Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
When I brought in some of my outside planters from the patio last fall, I had a sneaking suspicion that I was bringing in more than just pots of basil and rosemary. When I noticed little critters flying around the plants in the living room, my fears were confirmed.
When my husband complained of excessive fruit flies in late fall, long after I quit keeping peaches and tomatoes all over the kitchen counter, I remained mum.
He continued to question why we had pesky little critters in the house when it was so obviously winter outside of the house…
I finally confessed that my garden in the living room might be part of the problem. By the time I confessed, he had already discovered that pea shoot salad was pretty tasty and didn't suggest I throw out all my plants in an effort to rid the house of pests. Yay for that, since I attribute my less-intense dislike of winter and January in part to the additional plants in my living room.
Nonetheless, I was tired of the bugs, too, so I did some research and figured out they were probably some form of gnat, since they didn't fall for the fruit fly trap of apple cider vinegar and soap.
Julie, in the online dept. here at the Sentinel, said she had tried putting sand all over the soil in her houseplants to rid them of their gnats. So I went to True Value on 12th for inspiration and sand. I talked to a guy who was extremely helpful. (I love True Value on 12th - they're always extremely helpful - and they usually know what they're talking about. Plus, they have an in-store cat named Smudge. Or Mudge. Or something similar.)
The guy at True Value told me I probably wouldn't want to use any of their usually recommended houseplant bug killers, since I was regularly eating many of my plants, but he said he'd heard you could sprinkle pepper or any kind of red chile powder on the soil to keep the gnats from laying eggs. So I bought a bag of sand, brought it home and mixed it with chile powder, cayenne pepper and black pepper and sprinkled a layer of doctored sand over all of my indoor plant boxes.
That was a week ago. So far, there are still a few gnats here and there, but they do seem to be disappearing. It could be wishful thinking on my part, or it could be proof that it works.
In the meantime, yay for my chisel class at Crossroads Gym, which enabled me to pick up the 50-pound sack of sand and throw it over my shoulder and walk casually out of the hardware store. (While gasping on the inside, because 50 pounds is pretty stinkin' heavy for an old broad like me!)
By Penny Stine
Friday, January 10, 2014
The snow is starting to melt (when we're not getting fresh snowfall to add to it) and a few things are visible in the garden.
Although you can't see it very well in this pic, some of the garlic in this bed is about two inches tall. The greenish purple stuff is kale, which usually overwinters pretty well. I've learned to just let it be and then cut away the clearly dead stuff in late February or March so I can start harvesting the baby leaves in April.
I thought this was interesting - I took this pic last weekend in the late afternoon (I think, I can't really remember when I took it, I can just tell that the lighting was weird). The snow was a pretty solid blanket over almost everything in the garden, with the exception of perennial plants like lavender or piles of compost that I meant to spread last fall and didn't. The snow also melted near the salad burnet, which is a perennial herb that I planted almost two years ago.
I have no idea why the snow melted around the herb. Is the temperature slightly warmer around plants that are alive? I have other plants that are presumably alive, but are (or were last Saturday) still covered under snow.
As a master gardener with CSU Extension, here's my take on it… weird, huh?
Plants do what plants do and I haven't got a clue!
The colors in the photo aren't the best, but the salad burnet is still vividly green, too. I don't think I'll have to cut away the dead stuff in February because none of it seems to be dying.
I also have some beets that I planted in late summer, hoping they'd get big enough for a late fall harvest. They weren't big enough, so I just left them in the ground. The appear to be pretty healthy, but the leaves are so burgandy/greenish that I didn't think they'd show up under these light conditions.
If it's sunny on Saturday, perhaps I'll wander out before the football game starts and snap a photo.
In the meantime, go Seahawks and go Broncos!
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
This photo has nothing to do with gardening, but I took it anyway and wanted to post it because my garden is still buried under snow and I can only write about my living room garden so many times.
This is my disgruntled cat, who looks quite content in her cathouse on a sunny afternoon.
The cat earned a ticket out of the house and into the garage when she started marking various places in the house. She earned a ticket out of the garage when she began peeing all over the floor and leaving presents in odd places.
I didn't feel bad all summer and into the fall, but as it got colder I felt guilty about leaving her outside. Then I saw a youtube video where a guy made a cathouse out of a cooler.
There is a towel, an old, polar fleece vest and a pillowcase that holds a giant rock that I heat every night in the oven and then put in the insulated cathouse to add a little extra warmth.
The cat actually seems healthier this year than she was last year when she stayed in the cold, non-sunny garage all winter and rarely moved.
Now I just hope PETA doesn't see this or I'll have naked people throwing fake blood at me when I try to park in my garage.
By Penny Stine
Monday, January 6, 2014
Because I like to eat what I grow in my garden and I can't grow lettuce to save my life, when I make a salad I tend to think outside the hutch.
In the summer, I make salads with cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, peaches or anything else I can find in the garden or growing locally.
In winter, we don't eat near as much salad because it's cold and we can eat soup, so who wants salad?
Unless, of course, you have pea shoots growing in the living room.
My living room cucumbers are looking pretty pathetic - I think they're protesting that it's cold and they'd appreciate a little more light and warmth. My peas, however, are doing quite well. It's hard to get a decent photo of my living room garden because of the light coming in the window, but I have pots full of peas, basil, arugula, rosemary, cucumber and sorrel on three different shelves. The peas are the clear champions of the living room experiment.
So I picked some pea shoots on Sunday after church to go with our Sunday dinner of pork roast and sauerkraut. (How's that for a midwestern meal?) I also picked some arugula and basil, since it was also growing in the same container in the living room.
It takes a lot of pea shoots to make a salad big enough for two, even with some baby arugula thrown in, so I also added some purple cabbage. I made a dressing out of olive oil, vinegar, chopped dried cherries and dates and an anchovy. Yes, I'm weird that way. I love anchovies.
Mix it all together and top it off with a little feta cheese. It was a lot of flavors, but they all worked and tasted delicious. The dried fruit gives it a little sweetness, while the anchovy and feta add a nice savory tang.
Quite by accident a week or so ago, I discovered that I can omit sugar from salad dressings and add finely chopped dates or some other dried fruit instead. I prefer the flavor and texture, and since refined white sugar has no redeeming nutritional value while dates and other dried fruits have many fine qualities, it's a win-win for me. Plus, my husband, who has a clear "don't fruit the meat" sensibility, doesn't seem to mind if I fruit a savory salad.
Don't you just love turning nouns into verbs?
By Penny Stine
Monday, December 30, 2013
My garden is covered in snow, it's dark when I get home from work and all of my produce is coming from the freezer rather than the front yard. On top of that, our heater/hot water boiler decided it didn't want to work anymore, so we have no heat other than the gas fireplace and no hot water except for what I heat in my canning kettle.
Grrr. It's enough to make anyone cranky.
So I wandered over to my planter box and took another photo of my ever-so-slowly growing cucumbers.
Who knows when or if the HVAC guy will be able to fix the boiler (I'm not holding out much hope), but at least I have a little tiny cucumber that's half an inch long growing right in my living room. It reminds me that winter won't last forever and someday, I will be warm again.