Garlic bouquet

From the garden
From the garden

We began harvesting our garlic this weekend, just as we were about out of the store-bought stuff from China (which is where most American garlic comes from, just usually not labeled as such).
What we learned this year: the scapes may look cool among the flowers, and the flowers that follow may be pretty too, but they definitely take energy away from the bulbs in the ground. We cut some scapes off a month ago, left others alone, and the difference in size is remarkable.
We’ll save the bigger bulbs for our next crop (planting time is in the fall) and will eat the smaller ones. If we have enough, we’ll learn how to dry out some of our garlic so it will stay fresh longer.
Do we know what kind we have? No. Some comes a colleague who belongs to a local organic CSA (think weekly box) and kindly gave us a spare bulb, and we planted it then. I bought three bulbs (I think) from an organic farmer at our local farmers’ market last fall and planted those. The key is that it’s organic and is right for your USDA zone.
Otherwise it couldn’t be easier: Plant cloves in the fall, around when the kids go back to school (so September, though one Web site claims it’s traditional to plant on the shortest day of the year, which would be December and another says it should be six weeks before the soil freezes), with the top of the cloves pointing up, about 1″ to 2″ into the ground, harvest after kids finish school, according to Mike McGrath, and the stalks are turning brown (later than the end of school this year). Just gently dig them out with a trowel.
We tried several locations in the sun, some in our raised beds, and we mulched them with leaf mold in the fall to protect them from the cold and snow (and to improve the soil around them–we don’t use extra fertilizer.) The biggest difference so far comes from whether we cut off those curlycue scapes and made garlic scape pesto with them, or let them be. Lesson learned: cut. We’ll definitely be making more pesto next summer.
Here’s a video I found on planting garlic.

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En route

I was bicycling in Basking Ridge, NJ when I came across this front yard, dominated by monarda (bee balm) on both sides of a fence, with purple coneflowers and some rose campion mixed in. I also like how it uses the narrow strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street–eliminates some mowing! It is inspiring me to use my bee balm more strongly, accentuating shasta daisies (white) and coreopsis (yellow), repeating it several times along the front path. The bee balm already is due to be moved from in front of the garage window, where it showed up last year and I had to say hasn’t done as well as the clumps I’ve given away.

This front garden made me stop pedaling!
This front garden made me stop pedaling!
Look behind the fence. See the sundial and bird bath? Think there is a bench too.
Look behind the fence. See the sundial and bird bath? Think there is a bench too.
One way to reduce your mowing
One way to reduce your mowing

First tomato harvest!!

Salad ingredients, all homegrown
Salad ingredients, all homegrown
Yum! First tomato of the season.
Yum! First tomato of the season.

Mid-July and we are eating our first tomato! My record-keeping was pretty poor, so I can’t say whether this is a Super Marmande or a small Lynn’s Beefsteak .. or? But it is a mix of tart and sweet, a perfect tomato that went wonderfully on a bed of greens from the garden, including a few rainbow Swiss chard that haven’t been munched by the rabbit or whatever has gotten into the beds, plus one radish. Can’t wait for more tomatoes (not like there is one ready to be picked in a few days, unfortunately, but plenty on the vine).
My call was Fourth of July. That was when I was excited that a determinate Silvery Fir had its first tomatoes, later munched by deer, unfortunately. Even so, not a bad call.
Even odder — this isn’t from one of the first three I planted in the bed in late April.

Wilting

Take a look at some of my tomato leaves:

Ailing tomato plant
Ailing tomato plant

I think they have a form of wilt.
Whether it’s related to all the rain we had this June, or having planted tomatoes too frequently, or just bad luck, I’m not sure. Spotted wilt? Vedrticillium wilt? Fusarium wilt? That’s something I still have to figure out. Almost all of it is in the smaller tomato bed, not in the new bed. But I fear it will mean a reduced harvest.
I keep cutting off the yellowed branches (some have dried out or are completely yellow and are barely hanging on), but it doesn’t go away. At least the plants look airy, with plenty of air circulation.
Any thoughts? I will definitely be giving these beds several inches of compost in the fall and clearing all tomato debris in hope of eradicating it.