Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Monday, September 24, 2012
There's something about digging for potatoes that always makes me feel like I'm about five years old, digging for buried treasure in the yard. So when my five-year old grandson came over to our house this past weekend, we went out to the garden looking for potatoes.
I planted viking purple potatoes this year, with seed potatoes from Park Seed. The first two potato hills we dug were duds. Each hill contained exactly one potato. Not exactly thrilling for buried treasure-seeking five-year olds. Then we hit the jackpot and found about seven potatoes under one plant.
Then we turned our attention to the carrots.
Pulling carrots was even more fun than digging for potatoes, even if the carrots were tiny.
I roasted the potatoes for dinner, and we also had the raw carrots we pulled. Both were a huge hit.
I've still got a couple of potato plants in the garden and at least three in my straw bale, but the plants haven't completely died back yet, so I'm going to hold off digging for another month.
I think taking Taylor out to the garden and showing him how to pull the carrots and find potatoes was the real treasure.
By Penny Stine
Friday, September 21, 2012
I went out to my garden last week and found a few lemon cucumbers. I love lemon cucumbers because they're not so huge that you eat one cucumber for an entire week. They're also never bitter, and they have a nice, fresh taste.
We eat cucumber salad, with tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar and feta cheese (and anything else that's coming out of my garden or the fridge - like red peppers, onions, peaches, pickled garlic, black olives or green olives) several times a week in August, September and into October. One lemon cucumber is usually good for two people, especially when you add other ingredients.
Lemon cucumbers, once they get going, produce a lot of cucumbers. We can't eat that much cucumber salad, and they don't last at all. Three days in the fridge and they're starting to turn rubbery. Although my husband and I don't eat a ton of pickles (actually, neither one of us eats any pickles), I thought I'd make some refrigerator pickles.
Refrigerator pickles are just that - they go directly from the bowl you make them into a jar or plastic container and into the fridge. They must be kept in the fridge to guarantee that they won't go bad, and most recipes usually say the pickles will stay crunchy for a month or two. I confess that I've kept them in the fridge for six months or more (I told you we don't eat pickles) and they're still fine.
Because I gave away all my dill, I couldn't make refrigerator dills. which seem to be the most common type, with loads of recipes on the internet. I've been experimenting with herbal vinegars all summer, however, so I decided to make hot mint pickles. (I made a mint vinegar with red chiles and garlic earlier this summer.)
They taste pretty good, and I really will try to remember to eat them. In my case, it's not that I dislike pickles, it's just that I don't like them so much that I make much of an effort to eat them - even when the effort only involves walking downstairs to my spare fridge, opening the jar and snagging a few pickles!
At least the jar is pretty. It will be a nice decorative touch, which no one will ever see, since they're sitting on a shelf in my spare fridge.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
I don't have time to post my usual long and rambling entry about something I've grown that's good to eat, so I thought I'd put up a photo. I didn't plant any of these flowers; they all came up from seeds that last year's plants dropped. Although this bed is pretty, I've decided it's going to be my herb bed, so I'm pulling up the flowers if they come up next year.
Sure, I will... and I won't let tomatillos grow all over the place, either.
By Penny Stine
Monday, September 17, 2012
In my quest to grow new, weird and wonderful crops, I planted a melon called a Kazakh. The seed catalog (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) said the small melons were sweet, early and prolific.
It's also a climber, so I planted it on my Anasazi bean trellis. (See the pic in Friday's post.)
On Sunday, I was out there looking for tomatoes, and I saw what looked like a giant yellow one close to the ground. When I picked it up, it was no longer attached to the vine, which is always a good sign that it's ripe. The jungle kept if from actually falling to the ground.
I discovered it wasn't a giant yellow tomato, but a fully ripe Kazakh melon! I didn't even know it was there.
I've been watching other melons like this one, which is starting to turn from green to yellow, but I never saw the other one. Since it was the first one of the season (so much for the melons being early!), I was curious whether or not it lived up to the description, so I took it inside and we ate it with lunch.
As you can see, it's got a white flesh. Unlike the Early Hanover melons that I planted and was disappointed in, which also have white flesh, this one really was sweet and tasty. Similar to a honeydew, but different.
It is a good climber. I think it would produce better if it wasn't so crowded by the beans and the tomatoes, but I tend to crowd everything.
I'm not sure if I'll plant it again next year or not. While it was good, it wasn't the most awesome melon ever, which is my goal every planting season.
By Penny Stine
Friday, September 14, 2012
I started all my tomato plants from seed this year, and I think I'm growing at least eight different kinds of tomatoes. My goal was to grow enough of my own to can so I wouldn't have to go buy any from Rettig Farms in East Orchard Mesa. Although, really, the farmers at Rettig are perfectly lovely people and their prices for U-pick are beyond reasonable (last year, I think they charged $11 for a bushel), so a sane person would wonder why I bother.
But my fellow gardeners (who probably aren't quite sane, either) know that there is nothing like picking YOUR OWN TOMATO from a plant IN YOUR YARD that you have watched grow from tiny seedling to big, honking plant knocking over the cage.
Before I wander too far away from the point... thanks to the boatloads of plants that I'm growing, I decided to try different types of tomato plant supports. I've got two trellises that my wonderful husband built for me growing tomatoes.
This trellis was actually supposed to be for the beans.
In that deep jungle of stuff, there are dozens of Anasazi beans intertwined with cucumbers, a strange melon and two tomato plants. I strung up netting from the bottom of the trellis to the top on both sides and just poked the tomato between strings as it grew.
As you can see, the tomato plant was quite happy with my treatment and is huge.
I saw this technique on some internet site for secrets to tomato growing success. Same type of trellis except that I run a single piece of twine from the bottom support beam to the top beam. This should work, because tomatoes are supposed to do well when you train them up a central leader.
Mine did not do so well. I should have mulched and monitored their water better.
I think the heat in June really stunted these tomatoes' growth, too. (Mulching and monitoring probably would have helped)
If we had two more months of growing, I'm sure I'd get plenty of tomatoes. Since we only have a month or so, I'm not sure how many I'll get.
I also have tomatoes in cheap cages. Usually, my plants get big enough to make the cage fall over, but this year, I pounded stakes in the cages before I even planted the tomatoes. It looked silly in early June to have four-feet cages and stakes with four-inch tomatoes, but the stakes did their job and held the cages upright.
I haven't counted every last green tomato I can find, so I'm not sure whether or not I'll have enough (eventually ripe) tomatoes to fulfill all of my pasta fantasies over the winter, but I'm hoping for the best. In the meantime, this is the time of year to begin thinking what to do to make it even better next year.