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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Goodwill is a great gardening supply store

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I am frugal. Some would say I’m cheap, but frugal sounds nicer.

I start quite a few plants indoors in the early spring to save money and to create greater variety in my garden. You just can’t find Cajun Belle peppers or Aunt Ginny’s purple tomatoes at the local nurseries.

A friend and I split the cost of the seeds. Because she moved into a smaller house and has nowhere to start seeds and nowhere to put her awesomely wonderful plant shelves, she gave them to me so I could start seeds for both of us.

And boy, have I started a lot of seeds. I’ve also learned that when you start seeds indoors, serving trays are a must-have gardening implement. Not only do they help with crop rotation (i.e., giving each tray a day in the prime sunshine location) but they also help when it comes time to transition the plants to outdoor life. It’s much easier to carry 10 trays of plants outside every morning than 115 baby plants.



I’ve discovered that Goodwill is a great place to pick up spare serving trays. They may be delightfully tacky, but who cares? I use them in early spring, then stack ‘em and store ‘em until I need them again the following year. Ones like the one in this picture work well because you can pour water into the tray and water from the bottom, just like the seed packet advises. 


Some people buy the bio-dome systems for starting plants. My frugal nature made me try using plastic wrap. It works. Once the plants sprout and have their first two little leaves, I remove the plastic wrap and make them fend for themselves.

Otherwise, it’s easy to inadvertently tear off a leaf when lifting the plastic wrap to water (or to just peek to see if anything’s sprouting.)
Because I keep my house so stinkin’ cold (see frugal nature, above), I’ve learned that I’ve got to give plants a couple of weeks longer than what the seed packets say in order for them to get big enough to transplant.

The Chitzen Itza, Flavorburst and Big Jim hybrid peppers are looking good, as are the lavender and basil plants. Hopefully, I won’t kill anything before it gets planted outside. 


Cover Girl

By Carol Clark
Friday, February 25, 2011

Our own co-worker and fellow blogger, Penny Stine, is featured on the front cover of "Zone 4" magazines spring 2011 edition. Zone 4 is a publication out of Deer Lodge, Montana, and targets gardeners that are in Zone 4 growing areas.

Penny has written several articles for the publication and was invited to send along pictures of herself in her Potager or French-style kitchen garden. You can imagine her surprise when they told her they were going to use her photo on the cover.


Although Penny is a writer, she is fairly new to gardening. This dive-in attitude is why I respect her so much. She never seems to hesitate or be fearful of attempting new projects. I am learning from her continually. Thanks Penny for the inspiration you give us all.



It’s official: Spring is here

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I don't care what the calendar says. I don't care if it does snow again. The first crocus has bloomed, so springtime is here!  it's only a matter of a few weeks before the daffodils and tulips start to bloom. You can see some daffodils poking up behind the crocus, and a columbine has come back to life to the left of the crocus.  

Let's all do a happy spring dance and go plant some more seedlings. 


Grow a peck of peppers

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/cup broth
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.


I hate grass

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.

Any suggestions?

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