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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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.  


November flowers (seriously!)

By Penny Stine
Monday, November 7, 2011

I haven’t been much of a flower gardener until a couple of seasons ago when I decided to convert my veggie garden into a potager. So I bought some annual and perennial flower seeds and planted them in strategic places in the garden.
I bought snapdragon seeds and started them indoors that first spring. I thought the packet said they were annuals. The first year, they didn’t bloom ‘til late summer and then bloomed throughout the fall. They didn’t die last winter, and were one of the first flowers blooming in early summer - the pic on the left shows what they looked like in June.  





Although they looked the best in June, they've been blooming off and on (but always with some color) since then. This is what they look like in November, the day I was cleaning out my garden. The various freezes we've had since the end of October have killed all my other flowers, but these are still blooming. 

These are awesome flowers – I’d recommend them to anyone who wants constant color in the garden.


Fall decorations bring back great memories

By {screen_name}
Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween was always a blast as a child. With four children, our mother had to help us make all our costumes from something we already had. There was no Mad Margaret's or internet to buy beautiful professional costumes and as a farming family there was no money even if you could buy a costume. People could never guess what we were supposed to be, we just looked like farm kids with bad clothes but it was always fun. My grandmother lived just down the street and her house was filled with homemade cookies, rice crispy treats and popcorn balls. She was always the first stop after dark and our bags were filled to the top when we left.

Fast forward through the wayward years - my son was born on Halloween twenty-one years ago. 

It was a fun date to have a baby (if you can have fun during childbirth). Nurses were dressed up, and everybody was excited about a new child who would always have an entertaining birthday. They put a small indian feather cap on his head and took him to the nursery.


Who knew that a Halloween birthday could be so exhausting for a young mother? All those school parties you were expected to bring treats to coupled with family parties and friend birthday parties all in the same week. It's enough to drive an otherwise sober mother to drink.
As a child Christmas was magical, as an adult - another exhausting holiday. Thus, Thanksgiving is my new favorite. I keep out all the fall decorations minus a few ghosts and witches. I leave out the colored leaves & pumpkins and there is no gift shopping required. Only the making of tasty treats to share with the ones you love.

So, here's to the season of apple crisps, sweet potato casserole, hot spiced cider and a little rest before the Christmas shopping season arrives. Enjoy!

"When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be in the kitchen, because it was warm, and that's where my mother was."
-Dolly Parton


Got (more) green tomatoes?

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I blogged about green tomato chutney a week ago, when my buddy, Jan, and I made more than 35 jars of it. I still have bags of green tomatoes. They'll ripen in the bag, but they don't taste like a summertime tomato. They're still better than grocery store tomatoes, but when the weather starts to get cold, my taste buds don't crave sliced tomatoes and corn on the cob anymore. 




So what to do with all those tomatoes in bags? They usually ripen in stages, which allows you to slice them when they get ripe and stick 'em in the dehydrator. I've dried tomatoes in the dehydrator for years, but this year, I added a new twist, thanks to my mom. She sprinkled hers with salt and pepper. I added garlic powder. 









I've been slicing tomatoes and stacking the dehydrator about every two or three days. If I had kids still at home, (or an exciting life) this would be a pain, but since I don't, it's not a big deal.  

I turn it on at night, let them dry all night and have tasty little tomatoes by the morning. They're usually a little crispier than the ones in the store, but that's OK, it makes them more snacky, like a cracker. I've been putting them in plastic bags and storing them in the freezer. Although I think they're sufficiently dried to preserve them, I don't want to give mold a chance. Since I can always find a bit more room in the freezer, that's where they live. 

Seasoned dried tomatoes are great to eat like a snack; they're good in scrambled eggs, on a quesadilla, in soup, on salad, in anything where you want a little tomato zing. 



By Penny Stine
Friday, October 28, 2011

No, I'm not talking ancestry. I'm talking 'taters and carrots!

I dug these up last weekend, before the frost. Root vegetables are just fun to grow, like growing your own buried treasure. Gardeners who don't want to waste the space on potatoes and carrots because potatoes and carrots are cheap in the store can always grow exotic or expensive varieties, just to justify devoting valuable garden ground to the lowly potato. I grew Yukon gold potatoes (which are pretty pricey, in my opinion), a couple red varieties (and got a grand total of three potatoes!) and these cute little fingerling potatoes called ratte. I got the ratte seed potatoes from Amy Hamilton. (Thanks, Amy!)

The carrots grew from a seed mixture that was supposed to produce four different colors of carrots. I got more yellow and white than purple and orange. In fact, I don't think a single orange carrot actually survived. I haven't decided if  I like the flavor yet or not. It's kinda' like carrots to the max. 

If you don't grow your own, how else can you expect to get weird shapes and sizes??? Note the enormous Yukon gold that I'll be able to use the next time Hagrid comes to dinner and wants a baked potato. Or the three potatoes that are joined at the weird little potato-ey hip. 

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