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 letsgetdirty@gjsentinel.com.

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When your palate pines for a purple palette on your plate

By Penny Stine
Monday, September 15, 2014

I planted purple potatoes this year, just because I could. I found them either at Park Seed or Territorial Seed, and the catalog said they were a late season potato that produced a lot and that stayed purple when you cooked them.

Yes, that’s a purple baked potato from my harden, with a big ole’ pat of butter. Actually, it’s two because they’re small. 

How cool is that?

Plus, the seed catalog said they’re extremely healthy and nutritious, with a bunch of anti-oxidants.

This is what my purple potato bed looked like in July. Frankly, I was pretty happy with it, especially since so many areas in my garden weren’t this happy.

This bed isn’t totally sunny, but it gets about 5 - 6 hours per day.

With potatoes, I usually wait and dig them after the plant starts to die. Before we went on vacation in late August, I put a bunch of straw on the potatoes, in hopes that more potatoes would form.




When we got back a week later, I noticed the plants starting to die. Was it because they didn’t like the straw or because it was time?

I don’t know, but this is what they look like now. 

Pretty dead-looking, huh? When I dug a few potatoes, I was disappointed with their small size, but pleased with the number of potatoes.

I decided to leave them in the ground a little while longer, in hopes they would get bigger.


See, they were only this big. No wonder I ate two when I baked them. My two purple potatoes were still smaller than the big honking Yukon gold potato I dug a couple weeks ago that my husband ate.


I noticed that one of the purple potato plants has started growing again. I don’t know what it means, but I figure I’ll just let it. I’m going to dig these as I need them, but I’m really hoping they’ll last until November. I really want to have purple mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving!


Beans and Brussels sprouts

By Penny Stine
Thursday, September 11, 2014

Last night, I did a quick garden stroll, looking to see how happy everything was after the moisture earlier in the week. I was surprised and pleased to see that some of the green beans out in my garden have gotten a second wind.

These green bean plants have brand new flowers in several places, as they continue growing and winding all over themselves and the tomato cage and pole. Flowers now mean that beans will follow. My yellow pole beans are doing the same thing. Yay! I like freezing the yellow and green ones together. 

As you can see, the Brussels sprout plant is still there, too, not looking much like a bunch of little Brussels sprouts.

I took a closeup of this one, since it appears to be forming one tiny little head in there. This is my first year to grow them, but from the photos I’ve seen, one Brussels sprout plant is supposed to have a whole stalk-full of little sprouts forming at the point where the leaves branch out from the stalk. I think. They’re a long-season grower, and you’re not supposed to harvest them until after the first frost, so I’m hoping they’ll start to form their little mini-cabbage heads in the next few weeks.
I will go out for a longer garden stroll tonight and inspect everything more carefully.  

Pay no attention to the weeds. I'm expecting a magic garden fairy to show up any time now and weed the whole area and then sprinkle magic pixie dust on all my gardens so that no more weeds sprout.  


I’ll be repeating this crop

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pineapple tomatillos, aka ground cherries or husk tomatoes, are one of my experimental plants this year. They sprawl like a tomatillo, although they stay a little lower to the ground, as you can see from this pic. They’re ripe when the husk turns yellow and they fall to the ground.

No wonder they never became a big commercial crop - picking them is a labor-intensive process. You have to hunt and search and be careful not to knock the still-green ones off the plant. 

I also have them planted here, where they’re more entangled in each other and in a melon that’s wandering around in this bed. They’re harder to find in this bed.

From what I’ve read, they self-propogate, much like tomatillos, which basically means that at the end of the season, the plants produce so many fruit you can’t possibly find them all. Some fall to the ground, where the seeds sit until the following spring. When the soil is warm enough, they sprout.

I haven’t purchased tomatillo seeds or plants for years, yet every year, I have tomatillos in a couple different places in my garden.



Here’s what they look like after you pick them. You have to take them out of the papery husk (which adds yet another labor-intensive task to the process, which goes further toward explaining the fruit’s relative obscurity) before you eat them or throw them in something.

So far, I’ve put them in salads, a salsa and a coffee cake. I also eat plenty of them just plain. I like them; my hubby’s not so fond.

I like them best in a basic tomato salad with ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, basil, feta cheese and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

They look kind of like medium-sized yellow marbles when ripe. I've got another basket of them accumulating on the counter, and I'm determined not to eat them or throw them in a salsa, smoothie or salad. The coffee cake I made before calls for 2 - 3 cups of these little suckers, which is a whole lotta marbles. I only had about a cup, so I added peaches. The coffee cake was truly delicious (here’s the link), but I really want to try it with ground cherries, rather than ground cherries and peaches.
It’s hard to describe the taste of the little fruit. Some say it’s like pineapples or mangos (hence the name pineapple tomatillos) but I taste more vanilla. They don’t taste like cherries or tomatoes, but they are definitely sweet and sort of tropical.  


A week’s haul

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

We went camping last week and before we left, I went out to the garden to pick whatever was ready. This is what I got. In addition to the green beans which are clearly visible in the plastic bag, I also had Swiss chard, kale, basil, rosemary and ground cherries in the other plastic bags. I also had lots of onions and garlic.

I took it all on our camping trip. Although we were gone for a total of six nights, the hordes I must have been expecting didn't show up, and I ended up bringing some of this great produce back home. Needless to say, we ate really well on our camping trip. 


Finally… tomatoes!

By Penny Stine
Friday, August 22, 2014

Like a lot of gardeners out there, I don’t consider my garden a success until and unless I get tomatoes. Big, ripe, sweet juicy tomatoes.

This year has been a tough year for tomatoes, and I’ve got some late varieties that are slow getting to the party. This one is a very late season producer, but that hasn’t stopped it from growing to enormous heights. It’s taller than I am, and I’m a towering 5’4”.

OK, so five feet isn’t so tall for a person, but it’s pretty dang tall for a tomato plant. While it’s not exactly loaded with fruit, it is finally starting to set fruit. So far, none have ripened and I’m not entirely sure what type of tomato this is.





Based on these two (actually, I think there are really three lurking in there) and the amount of time it’s taking to form fruit, I think this might be a Kellogg Breakfast tomato, which would make me quite happy.




This one is a variety called Legend (I think), and I got the seeds from Territorial Seed. It was supposed to produce in 68 days. Although I’ve gotten a few tomatoes from the plant, up until now, it’s been less than a dozen. I think now it’s going to go into overdrive and I will get a boatload of medium-size tomatoes from this plant.

As you can see, there are several that are ready to be picked right now.

I’m always hoping to grow enough tomatoes to can what I grow, without supplementing my tomato supply from a nearby farm. I’m not sure if I’ll get enough for that this year, but at least I’ll have plenty to enjoy in September and October.
I can always go pick a box to can at Rettig Farm on East Orchard Mesa for $7, which is a great deal, just not as much fun as growing them myself.  

Page 8 of 121


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