Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Carol Clark
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Peppers are a long-term commitment. I started pepper seeds indoors this weekend and hope they will live and produce long into September.
I don't mind this kind of commitment if I can get something in return. Hot spicy jalapenos, sweet juicy bell peppers and the newcomer - Red Cheese Peppers.
But my favorite is the delicious poblano.
We are definitely gringos at heart and are not partial to hot, hot peppers, although we do like an occasional jalapeno in our salsa. Poblanos give us that mild spicy smooth flavor that we crave.
The recipe at the bottom is our favorite. You can buy poblanos in the grocery store produce department, but they're even better if you grow them yourself.
We recently made this recipe and were blending the sauce in the blender when the knob on the lid slipped down into the blender and was crushed into micro-size pieces of plastic undetectable by the human eye. Out of poblanos and heartbroken, we tried the recipe with green chiles we had on hand. It simply was not the same. Disappointed, we decided that this year we are growing our own and freezing some for winter.
Wish us luck. We have never grown seeds indoors and had them survive. This year we got our new biosphere planter from Bookcliff Gardens and rigged a special light to ensure success. I hope.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper
A peck of pickled pepper Peter Piper picked
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper
Where’s the peck of pickled pepper Peter Piper picked?
Poblano Chicken Enchiladas
3-4 Poblano Chiles
1 cup milk
1 stick of butter
4 small garlic cloves
1/4 Tbsp onion chopped
1/2 lb Jack cheese
4 Tbsp flour
Large handful of spinach.
Roast, peel and seed the poblano green chiles, then cut coarsely.
In large saucepan, melt butter and add finely chopped garlic. In another saucepan mix milk and chicken broth. Heat to simmer. When garlic is browned, add flour to thicken.
Toss poblanos and a handful of baby spinach in a blender with half of the milk/broth mixture and blend. Mix blender ingredients into remaining milk and add butter mixture. Add salt and mix with whisk.
Spritz corn tortillas with cooking spray and layer in a single layer in 350-degree oven for four minutes.
Fill tortillas with shredded rotisserie chicken and cheese, roll in 9 x 11” pan and cover with sauce. Sprinkle with Jack cheese and bake in 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Enjoy.
By Penny Stine
Monday, February 21, 2011
We have this no-man’s land out in front of our house:
Technically, it’s not our property. Our property ends at the fence. But it’s in front of our house, our mailbox and our irrigation cistern are out there, so we’ve always tried to take care of it. The first few years we lived in our house, we mowed the grass and weeds. Then I decided to reclaim it for flowers and anything that was prettier than mowed weeds.
I scattered a wildflower seed packet about seven years ago, which was beautiful the first year. Some of the wildflowers (like the cosmos, the sunflowers and something that looks like orange calendula) have come back every year. I’ve also planted strawberries, a rose bush, penstemon, oregano, purple mallow, borage, thyme, iris, yarrow and columbine.
It should be beautiful in the summer. Except I didn’t kill the grass before I ever started. So now every year, I try to figure out a way to kill the grass so you can actually see all the cool things growing out there. Every year I fail.
Last year, I spent the better part of three weekends on my hands and knees in the early spring pulling grass out by hand. The root system was a long, tangled, tenacious rope that wasn’t about to go quietly into the night.
The area looked good for maybe a month. Then the grass returned. By then, I was busy with my real garden, so I ignored the wildflower area and hoped the giant sunflowers and cosmos would intimidate the grass.
No such luck. As you can see, the grass thrived. Once again, I’m going to get out there (maybe this weekend) and cut down all the dead stuff and try to come up with a plan to kill the grass this season. I’m at a loss.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, February 17, 2011
It may not officially be spring or planting time yet, but I’ve started my greenhouse in the living room. Last Saturday, I got five different types of pepper seeds started, as well as some lavender and coral bells.
Last year was my first year to try and start everything from seed rather than buying plants at the nursery. It was a good learning experience, which is a nice way of saying that I killed lots of baby plants.
