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, October 31, 2012
Since we had a hard freeze that turned my garden into this, I decided it was time to get most of it cleaned up for the season. Cleaning out the old debris and brown, dry stalks is a good deterrent to some diseases and pests. Plus, it makes you feel like you've accomplished something by the time you're done.
Squash bugs overwinter as adults in garden debris, firewood stacks and piles of leaves, so clearing out the dead plants can disrupt their long siesta. Of course, if you simply chop everything in small pieces and then toss it in your compost pile next to the garden (as I did), perhaps you're just inviting the squash bugs to overwinter there instead.
As you can see, I left the broccoli standing, since it has yet to form a head. I haven't given up hope yet. I read that broccoli needs plenty of water to help it form its head, which is somewhat challenging, since our irrigation water is shut off for the season. I'll haul hoses for a couple Saturdays before I give up entirely.
I planned on spreading the compost and working it into the soil, but by the time I had wheelbarrowed it to all the little piles scattered here and there, I was done. It took me the better part of Saturday to pull, chop and haul out the garden's remains. I thought I could work equally hard on Sunday, but I wanted a day off! There's always this weekend.
I also left carrots and beets in the ground. I was going to cover them with straw to protect against a hard winter freeze, but since most nights still aren't dipping lower than 32, I'm leaving them alone for now.
Last fall, I planted garlic in this bed. I thought I dug it all up, but since I can see it sprouting in several places, I guess I missed some.
By Penny Stine
Monday, October 29, 2012
I planted parsnips (I know, parsnips? Seriously? Who eats parsnips?) in July 2011 because a coworker bought the seeds and asked me to grow them for her. I figured if I planted them in July, I'd have a late fall crop that I could dig in December before Christmas.
They never came up. I planted an entire packet of parsnip seeds and not a single one sprouted. Until February or March of this year. Of course, by that time, I had forgotten where I planted them, but I did remember that they were out there somewhere, so I googled parsnips to see what they looked like when they sprouted and didn't accidentally pull them thinking they were weeds. I planted them in various locations around the garden, and had patches of parsnips here and there.
I watched them grow for the entire season, and I wasn't going to dig them until later, since Curtis Swift says parsnips are better if you let them freeze. However, I accidentally pulled the greens of one while I was pulling weeds around it, so I figured I'd better pull it before I forgot where it was.
After I pulled it, I had to pull the rest.
Are these the most awesome, weird-looking veggies just in time for Halloween or what???
I also pulled some carrots and beets and then posed them for a group root crop photo.
I brought most of them to work to give them to Lynn, but I kept a couple. I think there's beef stew in my future.
By Penny Stine
Friday, October 26, 2012
Jan of the awesome garden is also an awesome friend. In anticipation of the frost, she pulled out all of her tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and everything else that wasn't cold-hardy. She picked the green tomatoes and set them in large containers to ripen in the garage.
Because she has already roasted tons of tiny black cherry tomatoes, she gave me these.
Because she has two other containers this size full of equally large green and ripening tomatoes, she gave me these.
I remembered a cookbook that I got several years ago but hadn't used. I spent an hour reading recipes and bookmarking the ones I wanted to try as the tomatoes ripened. Sadly, many of the recipes were written with the rest of the summer garden in mind, and called for fresh basil, summer squash or chopped parsley, all of which I had in abundance, until it froze.
Maybe if I use the cookbook this fall, I'll remember to give it a look-see next summer.
I suppose I could can a few more tomatoes, but frankly, I don't want to drag out the canning kettle and spend the better part of another Saturday canning tomatoes.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
If the frost two weeks ago didn't kill the tender veggies in our gardens, the one predicted for tomorrow and Friday night certainly will. It will probably mean the end of my wild and colorful flowers, too, but that's OK. I need this space for planting!
I try to rotate my crops around the garden to confuse the pests and the diseases. I don't know if it works or not, but it means that my garden never looks like the same garden.
Because this beds get a lot of shade from surrounding deciduous trees, it's hard to grow anything that needs sunshine. Which is basically anything you want to grow in a vegetable garden.
I discovered that a bed that gets summer shade and winter sun can be a great place to plant over-wintering veggies, and I found a spinach seed from Territorial Seed company that was bred to plant in the fall for a spring harvest. After yanking out the marigolds, tomatillos, amaranth and fennel that was coming up everywhere, I planted spinach and garlic in this bed. I may have to lug a watering can out here in March to give them a drink if we have a dry winter and spring.
But at least I'll be eating fresh spinach by April and will be able to hope for garlic scapes in June. I meant to take a photo of the garlic bulbs I got from Territorial Seed, because they were beautiful and huge, but I got busy digging in the dirt and forgot.
These amaranth came up on their own and I let them, because I wasn't sure what else I'd put there.
I decided it would be a good place for the rest of the garlic cloves I wanted to plant.
I still had spinach seeds and onion bulbs, so they went here. Yes, I left the sad and weird broccoli alone. I don't know why. I'm sure it's not going to form a head, but I didn't have the heart to yank it out yet.
By Penny Stine
Monday, October 22, 2012
It's too bad the tomatoes I love seem to take forever to get into gear and actually produce tomatoes. I wasn't impressed with any of the red varieties I tried, but I loved the bi-colored Virginia Sweets and the yellow Kellogg Breakfast tomatoes. On my plants, neither variety really started producing much until late September.
Although Jan of the awesome garden can grow enormous Kellogg Breakfast tomatoes (with plants that I started in my living room, no less!) mine aren't as large. The Virginia Sweets were, however, and their flavor was amazing.
As you can see, they're pretty when sliced. The Kellogg Breakfast is a very smooth, low-acid tomato, while the Virginia Sweet has a little more tang but seems much sweeter to me.
Both are beautiful when sliced. In tomato taste tests at the Daily Sentinel last year, most people preferred the taste of the Kellogg Breakfast. I like Virginia Sweet better.
Howie is also a tomato-loving fool. He likes both varieties.
My favorite way to eat either one this time of year is for breakfast.I call this a tomato bagel - a toasted everything bagel, slathered with cream cheese on both sides and a thick slice of tomato. It's very messy to eat, but oh, so delicious.
I still have green tomatoes that are ripening on the counter, so even though I'm sure I'll freeze later this week, I should be able to enjoy my favorite breakfast for a few more weeks.
By the way, if you have a tomato variety that you love and it's not a hybrid - save those seeds! I started all the Virginia Sweets and Kellogg Breakfast tomato plants that I grew with seeds I saved from last year's crop. Yes, it does look rather disgusting on the napkin, but soon the tomato snot will dry and you can store the seeds in a plastic bag.