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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The frost is coming soon

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

This fall has been amazing, and it’s been fun (not to mention budget-friendly) to have so much produce growing in my yard. Sadly, I know it’s all going to end soon. All day long yesterday, NOAA had a freeze warning for the Grand Valley for last night.
I checked again after 5 p.m., and the forecast had changed. It said it would only get down to 36, so I didn’t go out and pick everything. I just picked enough to make this side dish of summer squash and tomatoes, with green onions, garlic, rosemary and basil.
I’m pretty sure we’ll have a freeze warning again on Friday, so I’ll probably go out and pick all the tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and squash I can find. Fortunately, things like carrots, broccoli, beets, kale, leeks and cabbage are supposed to taste better after a light frost, so they will all remain in the ground for at least another week or two.


Put Denver Botanical Gardens on your list of places to visit

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, October 27, 2015

We went to Denver last weekend to visit our sons. It had rained all week in Denver, but the weather was absolutely spectacular over the weekend. My son suggested we visit the Denver Botanical Gardens. He has a friend who is a professional landscape designer who is also a member of the botanical gardens, so he asked if he and his wife would like to go with us. It was great because he was our own private tour guide. 

The gardens were spectacular and this photo really doesn't do them justice. Blooming plants everywhere, a Japanese garden, a potager garden, interesting shrubs, trees, pathways and water features all around. If you love plants and green growing things (and why else would you be reading this blog?) go visit the garden next time you're in Denver. 


Italian minestrone soup is a good fall choice (and a good way to use garden produce)

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I had random things that I’d picked from the garden in the last few days, and yesterday was a soupy kind of day, so I decided to make Italian minestrone soup for dinner. I looked at several recipes, but of course, I didn’t really follow any one in particular.

I used both blue dwarf kale and Portuguese kale instead of the savoy cabbage that one recipe called for, since I had both kinds of kale, but no savoy cabbage. I also used yellow squash rather than zucchini for the same reason.


Minestrone usually has some sort of beans in it, too.I didn’t have a can of garbanzo beans, or a can of any kind of beans, but I had a bag of dried Anasazi beans. They take less time to cook, so while my hubby was at yoga and I was chopping and simmering all the veggies in the soup pot, I was also cooking a small sauce pan of beans. By the time we were ready to eat, the beans were soft. (It probably took an hour and a half.)




I also had some leftover tortellini, so, of course, I threw that in the soup pot at the end, too. When I served it, I chopped up a little parsley to throw on top, just because it’s growing out in the garden, too.
My tomatoes are so incredibly sweet that the soup tasted weirdly sweet rather than savory, in spite of all the onions and garlic that are also in it.
Nonetheless, it was delicious. I will miss my garden when it freezes, since I won’t be able to go see what’s available in my front yard to cook for dinner.  


Classic marinara with fresh tomatoes

By Penny Stine
Monday, October 19, 2015

I have a neighbor down the street who was just done with her tomatoes. They’d grown like crazy, she’d eaten them until she was tired of them and she just left the rest on the vine. So, of course, I asked if I could pick a few of hers… because it’s almost a physical pain to see gorgeous tomatoes falling to the ground because no one is there to pick them.
Graciously, she said yes.
In my defense, I’m not growing any cherry-size tomatoes this year, and they really roast well, so that’s what I did with all the sun gold cherry tomatoes I picked from my neighbor’s garden.
The rest of the tomatoes were so ripe that I had to do something with them right away, so I decided to make a classic marinara sauce, with nothing more than tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil, salt and pepper, along with a few sprigs of parsley and a very small amount of anchovy paste.
The sauce was delicious, but so ridiculously sweet because the tomatoes were so ripe. We had it with tortellini last night, and I also had a quart to freeze and some leftover for minestrone soup sometime this week.  


Carrot management

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I had a few carrots go to seed this summer, so I cut the stalks off and threw them on my husband’s work bench. It really bugs him, so last night, I shook off all the seeds I could into a couple of envelopes for planting either later this fall or sometime early next spring.

Gardening experts do not advise this. Almost all carrots are hybrids, which means whatever grows from the seed won’t be whatever you planted that went to seed. I do not care, however, what kind of carrot grows, I simply want to grow carrots. They all taste the same to me.

I have a hard time growing carrots for reasons I cannot fathom. The best carrots I ever grew were ones that came up on their own after a carrot went to seed the previous year, which is why I always try to let at least one plant go to seed.

I sprinkled some of these on the ground in mid-summer, simply because I was curious to see if they’d get big enough to pick before the ground freezes.
So far, they’re not, but that’s probably because I planted them in a partly shady area.
I’m going to get a bale of straw and spread it around the seedlings later this fall and see what emerges next spring.  

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