Thursday, November 12, 2015

Garlic Planting 2015

I finally got the garlic planted on November 6 this year. Given the mild weather, this is certainly not late and maybe a little early. I want the cloves to develop a root system before the ground freezes but I do not want to see any significant foliage growth, to avoid freeze damage during the winter. The beds were prepared with generous amounts of compost, as well as Garden Tone, bone meal, crab meal, kelp meal, and rock dust. I use a chopped straw for a mulch which has worked adequately in the past. Five types of hardneck garlic were planted.

The garlic went in my raised beds with a 6 inch depth, which is plenty for growing garlic. For most of the varieties I used a four per square (foot) spacing, which means they are spaced 6 inches (15 cm.) apart each direction. The Chesnok Red has become a much smaller garlic so I used 5 per square for that garlic. For the five varieties, I planted a total of 19 squares which yields over 89 bulbs. That is more than I can consume/preserve before they go bad, so I try to give some away, particularly to gardeners who may want to try growing garlic. We’re visiting my daughter in two weeks and a bag of garlic is going to be one of the gifts I bring. I hope she is thrilled. Maybe we will make Freddy’s Roast Potatoes.

German Red is a large Rocambole garlic that averages 4-5 cloves per head and is very cold tolerant. I purchased my seed stock last September at the MDI Garlic Festival. It was grown by Goosefoote Farm in Vermont. The harvest this year was very good, with very large heads. Largest was 4 oz. with 4 cloves or an ounce (28 g.) per clove. Goosefoote was at the fair again this year and at least from an eye test, their garlic was much smaller than the year before. Just part of the variability in growing garlic.

German Extra Hardy is another large (3-4 large cloves per head), cold tolerant garlic. It is considered a Porcelain with a white skin but with purplish cloves. Being a Porcelain it is supposed to store well for a hardneck, but I have had the opposite experience. The cloves soften and turn brown on me long before the other varieties. I set aside my seed stock in August when I cleaned up the dried plants. By planting time this year, some of the cloves had already shriveled. I learned my lesson last year and brought along a couple spare bulbs, which I needed to get enough healthy cloves to plant my four squares. I am thinking I probably should purchase some new seed stock to replace my own.

I wanted to try a new garlic this year and decided to look for Phillips at the MDI Garlic Festival. I found some very nice bulbs grown by Salty Dog Farm in Milbridge, Maine. Phillips is named after Phillips, Maine where it was grown around the area and is hard to find outside of  Maine.  It is a Rocambole garlic that was collected by the Scatterseed Project from the farm of Raymond Rowe. His seed stock originally came from a family in Rome, New York, whose ancestors brought it from Italy when they immigrated to work on the Erie Canal. So it has a nice Northeast/Italian history. The heads were good size with 6-7 tan-skinned cloves per head.  Despite being a Rocambole, it is supposed to keep fairly long for a hardneck, which is certainly admirable if true.

Duganski (originally from Kazakhstan) was new last year, from seed stock purchased from Territorial. It did very well for me this year and produced some beautiful bulbs. It is considered a Purple Stripe and you can see the beautiful purple cloves inside the white skin of the head. My heads and the seed stock I bought last year has a white outer wrapper, not the purple striped skins shown in catalogs. The cloves are long and slender and taper to a very sharp tip, which makes it harder for dunces like me to plant the basal end up. And it is supposed to last a long time in storage, which is a plus. We will see.

OK, I was going to replace the Chesnok Red with the Phillips seed stock I bought, but a funny thing happened on the way to the garden. I can not find the Spanish Roja garlic. No idea where I put it. This year I left it in the garden too long and did a poor job of drying it, so maybe I tossed it all in the compost in a fit of disgust. So Chesnok Red gets a reprieve, which is alright since it is a great garlic. Since the cloves are so small, these were planted 5 per square, but only 3 squares were planted. Chesnok Red is another Purple Stripe from the Republic of Georgia and you can see the beautiful color. It is also supposed to be one of the best cooking garlics and also stores well.

