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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Harvesting and freezing

By Penny Stine
Monday, September 14, 2015

I haven’t been blogging lately because my garden is keeping me too busy to take photos. On Saturday morning, I made myself spend at least an hour pulling weeds. I filled my five-gallon bucket at least six times, pretty much filling my trash can, since I don’t want all those weed seeds in my compost bin. The only good thing about pulling weeds this time of year is that they tend not to sprout again until next season!

As a reward for pulling weeds, I picked a boatload of grapes, Portuguese kale and other goodies. Since I had way too much to eat in the next week or so, I froze everything.
I’ll use the frozen kale in soup, casseroles, egg dishes and in anything else that looks like a likely candidate for greens.

I don’t like the Portuguese kale as well as blue dwarf or Russian red for roasting, so I’ll freeze a lot of that. The plant’s are going into hyper-grow mode right now.



These grapes would make lovely juice or jelly, but since we don’t drink a lot of juice or eat much jelly,I opted instead to freeze them whole to use in breakfast smoothies. They’re a concord-style grape with seeds, but my blender does a good job of liquifying the grape, the skin and the seed.






They’re really good grapes, and this year, my grapevine has grown and produced like crazy. Yes, this is one grapevine. I didn't prune it at all this year, and while the master gardener in me says "bad gardener!" I've never had so many grapes on the vine, so I may not prune it next year, either. 




These little onions are the walking onions, which I’ve been picking and using since March or April. They’re starting to go into their regrowth stage, where they sprout new green tops and the bottoms turn mushy.

I also picked these little hot peppers I’m growing called Cayennetta. I got the seeds from Park Seed, and I’m really pleased with the peppers. They’re spicy, but not ridiculously hot, and they add a nice flavor without making food unpleasant. I decided to include a few peppers with the onions before I chopped them and froze them in little bags together, since when I’m adding onions to something I’m cooking, I often want a little spice, as well.



The plants are supposed to be good for containers, but in my garden, the ones in this bed are doing much better than the one I have in a container out back. I’m anticipating that I’ll have enough from these two plants to make a little red pepper ristra in late October or November, which will give me home-grown cayenne pepper to use all winter.


Know your cole

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Check this out: This may not look like much to you, but it’s the result of about three or four hours last Saturday on my hands and knees, pulling weeds, grass and plants that had already produced and died out of this section of my garden. It was so neat and tidy when I got done (not like my gardens elsewhere) that I had to take a photo.

I was also struck by how interesting this particular plant is - it’s a purple savoy cabbage that I’m growing for the first time. I have no idea exactly what it’s supposed to look like when it’s fully grown, but I’m assuming it will have some sort of more fully formed head.

Cabbage is a cole crop, aka a brassica, just like kale, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. This patch of kale has been in my garden for years. It’s a variety called blue dwarf, and I was certain it was going to seed earlier in the season and it would finally die. Instead, it’s hung in there all summer and given me small, curly leaves whenever I need them. We eat roasted kale about once a week and I throw it in other things as often as I can.



This is my beira tronchuda kale. I’ve got it planted in several other spots. It seems to be happy and doing well wherever I’ve put it. I’ll be curious to see if it overwinters like the blue dwarf kale. I really like this variety cooked, and I’m looking forward to making potato/sausage/kale soup, since it’s a Portuguese soup and this is the Portuguese kale that you’re supposed to use in it.  


Make room for these next year

By Penny Stine
Thursday, August 27, 2015

If you like to try unusual garden goodies, make room for these next year. This is a pineapple tomato, aka a ground cherry. They're a nightshade plant that's actually native to the Americas. 





This is the amount of fruit that I'm picking every other day from about three or four plants. Not a lot, but since that's what I pick in two days, it adds up. Rather, it would add up if I didn't eat them. Because they're so small, it's really easy to eat a few here and there, and next thing you know, they're all gone. 




I've got them planted in a front flower bed, where I also have a few sweet pepper plants, some melons and a couple of flowers. Yes, there's grass and a few weeds growing there, too.

I had them in the same spot last year and had read that they were notorious for self-seeding and returning year after year. I also took some of the fruits in to Bookcliff Gardens last year so they could taste them and perhaps start growing them for sale in the spring. When I didn't have any seedlings emerge by late May, I went to Bookcliff, where I bought two of the last three ground cherry/pineapple tomatillo plants they had.

After I brought them home, I discovered that a few had finally emerged in this bed. I dug a few up to give away and also transplanted a couple to another area (where all but one died).



