Friday, July 29, 2016

Garlic Harvest 2016

I had the feeling that 2016 for me was a good garlic year. Now that the garlic is cured and cleaned up, I can weigh it and see what actually happened. And the tally seems to indicate it was indeed a good year for most of my garlic. I planted the same amount, five varieties getting 4 squares each, planted 4 per square foot for a total of about 80 bulbs (8 pounds). The Chesnok Red actually got only 3 squares, planted 5 per square because of its small size.

What did differ was Spanish Roja, which had been a great garlic for me, was not planted this year when I could not find the seed garlic I thought I had reserved. So it was replaced by Philips, a garlic named after a town in Maine where it was grown, but with Italian heritage via upstate New York. I found it at the MDI Garlic Festival. Spanish Roja had a bad crop the year before and I was going to give it another year.  I may grow Spanish Roja again someday with new purchased seed stock.

If you want to read about my 2015 harvest, those comments are in this post. To read comments made when I planted this crop in 2015, go here. And here are the 2016 harvest results.

The total harvest this year was 8.2 pounds (3.7kg.) versus last year at 7.8 pounds (3.5kg.). Not that much bigger in pounds but the garlic this year is far healthier and dried very well compared to last year's crop. Some of that is due to weather, but I also learned a few tricks from trying to dry and process the 2015 crop in very humid conditions. I harvested when the ground was bone dry and pulled some a little early when it looked  like rain (it didn't). That meant the bulbs were dry to start and didn't retain a lot of soil. Drying started in the garage but when the humidity soared, I moved them into the basement with a dehumidifier. They dried nicely this year and cleanup was easy.

Apparently I was not going to plant Chesnok Red this year because of its increasingly small size, replaced by the Philips garlic, but then at planting time I could not find the seed garlic for Spanish Roja. Well, I am happy I did plant this because it did very well this year. Average bulb weight this year was 1.5 ounces, up from 2015's 1 ounce. Total harvest from 3 squares weighed 23 ounces compared to 15 ounces last year. This garlic variety has small bulbs to begin with, but the smaller size also translates into improved storage life. Just last week I retrieved a couple of bulbs from the bin in the basement and most of the cloves were still usable one year after harvest. Pretty good for a hard neck. This is a Purple Stripe garlic and this year is really beautiful with its purple wrapper.

This is the second year for the purple stripe garlic, Duganski, in my garden. When I first planted it in 2014 I was upset with the seed garlic from Territorial because it was obviously harvested late and the bulbs had opened up and skins were peeling off the individual cloves. The harvest in 2015 turned out OK despite that and this year is improved. I harvested 28 ounces compared to 26 in 2015, and average size improved from 1.6 ounces to 1.7.

I purchased German Red, a Rocambole garlic, at the MDI Garlic Festival in 2014 so this is the second year for it in the garden. It is a big garlic, with about four huge cloves per bulb. Last year my largest bulb was a whopper at 4 ounces, while this year's largest was only 3 ounces. But total weight increased from 35 ounces to 37 ounces, while average size decreased from 2.8 ounces to 2.3 ounces. This one does not keep well so it has to be used quickly.

German Extra Hardy, a porcelain type, was one of my first garlics and a reliable producer. Last year was a bad year, however, and it produced a small harvest. I planted it anyway last fall, but discovered on planting day that a lot of the seed stock I had set aside was bad. As a result, I dipped into some bulbs I held in reserve but only had 13 cloves to plant. Well, it really must have been a good year for garlic because this variety did very well in 2016, producing 21 ounces from 13 bulbs versus last year's 20 ounces from 17 bulbs. That is an average 1.6 ounce bulb size compared to 1.2 ounces last year.

Philips is new in the garden this year, another Rocambole garlic that I purchased from Salty Dog Farm at the MDI Garlic Festival. This is a Maine heirloom garlic that is a little hard to find. It has a reputation of being a relatively good keeper for a Rocambole, which made it attractive. It did pretty well but there was a big variation in bulb size. I am not sure why that happened, maybe some of the planted cloves were small? At any rate, next years seed stock gets selected from the largest bulbs so hopefully it will adapt to the conditions in my garden.

