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 6, 2014
I started growing herbs at least a decade ago, almost as an afterthought. I think I put a few in the ground in bare places where nothing else was growing simply to fill the space.
After growing various herbs for years, I’ve come to the conclusion that for gardeners who love to cook, herbs are indispensable and one of the best ways to save money in the garden.
See my pile of herbs I used in last night’s dinner? I had a little pile of mint and red-veined sorrel to add to my spinach with yogurt, and then a bigger pile of other herbs for my main dish. I got the recipe for the spinach here, after wondering what else I could do with the spinach and mint growing in my garden and the plain yogurt sitting in my fridge.
I love Google for finding recipes… The recipe didn’t call for the sorrel, but I figured it would make a lovely addition. I also didn’t steam the spinach ahead of time, like the recipe said to, since I figured I could sauté it in the pan after I did the onions and garlic.
I also added both kale and Swiss chard to the spinach, since I had them. So I guess I used the recipe more for inspiration than for actually following...
I’m also trying to use up the last of my home-canned tomatoes, since garden tomatoes will be coming soon. So last night, I sautéed some leftover chicken, along with onions, garlic, mushroom and artichoke hearts. This picture doesn't capture the sense of wonder that accompanied me making this when I realized I just might be on to something good.
After the onions and mushrooms were browned and the chicken was warm, I combined it with the tomatoes, some olives, and oregano, basil, lemon balm and thyme from my herb garden to create what I called Mediterranean chicken. I made some couscous, since it seemed like the kind of dish that would work well with couscous.
Oh yeah, I sprinkled it with feta cheese once it was on the plate. So seriously delicious, and there’s enough leftover for me to have lunch.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, June 5, 2014
I like cottage-style gardening, with flowers, veggies and herbs all jumbled together and no neat and tidy rows in sight. In this space, there's a Brussels sprout surrounded by columbine, lavender, snapdragons, daylillies, with some garlic just out of the picture. I planted the garlic last fall and the Brussels sprout this spring. All the rest just comes back every year.
When plants go to seed, I usually let them. Sometimes it works out well, like in the above photo. I’ve also had various types of kale reseeding itself in various spots and I haven’t purchased tomatillo plants or seeds in years.
Some flowers, however, can be pretty aggressive and pushy. You invite one into a little corner of the garden, and the next thing you know, there are a kazillion of them popping up all over the place. Columbine, which are pretty and welcome in small doses, tend to want to take over the world. I've been pulling them out of every corner of my gardens.
My mom gave me some delphinium last year when I went to visit and I put them in this shady corner where nothing else was really happy. They must have been fairly delirious last year, because they went to seed and took over the entire corner of the garden.
They will no doubt want to encroach on all the nearby beds, but I will be ruthless next spring about pulling them from places I don't want them to be.
I planted a purple mallow plant in my weedflower area a few years ago and have been beyond pleased with its ability to spread and thrive with sporadic water and lots of competition from weeds and sunflowers. I never planted it here, on the opposite side of my yard, where I usually grow garlic and sage, but since it's there, I'll leave it alone.
My chamomile also migrated a couple of feet from one spot to another on the other side of the mallow and garlic, and I'm OK with that.
I guess you could say I take more of a shepherding approach when it comes to managing the plants in my yard. I keep an eye on them and try to provide them with what they need to grow, but then I pretty much let them do whatever they're so inclined to do.
Gosh, doesn't that sound so much better than saying I'm lazy?
By Penny Stine
Monday, June 2, 2014
Catalog or local nursery?
I buy from seed catalogs and I also buy from local nurseries. Once in a while, I’ll even buy a packet of seeds or a plant from a big box store. The beautiful thing about buying from local nurseries is that they stand behind their products in a big way.
See my new tree? Bookcliff Gardens replaced my dead sensation boxelder (which I purchased and planted last fall) with this beautiful one when the main trunk of my fall-planted tree died and it sent up a couple of shoots from the root.
I dug up all the bulbs in this bed at exactly the wrong time and some of the irises bloomed anyway. I think the daylilies will also blooms. Bulbs are so forgiving.
I ordered a honeyberry bush from Park Seed earlier in the spring and it didn’t survive shipping. Although they also guarantee their plants, I didn’t want to try having them ship another one to me, since it died during shipping. So they just gave me a credit that’s good for a year.
Not a problem. I’m sure I’ll spend another $19.95 with them before the year is out.
But while I was at Bookcliff to get my tree, I also picked up two honeyberry bushes. As you can see, they’re alive and quite healthy. Both have little tiny berries on them, so I’ll actually get a chance to taste them this year instead of waiting until next year.
With honeyberries, the experts say they produce more fruit if you have two different varieties, so that’s what I bought. Honeyberries are also known in some places as haksap berries or edible honeysuckle. They like alkaline soil and will grow in partial shade. That's my kind of plant!
Speaking of berries and transplanting at the wrong time, I decided my raspberries were growing in a couple places I didn't want them, so I dug some of them up and put them in an area that's easy to water more frequently. I'm hoping that does the trick (although they probably won't produce this year, since I dug them at the exact wrong time of year) to give me lots of raspberries. My raspberry plants usually bloom like crazy, but then don't produce any fruit, just dried-up looking stems. They also send up dozens of suckers, so I've got a lot of raspberry bushes in various places that don't actually produce fruit. I'm giving them all a little extra water this year & hoping I'll get a few berries this year.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, May 29, 2014
I love going out to the garden and finding something to cook for dinner. Yesterday, I noticed I had a lot of spinach that needed picking, so I was thinking spinach salad.
Yes, there are a lot of weeds around my spinach bed. We've been gone the last two weekends and the weeds took over.
I saw that I also had some pak choi toi choi (aka baby bok choi) that was also ready to pick. On the seed packet, it said it would be ready in 45 days, and it didn’t disappoint. I started it indoors in February and transplanted it outside by late March or early April. It’s a member of the cabbage family and can handle the cold.
I decided to add some onions, garlic, arugula and pea shoots, since I had those in the garden.
See these onions? They're in the bed that I thought I pulled last fall. I also have onions growing in four other areas, so I've got plenty of onions.
I had mushrooms in the fridge, so I sautéed the onions, garlic and mushrooms in olive oil, with a little splash of sesame oil for flavor. While that was cooking, I sliced the white stems of the bok choi and coarsely chopped everything else.
Aren't the greens pretty? I thought I had way too many greens for just my hubby and me, but I forgot how much they shrink when cooked.
The bok choi (stems and greens) went in next (and were sautéed for a few minutes), followed by the rest of the greens.
I meant to splash it with some rice wine vinegar, but I forgot. Instead, it got salt and pepper. It was really good. Even my husband thought so, and he didn't detect the arugula.
Pak choi toi choi is going to be in my gardens again - it extends the gardening season to have something ready to harvest while everything else is just getting started.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
We were gone for a couple of days and my garden exploded with weeds. My flashy trout's back lettuce looks pretty happy, too.
So far, it's not bitter (like every other lettuce I've tried to grow). I plan on making some sort of main dish salad with it tomorrow or Friday. I like the speckled look of it, but have no idea if it adds to the nutrional value of it or not.