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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Tearing out the summer garden

By Penny Stine
Monday, November 3, 2014

I realized it was way past time to tear out all the heat-loving veggies in my garden last weekend, even if they hadn’t died yet. My pineapple tomatillo, tomato, tomatillo and pepper plants were still blooming, with new little tiny fruits on them. It was cruel tearing them out, but I know winter is coming and they'd die soon even if I left them.

Before I tore out the pineapple tomatillos/ground cherries, I picked all the ones that were ripe or large enough that I thought they’d ripen on the counter. I’m going to miss these. Although I tried pie, cake and ice cream syrup with these, my favorite way to eat them was to just eat them.






There were hundreds of ground cherries still on the plants. Some of them ended up in my compost bin, which means that next spring, I may end up sowing ground cherry seeds whenever I use compost from this bin.




I deliberately left a bunch of fallen fruit in this bed, too. This was a good place for the plants, and I’ll be quite happy if they just reseed themselves and grow here again. Although if even a tenth of the seeds grow, I’ll have ground cherries sprouting all over the place.

I had a couple of Swiss chard plants growing in this bed, and I left them there for the time being. They'll take a light frost without dying, so they'll be fine there probably until Thanksgiving. Likewise, I've still got broccoli, carrots, kale, leeks and beets in the ground, too, for the same reason. I'm sure they all appreciated the rain we got yesterday. 

While I was out there, I planted a bunch of new crocus bulbs in this bed. It gets great winter sunshine and is in a fairly protected area. Usually, the crocus start blooming in here by the end of February or the first of March.
While I was out planting, I also got spinach and garlic planted for next spring. I’m trying two new types of garlic and two new varieties of spinach. By next week, I will forget exactly where I planted them, so it will be a delightful surprise when they sprout next spring. 


Something new with broccoli plants

By Penny Stine
Friday, October 31, 2014

I wasn’t able to water much at all in October because we didn’t have enough irrigation water, so the fall plants that are left in the garden aren’t looking very good.
I wanted to make some roasted kale, but the kale is very droopy and sorry-looking.
So I picked a bunch of broccoli leaves and decided to use those. I also picked sage leaves because I read a recipe for fried sage leaves that said they were amazing. 
I should have a photo of my broccoli plants, but I forgot to take it. They’re about two-feet tall and very shrub-like, with tons of leaves. They never did form large heads, but have been giving me tons of little florets for a month or two.
I spread the leaves out on the cookie sheet and gave them a good splatter with olive oil and then a thorough sprinkling of spices.
We had company for dinner and it didn’t seem appropriate to whip out the camera and make them wait to eat until after I’d taken a photo of the food, so you don’t get to see what it looked like after I roasted it at 350 for 20 minutes or so. It was crispy, salty and delicious.
Fortunately for me, my broccoli plants are still loaded with leaves!
I also saw this recipe for fried sage that I had to try. Actually, I saw a couple of recipes and decided to follow one that assured me the sage was better if you dredged it in a simple coating of equal parts flour and water before sautéing them in olive oil.
I thought the little leaves were tasty. My husband, who’s not a fan of sage, was not a fan of fried sage, either. Our son and his girlfriend, (who were the dinner guests), seemed to like them, but I didn’t ask them to rate on a scale of one to 10.  


More tasty goodness from the seed catalog company

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Look what I found on my doorstep last weekend! Just when the outside garden is winding down, I got my grow box full of mushroom spores!

Some women get excited about jewelry; my heart goes pitty-patter over a box of dirt and fungi.

The mushroom kit came with instructions, which were pretty simple to follow.




Open the big box. Take out the plastic bag with the spores and add water.




Dump the wet mess on the compost in the box (the box is lined with a heavy plastic bag).