Because I was a newbie to the process, I went to a Saturday morning seedling starter class at Bookcliff Gardens. In class, Dennis Hill said one of the worst things a gardener can do is start seeds too early. Plants get spindly and leggy before the weather’s nice enough to plant them outdoors. So I dutifully waited until St. Patrick’s Day to start my seeds. That gave them eight weeks to be big enough to transplant.
I learned from trial and error (but mostly error) that eight weeks isn’t long enough for peppers or lavender. A lot of my seedlings didn’t survive in the garden. I felt like such a mean and cruel person for planting such itty-bitty plants and expecting them to survive. In fact, eight weeks wasn’t really enough for the tomatoes, herbs or flowers, either.
Perhaps under the ideal growing conditions of a professional nursery, eight weeks is good. Under the less-than-ideal conditions of my living room, I decided to give most of the pepper 12 weeks (although I’m planning on starting a few more peppers as well as some herbs this weekend, which will give them 11 weeks). I’ll probably give the tomatoes and flowers a good 10 weeks.
Even though I just planted them on Saturday, a couple of the Munstead Lavender plants have already sprouted. Yay! Time to do the happy dance, as my gardening buddy, Jan, says. I know from last year that they grow very slowly, so I’m not worried about them getting spindly.
What’s been the experience of everyone else?
By Carol Clark
Monday, February 14, 2011
While roses are one of the most beautiful flowers they are a little over done at Valentine's Day. Valentine roses are not always the freshest, but they are always the most expensive.
Here are some beautiful heart shaped alternatives that would be fun to give or receive from your loved ones.
... and random other heart-shaped flowers and vines:
"Do all things with love."
Sarcopetalum harveyanum which means "fleshy petals":
By Penny Stine
Friday, February 11, 2011
For all gardenophiles out there (did I just coin a word or is there some other word out there that means lover of all things dirty, green and growing?), this is a tough stretch. Just when we hoped we were headed for an early spring, we got snow and freezing temps. Our gardens are buried under snow (again!) and we all breathe weary, heavy sighs.
Yes, yes, I know... things are a lot worse elsewhere and here in western Colorado, we have no reason to whine and complain when Chicago's been buried multiple times this winter, but dang it, my garden had sprouts two weeks ago! I haven’t checked them since this latest bout of winter. Perhaps on Sunday, I’ll have enough nerve to see if they’ve survived.
In the meantime, I was craving soup the other day, but had only a few minutes when I was home at lunch to put something together in my crock-pot. I consulted a crock-pot cookbook and found a recipe for winter tomato soup – and it recommended using home-canned tomatoes. It was simple, had few ingredients and quick to throw together so I could get back to work.
I left the cookbook at home, but as near as I can remember it:
½ C butter
1 jar home canned tomatoes
1 tbsp sugar (I used less than half that amount)
½ C dry vermouth or dry white wine (I didn’t have either, so I substituted cooking sherry)
1 tsp dried tarragon
Chop the onions and sauté them in the butter for 10 – 15 minutes. Toss everything else in the crock-pot on low. Add onions when they’re soft and cook 6 ½ hours on low. Puree in a food processor or use a hand-held blender. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream.
Six and a half hours later… My crock-pot got overzealous and half the volume had evaporated, so I added milk and a couple tbsp of flax meal to thicken it (and to give it a boost of Omega-3). I used a hand-held blender to turn it into a cream soup. It was delicious, even though I forgot to serve it with sour cream. It was a great way to enjoy those delicious garden tomatoes in February without needing to turn them into a complete sauce, add some meat, cook some pasta... etc, etc.
Next time, I’m going to make sure I have dry vermouth rather than cooking wine, I think it will be truly fab. I may also ditch the tarragon and go for thyme or rosemary instead. Since I’m assuming that anyone reading this blog also has a ready supply of home-canned tomatoes, I wanted to pass it on.