Sunday, December 21, 2014

Things I May Try in 2015


I have been thinking of some things I may want to do differently in the garden in 2015. I use the word “may” because I reserve the right to bail out on any or all of this. This is not my New Year’s resolution list.


Purchase Onion Plants

The last three years I have been growing storage onions  in my garden. I use seedlings because the results are much better than sets. After all, alliums are biennial and there is a risk with sets that the plants will bolt, plus you are severely limited in your choice of onion varieties. Starting onions from seeds is really not hard. They take a while to germinate and here you have to start them in February, but they do well in cool conditions (the definition of conditions in my house in February with $4 heating oil). But I did manage to do a bad job last year. Trying to plant black seed in black potting mix is difficult, so I just sprinkled the whole packet in a 4” pot. The seedlings were crowded and too difficult to thin, resulting in weak transplants, many of which died from transplant shock.


This year, I am going to try using purchased onion transplants, at least for the yellow and red storage onions. I will still have to start seed for the shallots and specialty onions This is an expensive  proposition, about twice as expensive as purchasing seeds and starting you own. What I am hoping to achieve is a much higher (more and bigger bulbs) and more reliable yield from the same garden space because I will be planting robust and healthy transplants grown by professionals. A lot of seed vendors sell onion plants and most seem to be grown and shipped  by suppliers in Texas (Dixondale Farms being one of the most prominent). And most of those seed vendors get about $15-16 for a bunch of 50-70 plants. Fortunately, Pinetree Seeds in Maine sells two bunches for $15.49 and you can mix and match. So, one bunch of Copra and one of Red Zeppelin for me. One of the many reasons I really like Pinetree.


Total War on Cucumber (and Flea) Beetles

OK, I have had it. This year, once again, my cucumbers were decimated by bacterial wilt spread by cucumber beetles. These pests feed on the leaves of cucumbers and their larvae feed on the roots. The leaf damage is not that bad, and cucumber plants can usually recover. What is worse is the beetles carry bacterial wilt disease in their guts and spread it to the plants. Once infected, the plant wilts and dies in just a couple of days. The little buggers are small and fast, and they like to hang out inside the flowers, so they are difficult to hand pick.


So in 2015 I am going to try using Surround for the cucumbers and eggplant, spread DT on the soil around the plants, and spray weekly with an organic spray like pyrethrin or Spinosad (I usually alternate these). Surround is an interesting material and it will be a challenge to use it. Surround is a finely ground kaolin clay produced in a magnetic centrifuge in Georgia by one company. It’s a patented process using fancy and expensive equipment, so the product is fairly pricey. Both Johnny’s and Fedco carry it, but Fedco is about $5 cheaper for a 25 pound bag. Shipping is another matter so I may try to find a local source.


The way Surround is used is a slurry is made with water and the plants are either dipped in it before transplanting, or you use a sprayer to apply it. I will probably try dipping the transplants and then use a sprayer to cover new foliage and touch up spots that are washed off. The film left by the clay apparently doesn’t affect the plant and transmits light. There are various theories on how it works, such as the beetles don’t see the plants, they don’t like the feel of it, they spend their time cleaning their little feet rather than feeding, but it apparently does work and is used by commercial growers. An option is to mix a pyrethrin with the clay slurry when applying, but there is no evidence that improves effectiveness.


Row cover for Brassicas and Eggplant

Obviously, row cover for brassicas, eggplant and squash makes a lot of sense, given  the plethora of pests they face. I have used squares of the stuff in my square foot garden, supported by arches of plastic tubing. Last year I had access to one of the unused plots in our community garden and reverted back to traditional, in-ground row gardening. I may have that privilege again and want to try planting brassicas and eggplant in-ground, so a row covering makes sense.


I ran across an article on the Grow Abundant Gardens blog with a nifty way to implement a floating row cover. Turns out Johnny’s sells a 10 foot wide Agribon AG-19 in rolls. This is wide enough that if you use, say, 10 foot sections of 1/2 inch plastic conduit as supports, you can create a tunnel high enough to grow broccoli, Brussels sprouts, eggplant and summer bush squash under it. The row cover helps with cool Spring weather for the eggplant and squash and repels the nasties for anything you plant under it. I’m going to give this a try.


Grow Peas on a Trellis

I am getting tired of the results achieved from my patented technique for growing snow and snap peas in a block. I have tried to select varieties that are short vined, such as Oregon Sugar Pod II. I plant them in a block surrounded by a low fence and hope they support each other as they grow. Good theory, but in practice they usually grow taller than the catalog claims and flop over. I get a big mess and it is hard to find the peas to harvest them


So next year I am going to try growing them on a trellis. In fact, they are going to get the 8 foot trellis I grew the Musica beans on. I think I will select a tall variety like Green Beauty from Fedco, which is supposed to grow to 8 foot and produce heavily. Instead of an occasional handful for a stir fry, I envision bags and bags of snow peas in the freezer next summer.