The garlic harvest does seem to indicate this was a good year for garlic after last year's poor results. All of the varieties I had concern about did very well this year, so it had to be the conditions last year. The MDI Garlic Festival is definitely in the plans for this year, made even better by the co-location of a KC-sanctioned BBQ contest. I may also try to get to the Vermont Garlic Festival the weekend before. So now the garlic has been cleaned, weighed and reported and I can now begin to enjoy it and preserve some of it. There is nothing like fresh garlic.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Harvest Monday 25 July 2016

I pulled the rest of the beets and radishes. There are a few beet and turnip seedlings left in the beds but I don't know how they will do with the relentless heat and dry conditions. The jalapenos are starting to produce, since it has been hot but not so hot to cause the pepper blossoms to drop.

I also harvested the last of the Napa cabbages. They were small but dense and the two together weighed over 2 pounds (about a kilo). Not a lot of slug damage on them, so maybe the dry conditions are dispatching some of the slugs. I also took the rest of the kohlrabi since they were not looking happy and I didn't want them bolting on me.

 The Copra yellow onions flopped over, so they were pulled and are now drying for storage. Most are pretty good size, so it looks like a good year for them. The Red Wing red onions always take a few more weeks to mature so they are still in the garden and being watered, along with the leeks.

The two large Alpine Korean radishes I harvested last week were turned into this jar of kkakdugi, a fermented kimchi made from radishes. It is often found among the small banchan dishes served with a meal at Korean restaurants and is quite tasty. I used a recipe from Maangchi's new cookbook, Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking, which I highly recommend, and you can find her videos on the Internet. I essentially made a half batch which easily filled a quart jar.

I peeled and diced two pounds of radishes and tossed them with 1 Tbsp. (14 g.) each of sea salt and sugar. Let the radishes sit for an hour, then pour off and save the juice. Toss the radishes with 3-4 cloves minced garlic, small piece of minced ginger, 2-3 chopped scallions, about 12 g. gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) or more to taste, about 1 ounce (30 ml) of fish sauce, and enough of the reserved juice to moisten the mixture. Pack it tightly into a wide mouth jar, cover and let sit for a day or overnight. Then store in the refrigerator.

Maangchi's cookbook has some other interesting kimchi recipes. I liked the looks of the stuffed  cucumbers, small cucumbers quartered lengthwise and stuffed with a mix of shredded carrot, chives, onion, garlic and gochugaru. Another interesting one is Nabak-kimchi, or vegetable-and-fruit-water kimchi, which combines Napa with sliced cucumbers, apples, radishes, carrots and fresh chilies. I think a jar of that is in my future.

The harvest this week was mostly about salvaging what I can from the cool weather crops in the garden. The tomatoes, peppers, summer squash,  and to some extent the beans, are doing OK with the weather and the amount of watering I can do. Everything else is dead or dying with the heat and drought we have been having. I know, I have already complained about the drought, but the situation is, my garden is dead except the crops I mentioned above. On June 8 we had one rain of about 1 inch, and no appreciable rain since.

We normally get about 4 inches of rain a month, 48-53 inches a year. Looking at weather records from a Weather Underground station a mile from me, we have gotten 12.5 inches of precipitation in the first 7 months, putting  us down about 16 inches. There were 4 precipitation events of 1 inch size and another 3 half-inch events. The rest were fractions of an inch, amounts that just evaporated when they hit the hot ground. I say events, not rain, because two of the 1 inch events were snow in January and February. We had very little snow last winter, so there was not a lot of snow melt to fill the reservoirs.

Making things worse for some parts of  Massachusetts south of here, there is a gypsy moth cycle going on that started last year and has seen some of the worst damage since the huge infestation in 1981. The dry weather has suppressed the fungi that normally attacks the caterpillars and keeps them in check. And the drought has severely stressed the trees, so the defoliation by the caterpillars may mean the loss of many of them.

