach.
Well... it's not. As far as I can tell, it's pigweed, which is the weedy/wild form of amaranth. As you can see, I've also got lots of grass growing in this particular bed.
Although I've been experimenting with amaranth and eating it in my breakfast smoothies, I don't think I'll start eating pigweed. Although it does grow everywhere... under any condition.
I do see these sprouting in most of the areas where I initially planted malabar (and then replanted two weeks later). I have no idea if the initial seeds I planted finally sprouted or if it took that second planting to make them come up.
In all the online sites I've turned to for information, they've cautioned that malabar germinates easily and can be invasive, often returning year after year. Another site said that seeds germinate better if they've been stratified (which is a fancy term that means simulating the natural process of getting cold, perhaps even freezing and then thawing before sprouting) or soaked overnight in water, which I did before I planted the second time.
Malabar is native to the tropics, however, which means that the seeds that fall to the ground don't freeze. They do, however, get thoroughly soaked by lots of rain, so maybe soaking was the trick. We'll see if it takes off and grows like the photos I've seen. I'm hoping it will, since summer is just beginning and we've still got months of hot weather!
I'm also hoping it doesn't taste like New Zealand spinach, which I tried 10 years ago and did not like. At all. And I like (almost) everything when it come to food!
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Before I learned in my master gardener class last year that you're not supposed to plant garlic from seed, I planted garlic from seeds I got from my mom. She planted garlic in her garden in hopes it would serve as a pest control, since neither she nor my dad like garlic.
I know! How can anyone not like garlic? How can I be a direct descendent of two people who don't like garlic???
I love garlic when it's like this. Not only are they pretty, but the lovely curlicues are the scape, and they make delicious pesto. I took some to the bluegrass festival and gave it away and promised to post the recipe, so here goes:
A bunch of garlic scapes
some olive oil
toasted pine nuts (a big 'ole handful)
grated parmesan cheese
Blend all of the above in a good blender or a food processor. Tastes good on a cracker, with pasta or wherever you'd normally use basil pesto.
Sorry I can't be more specific, but I was in a hurry and didn't measure anything.
The tricky part about garlic is knowing when to pick. You don't want to harvest while it's green and growing because the bulb isn't fully developed. You don't want to wait until it's like this, because the leaves often get separated from the bulb and it's hard to find the bulb, since it's underground.
I didn't plant this patch of garlic - it's what I didn't find last year. I'm sure I'll have it here again next year because it died back so suddenly and I didn't dig it in a timely manner.
In spite of my late digging, I got this much garlic. Yes, it was dark outside by the time I took this picture. I could make up a story and say that garlic tastes better when it's harvested by the light of the moon, but really, I just didn't want to wait any longer to harvest it, so I dug it one night after working all day, going to the grocery store and doing dinner when I discovered how much the stalks had dried while I wasn't paying attention.
The next day I cleaned the bulbs with this little plastic pink brush and discovered another reason not to wait so long to dig the garlic. You lose the thin, paper-like covering that protects the bulbs and allows them to store for months.
When I tried to brush this one clean, I brushed the covering off. I'm sure this is one of the garlic planted from seed, because it's one big bulb rather than a bulb made of up several cloves. That's what you often get when you plant from seed. Although I dug several normal bulbs with decent cloves, at least half of what I dug are large garlic uni-bulbs.
Oh well. It all tastes the same. And unlike my parents, I think it tastes delicious!
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
I swap gardening stories with anyone who plants anything, so when Beckie Giles, who is an advertising sales rep here at the Sentinel, told me how well her garden was doing, I asked her to send me photos. She sent them while I was gone to the bluegrass festival, but here they are.
Beckie said this tomato is called mountain fresh, average size is 8-10 oz., matures in 76 days and was planted May 17.
I planted mine a week earlier. I have no tomatoes on my vines...
Beckie said she planted this squash from seed on May 20.
I had to wait until May 25 to plant. My plants haven't even started flowering yet. Something has eaten several when they first came up, so I've had to replant.