This is a topic somewhat new to me and big enough that I may save it for another post. Obviously, if we are eating our own garden produce, we want food that is “nutrient dense” and healthful. That’s why we garden. A key to producing nutrient dense food is having garden soil that has the right mix of macro and micro nutrients. According to Mel Bartholomew, all you need is a trowel full of “perfect” compost per square to produce healthful food. Of course, no one can define what “perfect” compost is and even Mel himself has admitted that sometimes supplements help. For example, he acknowledges that broccoli and beets are boron dependent and supplying a boron boost can increase productivity and eliminate hollow stems. I will write more later but mineralization will get increased attention from me in 2015.


Tomato choices

As I have said, I had access to an extra plot in the community garden and planted a double row of tomatoes. I am more careful what I plant in my square foot garden because of its limited space. So I took advantage of the additional space and planted some heirlooms. I planted four Brandywine, four Pineapple, and a Cherokee Purple, all heirlooms. At first, results were great and I got a heavy set of fruit, but they took their good old time ripening. Unfortunately, by late summer, most of the fruit cracked and anthracnose rot infected the cracks before the fruits ripened. I lost a large amount of fruit because of that. So next year I will put a bigger emphasis on selecting full size tomatoes that are more crack resistant. It doesn’t matter what the flavor is if the fruit rots before you can eat it.




Friday, December 5, 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey

The last few weeks have been pretty hectic for me. The garden is mostly crispy critters so there have been no harvests to report, unless you want me to report my failure to completely finish tidying it up before cold weather. I figure that’s what early spring days are for. Also, my daughter travelled home for American Thanksgiving, but a week early. Since Dad is supposed to pick up the airfare, a week early meant tickets half the price of Thanksgiving week, so fine with with me. And since Kate has to approve the menu, I was happy when she approved trying to smoke a turkey in my new smoker.


I got the idea from Meathead Goldwyn’s website, Amazing Ribs. I have always liked smoked turkey. We used to order a corn cob and maple smoked ham and smoked turkey breast from Harrington’s in Vermont every year. The difference in this case was the turkey would be fresh and not cured. The idea of smoking the turkey was attractive, since it would free up the oven for other things.




I purchased a 16 pound fresh turkey and prepped it Meathead’s way by removing skin flaps top and bottom and the tail and wing tips. In the cavity I placed the peel of an orange, some garlic cloves, half an onion, celery leaves, and some fresh sage leaves. The turkey is not trussed so you get good air flow around and through the entire bird. It was not brined but was sprinkled with kosher salt before putting it in the smoker.




The  giblets (minus the liver), the skin, tail, wing tips and excess fat were placed in a disposable aluminum pan that functions as the drip pan and water bath for the smoker. I also added an onion, a carrot, a celery stalk with leaves, fresh sage and thyme to the pan, then poured in a quart carton of turkey stock.





The turkey was placed in the center of the smoker with the drip pan below it. The drip pan keeps the turkey moist, regulates the temperature, and catches the turkey drippings. It also becomes the base for the gravy when the turkey is finished, so that frees up a burner on the stove usually devoted to making stock for the gravy.




The turkey is smoked at 325 °F for 3-3.5 hours, about the same as an oven, so this is a hot smoke. Turkey doesn’t have all the collagen of pork or beef so there is no need to go “low and slow” to break down the collagen. I went light on the smoke with just a small handful of apple wood chips used at the beginning of the smoke. Temperatures were monitored with a Maverick remote  temperature probe, one in the breast of the turkey set for a 165 °F alarm, and one clipped to the rack under the turkey to monitor smoker temperature.


The day was cool, about 40 °F, but very blustery. The temperature was not a problem but the wind made it very challenging. I had the propane control on high the whole time. The smoker is dual fuel and I had fortunately added a generous amount of lump charcoal to the charcoal tray. Even with the two heat sources, I had wild fluctuations in the smoker temperature with wind gusts, up and down 20-30 degrees at a time. The alarms from the Maverick were driving me crazy at times.




So with things hellsapoppin inside preparing all the sides, when it came time to bring the turkey inside, I forgot I was supposed to photograph the event. Here’s the turkey after I already carve one side of it. It was a beautiful color and the aroma was fantastic. The light apple wood smoke was perfect and not too strong. The skin was crispy and the meat was still very moist. Everyone really enjoyed it and I may do it again next year.




The drip pan was drained into a saucepan to turn the juices into gravy and the disposable pan was just tossed in the trash (actually it was cleaned and tossed into the recycle bin). It made a terrific gravy. This was a great way to do the turkey. The only cleanup was the rack the turkey sat on in the smoker. No roaster pan to wash.