The reason I was going to pass over planting Chesnok Red this year was the fact that the heads seem to be getting smaller each year, rather than larger. The theory is that you select the largest and finest heads each year for your seed garlic. You are practicing selection and eventually your garlic is optimally adapted to your soil and climate and will produce humongous, astounding results. It has not quite worked out that way. The Chesnok Red is smaller, the German Extra Hardy does not keep well, the Spanish Roja is not as large. Apparently I am not alone.

While searching for descriptions of my garlic among web sites of various seed garlic growers, I encountered, one after another, descriptions by small growers describing puzzling changes in the character of their garlic. The big suppliers will have their usual boilerplate descriptions, but many of the smaller growers like to describe what happened on the farm this year and supply a personalized description of their garlic. Many are reporting that their garlic stock is changing. Color, size, clove count, whatever. It struck me because I have never seen that pointed out by growers but have noticed it in my own garlic.

So the garlic is safely in the ground. Just a little more clean up and then I can concentrate on the seed catalogs that are starting to arrive! We’re on to 2016.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Harvest Monday 9 November 2015

We had another beautiful fall week to do some cleanup and plant the garlic.  I also pulled some of the larger carrots. These I think are Yaya and Cosmic Purple. This is about the best result I have gotten from carrots in years. The usual problem is poor or no germination. The soil in the raised beds dries out quickly at the surface, even with mulching,  and I can not be there to water twice a day. This time I put the seeds down an inch and that seemed to help the germination. In addition, the carrots grew under soil cover so there were no green shoulders. I did this after noticing my neighbor sprinkling a packet of carrot seeds in a trench a couple of inches deep. Given the tiny size of carrot seed, you would think that would not work but they got good germination. Of course they had a lot of thinning to do.

The turnip I am optimistically saving for the batch of kimchee I hope to make from my Soloist cabbages. The cabbages are still looking good and starting to size up nicely. I hope we can avoid another freeze for a week or two. The forecast for the next four days is looking good. The freeze we did have seems have to have killed a lot of the pests. No white butterflies any more.

That’s all that happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing, visit Dave’s Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Harvest Monday 2 November 2015

Leeks and Pac Choi

I have been avoiding  the garden for a few weeks since there is little left except the chore of cleaning it up for the season. I am hoping to get that done this week and my garlic planted.  I visited last week and harvested a few things that survived the hard freeze we had October 19th. I pulled the last of the leeks. These were from leek plants I purchased as actual leek plants, not from misidentified plants from Dixondale. As such, they benefited from being planted deeply in holes so there is more blanched white bulb then the shallowly planted ones from Dixondale.

I also have a bed of kohlrabi, choi and Napa cabbage that was covered with row cover. Those did nicely except for the kohlrabi. Apparently kohlrabi is only moderately cold resistant and you can see the one pitiful survivor in the picture. The choi and cabbage did fine under cover and I harvested one of the Joi Choi heads for a stir fry. The Soloist cabbages are getting a nice size so I tied them up to blanch the centers. I am hoping for another week or two of decent weather for them to get a little bigger. I have a batch of kimchee planned for them. The ones I harvested this summer were so infested with slugs and earwigs I tossed them in the compost.

The carrots I planted in August in another bed are surviving as well but I am not sure they will get to harvest-able size in the few weeks we have left before solid freeze. I picked a few of the larger ones to try but the wind was blowing so hard I somehow lost them from the bag. We get some wild winds in the winter so I have to get the plastic mulch and row cover removed and stowed away soon.

My brassica bed with the kale and sprouts did not fare very well. The caterpillars have had a field day and pretty much destroyed everything. I may be able to get a few leaves of kale from the whole bed this week. The Brussels sprouts are a failure again. They have just tiny, pea-sized sprouts which will not size up in time. Like Susie I think I am done wasting space and effort on sprouts and will just buy them from the local farm stands. My wife hates them anyway.

That’s what happened (or not) in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting, visit Dave’s Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.

Note: posted late because LiveWriter has decided to be cranky, so this was manually done with the Blogger editor.

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