Make sure the compost is all thoroughly wet, then fold the plastic back over the compost.
Close the box. Stick it in a dark place and leave it alone for a week.
I did all of that on Friday night. This Friday, I think I’m supposed to check on it and spritz it with a spray bottle full of water. I don’t remember whether I’m supposed to close the box back up again or not, but I kept the instructions.
I’ll take photos as I see something growing.
The portabella kit was a little pricy - I think it was $34.99 plus shipping. Shipping was a boatload because the box was full of compost, which isn’t exactly lightweight. Button mushrooms were cheaper, but I like portabellas and they’re pretty pricy in the store, too.
Besides, I need garden therapy in the winter, too.  


Garden pizza uses a little bit of everything

By Penny Stine
Monday, October 27, 2014

Last Friday, I got home from work and didn’t feel like working hard to make dinner. My hubby had done a lot of driving that week (to Evanston, Wyo., to Vernal, Utah, to Denver - all in one week!), so the last thing he wanted to do was get in the car and drive to a restaurant for dinner.
So, I grabbed the pizza crust I had in the freezer for exactly this type of situation and got creative. (Helpful hints from Penny: when you make homemade pizza, make enough dough to make an extra pizza. Go ahead and roll it out, put it in your spare pizza pan and put the sauce on it. Then wrap it in foil and stick it in the freezer for a night when you’re beat and don’t want to go out.)
I also hate going out to eat when I know there’s perfectly lovely food in my fridge or in my garden if I would just take a few minutes and prepare it.
So I went out to the garden and picked a small amount of a bunch of stuff and chopped it all up, as you can see by the photo.
We didn’t have any regular mozzarella, but I had two pieces of string cheese, some Mexican queso fresco, some hard Romano cheese and a half-package of some four-cheese shredded blend. I shredded the string cheese and the queso and put a thin layer of that on top of the sauce. Then I scattered the veggies. As you can see, there were a ton of veggies on the pizza. I think I counted eight different veggies from my garden. 

No, I didn't grow the olives in my garden. I did, for the first time ever, put a few green beans, some broccoli, two types of baby summer squash and various other normal pizza toppings, on my pizza. 

Then I covered the veggies with the Romano and the four-cheese blend, stuck it in the oven for 25 minutes and drank half a glass of wine.
You tell me what you think of my finished pizza. My husband thought it was wonderful, and he’s a carnivore-loving guy who, if left to his own devices, will always go with the double-pepperoni, sausage, mega-meat monster kind of pizza.
It was truly delicious. It took me less time to go out to the garden, wash and chop the veggies and assemble the pizza than it would have to drive to a restaurant and wait to be seated. (Especially on a Friday night in GJ - have you ever noticed that every restaurant in town is packed on Friday nights?) 

It's supposed to freeze tonight, and even though we've had a nice, long fall, I'm still not ready for it. 


October tomatoes

By Penny Stine
Friday, October 24, 2014

Look at all the pretty, multi-colored tomatoes I’m picking right now. Yes, right now, with just a week or less before the garden will most likely freeze.
Why, tomato plants? Why couldn’t you do this two months ago? Not that I don’t appreciate your bounty now, but I really wanted tomatoes in August. Maybe even July.
I guess it’s my own fault, since I killed all the tomato plants that were planted in the prime spots. This plant isn’t in a bad spot, but it doesn’t get any sun at all until about 11 a.m., and then it’s full sun until 5 or so. It was shaded in the early summer by pea plants, and I think that stunted it’s early growth. It’s got lots of big, green tomatoes on it now.
I took these pics last night, right before Howie and I took a walk. Howie appears uncomfortable sitting next to these plants, since normally, I discourage him from hanging out in the garden.
The plants he’s next to were given to me by a co-worker, who had started them from seed and never found space in her garden to plant them. I think it was June before she gave them to me and I got them in the ground. They get a fair amount of shade, so it’s no surprise they weren’t bearing ripe tomatoes in July, or even August. I think I picked a couple in September, but when tomato plants don’t get enough direct sunlight, they take a lot longer.
Next year, I will treat my soil kindly and will have healthy tomato plants in the sunniest spot in the garden.  

And Saturday night, we're eating pasta with fresh tomato sauce. 

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