Hope you had a great Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it. While everyone was running around shopping Thanksgiving week and cooking on Thursday, we were finishing off leftovers. And Kate got her flight out on Tuesday, just before the usual Wednesday snow storm that fouls up all east coast travel on the busiest travel day of the year. Thanksgiving day we went to the movies and then grilled some nice steaks for dinner. A very pleasant two weeks.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Harvest Monday 10 November 2014



The weather is still pretty mild for this time of year. We have had some cold nights near freezing and most things in the garden show it.My garlic is planted and I am doing the final cleanup of the beds. When pulling the last of the pepper plants from this bed, I noticed these carrots have finally germinated. I planted 10 squares of these at the end of July, after pulling the onions. So that is almost 3 months to germinate, and now winter is just about here. I doubt these get big enough before the beds freeze solid. They may or may not survive the winter, depending on how bad it is and how much snow cover we have.




There are still greens in the garden. Above I cut some kale, endive, escarole, parsley and pulled a few small watermelon radishes. The escarole seems to be the least cold tolerant of these and is showing some effects of the cold nights. I have been particularly enjoying the endive, dressed with a warm bacon fat/vinegar dressing, crumbled bacon and gorgonzola.





My other harvest last week was not of my own doing. After thinking about it for a year or two, I decided to try a share in the Cape Ann Fresh Catch CSF – Community Supported Fishery. It is like a CSA but for fish. Every Friday for 8 weeks I get two pounds of fish filets delivered to a local orchard in Bolton for pickup. You can’t get more convenient than that and you can’t get fresher fish unless you land them yourself. Above is this week’s delivery, Yellowtail flounder from the F/V Sabrina Marie out of Gloucester. For us, that is a lot of fish and made three meals.


That’s the harvest from my garden. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Harvest Monday 27 October 2014




There is not much left in the garden except some hardy greens and a few broccoli sprouts. I am still cleaning up the beds and getting them ready for winter. I planted the garlic last week since we were looking at a series of rainy days and I wanted them in before the deluge. Not much rain actually happened and we are having an amazingly mild fall. Weather this week is supposed to be mostly sunny with temperatures ranging 50- 60s °F/10-15 °C.




I spent a cloudy and blustery Sunday afternoon at Nashoba Valley Winery for their Oktoberfest/Blue Grass Festival. The band was Southern Rail and they are very good. It was a sell-out crowd but luckily I got there early enough for a good seat. And fortunately the crowds left me a clear path back to the beer tent and the pulled pork booth. Besides the winery, Nashoba Valley also runs a microbrewery and a distillery, so there was plenty of spirits of every kind and I tried several of their microbrews.


That is all from my garden. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing in their gardens, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Garlic Planting 2014

It’s time to plant the garlic. This year I am ahead of myself. It’s only mid-October and I actually got it all planted. A couple of days ago I prepped the beds, pulling summer plants and weeds, then adding compost and fertilizer. This year I added a lot of organic compost (McEnroe’s, since I am out of my own). I also added rock phosphate, bone meal, and a general organic fertilizer (Tomato Tone, since I have a large bag of it).




The bed above  was home to the bush beans this year, plus a row of cucumbers, so hopefully the beans helped fix some nitrogen in the soil. The amendments were blended in and the bed smoothed out. You can see the square foot markings I made to guide planting. This 4x4 foot bed has sixteen squares. I will be planting a row of four squares of four types of garlic.




I am using a spacing of 4 cloves per square this year, hoping to maximize bulb size. That gives a spacing of 6 inches in each direction. The official recommendation is 9 per square but I think that is going to affect size. I have used 5 and 6 in the past but this year I am going with 4 per square and hoping for large heads of garlic. Anyway, 64 heads from this bed is already a lot of garlic.




First in the ground, above, was the German Red rocambole garlic I bought last month at the Mount Desert Island Garlic Festival in Southwest Harbor. It was grown by Goosefooté Garlic in Irasburg, Vermont, who made the long trek to MDI for the festival. The heads were enormous with just four huge cloves per head. I purchased four heads so I had enough to plant four squares. Forget the dibble, you need a post hole digger to plant this garlic.




Next was another new garlic, Duganski, a purple stripe from Territorial. For planting I selected the best looking and largest of the cloves from the four heads I received. I documented before why I was not real happy with this shipment of garlic.The sheaths of a lot of the cloves were also loose, as you can see on the bottom cloves in the photo above. Anyway, I found enough decent cloves to plant my 4 squares and I hope the results are good.




