Saturday, October 17, 2009

Garlic Time

Fall is the time to plant garlic and there is nothing better than fresh garlic from your garden. It tastes so good and is extremely pungent, much more so that what is typically found in the grocery store. Garlic is an important herb, and a powerful antibiotic. It helps prevent colds and flus, aids in cardiovascular health and regulating cholesterol and is a great antioxidant as well.

Garlic is easy to grow. It is a heavy feeder so needs lots of good compost and fertilization, but that's about it. The soil should be well draining, and have a ph in the 6.5 to 7.0 range. A good dusting of lime can boost the ph in the soil, but I have never had a problem growing garlic in a good compost.

I start with organic garlic heads from Johnny's Seeds in Maine and like their German Extra Hardy stiffneck garlic. Garlic is known as either stiffneck, which has a stiff stalk in the middle, or softneck, which is typically the type of garlic that is braided. There are many different varieties of garlic so you can try several or find your own favorite. I find the German Extra Hardy grows well and also keeps well throughout the winter.

The cloves are separated from the head of garlic, and planted individually. Each clove will become its own plant and develop a head of garlic. I take the papery wrapping off the garlic clove, but others don't so you can experiment with that. The cloves are planted pointed end up. Make sure to mark where you planted your garlic, and after the ground has frozen put a thick layer of mulch over the area and wait for Spring.

In the Spring, the shoots will appear and can use a good side dressing of compost or high nitrogen fertilizer. I like to fertilize through the season with a seaweed emulsion. And make sure to keep the area well weeded.

Here's my garlic growing from last summer. More next summer on how and when to harvest but get your garlic planted now.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Fall Garden

I missed updating the blog in September, but when I went out this morning and there was a light dusting of snow on the garden I thought it was time to get the Fall update done! September is the month where I just let the garden go.

The nasturiums are growing into the paths blocking passage, the parsley and lovage are growing tall with abandon, the calendula and borage are trailing into paths everywhere and I just let the plants be happy for their last few weeks.

And the angelica has just not stopped growing this year. I have never seen one so large although it didn't flower. Angelica is a biennial, so this is theoretically its last year but I'm hoping it will come back and flower next year as I have heard that some do not flower until the 3rd year. With the size of this plant the flowers will be spectacular if it does return.

I also enjoy the fall blooming of the toad lily and turtlehead.

Toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta) blooms in late September to October and is well suited to a shady area. Its an attractive perennial that gives some Fall color. Also blooming in September is Turtlehead (Chelone lyonii), whose flowers really do like like pink turtle heads. It is a perennial that grows in part shade, spreads easily but slowly and is no fuss at all. And when those pink flowers show up at the end of the summer it is quite a treat.

September and October are also busy garden months. Harvesting is finished, pickles are made (the cucumbers were so prolific I made 3 batches), herbs are dried and frozen and annuals are pulled up. The scented geraniums have all been dug and potted and are ready for overwintering inside, along with the rosemary, bay, and stevia. I grew ashwaganda in a pot this year and will see if that overwinters. The garlic has been planted, and I'll write a separate post on how to grow garlic. It is so easy every garden should have some!

Some things I don't try to overwinter and use them up and say goodbye. I enjoyed a wonderful cup of tulsi (holy basil) tea the other night as the cool weather will kill the plant soon. It has such a beautiful fragrance in the garden however I like to keep some of the plant growing as long as possible.
The pumpkins were harvested and are shown here in a Fall display. I hate to use them they look so pretty, but I think with the cool weather recently it's time for some pumpkin soup.

So the first snow has fallen and the garden is saying goodbye. It is always bittersweet. But I'm taking my notes and already starting my plans for next season.