So yes, they do return if you leave enough fruit on the ground to reseed, which isn't hard to do, given the way they grow and ripen. For the best flavor, I've learned to let them fully ripen on the plant. They'll fall to the ground when they're ready to eat.  

It can be difficult to find all of the fallen ground cherries, which is why they reseed themselves. Plus, the plants continue producing until it freezes, and when the frost finally comes, there are dozens of not-quite ripe enough to eat fruit that ends up falling to the ground. Each little fruit has dozens of seeds in it. 

They're really tasty to me and to plenty of other people with whom I have shared fruit. I don't think they taste like pineapples, but that's what plenty of people taste when they eat one, which is why they're called pineapple tomatillos (or ground cherries or cape gooseberries or even goldenberries).

I made a coffee cake with them last year that was really good, and they weren't bad in a pie, either. My husband, however, is not fond of them raw. That's OK. More for me! 


Another tomato review

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, August 19, 2015



One of the new tomatoes I’m growing this year is called Black Pineapple. It’s an heirloom, multi-color variety. One of the colors is green, and when I planted it, I wondered how I’d know when a tomato that stays partly green is ripe.

I picked two a week ago when I thought they were getting close, but they were still pretty firm, so I let them sit on the counter. I gauged ripeness simply by the feel, and decided this one was perfectly ripe, so we ate it last night.

As you can see, it’s still green on the inside, too. It’s not exactly a pretty tomato, or at least not as pretty as others I’ve grown. (Or tasted from someone else’s garden - my husband’s yoga instructor gave him a Black from Tula tomato that she grew a couple of weeks ago and it was beautiful, with a dark purple color. It was also delicious!)
It may not be pretty, but the Black Pineapple is one of the sweetest varieties I’ve ever grown. It is seriously delicious, and I’m excited about it because the plants seem to be putting on a lot of decent amount of tomatoes.  


The solution for squash bug problems

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I think I’ve solved the dilemma of the squash bug problem here in the Grand Valley… if you don’t want squash bugs, the trick is to only grow squashes every other year. Which totally stinks, if you’re a big fan of summer squash.
Last year, I tried to grow squash, but because of problems with my soil, not a single one grew. The squash bugs must have hit the road and found some other place to overwinter.


This year, I ordered two new squash seeds, the Astia zucchini, which was supposed to give me squash in 42 days and lemon squash, which are supposed to be squash bug-resistant.




I also planted whatever squash seed I had in my stash of seeds, as well as a few spaghetti squash seeds that Julie, the Daily Sentinel’s online coordinator, gave me. The spaghetti squash are doing well, and are taking over the world. I haven’t picked any yet, but this one that crawled across one of my tomato cages looks like it will be ready soon.


The Astia has also been great. While it wasn’t quite ready to pick in 42 days, it was fairly early and has consistently given me squash.

As you can see by the top photo, there’s a little watermelon-type of squash that’s also growing next to the zucchini. I’m fairly certain it’s a poquito hybrid squash from Park Seed, which I planted last year (and hovered over until I resigned myself to its non-growth). I must have had at least one seed in my left over stash and dropped it there.






I’m also growing this cute little yellow squash, which I have no idea what it is or where it came from. Too bad, since it’s pretty tasty. As far as I can remember (which isn’t saying much), I’ve never purchased a yellow squash seed like this.




Because I don't know what it is, I'll call it my baby bowling pin squash, since it resembles little tiny, yellow bowling pins. 




This is the lemon squash plant. From the description and reviews, I thought it would be more of a rambler. It’s also supposed to be extremely prolific.

So far, I’m disappointed. It’s been flowering for several weeks, and it has just one little squash on it.

I also planted about 15 seeds, and had poor germination the first time I planted and then had something chomp on the entire plants when I re-planted. The tiny plants were there one day, with several true leaves, and gone the next. They may be squash-bug resistant, but they weren’t resistant to whatever ate them. I’m thinking it was the rolly-pollies, aka pill bugs or sow bugs.
In fact, I was so certain that it was rollie-pollies that were eating all of my fall-harvest seedlings that I went to Bookcliff to get some sort of insecticide dust that would deter them. Mona from Bookcliff had never heard of sow bugs eating non-diseased new seedlings, but I’m still convinced. And I bought a powder that includes sow bugs as one of the target pests it eliminates. I replanted some of the fall harvest plants (but figured it was too late for the heat-loving ones), but haven’t seen any sprouts yet, so I don’t know if the powder will prevent the seedlings from getting gobbled.  

In the meantime, I should have plenty of summer squash to eat. 

Page 9 of 142


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