Next was German Extra Hardy, my own seed garlic from this year. Last year I was disappointed at planting time that the heads I set aside were soft and the cloves were turning yellow. This year the seed garlic I set aside was fine and the cloves were firm.  Last year I had to discard enough cloves I only had enough for 3 squares, but this year I succeeded in planting 4  squares. So hopefully last year was an anomaly. I thought the bulbs I harvested this year were smaller but in separating cloves for planting, the individual cloves are quite large, so I am hoping for big heads next summer.




Finally for this bed, I put in my own Chesnok Red seed garlic, another purple stripe. This garlic has grown well for me and also keeps well. I think, again, that heads were a little smaller this year  than the year before, but it’s a new year and I have great expectations from this one.




After planting the garlic, I mulched the bed with chopped straw. I really like this material, made for landscapers for seeded lawns. The brand I used here is called Mulch Master. The straw is chopped so individual pieces are small, making it easy to spread around under existing plants. It is heat sterilized to kill weed seeds and I have never had a problem with weeds using it. It is light, doesn’t mat up and it quickly decomposes by the end of the season. The mulch will help protect the garlic cloves from heaving this winter when the beds go through all the freeze/thaw cycles.




Finally, I headed home with all the unused cloves from my seed garlic, planning to freeze or dry the unused cloves. What a surprise when I started removing the skins from some of the cloves. I believe the garlic cloves above were from the Duganski heads. All  of these were promptly discarded, while a few with one or two small spots were used after the spots were removed. Trying to figure out what these spots were, all I can come up with is these cloves are infected with Fusarium, also known as garlic basal rot. Notice that the color of the cloves is also yellowish when they should be white. Nice. So I just planted a row of diseased garlic in my bed, and that does not make me happy. Anyone have another, more hopeful, opinion on what these spots are?


Here is another question for those more experienced with garlic than I. Can you/do you plant garlic cloves without their sheaths? A lot of the sheaths were loose on some of the garlic, or were stuck to the neighboring clove and stripped when I separated the cloves. Those I took home to use. But in addition, if you want to avoid planting diseased cloves like those above, you have to remove the skins to see if the clove inside is healthy. I did not know these were affected or I would certainly not have planted them. Anyway, I am hoping for the best but moderating my expectations.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Harvest Monday 20 October 2014




Harvests are getting slimmer and after a couple of nights near freezing, will be even more so. I picked a nice head of endive, although not blanched as well as I would like. I have more of that and escarole still in the garden and it if slightly frost tolerant. The Swiss chard is recovering from a case of Cercospora leaf spot and I am starting to get some useable leaves. It is amazing how the color of the Magenta Sunset chard has deepened with the arrival of cooler weather. This is the chard that knocked me over when I saw it in the demonstration kitchen garden at Tower Hill. Unfortunately chard doesn’t do well in freezing weather because if its high water content.




The pepper plants have dropped most of their leaves and with possible freezing temperatures arriving, I decided to pick all of the remaining peppers, resulting in this haul. At least I managed to get a few more of the Carmen peppers to ripen. I now have a large batch of them to try roasting this week. I have to figure out what to do with the rest of the peppers. I will dehydrate some of them and maybe a pepper relish for the rest.



I did find some yellow banana peppers at the store to add to my Trinidad Spice peppers for a batch of hot sauce using Dave’s recipe. I also threw in a small Poblano, an orange Habanero, and a Shishito. The result is actually green not yellow and is still fermenting. It smells nice, not too hot.


That is what I harvested last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Harvest Monday 13 October 2014

Not much is left to harvest except some of the Fall greens. We have had overnight temperatures in the low 40s °F (4 °C) which is shutting down most of the warm weather crops even without a frost or freeze. And given our latitude, the days are shortening and the sun is lower in the sky, so by afternoon it is below the woods to the west of the garden, casting the garden into shade. With these conditions, you can’t really expect to get anything growing at this time of year. Any fall crops you want to grow will have to be started and in the ground by at least August, when it is hot and dry, if you hope to have a Fall crop.




That said, above is what I managed to salvage from the garden. The bell pepper gave me enough to do a batch of stuffed peppers. The cilantro is a second growth from volunteer seeds, always nice to have. If I had planted seeds I guarantee they would refuse to germinate. All my parsley which poked along during this dry summer has perked up and is loving the cool weather. And all of the Trinidad Spice/Perfume peppers ripened so I picked all of them. I now have enough to try making a batch of fermented “hot” sauce. If I can find some yellow Hungarian wax peppers, I will include them, the small Poblano above, plus perhaps a single orange Habanero pepper, to make a yellow semi-hot sauce.


Garden cleanup continues. Next week the garlic gets planted, after a fairly heavy Saturday rain. The main bed for them is cleared but needs to be composted and fertilized.


