As I left the house this morning, I glanced across the yard. Mostly I thought about all the clover in the lawn this year and that I needed to look up what it signals (lawn needs nitrogen) and how to fix it.
And then I noticed something dark spilling out of the garlic bed.
A paw? But we don’t have bear (and cubs) here. The groundhog? He wasn’t scurrying off at the sound of the garage door.
So I carefully approached.
It was a giant turtle with one “arm” over the wooden frame, not moving, flies all around. Dead? That wouldn’t be fun to move. Ah, a small movement. I snapped my photo and wondered how much damage would be done. It had already dug out a hole … was it laying eggs?
When I came home tonight, the turtle was gone. No sign of eggs. But one garlic plant had been uprooted and a couple others were flattened to the ground.
I set them all upright weeded and now hope the bulbs will fatten up over the next six weeks or so, so we have some healthy garlic to harvest.
I’ve been horribly neglectful of this blog (how else do I explain that April post published at the end of June?). But it’s shaping up to be a fabulous season in the garden.
We’ve been harvesting oversized leaves of Swiss chard and sauteeing them in a cast-iron skillet, often on the grill. We’ve started topping pizza with kale. And the garlic scapes have been converted into garlic-scape pesto that then get smeared onto our grilled pizza. In fact, we did a great job feeding a group of friends last night with food we’ve grown, topped off with items from an area farmers market and the guests’ more routine contributions.
Coming soon will be tomatoes — there already are green ones on some plants, plus plenty of yellow flowers. That makes me happy! And I figure the first two homegrown zucchini will be ready for picking later this week. We have three plants this year — there could be a lot of zucchini bread in addition to a steady stream of grilled zucchini slices. Perhaps it’s time to learn about zucchini “pasta”.
Tonight’s pizza, made with homemade dough, sauce canned last year, garlic-scape pesto and garden kale plus store-bought cheese and grilled outside. Delicious!
Independence Day seems to have become Garlic Harvest Day, at least to the Brit.
It only seemed a few weeks ago that we were cutting garlic scapes, but the garlic stalks were definitely dying back. So out came the pitchfork and into the special garlic bed it went.
We hadn’t packed it with 70 or so cloves like last year, and some of what we planted never made it. That was somewhat disappointing because we had planted cloves from two fat bulbs that we’d bought from a ramshackle garlic stand just north of Cooperstown last summer. (We’d also planted some from last year’s harvest, including some cloves that were so dried out that I didn’t expect anything). Did the mild winter play a role? Everything certainly sprouted early. The dry spring? Who knows.
In the end, we harvested 11 bulbs, including at least four that are fatter than anything we’ve ever had.That makes us happy! Some, if not all, will be saved to plant after Halloween so we can develop our own strain of fat New Jersey garlic.
And the Brit is talking of moving the be, now sandwiched between raspberry canes, to next to his caged-in bed for greens — a spot that should be sunnier come spring and summer and that hopefully will make the garlic even happier. (And in case you were wondering, garlic apparently qualifies as both a herb and a vegetable.)
We’ve decided it’s time to harvest all the garlic, and yes, we have enough to ward off quite a few vampires! By my count, we have 79 bulbs drying on a table on the deck, some big and fat, some pretty tiny. Not that we’re surprised, because we knew we planted some fat cloves as well as some that were pretty shriveled up. So we’re thrilled that every clove produced!
We definitely have at least two varieties — a white one and a rose-tinged one. We’ll save the best-looking ones to plant in the fall; I’m guessing we’ll once again cram in about that many in the raised bed we built just for garlic, and the rest will keep us from consuming much in the way of garlic from China for many months, hopefully well into 2012.
As we tell anyone who’ll listen, garlic has to be the easiest thing to grow. Go to your local farmers’ market, buy a bulb of organic garlic and plant each clove standing up a few inches deep in a nice sunny spot during the fall. Come May or June, you’ll need to cut back those curly scapes at the top before they straighten out and flower, taking energy from the bulb. Use the scapes as you would garlic, or make a garlic scape pesto. Once the garlic stalk dies back by 2/3 or so, pull out your crop, let the bulbs dry outside in the shade and enjoy!
As for our garlic bed, the Brit couldn’t resist admiring his soil one year later and running his hands through it. He’d filled it with a 50-50 mix of soil (piled in the back after we’d dug up grass a few years ago while expanding flower beds) and compost, so now, it’s incredibly light and fluffy. We debated sowing buckwheat as a cover crop until it’s time to plant the next garlic crop (return nitrogen to the soil, keep down weeds), but we decided we really needed to get those leeks out of window boxes. Plus, this way we’ll have to harvest in the fall, rather than dilly-dally til the snow comes and it’s too late.
One of our fall projects is to plant garlic, and lots of it. But after this year’s mixed results, we decided raised beds are the only way. So we built a special bed (!) for the garlic, snuggled between a couple of raspberry canes and just six inches deep. Then we filled it with homemade compost (mostly leaves and coffee grounds from last year) mixed with a bit of soil and let the compost break down a bit more. Oooh … wonderfully soft and crumbly. This better lead to big, healthy bulbs.
Most of the cloves we are planting are the biggest ones we grew this year. But we also scored a bunch from a colleague who had his own connections and some from a local farmers’ market.
The Brit spaced it out, giving each plant about five inches (never mind that the books say six inches). Given that the bed is five feet by three inches, we had room for 70 (!) cloves. Yes, we like our garlic.
I am guessing that come May, we will have more garlic scapes than we can use and will be happy to share . But hopefully we will get through next winter without needing any grown-in-China garlic from the store.