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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First frost means it’s time to plant!

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.


Breakfast tomatoes

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.


Broccoli bust

By Penny Stine
Friday, October 19, 2012




To say I was disappointed in the broccoli and cauliflower I planted this year would be an understatement. Although my broccoli plants got huge... they never formed heads.









Instead, the few that did anything beside growing monstrous leaves formed little purple florets.


I planted Romanesco broccoli from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds and veronica cauliflower that I think I got from Park Seed. Both were supposed to form these spiral, apple green heads that tasted yummy.



Instead both types of plants simply got huge. And I forgot which was which, but it doesn't matter, since I didn't get much out of either one of them.


Although they could still form heads at this point in time, since both are cold-loving plants, I'm feeling doubtful that they will. So I picked all the little purple florets I could find and put them in a salad last night. It was rather strong on the broccoli flavor. I liked it, my husband wasn't a fan.

I've read that broccoli and cauliflower leaves are also edible, so I may take a bite, just to see if there's something I can salvage from this experiment.




Oh, as I was harvesting florets, I found one little perfect spiral head. Although it's cute, I was hoping for something bigger.  


Don’t throw out those green tomatoes!

By Penny Stine
Thursday, October 11, 2012

If you've picked all your green tomatoes for fear of frost, and aren't really into fried green tomatoes, don't throw them away! If you put them in a paper sack (or just put them in a bowl or box in a tucked away location), they will eventually ripen. While they won't taste the same as those that ripened on the vine, they'll taste better than what you can buy at the grocery store. Even better, if you have boatloads of them, you can do this:

These are cherry tomatoes that I roasted at 305 degrees for about two hours. I sprinkled them liberally with kosher salt and pepper, tossed them with olive oil, tons of garlic and chopped basil and then stuck them in the oven and ignored the teasing smell. When the juice all evaporates away (and there will be a lot of it) and the skins are starting to get brown, they're probably done. You can eat them all at once, (they are truly delicious), freeze them in small plastic containers, freeze them on cookie sheets overnight and then dump the individual frozen, roasted tomatoes into gallon-size zipper bags (that's what I did) or make vats of tomato paste. 

I was making pizza the day I roasted these, and I processed a bunch of them in my food processor and used that (along with a little rosemary) for the pizza sauce. It was the best pizza sauce I've ever tasted. 

If you don't want to bother roasting your green tomatoes, please pass them on to me. Just don't expect me to share the tasty roasted ones with you!



By Penny Stine
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I think I read somewhere that you're supposed to pick winter squash before the first frost. I figured now was a good time and decided to arrange my lovely cucurbits for a family photo on the kitchen counter.

I know, right? What was I thinking in planting so many squash? Not included in this photo are the three pumpkins still on the vine on my straw bales. And I have already picked, cooked and either eaten or frozen two other winter squash I grew. I moved them to the living room, where they're artfully arranged on my coffee table because we haven't turned on the heat and it's the coldest room in the house. In another week when the daytime temps start getting a little cooler, I'll move them out to a shelf in the garage in hopes they live up to their name and store well for the winter.

No, my husband doesn't know I have plans to invade, conquer and occupy his precious garage space with vegetables.  

Page 78 of 147


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