That is what I rescued from my garden this week. To see what gardeners around the world are doing, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Harvest Monday 6 October 2014

Last week I started the garden clean up process. I decided time to pull the bush beans because I need that bed for planting garlic. Turns out the beans are not ready to give up just yet. The Provider beans were kaput but I got a good picking from Jade which provided a meal for us that night. In addition I got an even bigger pile from the pole beans. The Musica beans were still cranking, although the cold nights are finally shutting them down. I got a few more Gold Marie beans but they are now finished and many of the pods have been damaged by some pest feeding on them. Surprisingly, the Violetto beans are putting on growth and flowering for a third time. If I just had a longer growing season, they would be a very productive bean.




I am puzzled by the pest that is feeding on the beans. I was expecting to find some green stink bugs, which like to drill into the pods, but so far have not found any. I did spot a couple of small, narrow black insects crawling around the Musica beans, which also have suffered some damage. Unfortunately, they had vanished by the time I fetched my camera. These things were not bug shaped nor beetle shaped. The body was sort of wasp shaped but with no apparent wings. The body was black with no apparent markings. They did not look like tarnished plant bugs. I have checked photos of bean pests online and have not found a match. I hope I can get a photo of them because I would like to know what I am dealing with.




Next up was pulling the tomato plants. I got a lot of green tomatoes for the effort and made a batch of refrigerator pickled green tomatoes. When pulling the tomatoes out of the raised beds, I had to be careful not to damage the peppers in the next row. Because of the loose, friable soil in the beds, the tomato roots like to roam the neighborhood and make themselves at home. Next year I have to reconsider what I put in the squares next  to the tomatoes. I may go back to planting shallower rooted plants like the onions in those squares.




The plant above is a Sunkist tomato from a raised bed. You can see the length of some of the roots. Most of the very longest roots seem to have grown from the top of the root ball at the base of the stem. This pretty well illustrates the advantage of planting the tomatoes deep enough to bury some of the stem. And of course, the beds are only 8 inches deep so going down is not an option.




Next I pulled the tomatoes that were planted in-ground in my extra garden plot. Those tomatoes did very well this year compared to the plants in the raised beds, and despite fairly poor soil. So I was curious to see what their root structures looked like. The two plants above are Brandywine and the root balls are probably about the same size as the Sunkist but without the really long roots. Apparently the roots found everything the plants needed in their own backyard and didn’t have to go roaming. At this point I realized I should have photographed the Sunkist and Brandywine root balls side by side, but the Sunkist was already buried deep in a trash bag of tomato plants and rotten tomatoes and I was not putting my hand in there.




The Carmen peppers have finally started to ripen. I got a large set of fruit on the two plants in the in-ground garden but they were taking their good old time ripening. How do you tell a pepper the clock is ticking and frost is on the way? I also picked some more Trinidad Spice peppers and have another five on the plant in various stages of ripening. 




I tried to harvest a single head of escarole from the August planting and wound up with two. Since I planted them farther apart than usual, they have kind of flopped on the ground so the leaves are entirely green. The first one I tried was kind of tough. I need to tie them up into heads so the center of the head blanches. Amazingly there was not a single spot of slug or earwig damage to these heads.


That’s what came from my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting from their gardens, check out Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Harvest Monday 29 September 2014

We have had fairly mild weather for this time of year, with overnight lows in the 50s. No frost warnings. Nothing happened at the house. That is why I was surprised to see all the black, withered foliage in the garden when I visited last week. The basil, bush beans and some of the peppers were gone. Other plants looked just fine. This was just an example of how much the climate can vary in just 2 miles (and a 100 foot decrease in elevation). Cold air apparently slides down hill and valleys can have frost while hillsides do not. But there are no hills around the gardens, so I can’t really explain it. Frost happens.




The Trinidad peppers in the raised beds are black and were pulled and put in the compost piles. But this Trinidad planted in-ground looks just fine and has 7 or 8 peppers ripening. I have a couple of Carmen peppers loaded with green fruit just starting to ripen and a Revolution bell with 3-4 small peppers. All I need is another week or two so I am hoping a frost or hard freeze holds off.




The tomatoes are finished, except for this Esterina yellow cherry tomato. I tried Esterina this year in place of Sungold because Esterina was supposed to be more crack resistant than Sungold. The flavor is good, not quite as candy sweet as Sungold but with a good tomato flavor. For the most part it was crack resistant, until a few weeks ago when we got a large amount of rain after a long dry spell. But look at the amount of fruit still on the vine, long after the last Juliet and Chocolate Pear were plucked off their vines. I am not sure these will all ripen in time. Anyone got a suggestion for green cherry tomatoes in case? Maybe they just go in the refrigerator pickle crock.




