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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A week’s haul

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

We went camping last week and before we left, I went out to the garden to pick whatever was ready. This is what I got. In addition to the green beans which are clearly visible in the plastic bag, I also had Swiss chard, kale, basil, rosemary and ground cherries in the other plastic bags. I also had lots of onions and garlic.

I took it all on our camping trip. Although we were gone for a total of six nights, the hordes I must have been expecting didn't show up, and I ended up bringing some of this great produce back home. Needless to say, we ate really well on our camping trip. 


Finally… tomatoes!

By Penny Stine
Friday, August 22, 2014

Like a lot of gardeners out there, I don’t consider my garden a success until and unless I get tomatoes. Big, ripe, sweet juicy tomatoes.

This year has been a tough year for tomatoes, and I’ve got some late varieties that are slow getting to the party. This one is a very late season producer, but that hasn’t stopped it from growing to enormous heights. It’s taller than I am, and I’m a towering 5’4”.

OK, so five feet isn’t so tall for a person, but it’s pretty dang tall for a tomato plant. While it’s not exactly loaded with fruit, it is finally starting to set fruit. So far, none have ripened and I’m not entirely sure what type of tomato this is.





Based on these two (actually, I think there are really three lurking in there) and the amount of time it’s taking to form fruit, I think this might be a Kellogg Breakfast tomato, which would make me quite happy.




This one is a variety called Legend (I think), and I got the seeds from Territorial Seed. It was supposed to produce in 68 days. Although I’ve gotten a few tomatoes from the plant, up until now, it’s been less than a dozen. I think now it’s going to go into overdrive and I will get a boatload of medium-size tomatoes from this plant.

As you can see, there are several that are ready to be picked right now.

I’m always hoping to grow enough tomatoes to can what I grow, without supplementing my tomato supply from a nearby farm. I’m not sure if I’ll get enough for that this year, but at least I’ll have plenty to enjoy in September and October.
I can always go pick a box to can at Rettig Farm on East Orchard Mesa for $7, which is a great deal, just not as much fun as growing them myself.  


Garden mysteries

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Earlier in the spring and summer, I tried all sorts of tricks to get carrot seeds to germinate. I prepared the soil, I pampered them, I was diligent about keeping them moist. I begged and pleaded and planted at least three packets of carrot seeds. I got three carrots.

I had a few carrot seeds left and when I was planting kohlrabi in hopes of a harvest in late October, I threw the spare carrot seeds on another patch of ground where nothing was growing. I did not prepare the soil. I have not watered consistently and the spot doesn't get a lot of sunshine. 
Yet look at this. The kohlrabi has yet to sprout, but the carrots are going wild.

Why, why why? Why wouldn’t they grow before? Why are they taking off now? Is it the extra humidity? Is it the fact that I ignored them?


I planted a purple Brussels sprouts this year that’s a long season grower, so I’ve been content to just watch the few plants that are doing well. For some reason, this plant died quite suddenly. It was looking good, and yet within a week, it just sort of shriveled up and died.

Yes, I know I need to weed, but I don't think the surrounding grass and weeds choked the life out of the plant. Trust me, I've got just as much grass and weeds in other areas of my garden. 

I watered it about the same as I watered every other area of my gardens, so I have no idea why that one died.



The rest of them growing in other areas look like this.

The more I garden, the more I realize I don’t know much about gardening, plants and the mysteries of why plants do what they do.  

I'm glad I don't make my living by what I can grow. I'd starve. 


Walking onion harvest

By Penny Stine
Monday, August 18, 2014

I started growing walking onions several years ago and now I’ve got boatloads of them. They’re a pretty spicy, faintly purple onion that will spread all over the garden if you’re not careful. They’ll also spread all over even if you are careful.

See the little bulbs at the top of the stem? Every onion produces them and they fall to the ground and replant themselves. Hence the name “walking” onions.
Last year, instead of simply letting them plant themselves wherever they want to, I replanted the bulbs in three

 different areas, and planted them about half an inch deep, hoping the onions would be bigger. It worked in some areas, but they were still small in others.

I started picking green onions in March or April, and then started pulling some of the onions underground sometime in June.

Usually, I simply pulled whatever I wanted for that day’s dinner and left the rest in the ground. They stay firm and just get bigger all summer, but by mid-September, they start to get mushy.

The other day, when I took that photo, I decided to pull a bunch of onions and try freezing them.


I’ve been collecting the little bulbettes that form at the top. I’ll figure out where I want to plant them for next year and get them in the ground sometime in October.

These onions aren’t great keepers. They’ll stay firm for a month or so in the fridge, but they’re not one you can dig up and store (and use) all winter.
That's why I decided to try freezing them. Onions are mushy after you cook them, so it won’t matter if they get mushy during the freezing process.


Because they always make me cry (they’re a really strong little onion) , I use my handy-dandy chopper if I’m chopping more than one or two onions. Then I put them in small, snack-size ziploc bags and put the small bags into a larger, gallon-size freezer bag. 



If I had kids at home, I would never do this. I would never have time to do this, but since we don’t have kiddos at home, I’ve got a lot more time to spend puttering around in the garden or in the kitchen with whatever I’ve picked from the garden. Any onions that don’t get picked by mid-September will stay in the ground all winter - they start getting too mushy to use at that point if left in the ground.  


At least one garden area is successful

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, August 12, 2014

This has been a tough gardening year. I had a lot of seeds that didn’t germinate and a lot of plants that died, so it’s good to see an area that’s thriving, like this one.


This bed used to be too shady to grow much of anything other than shade-loving perennials, mint and parsley, but since we cut the big tree down in the front yard, I decided to see what I could grow in here. The bed has good sunshine from about 9 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. which is more than almost anyplace else in my yard.




I planted three sweet pepper plants, and as you can see, they’re full of peppers. They’re supposed to be orange when ripe. I’m getting extremely impatient for them to turn orange. One turned almost completely yellow, and I decided that was good enough, so I put it in a salad with cucumbers, basil and a couple of tomatoes.

The peppers are starting to drag the limbs to the ground (which means some of the peppers are also on the ground), so I'm hoping that's not an invitation to the bugs to come and make a nice dinner out of my unripe peppers. 


I also planted three different types of melons in this bed, which was probably too many. I stuck a couple of tomato cages (and two shoe racks) in the bed in an attempt to get the melons to grow up instead of spreading out into the lawn. It’s kinda, sorta successful. I need a sturdier, taller support for them. A stepladder would be perfect, but I just can't see my husband agreeing to put a small stepladder in the middle of a planting bed.

I have a couple watermelons, a couple of cantaloupe and a few honeydew melons in the bed, so I’m pretty excited about that. I'm not very good at determining when they're ripe, so I'm going to leave them on the vine until I just can't stand it. 

There are also three or four ground cherry bushes in there somewhere. So far, they’re not producing very many at a time, so beyond putting them in salads, I haven’t experimented with them much. I found a great coffee cake recipe, so as soon as I accumulate two cups of them, I plan on making it. (Of course, that requires me to quit eating them as soon as I find them, which may or may not happen!) 

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