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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By Laurena Mayne Davis
Friday, July 16, 2010

GJSentinel.com can bring you the sights and sounds of the garden, but not the aromas.

Until we get our own version of Smell-O-Vision, you’ll just have to imagine what it smells like to walk by and crush in your fingers the leaves of this common mint:

Or Russian sage:

Or whiff the wafting sweetness of honeysuckle:

What do you plant in your garden for aromatherapy?


Super Kale

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gardeners like to talk about what works and what doesn’t, which really helps in overall successful gardening. I learned about kale from a friend of mine who grew it and said it thrived in our hot weather all summer, in spite of its reputation as a cold weather plant. She said it was good in salads, soups, pastas and all sorts of other foods.

So I bought some seeds and planted it for the first time last summer. It came up quickly and gets big enough to eat within a month or two. How cool is that? This year, I planted it in several places throughout my gardens, using it as a border plant and a filler of empty gardening spaces.

It grows in sunshine among the broccoli, dill and potatoes.

Kale in the Sun

It grows in part shade as a border.

It’s a strong, sturdy leaf that’s not very good to munch on out in the garden (unlike pea pods or cherry tomatoes), but I googled recipes and experimented and found several ways to use it. Kale is the nutritional superman of the garden, packing a boatload of minerals and vitamins in every bite.
Here are my favorite ways to use it:

Roasted kale
4 – 6 cups of whole kale leaves
olive oil
garlic powder
red pepper flakes

Wash the kale and cut out the tough stems. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick spray. Spread kale across the pan, toss with olive oil and seasonings. Bake at 350 degrees until the kale is brown and crispy. You may have to turn it so it gets done on both sides.
That’s it. So simple and so yummy.

Kale and tomato salad
4 – 6 cups of torn kale leaves
3 – 4 tomatoes, cut in chunks
1 -2 avocados
red peppers, black olives, yellow peppers, green olives, cucumbers, green onions or anything else that’s in the fridge or garden and looks promising to throw in a salad
feta cheese
olive oil, juice and zest of a lemon, a dash of balsamic vinegar for the dressing, salt & pepper
whatver chopped herbs you’ve got in the garden, especially basil, chives, thyme

When using raw kale in a salad, it’s important to put something acidic (like the tomatoes) in the salad and to put lemon or lime juice in the dressing and let the dressing sit on the salad for 15 minutes before serving. The acidity cuts the natural bite of the kale. Because kale is a thicker leaf, it holds up well without getting wilted in a salad.


The $64 Tomato

By Carol Clark
Monday, July 12, 2010

"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato."
-Lewis Gizzard

Need an entertaining book to read while you wait for those tomatoes to ripen? Want to learn about gardening while laughing out-loud? Read, "The $64 Tomato", by William Alexander.

"How one man nearly lost his sanity, spent a fortune and endured an existential crisis in the quest for the perfect garden."

The $64 Tomato - Book Cover


You may not want to read this book if:

1. You are gardening to save money.

2. You are planning on expanding your garden to include two-thousand square feet.

3. You don't enjoy reading hilarious books.

You can order this book and thousands of others on gardening free from The Mesa County Public Library. Just go online to mcpld.org and click on the search books button and search the Marmot Global system. The library will have the book delivered to the library of your choice for you to pickup when it is available.

The book also has a few recipes. I am just waiting for my first tomatos to ripen to try this one.

Caprese Pasta

Serves 4

30 fresh basil leaves, washed
1 lb medium shells or other pasta
4 or 5 heirloom or other vine-ripened tomatoes, about 2 lbs.
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Go out to the garden or farmstand and pick 4 or 5 of the ripest good-size tomatoes you can find and about 30 leaves of basil. If you have parsley, grab a few springs.

2. Start a large pot of boiling, salted water. Slice each tomato in half across the equator and, over the sink, scoop out most of the seeds with your fingers. Don't worry about getting all of the seeds out. Chop the tomatoes to medium dice and place in a colander for a couple of minutes to drain the excess liquid. Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl. Chop the basil and parsley.

3. Cook the pasta. We use medium shells for this dish, because they hold the thin sauce nicely. While the pasta is cooking, slice the mozzarella into 3/8" cubes. Grate the Romano.

4. Smash a clove of garlic and saute very gently in 1/4 cup of olive oil over low heat. Take care not to brown the garlic. Remove the garlic and add the warm oil to the tomatoes. Add the basil and toss.

5. When your pasta is almost cooked, season tomatoes with a pinch or two of kosher salt and pepper. (If you add the salt too soon, the tomatoes will render too much juice.)

6. When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain quickly (do not rinse) and return to pot, off the heat. Add the tomato mixture and mozzarella. Mix well and cover tightly. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir again. The heat of the pasta should have partially melted the mozzarella. Spoon into pasta bowls. Sprinkle with parsly and half of the Romano over top and serve with remainder of Romano.


Piper flowers

By Laurena Mayne Davis
Monday, July 12, 2010

There are no pampered rose beds or prize dahlias in my garden. Someday there may be, but now my limited free time is spent raising food. With three growing kids, we need all the fresh fruits and vegetables we can get.

Because any flowers must survive without much of my involvement, those that do are a hardy, common crew. Nothing exotic about a bachelor button, trumpet vine or hollyhock. Yet I have my daughter Piper to thank for opening my eyes to how truly lovely these humble blooms can be.

Piper, now 12, has been interested in photography since she could hold a camera. For the past year she has been doing a photo study of macro shots of flowers. She’s learned that lighting is all-important, and that the tiniest insect or raindrop can add drama.

And I’ve learned that making time to weed flowers has a reward all its own.

Here are some of Piper’s flowers:

      Bachelor Button





                                                                      Trumpet vine



Editor's note:  These photos are beautiful!  Have a favorite? 

Mine is the zinnia.


A gardening happy ending

By Melinda Mawdsley
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Gardening is full of humbling failures.

This is not one of those stories.

This entry is about my amazing basil.

Earlier in the spring, my editor put basil seeds on a table for everyone to share.

I know enough to know there are many different types of basil. However, I also know that I like basil.

I took some seeds, and I'm proud to say, they grew!

Point is, I knew nothing about the seeds, but I gave the seeds good soil, plenty of water and moved them in and out of the sun when they were little.

I have learned the value in sharing seeds with people.

Now? I expanded my palate after I sauteed my vegetables in oil and lemon basil the other night.

(I'm pretty sure it's lemon basil because it smells and tastes like lemon.)

Page 114 of 119


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