The last of the Pineapple tomatoes were harvested and I got a few decent slicers which we have been enjoying. The squash vines were pulled and the cucumbers are dead but will take some time to remove from the trellis netting. The pole beans are on their last legs, producing a few beans here and there. Musica is still trying to pump out beans but not for long. The summer vegetables are finished but at least some of my fall vegetables have survived the dry weather and are starting to enjoy the cooler weather.


That’s what little came from my garden last week. To see what gardeners around the world are harvesting, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Preparing Garlic Beds



We are coming up on garlic planting season, around here mid-October to early November. Most of my garlic seed is going into a bed currently occupied by the bush beans. Up until this week the bush beans were showing a second burst of production and I did not want to pull them yet, then things changed suddenly. While I did not expect and did not have a frost around my house, there apparently was one in the community garden this week, just 2 miles away, and the beans are now black while the pole beans struggle on. So I can now pull the beans and get on with preparing my garlic bed.


I have a general idea what I need to do but it was very timely that this week’s Vegetable Notes from the UMass Extension (available here) had advice on preparations for planting garlic. I guess I am not the only one doing it. These preparations are important to getting a good garlic harvest next summer. Here is a summary of what I know from experience and what I gleaned form the newsletter. This advice applies to New England and probably Canada but can be modified for other areas of the US other than the deep South.


  1. 1. Select healthy, disease-free seed garlic, either from your own harvest from this summer or from reputable growers who certify their garlic to be disease free. While we kind of think of garlic as being relatively trouble free, there are a number of diseases and pests that affect garlic and once introduced into your beds, can be hard to impossible to eliminate. In fact, the newsletter talks of a new pest in NE garlic fields, the garlic bloat nematode, which is spread by transport on seed garlic. That is why it is important to inspect each bulb and select only firm, healthy bulbs. Then when cracking the bulbs into cloves (which should only be done shortly before planting), carefully inspect each clove. Look for unhealthy-looking basal ends, discoloration, any dents or lesions, and cloves that seem lighter than normal. Discard these cloves in the trash, not the compost bin.


2. Select a bed that did not have alliums in it this year (they suggest a 4 year rotation) and prepare it. Garlic likes a light, well-drained soil with good fertility. Before planting, add a general purpose organic fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Commercial farmers test their soil and add only what is needed. I doubt any of us home gardeners do that, but the advice stands. For the Fall, use fertilizer types that will release nutrients slowly over the fall and winter (e.g., use alfalfa meal for N rather than blood meal). Reserve the quick-release nitrogen fertilizers for the Spring side dressing. The newsletter also notes there is some research that shows adding sulfur with the Fall nitrogen application can significantly increase yield.




3. Plant the garlic in the prepared beds in October in northern parts of NE to November for southern New England.  For me, I aim for sometime in the last 2 weeks of October. Garlic, just like tulips, requires a period of cold treatment to grow properly. The goal is to plant early enough to allow roots to develop before the ground freezes, but late enough to avoid sprouts from emerging and being damaged by freezing.


4. Each clove is planted 2-4 inches deep depending on the severity of your winters. I probably plant mine 2-3 inches deep. Since I use Square Foot Gardening techniques, I think in squares, not rows. For the larger garlics like German Red and Spanish Roja, I plant 4 per square, which is effectively 6 inch spacing. For the others I plant 5 or 6 per square.


5 You can mulch the garlic after planting. I use about an inch of chopped straw, which helps a bit with cold protection, moisture retention, and weed control. I don’t remove it in the Spring but if you are going to bury your beds in a foot of leaves, you need to remove them in the Spring to allow the beds to warm up and the sprouts to emerge.


6. When the foliage is about 6 inches tall in the spring, side dress the plants with a quick release nitrogen fertilizer. Follow up in 3-4 weeks with another dressing of nitrogen. After this, do not fertilize the garlic again. Do not water the garlic as you approach harvest time to ensure the wrappers are as dry as possible when you dig the garlic.


Thanks to an unforeseen early frost, my designated bed for the garlic is now available. All I have to do is clean it up, add some compost, and then apply some fertilizer. It will be nice to have the garlic in the ground and tick another item off the to-do list. And thanks to the UMass Extension, I have an even clearer picture of what I need to do to help ensure a good crop in 2015. Add to that I am planting 2 new varieties this Fall (Duganski and German Red) and I am pretty optimistic. While you have to exercise a little caution, garlic is still relatively easy to grow and has a huge payoff relative to effort invested.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Harvest Monday 22 September 2014



Last Monday I checked on the garden after being away for a week and found this guy watching over the garden. He looks well fed, doesn’t he? Of course, he is in the tomato patch when I could really use some help over in the brassicas, where some late and hungry cabbage caterpillars are shredding my collards and kale.




It is dangerous to leave the summer squash and cucumbers to themselves for a week, but fortunately they have slowed down with the cool nights and the PM. I did find a fire hydrant sized zucchini which went right into the compost bin.