I will probably miss next week's Harvest Monday post. We will be on the Schooner Heritage out of Rockland, Maine, making a run up to Mount Desert Island. On Tuesday we will be part of a tall ships parade up Somes Sound as part of the summer-long festivities around Acadia National Park's 100th birthday. This will be our first windjammer cruise, but I can see myself doing this every year. We are also planning to go up again in September for the MDI Garlic Festival, which this year includes a KC-sanctioned BBQ contest.

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

Monday, July 18, 2016

Harvest Monday 18 July 2016

It has been pretty hot and dry, enough to cause this brown bat to move out of its apartment and hang out on the cool concrete wall of the garage in the shade under the deck. It is hanging upside down, you can see its ears at the bottom. I wonder what it is eating? It is so dry I don't remember seeing a mosquito this year, nor a single black fly or deer fly. But I have already had two deer tick bites, ouch, and this is prime Lyme disease territory.

How dry is it? We are in one of the worst droughts we have had in awhile. I can not find the rainfall amounts for Bolton, seems they are a secret. I did find one article that said Worcester (city or county not specified) had 6.5 inches (17 cm) of rain since January 1st. Consider that includes snow fall and that number is astounding. We get an average of 4+ inches (10 cm) of rain per month (48-53 inches/1.2-1.35 m per year). For the first half of the year we have received 1/4 our normal rainfall, and a lot of that was snow during the winter.

 I really need to water the garden every day but can not always get there. It takes me two hours to water the two plots, but that does not do as thorough a job as a day long soaking rain. Most plants are getting stressed. The peas look poorly and all of the greens and brassicas are hating this weather. The harvest this week reflects the need to get things out of the garden before they are ruined. So lots of root vegetables and greens.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Harvest Monday 11 July 2016

The weather last week remained dry. While hot on Monday it cooled off for the rest of the week and some mornings were quite chilly. This was caused by some cold front that was supposed to bring rain, but while we got lots of clouds and even some lightning, the result was a few tenths of an inch. All this is going to do is wet the foliage and raise humidity, raising the potential for disease higher, while doing little for the roots.

I'm still getting a few Atlantis shoots. I am wondering how much of this stuff do I have to plant to get a reasonable harvest. I keep it in the refrigerator until I get enough for two servings. The rest of this harvest went into a batch of salsa made with canned tomatoes, since it will be awhile until those first tomatoes arrive (and they will not be going into salsa).

Above are two of the heads of Blue Wind broccoli. They were starting to open up so I harvested them. I also clipped off the growing tip off a Spigariello liscia that was headed straight up rather than branching. It has a mild flavor but the leaves are a bit tough, like a kale, or like a broccoli leaf.

The big harvest last week was the garlic. I grow hardneck garlic and follow the rule of digging them when 40-50% of the leaves turn brown or yellow. The remaining green leaves dry and form the wrapper that protects the cloves, so you can't wait until all leaves are brown. Another consideration was the weather. We were looking at potentially several days of rain, so I chose to dig them last week while everything was dry. First out was the German Red, second to produce scapes and second to be harvested.

The next day I dug the rest: Chesnok Red, Philips, and Duganski. It is looking like a good year for garlic. Even the Chesnok Red produced large heads this year. The next step is to cure the garlic without mold forming. Last year teh ground was wet and it was very humid, so drying in the garage did not work well. This year the garlic is in the shed and when the volatiles subside a little (right now it is almost eye watering in the shed), I may move them into the basement where we run a dehumidifier.

Finally, given how dry it has been, I decided to try sprouting some Jade bush beans in a paper towel rather than reseeding. It took 3-4 days for sprouts to start emerging. On a couple of these, the root is actually too long and I had to handle them carefully to avoid breaking off the brittle root. Out of 50+ seeds in the paper towel, I found about a dozen that were sprouted or near to sprouting. These were packed for 2013, so I guess I will be buying new seed next year. It is a little disappointing finding that bean seeds aren't viable for longer than a few years, although Jade has always had slow and poor germination compared to Provider.

