Posts Tagged ‘Garlic’

Growing Hardneck Garlic, Part 4

Harvesting and Curing

Judging when garlic is ready can be a bit tricky. Generally in early summer, the lower leaves will start yellowing on the garlic plant. When 1/3 of the leaves are brown, it’s time to harvest. Depending on the weather, harvest time can vary each season. Pull it up too early and the bulbs will be immature and shrivel when cured. Pulled up too late, the wrappers are deteriorated and the cloves begin to separate. Both too early or too late harvest will reduce the storage life of the bulbs. Remember, each leaf is a wrapper. A brown leaf is one less protective layer around the bulb, so be sure to harvest before all the leaves are brown.

Because of the heavy rains this spring, it was hard to tell when the bulbs were ready. The leaves didn’t fully died back. I got a lot of leaf tips and center midribs turning brown on most of the plants. So I pulled up the plants as they showed any kind of browning on 1/3 of the leaves.

To harvest, I use a small hand spade around the bulb and pop it out of the ground while gently pulling up the plant. Don’t pull the plants up without loosening the soil around and under the bulb first. it can damage the bulb and shorten the storage life.

Brush any loose soil from the bulbs. I gently drag the roots and bulbs through the grass to clean them up. They don’t have to be spotless, just knock the loose stuff off. Don’t wash the bulbs and make sure to leave the plants whole.

Loosen the soil around the roots and gently pull out of the ground

Loosen the soil around the roots and gently pull out of the ground

You can eat some now if you want, but the bulbs need to be cured if you plan to store it.
Find a cool, dry place with good air circulation to store the entire plant while it cures. I use the basement but it can be done in a garage, shed or outdoors in a covered area. Just make sure it’s sheltered from the sun and weather and safe from critters. Lay the plants out in a single layer. Leaving the leaves and roots attached helps draw out the moisture. This should take about 6 weeks.

When the plant leaves, stem and bulb wrappers are crispy dry, they’re cured. Trim back the roots to about 1/2 inch and cut the stem about 2 inches above the bulb. Clean up the bulbs by removing a wrapper layer or two.

Now is the time to sort the bulbs. Discard any bulbs that show signs of decay or mold. Choose the largest bulbs and set aside for the planting in the fall. The bulbs with the good tight wrappers with no exposed cloves on the bottom will keep the longest. Any other bulbs with exposed cloves are still good but need to be used first. Store in a cool dry place that has some humidity (not the refrigerator). Hardneck garlic should keep about 6 to 10 months if properly stored. Some varieties will keep a bit longer.

The variety I grow will keep for 10 months to a year. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the name of the variety is. It was sold under the name Rocambole, which is a type of hardneck that has many varieties. Rocamboles are not known to be a long storage type, most lasting only 5 or 6 months. So I have no idea what I have, but I am determined to keep it going.

I almost lost this variety once when I broke my leg and didn’t plant that autumn. I figured I’d just buy fresh bulbs the next year. When I called to order the following season, the sales guy said they no longer carry that variety and suggested another. I told him my story and how I was sad to lose it. He asked if I had any bulbs left from the previous year and what condition it were in. I had a bunch of bulbs. They were getting a bit spongy but still viable with a green shoot in the middle of the cloves. He suggested I plant it and see what happens. This garlic was a year and a half old by that point. Fingers crossed, I planted as many cloves that I had that looked like it has any kind of life left. The following spring, the bulbs were small but it grew. It took 3 years to get the bulb size back to where it belonged, but it worked. I now save a few bulbs from the previous year for planting stock just in case of any failure of the current crop.

If you’re planting your first crop of garlic this fall, it’s not too early to start planning. There are plenty of places to buy garlic on the internet, but they often sell-out fast. Get your order in by the end of August and the garlic will be shipped at planting time.

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Mid-July Garden Updates

Sorry about the lack of posts, we’ve been busy planning our upcoming bath remodel. But we always have photos for Photo Friday.

All photos by buzz.

The hostas are blooming

The hostas are blooming. This one is called Patriot. It’s one of the plants that came back after the trees were removed.

Some wildflowers from the yard

Some wildflowers from the yard. The sun garden really liked all the early summer rains.

Who wants zucchini? It's piling up in the 'fridge.

Who wants zucchini? It’s piling up in the ‘fridge.

The tomato plants are loaded and starting to ripen.

The tomato plants are loaded and starting to ripen.

O hai! The feeder needs filling. Just thought you should know.

“O hai! The bird feeder needs filling. I just thought you should know.”

Overall, the garden is doing well. The harvest so far is 20 lbs. of tomatoes, 3 lbs. of green beans, 6.5 lbs. of zucchini and 1 little eggplant.

The lettuce and kale were cut back. I’ll let it stay in the ground and see if we can coax a little new growth before I have to pull it up and plant something else.

Something is eating the peppers this year. They look like hell and I haven’t had time to get to the county extension to diagnose it. I suspect the June bugs have passed some virus to it. It’s not looking good for salsa production this year. Sorry, guys.

The eggplants look great! Nice and green and fruiting. They were supposed to be Black Beauty but I think it’s a white variety.