The Bay Meadows broccoli is finally producing some side shoots.




The long red peppers are Carmen and are 8 inches long. That gives you an idea how big the Revolution bell pepper is. It is pretty rare for me to get a pepper that size. The small yellow Habanero-shaped peppers are the Trinidad Spice peppers.




The fall planting of root vegetables are starting to yield a few bulbs, including a golden beet overlooked by the rabbit.




I am a bit weary of beans but the beans have not given up yet. A lot of these went into a pot of stewed beans and tomatoes and the nicer ones went into the dehydrator. I rehydrated a few of the dried beans and I am not sure I like them. The idea was I could use them in a dried soup mix along with squash, turnips, carrots and other vegetables. Does anyone do this?




I finally had time to try drying garlic. The pile of cloves above were just from the Rossa di Sulmona garlic. I acquired the Zyliss garlic slicer that Dave has recommended and it worked very well. The tubular silicone rubber garlic peeler (mine is an Oxo) sort of worked but the garlic cloves are still moist and the skins are still pliable, so over half the cloves had to be peeled by hand. The result was great. The dried garlic is still very pungent and I can now make garlic powder in my spice blender (a dedicated Krups coffee grinder I got on sale) whenever I need it.


That’s what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Trinidad Spice Pepper

I am generally not a big fan of hot peppers. I grow a Jalapeño or two every year so I have some to throw in salsas and a few other dishes like stewed beans and tomatoes. And I keep some dried red chilies for Chinese dishes and some red pepper flakes from Korea for kimchee. I hear all the hype about habaneros and have a feeling that I am missing out on something. That is why is was intrigued when I ran across a category of peppers called “spice peppers” in the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog. They include the usual Hungarian Paprika pepper in  their spice pepper collection, but they also offer two South American varieties of C. chinense called Aji Dulce (literally “sweet pepper”) and Trinidad Spice. Both are described as habanero-type peppers with all the fragrance and flavor but without the heat. Sounds like just what I need, so I bought seeds of both. Unfortunately, I killed the Aji Dulce starts so this year there was only Trinidad Spice in the garden.




SESE describes the Trinidad Spice as “a spice pepper with the flavor of a Habanero but with only a trace of heat in the seeds. Tall, bushy plants with light green foliage with 1" x 1½" bright yellow peppers.” They are not to be confused with the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T or the Trinidad Maruga Scorpion peppers, which are hotter than Bhut Jolokia and are absolutely lethal. Unfortunately the two plants in the raised beds have just sat there and have not even flowered yet. The single plant in-ground is now a nice bushy plant about two feet tall, despite wrestling for space with the huge zucchini next door. The flowers appear under the foliage canopy and seem to come out of the axes where leaves grow from the branches. The peppers, about 1.5 inches long, are shaped like a habanero and start off light green and ripen to a bright yellow.




So now in the name of science I have to taste these things. To be absolutely sure there is a great distance between these peppers and the Trinidad Scorpions, I did another search and found a description of these peppers on, where else,  They describe three types of mild or sweet habaneros: Aji Dulce, Venezuelan Sweet, and Trinidad Perfume. The Trinidad Perfume is described as “a mild chili pepper with very little to no heat. It is a habanero type and produces pods similar to a typical orange habanero pepper, about 1 to 1.5 inches in length and 1.25 inches wide. They mature from green to a bright yellow color. When cooked, they give off a perfume-like scent, hence the name. In flavor, they have a mild citrus-like taste, similar to a habanero, but with smoky undertones.” That seems to match what I am growing, so this is another name for Trinidad Spice. Sure sounds good! So I went ahead and tasted one, first raw, then sautéed in a little grape seed oil.  They do indeed have a citrus scent and a citrusy, fruity taste, almost orange like, whether raw or cooked. I also tried the membrane and seeds and no part of these peppers is hot. It will be interesting to try these in some actual dishes.


I am really disappointed I did not get to try the Aji Dulce peppers this year.  They are a key ingredient in many of the Caribbean and South American cuisines that don’t use a lot of hot peppers (Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba). In fact, the Puerto Rican version of sofrito specifically uses the Aji Dulce peppers. The SESE catalog describes them this way: “Aji Dulce has the same shape, size, color and aroma of Habanero, but is sweet, spicy, and delicious, with only a trace of heat. The fruits are highly aromatic and the flavor is unusual and complex, with overtones of black pepper and coriander, and undertones of other spicy flavors.” They are Habanero shaped, 1-2 inches long, and mature from green to orange to red. They also require a long growing season, quoted as 115 days, starting off slowly and growing rapidly later in the season (around here that’s usually a couple of weeks before first frost). In South America they are grown as perennials (wish I could do that).


