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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Penny Stine
Monday, December 10, 2012
Because it's been so warm, this has been a great year to experiment with four-season gardening. Last month, I mulched all the carrots and beets that were still in the ground. Even though I still had a couple carrots in the fridge, my curiosity got the best of me last week, so I had to pull a few to see what they looked liked.
I also decided it was time to pull my last parsnips, which have been in the ground for more than a year now. Since the ground was hard and dry, it was a lot harder than I expected. I suspect their odd shape, with various rootlings and knobs also contributed to the difficulty. Since the carrots and beets were so tiny, I had no problem pulling them.
After a good washing, I decided the parsnips were still odd and the carrots were still tiny. The beets are pretty, though.
Since snow and colder temperatures were in the forecast, I decided it was time to pull the plug on this, which is either Romanesca broccoli or veronica cauliflower (which I think is more or less the same thing.) I planted both last spring. It never did form a head during irrigation season, so I left it in place. I think if I had watered it more, the head might have gotten a little bigger.
So now I had a collection of odd roots and a tiny head of something. I ended up roasting them all in the oven, and was pretty pleased with the results. I kept the carrots and parsnips separate, mixed with a bit of honey, olive oil and chopped thyme. I peeled the beets, chunked the tiny head of whatever it was into bite-sized pieces, added a couple of small potatoes and some rosemary and roasted them all at 350 for 25 minutes or so.
I would have taken a picture, but I forgot. Sorry.
Parsnips and beets have been surprise hit in my garden, because I discovered that I actually like them. My husband does, too, so they're going back in the garden in 2013.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. Dreams of presents in the mailbox and... magic. I open the mailbox Saturday afternoon and what to my wondering eyes should appear?
The 2013 Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Book!
Filled with the GOOD,
AND THE UGLY!
... and the EXOTIC
The sight makes your heart swell more than any handmade gift or Hallmark Christmas special.
While it's hardly been chilly here, we can dream of warm spring days ahead, digging hands into sweet smelling earth, planting rare heirloom seeds, watching them grow into the miracle of life in our own backyard.
Heart, soul and passion goes into an amazing book of summer dreams. All for you to snuggle on your couch in your wool blanket and read from cover to cover.
Order your taste of summer or browse online at www.rareseeds.com.
By Penny Stine
Monday, December 3, 2012
Although I didn't hear it last night, I could smell rain when I let the dog out this morning, and I could see puddles on the ground when the sun finally came up. Yay!
I'm a four-season gardener this year, since I not only have spinach, garlic and onions coming up (because I planted them earlier in the fall), I also have this, which is a red mustard that I planted for the first time last spring. I picked it just a few times before it bolted, but it obviously went to seed, since I have little mustard seedlings coming up in multiple places. I liked it, but it definitely had a bite to it. I'm thinking it will be a good green for winter, since it obviously doesn't mind sub-freezing temperatures. I have more mustard coming up in a few other places, and I'm leaving the leaves in place to act like a mulch.
So I'm happy when it rains, because I don't know if my once-a-week hose dragging is giving everything enough water, but it's all I can manage in the winter.
In addition to the aforementioned spinach, garlic, onions and mustard, I also have carrots and beets still in the ground and kale and broccoli that are still producing. Ever so slowly due to lack of water, but still producing.
So yay for rain!
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
While I was perusing through Thanksgiving cooking tips and tidbits, I came across an interesting salad using kale. In fact, kale was the only ingredient besides the homemade dressing, which had whole grain mustard, lemon juice, maple syrup, salt and olive oil in it. I decided it's going on our Thanksgiving menu, since I still have kale in my garden.
I don't pull my kale at the end of the season unless it's totally overrun with aphids. So I went out at noon today and picked this bowl of greens. Not a bad haul for November.
After I picked it, I realized I should have taken a photo of the kale still in the garden, so after I rinsed off the greens, I headed back out to the garden with my camera.
This is a dwarf blue kale (I think). I planted it in the spring of 2011 and it survived last winter and continued to produce all summer - again. It's planted in a rather shady spot, which is why the leaves stay so tiny.
This is red Russian kale. Sometimes it over-winters, and sometimes it doesn't. So far, it's not looking too happy. I think it's lack of water rather than cold temperatures making it look sad.
I got the seeds for these plants from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. It's supposed to be this heirloom Italian loose-leafed cabbage called Nero di Toscano. Since kale and cabbage are kin, I suspect this is also what some seed companies call dinosaur kale.
The salad said to use kale or Swiss chard. I also have a few Swiss chard plants still trying to survive, so I picked the biggest leaves I could find (and took the photo below afterward.)
Even though I haven't made it or tasted it yet, I decided the salad was too boring. I'm going to add some toasted nuts (pecans? almonds?) to the greens and some chopped thyme to the dressing.
The kale in my garden seems to be doing fine, which makes me a happy November gardener. I suspect it would be doing much finer if it had more water, but I'm not willing to drag hoses around in the dark when I get home from work.
When I got back to work, I decided to write the following Ode to Kale:
You're not picky about water,
you're always leafy, green and hearty.
In heat, through frost or cold fronts,
you're the main star of my garden party.
OK, so I won't give up my day job to pursue a career as a poet.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
I dug up about half of my carrots last week and stored them in the fridge. I covered the rest with straw and hoped they'd be fine out in the garden. They were already half-covered with leaves from my neighbor's trees, so I don't know that the straw was all that necessary. I starting pulling beets, too, but was a bit disappointed with the size of the beets. After digging five or six, I covered the rest and hoped the roots would continue to grow even if I hid the green tops under the straw.
Yesterday, I decided to do something in the crock pot for dins. I raided the freezer for appropriate beef and figured chuck steak with carrots and potatoes would work. Then I figured I may as well throw in the beets, too.
Those are the Viking purple potatoes from my garden. They weren't very prolific, but they had a good flavor. I peeled the beets because the skin has seemed kinda bitter whenever I've cooked them any other way.
I also washed, chopped and set aside the beet greens so we could have those for dinner, too. First, I fried two pieces of bacon with some onions, garlic and the last yellow pepper from my garden. When everything was crispy, I took the bacon out, added the greens and sauteed for about 5 minutes. Then I added a tablespoon of Four Thieves Vinegar, along with the crumbled bacon bits. The result was pretty tasty, but then again, what wouldn't be tasty if you sauteed it with bacon, onions and garlic?
The beets were good in the crock pot, but it's the carrots that are really good cooked that way. I can't remember what kind of carrot seeds I purchased, but whatever they were, they produce some really tasty tiny carrots. The beets did color the broth, making it a deep burgandy. I saved it. I'm sure I'll use it next time I make beef stew.