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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Alien life forms in the garden

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Is this a cooking blog or a gardening blog? Sorry if I've rambled on too much about recipes and cooking, but that is the reason I grow anything. I've even taken a bite out of my nasturtiums just to see what they taste like.

I decided to give a quick update on the weird broccoli and/or cauliflower I'm growing. I should have marked which was which, but of course, I didn't, so I don't know whether the Romanesco broccoli is finally forming heads or the veronica cauliflower is cooperating. The heads are really slow to form, but most of the plants are growing to monster-size. These two small ones are in a shady section of my garden, so they're not as big.




The few that are getting on with the show and forming heads look like this:

Most pictures I've seen of either brassica show that the heads are bigger, pointy and lime green. Since mine still have shades of purple, I'm assuming they're not fully formed yet. I've got about half a dozen that have at least started to do something. I will let you know if the others ever form heads and if the ones that do are worth the wait. 


Western Colorado adaptations for authentic Southern-style food

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Although I joke that I'm from the South (Cheyenne is in the southern portion of Wyoming, you know), I didn't grow up eating okra. In fact, I'm not sure that I ever ate okra before I planted it this year.
I am a big believer in growing experimental veggies just for kicks, however. Once they grow, I usually have to figure out what to do with them, which is how I began my still ongoing experiments with tomatillos. My okra still isn't producing a lot, but I pan-fried the first few, which was pretty tasty. 




Then I decided to make jambalaya the next time I had a spare okra.
That's right. I had one okra.

But I also had a pattypan squash, a boatload of tomatillos, some peppers, onions, garlic and a couple tomatoes, so I figured I had plenty of ingredients for my jambalaya.


Especially after I added sausage, rice and shrimp.




The result was pretty tasty.


My okra is starting to produce a little more, so I looked at recipes for gumbo, which is now on my menu for tomorrow night. While looking at gumbo recipes, I discovered that while okra seems to be essential for gumbo, it's not usually included in jambalaya.
Oh well. Jambalaya also normally includes the trinity of celery, onions and peppers. I had no celery in my garden, so it didn't get included in my jambalaya.
I'm sure tomatillos will be part of the gumbo plan, since my plants have started producing enough for me and my village. 


Check out this video

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A month or two ago, I stumbled across this video done by a Kansas farmer (and university student). He recruited his brothers to star in the music video, which is a parody of "I'm Sexy and I Know It" by LMFAO. Frankly, I like "I'm Farming and I Grow it" better!


Salad with kale is good, really!

By Penny Stine
Friday, August 10, 2012

Kale gets a bum rap, but since it grows well here, I like to grow it. Then I have to figure out what to do with it. I've blogged about roasting it before, so I won't go there again, other than to say that this year, I've experimented with putting different spices on it to see what I think. I did a Caribbean mixture on a night I made jerk chicken & it was pretty tasty.
Back to not roasting kale. I've discovered that it can be a great green for a salad because it doesn't get wilted and sorry-looking. It usually tastes bitter beyond belief, however, unless you add plenty of acidic ingredients to your salad. The acid somehow cooks the bitterness out of the kale. Don't ask me how, I'm a writer, not a chemist. 
The other night, I started with kale, then added three different colors of tomatoes, an entire ripe avocado, a ripe, juicy chopped peach and some sweet red pepper. While I was chopping salad ingredients, my husband was sauteing shrimp with pickled garlic (that I made using garlic I had grown in my garden!) in olive oil. He dumped the hot shrimp/garlic/olive oil mixture on my salad. I squeezed half a lime on top and mixed it all together.


Mmmmm.... it was so good. The ripe avocado, tomatoes, peach and lime juice made this creamy delicious dressing that was sweet and tart. 
And I'm not just saying that because it's after noon, my stomach is growling and I haven't had lunch.









My husband was skeptical of the peach and the lime (he's got an aversion to fruit in a main course), but he admitted it all worked well together.  


What a great landscape

By Penny Stine
Monday, August 6, 2012

My gardening buddy, Jan, downsized last spring and moved into a small house in town on a fairly large lot. Over the last two growing seasons, she has transformed her yard into a very cool space. 

This is it from the front. A little grass to keep the neighbors happy. Trees, shrubs and flowers to make it interesting and reduce mowing.












Rather than have a path of well-worn grass or an old, skinny, cracked and heaving sidewalk, Jan put in this great flagstone entryway. 

In the back yard, Jan created several different spaces that serve different functions. Everyone wants a private retreat where they can drink coffee, read the paper or chat with friends. Jan's house had no trees for shade and very little privacy, because the lot is narrow and deep. 

So she created this flagstone area, had her hubby build a shade pergola over the top, and built a privacy screen so she's not visiting with the neighbors every time she steps outside. The neighbors are lovely, but sometimes you just want to drink your coffee in your jammies. 

Same pergola, just took the pic from a different direction. 

As you can see by the photo above, Jan has two cute little mini Aussies. They need a place to play and romp. She gave it to them. 






To get from one room to another inside the house, most builders add a hallway. A great landscape design can include a hallway, too. 

This hallway leads from the sitting area near the house to the garden area next to the alley. The dog area extends to the left of the hallway. 











And on the right, they built a fire pit.



Last, but not least, she has a garden area, complete with a short fence to keep the dogs out and raised beds to grow just about anything under the sun. 

Jan and her husband (with the occasional assistance of their two 20-something sons) did all the work themselves, which reduced the cost significantly. She also designed the irrigation system so that every room has its own irrigation zone and can be watered separately from everything else. Jan completed her master gardener certification this year. Although she's never designed a yard for anyone else, I'd hire her in a heartbeat if I had a tired old yard and didn't want to tackle it myself. 

For those who fall into that last category, Jan's phone # is 210-6445.

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