She planted the cabbage as plants on May 15.
I don't grow cabbage because I never think about eating it.
This is Beckie's red vein kale, which she planted May 27.
Although the kale in my garden has been fabulous for a month or so, everything else in my garden is pretty sad compared to Beckie's. That's why it's never a good idea to compare gardens, merely swap stories about what works, what's tasty and how to kill squash bugs.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
For the past couple of months, my husband and I have been drinking smoothies for breakfast. My rule of thumb is to combine at least three different veggies and three different types of fruit. Boy, does that make it easy to get your daily recommended dose of fruits and veggies!
I almost always try to add something green, like spinach, kale, Swiss chard or beet greens. I do it for the nutritional content, not for the color. I've discovered when you add green leafy veggies, toss in a carrot or some cucumber, then add strawberries, frozen pie cherries or any other red fruit, you get a really yucky-looking smoothie. Tastes good, it just looks bad.
Today's smoothie actually had amaranth leaves instead of something green. I was hoping the red leaves, combined with carrots, sweet red peppers, strawberries, grapes and a banana would make it an appetizing color. I don't think it did, but we drank it regardless. It tasted just fine.
I've been able to use greens from my garden since about the middle of April, which has saved me a fair amount of money. It's also made me want to find more greens that will grow here in the heat, since my spinach now looks like this. I've got kale growing, but I'm on a quest to find something else, too.
Which led me to this. No, this is not a glass of red wine, it's a glass that had red malabar spinach seeds soaking in water overnight.I planted some red malabar spinach seeds a few weeks ago, but so far, I don't think any have sprouted. Being the impatient gardener that I am, I ordered more seeds. After planting the first seeds a few weeks ago, I read that the germination rate is better if you soak the seeds overnight before planting. So I did. I'll probably have it coming up all over the place.
While I was planting the seeds (which were nice and swollen, about twice as big as were when dry) I noticed this. It could be a weed. It could also be a tiny seedling of red malabar, since I have no idea what they look like.
All in all, it's shaping up to be a fine gardening mystery. The malabar is supposed to have bright red stems and brilliant green leaves. No telling what that will do to the color of my morning smoothie.
I've been pulling amaranth in multiple places, trying not to let it have the run of any of my gardens, flowerpots or planting beds. I thinned the ones in this plot, but decided to let them grow as big as they wanted. The bed also has some rhubarb I recently transplanted, asparagus, winter squash and a trellis with green beans and malabar spinach, so I figured it would look very interesting in another month or two. Oh yeah, it also has a nice patch of grass, but we'll just ignore that.
By Penny Stine
Friday, June 7, 2013
I was chatting with Kathy Kimbrough, owner of Garden Scentsations and president of the Lavendar Association of Western Colorado about an article I'm researching. We got off on a tangent about our own gardens (I know, go figure!) and Kathy told me she'd love to have her yard featured on the garden tour, but doesn't think she'll ever manage to pull it off, because she's often experimenting, trying new things and frequently dealing with dead or dying plants in various places in her yard.
She said that her entire yard never looks as good as it could all at the same time, but that she has pockets of greatness, which I thought was an apt and hilarious description.
So I begged her to go take a couple of photos of her current pockets of greatness so I could post them on this blog. Here is a nice shot of some lawn area, surrounded by inviting shade trees, with that lovely bench tucked away in the corner. Doesn't this make you want to get a glass of iced tea and go sit on the bench?
These are huechera, which like the shade and are a brilliant (literally, look at that color!) choice to put under a shade tree. As you can see, the plants come in multiple colors and are very showy - like brightly colored bras under a white shirt, only not so tacky!
I'm sure you'll all agree that these are, indeed, pockets of greatness!
I'm pretty sure this is lavender, along with two other types of flowers that I can identify as pretty, but can't offer anything more specific than that!
If you need help turning your ho-hum yard into one with occasional pockets of greatness, give Kathy a call. She's also a master gardener who's done a few curb appeal makeovers for Realtors to help them sell their properties quicker, at prices that make their sellers happy.