The tomatoes are mostly doing well. The San Marzano has some yellowing leaves that’s moving up the side of one of the plants. But they are producing. The New Girls right next to it seem to be resistant to whatever it is. I need to take a sample of that to the extension agency too. All the others are doing ok. The Cherokee Purples look great! I picked a bunch of ripe ones yesterday. Time to get some soft potato bread and make some Tomato Sandwiches! You know you’re South Jersey… mmm. tomato sandwiches.

The green bean plants are beautiful! I tried a new variety this year on the suggestion from a friend. (Thanks Beanie!) The variety is Jade II and it’s now my favorite green bean. It has nice long beans that don’t get too fat, good disease resistance, open pollination bush type bean. I’ve been picking 1/2 to 1 lb. of beans every 2 or 3 days.

I just pulled up the rest of the onions. All 270 of them are now in the basement curing. I really over planted. These things are huge baseball to softball size. If I plant this variety again, I’ll plant them closer together to get smaller bulbs. It is supposed to be a long storage onion. I hope so. If they look like they’re not keeping well, I’ll cut them up and freeze them.

The garlic is curing in the basement as well. I have a post on harvesting and curing in the works.

The cukes are a bust again this year. The plants died after 2 little cukes. I’ll try planting some more. The zucchini and butternut squash plants are huge and green. I guess they liked all the rain too. I need to find some zucchini recipes.

The carrots will go in within a few weeks. I started cabbage in flats. I’m new at cabbage. I have no idea what I’m doing. I tried direct sowing but it’s too hard to manage with all this heat. I got them to sprout in the flats but they are slow growing and leggy. I’m afraid if I transplant, they are going to wilt and die.

I’d be making the first batch of salsa this weekend if it weren’t for the peppers. I will can the tomatoes instead.

That’s it so far. Happy gardening!

Growing Hardneck Garlic, Part 3

Since we’re nearing the end of the garlic growing season, I’m going to start in the middle. I’ll give some highlights to catch up the season, and post more detailed information when the new season starts in the fall.

Garlic is one the easiest vegetables to grow. First, choose your garlic–softneck or hardneck. Although there are softneck varieties adapted to colder climates, it is generally for warmer zones. I have no first-hand experience with softneck, so these posts will be about hardneck garlic.

Hardneck garlic is planted in autumn. I plant around mid-October while the weather is still warm enough to get the root system started.Everything stays in the ground through the Winter and in early Spring, it will start sprouting. I give it a little fertilizer boost at that time.

If all went well, the garlic will look like this in the spring.

If all went well, the garlic will look like this in late spring. Each leaf is a wrapper around the bulb.

So here we are in late Spring, the plants have sent up a scape. When the scape makes the first curl, cut it off near the plant. Removing the scapes allows the bulbs to grow larger instead of using energy to make a flower. Don’t yank the stem out, it goes all the way down to the bottom of the bulb and can damage it. Not all of the scapes develop at the same time, so visit the garden often and cut them as they grow.

Garlic Scape

Clip the scape right where it comes out from the leaves.

Around the same time the scapes appear, the leaves will start to die back starting at the bottom. In a few weeks, when 1/3 to 1/2 the leaves are yellowed, the bulbs are ready to be lifted. More on that when it happens!

Early Spring in The Garden

There’s a lot going on in the spring before the warm season crops are planted in the garden.

The autumn planted garlic is doing great! All but 4 or 5 of the 150 planted are growing. I planted 100 from last year’s stock and for insurance, 50 from the previous year’s stock. I’ll tell the story of The Great Garlic Debacle in a later post. Suffice it to say that my worries were unfounded. The upside is I learned some things about garlic and have tons of bulbs to share.

We had a short stretch of nice weather in mid-March, I rushed the season and direct sowed some cool crop seeds in the garden, hoping spring has finally sprung. Nothing happened, the soil was still too cold. This week, I noticed some sprouts in straight rows among the sprouted weeds. Nature does what she wants when she’s good and ready. We now have mixed kale, mixed lettuces and spinach, along with the lettuce, spinach and kale leftover from last autumn that started growing again.

This year's garlic and last year's kale.

This year’s garlic and last year’s kale.

I moved the pepper and tomato seedlings to the greenhouse to acclimate to the brighter sunlight and cooler temps. Right now, they only get very late afternoon light and early morning light. I will increase the time in the sun over a few days time before transplanting to larger containers. I’ll start 2 more flats under the lights with flowers and quicker growing vegetables like cukes, zukes and green beans.

Tomatoes hanging in the greenhouse, waiting for bigger pots.

Tomatoes hanging out in the greenhouse, waiting for bigger pots.

We planted 270 onion transplants in 2 beds. Everyday, I have to replant a few as the robins pick through looking for worms. I had about 70 plants left from the 5 units I bought, so I found new homes for them through my local freecycle.

Freecycle has become a really great way for me to share seeds, plants and gardening information. If you’re unfamiliar with Freecycle, it’s a internet community network designed to keep unwanted but usable household stuff out of landfills. It’s free to join and the only stipulation is that the stuff is given freely. Visit their site for more information or to join your local group.

There are still beds to clear of weeds, but that can wait a bit longer. The daffodils are blooming and they last such a short time.

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