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

Friday, July 8, 2016

Garden Update - July

Because of the weather and other things, the garden got in late this year, so it is time for a quick update. I have two plots in the community garden, one with raised beds and one planted in-ground. The raised bed garden is a cinch to maintain with its beautiful soil that is easy to weed and great for most plants. The in-ground garden requires more work prepping and weeding, which I try to minimize with plastic mulches. I always wish I had space for more varieties, but I do have 32 tomato plants and 31 pepper plants between the two plots.

In the raised bed garden, I have two 4x6 foot (1.2x1.8 m) beds with an 8 inch (20 cm) depth. The tomatoes are planted around the outside east edge of the beds so they don't shade out other plants. The tomatoes are trained up a trellis cord, pinched to a single leader, and planted 1 per square foot. This spacing actually does work quite well.


So, going counter-clockwise around the beds, the tomatoes planted on the end this year are Jaune Flamme. This will be my third year growing these and they are doing quite well and will probably be my first tomatoes.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Harvest Monday 4 July 2016

A couple of the turkeys that make a pass through my yard every day. This time they were particularly focused upward towards the foliage, rather than the ground. They know berries are in season. So much for my chances of getting any blueberries this year. Sorry for the poor photo. It was shot through a window into the sun.

I am sure they have designs on these beauties, my secret stash of wild black raspberries, not quite ripe yet.

Speaking of turkeys, we had a sort of tragedy last week. A local foods institution, Tom's Turkey Farm in Lancaster, Massachusetts, had a barn fire that destroyed 7,000 turkeys. Since they were uninsured, they think they are probably going to close the business, which supplied fresh turkeys and turkey pot pies to the community and employed a lot of people.          

The Winter Density romaines have sized up and are threatening to bolt, so I have started harvesting them. It is nice to now have harvests coming from the garden that can make a meal. The romaine went into a Caesar salad with grilled chicken and made a nice dinner.

Kohlrabi is going to be a feature here for another week or so as they size up quickly. Some of these went into a fermented kraut a la Dave @ Our Happy Acres. The smell of that was pretty pungent when it first started fermenting but after a day it toned down and smells quite pleasant. The radish is a Korean daikon type radish called Alpine. I pulled one to see how they are doing, since I don't want them to bolt on me. This type of radish is stockier and grows partly above the ground, which is great since I do not have the bed depth to grow standard Japanese daikon.

Another Webb's Wonderful crisphead. Per Mark's suggestion, the outer leaves were used for lettuce pockets with a Thai ground chicken saute, another meal from the garden (along with garlic, scallions, and cilantro from the garden).

When I prepped the first romaine from the garden and cut off the root end, I noticed a lot of milky white latex around the cut, a sign the lettuce is bolting and becoming bitter.  So I cut another romaine lettuce but found it so damaged by slugs only the center was salvageable. The third lettuce was much better and we have the makings of another salad. I also cut the first few sprouts from the Atlantis brokali and picked a few snow peas.

The last Webb's Wonderful started to bolt so it was harvested. The refrigerator is getting stuffed.

I pulled some of the beets to give the smaller plants some sun. The large red beet at the top is Shiraz, a great beet that I had germination trouble with this year (old seed). The two darker red beets at the bottom are Paonazza D'Egitto, an Italian heirloom beet from Pinetree. They germinated very well and are growing enthusiastically, and their foliage is beautiful

Finally, the garlic harvest is about to start. These are German Extra Hardy, the first to produce scapes and the first to be ready to harvest. I will probably dig the rest of the garlic in the next week. The weather is good for garlic harvesting right now, hot and dry, while the rest of the garden would like a nice drenching rain. I am going to start these off drying under the deck where it is less humid than the garage with good air circulation. Last year humidity was sky high and the garlic and onions cured very poorly.

That is what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners from around the world are harvesting, visit Dave at Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.
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