Interestingly, the University of Massachusetts Extension has actually done research on Aji Dulce, which they describe as growing well in Massachusetts, although most peppers in the markets are imported. Maybe I can find some in some Spanish markets here. The key finding from their research (not really surprising given its 115 days to maturity) is that the C. Chinense peppers need to be started indoors at least three weeks before the typical date for C. annum. That means starting seeds in late February, keeping them under lights and potting up when necessary so you have large, vigorous plants at plant out time in June. And I have an extra three weeks to kill them. The other fact from the study is that most Aji Dulce seed from the Caribbean is infected with the Pepper Mild Mosaic Virus (PMMoV). The SESE catalog says it sourced its seed from Donna Hudson in Tennessee, but since my starts died, I have no idea if they are contaminated. The Trinidad Spice definitely are healthy.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Garlics For The Garden

Last week we took off for a week in Maine (Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park). It was a Sunday to Sunday trip so I missed a few Harvest Mondays and indeed, had nothing to show anyway. In a way the timing was fortunate, since I got to visit the 16th annual MDI Garlic Festival in Southwest Harbor. The festival included a farmers’ market, a number of garlic vendors, food vendors, live music, and a canine agility course. We sampled the beef brisket, the pulled pork, the chili, and a roasted garlic brownie (that the wife pronounced to be horrible).


The first garlic vendor I encountered was Goosefooté Garlic from Irasburg, Vermont. They are way up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, off I-91 just south of the Canadian border. It was quite a drive for them to get to MDI but I am glad they came. They had a mountain of garlic piled on a table, all of it just one variety, German Red. It is a Rocambole garlic from Germany discovered on an old farm in Idaho. The bulbs were huge, with just four cloves per 2-3 ounce head. I was hooked immediately and picked out four of the largest heads for planting this fall. The largest head I purchased weighed 2.9 ounces.This is apparently how Margaret buys her seed garlic, from garlic festivals, and it is indeed nice to be able to look at the various varieties, talk to the growers about them, and then pick out your own heads. And for less than a third the price of mail order garlic.




When we got home, I found another surprise in my mail box – the Duganski garlic I ordered from Territorial. I bought Spanish Roja garlic from them last year and was pleased with both the seed garlic I received and the heads I grew this year. They were by far my most successful garlic in a weird garlic season. I am not so sure I am pleased with the Duganski seed garlic I received. I ordered a little late, so maybe I got the bottom of the barrel.




Duganski is a marble purple stripe garlic from Kazakhstan with large bulbs and an initial fiery flavor and a mellow aftertaste. It produces large bulbs that are supposed to keep fairly well for a hard neck. The seed garlic I received looks like it was dug too late. The necks are curved and it almost looks like the garlic foliage was starting to fall over. The cloves are starting to separate and the wrappers are loose. You can even see on some of the cloves that the skins are cracked and the clove is exposed. Does the grower of this stuff actually know how to grow garlic? Heads like this will not keep very long. I’m hoping it holds until planting time in late October.


With the acquisition of these two new garlics, I decided not to bother trying to acclimate the Sulmona and Viola Francese garlics to my garden and they are now in the dehydrator, all of them. They will be replaced with the two new garlics, and I will be replanting the German Extra Hardy, Red Chesnok, and Spanish Roja for a total of five garlics again. The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a cold, snowy winter for New England so we will see how these different garlics perform.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Harvest Monday 1 September 2014


Still lots of squash and tomatoes from the garden, but at least the beans have slowed down. The food pantry was closed Saturday for the holiday so the kitchen counters are crowded and my refrigerator is temporarily stuffed with the excess.




I finally got a couple of the Crystal Apple cucumbers to reach size. They are shown above next to the slightly larger Richmond Green Apple cucumber. They are a little fuzzy and have white spines compared to the black spines on the Richmond. Taste and texture is similar for both. They are both juicy and crunchy and if not picked too big, don’t need the skin peeled. You can eat them like an apple or slice them for salads.




An assortment of vegetables, including more of the Bay Meadows broccoli and a nice Summer Dance cucumber. I only showed a sample of the four types of beans I picked.




More squash, cucumbers and a Revolution bell pepper. That pepper has lived up to is reputation of being a good producer of bell peppers in the north. For the last few years I have avoided bell peppers because of their poor yield and grown only smaller peppers like Lipstick and now Carmen that are productive and ripen quickly.




Some of the tomato glut. The large, good looking tomato on the right is a Cherokee Purple, so not all of them are completely ugly.




Another sampling of tomatoes, most of these are Brandywine and Pineapple heirlooms. The weird one at the bottom is actually two tomatoes that set on the stem opposite each other and were pressed together as they grew.


That’s all from the garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Template developed by Confluent Forms LLC