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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Thirsty winter veggies

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The only good thing about the garden season being over is that I don't have to worry about irrigation. Seriously, I don't like cold weather, I'm not crazy about short days and long nights and I miss the smell of fresh basil.

I planted onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, parsnips and spinach in the late summer and into the fall. The pic on the left is the parsnips, which were one of the summer plantings.






I also planted cauliflower in the middle of summer. Neither one did much, so I'm hoping they'll survive the winter and produce something in the spring.




The spinach is still underground, so I'm not worried about it, but everything else sprouted before winter hit hard. I'm not worried about everything surviving the cold, but I'm starting to seriously wonder whether I should go water everything.



Here's the broccoli




and the garlic. 

Aaargh! Thanks to dirty water, finicky pumps and clogged sprinklers, I don't enjoy irrigation when it's 100 degrees outside! But I think everything's a little thirsty.

Whaddya think? Do I need to get out there with a watering can every now and then?


Winter tomatoes

By Penny Stine
Monday, November 28, 2011

Usually, my wintertime tomato consumption is reduced to eating whatever I canned or dehydrated in the fall. I hate buying tomatoes in the grocery store. They're expensive, and they don't taste like tomatoes. 

This year could be different.

In late October, when all my tomato plants looked tired and done for the season, one of the plants in a pot on my back patio looked like it wasn’t ready to give up the ghost. It had new blossoms and new tiny tomatoes. So I figured I’d bring it inside and see how it liked life in the living room, where we have a big bay window that faces south.



So far, the plant is doing just fine.


In fact, since I wrote this and took the photos (which I forgot to post last week), I've noticed new branches, more new blossoms and more tiny tomatoes! I don't think I'll ever have enough at any one time to do more than pop them in my mouth, but I don't care. Tasty, juicy tomatoes in the middle of winter will be a treat.

Perhaps I'll have five or six at a time and can put them in a salad.




  I'm not sure what I'm going to do once I turn my living room into a greenhouse to start all my spring garden plants, since this tomato plant is hogging all the good sunshine on the plant shelf, but in the meantime, I'll savor every tiny tomato. 


Comfort Food

By Carol Clark
Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Acorn Squash, the ultimate comfort food for fall. I have to admit I never tried this before last fall. I thought that these beautiful squash were really just for decorating.I finally broke out and decided it was time for something new in my quest for more fruits and vegetables.


Who knew I would find something that was so good that I couldn't decide if it was a side dish or a dessert?


And it is so easy to cook too.


Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in two, scoop the seeds out and lay face down on a baking sheet with a little water in the bottom of it.



Bake 50 minutes until inside flesh is soft.

Remove from oven and place into each cavity:
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp butter
a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar
a sprinkle of salt.




Put back into the oven for five minutes to melt the butter. Fluff with a fork an enjoy a special treat. Yummmm!






So what do you think, side dish or dessert?



Magic moments in a liquor store

By Carol Clark
Monday, November 14, 2011

Have you ever had a magical moment in a liquor store? Not the "puff the magic dragon" kind of a magical moment, but a moment you talk about with your loved one over and over again? Olan and I had that kind of special moment in Fisher's Liquor a few months back.
As I slowly shopped and admired wine labels a little old man slowly walked up hunched over a shopping cart. He stopped and looked at me and said in a thick French accent,
"You should get this kind of wine."
I smiled and said a few words to him and went back to shopping.
Then I stopped and thought this could be providence, this elfin, elderly man with a french accent probably knows what he is talking about, so I nonchalantly walked around his shopping cart at the front of the store and took note of the large bottle of red wine in his cart with two chickens on the label.
A quick trip to the French section and I spotted the bottle of La Vielle Ferme, a Recolte from France for around $8 a bottle. What could I lose?
We caught the man and his frail wife on their way out of the store and told them we bought the wine he suggested. This brought a big smile to his face as he introduced himself and said he was 87, from the French Alps and his name was Joe.
Taking our new treasure home, we couldn't wait to try it. The bottle says it's a full bodied and fruity wine from vines grown high on the slopes of Mount Ventoux, (part of the French Alps), one of the best vineyards in the Rhone Valley. It's a dry red wine with a hint of cherry aftertaste. Sure enough, it's our stand-by now. We plan to buy a case next time we go in and we wonder about Joe and his wife's life and their connection to this wine whenever we sip our new favorite wine. Thanks, Joe!


Who knew cleaning could be so satisfying?

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Look! Do you see what I see? No tomato cages, no trellises, no dead marigold, amaranth or zinnia stalks! True, I left some broccoli and cabbage because I was hoping I might still harvest some (hey, they’re both cold-weather loving cruciferous veggies – it could happen!) and I left the snapdragons because they were still blooming, but I had some free hours on Sunday, so I cleaned out everything else.


Even more amazing, I whacked and chopped everything until it fit in these compost bins. I even got tulips, daffodils and crocus bulbs planted, to go along with the onions, garlic and over-winter broccoli that are already up.

This past garden season was the first year that I actually was able to use anything from my compost bins – I uncovered the secret to getting stuff in the compost bin to actually decompose. Well, it’s not that much of a secret; it’s what everybody says to do, I simply never took the time to do it. I bought a decent pitchfork and turned the compost faithfully at least once a week all summer.
The result was actual compost in all my compost bins, which I spread on my gardens as I cleaned them up. It gave me three empty bins, which I promptly filled with garden debris. I’m hoping it all compacts a bit more, because we have trees with leaves that have just barely started to fall.

Last winter, I trudged faithfully through the snow with my weekly bucket of coffee grounds and kitchen scraps to make sure every last bit of compostable material got in a bin. Not sure if I'll be so hard-core this year, but I probably will. It helps me to whittle away the hours while waiting for spring.  

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