Garden Economics

130824 Garlic

This is my garlic harvest for this year.  A year ago about this time I was thinking I really needed to grow some of my own but when I went onto the High Mowing Seed website with the intention of ordering some and they were sold out.  Bummer I thought – then figured I’d order it for this year. Garlic is planted in the fall, like tulips and daffodils, it needs that fall and winter time to set out its roots.  It then blossoms in June or so and is ready to harvest in July (at least here it is).  The seed companies send out their garlic for planting the first week in October.

I moved on completely forgetting about the garlic. A couple of weeks later I received a package in the mail – a pound of garlic for planting from High Mowing.  I had forgotten that I had ordered it with my spring seeds back in February.  It felt like pennies from heaven because I’d paid for it back in February as well.

The garlic I had ordered is called Music.  It’s a hardneck variety which I know seems to do pretty well around here. I dug a nice bed for them in a sunny, well-drained sight and placed each clove about 3 to 4 inches deep, covered it and walked away.  When spring arrived it was the first plant out of the ground.  In June the blossoms, called scapes, emerge.  I pick all of them off – doing this puts the plants energy in forming bulbs.  The scapes are delicious – I chop them and cook them in eggs for breakfast but they are great in all kinds of things.  Two harvests from one plant.

Towards the middle of July the stalks of the garlic begin to turn brown from the ground up.  I’ve heard that timing is everything with garlic.  You don’t want to dig it up too soon- you want those bulbs as big as you can get them.  If you wait too long the bulb will no longer be tight, the cloves will have splayed out – ready to continue growing for another year.  I had to guess.  I waited until the plants were brown half of the way up the stalk and then I dug one out to see.  It was a thing of beauty.  I dug the rest.

Curing the garlic takes another 3 to 4 weeks. The skins dry to that thin paper we are all familiar with.  I just laid the whole plant on paper in the house and waited (of course a couple of bulbs were sampled along the way).  This weekend I cleaned and trimmed the crop. What you see in the photo is what I grew.  This was a pound of garlic cloves.  The cloves are very large on this garlic so it doesn’t take many to get to a pound.  For every clove you plant you get a bulb.

This garlic is so good I vowed to plant 3 times as much next year – the problem?  It would probably cost over $60 for the seed.

Bill and I gazed at these beautiful bulbs and decided that I would use most of what I grew this year as seed for next year.  It made me a little sad to think about not eating most of what was in the basket but I could quadruple the number of bulbs next year just by planting what was in front of me.  It was sort of a no brainer, but all I want to do right now is eat garlic mashed potatoes from the garden.

Beginning in Earnest

130526 (2) Garden PlanYesterday in the cold, rainy, windy weather I went through my seeds and actually drew up the garden plan.  It had been in my head for  a while just finally put pen to paper.  Today I plant the crowns and bulbs, put up the bean teepee and get out the seed potatoes.  Last night it was cold by any standard but the forecast for the rest of the week is warm and sunny.  By the 31st I should be able to put my seeds in the ground if the forecast holds true.  All of my seed comes from High Mowing Seeds in Vermont.  They are organic, non-GMO and many are open pollinated.  Honestly the best seed I have ever used.

I had taken all of my annuals in pots into the shed on Friday night, this morning I will go see how my lonely little eggplant fared. I will be mixing beans on the poles this year, I’ve planted just a green bean in the past couple of years but I really have missed the scarlet runners – and I’m assuming so have the birds.  I will also plant sunflowers in the corners with the popcorn.  I’m kind of taking for granted the popcorn will end up being fodder for raccoons but you never know.  This variety is Tom Thumb and only grows to a maximum height of 3 feet, I’m more than a little excited about this experiment.

We have a guy in Enfield we refer to as the flower gypsy.  He’s a wholesaler who has a van and goes from shop to shop selling cut flowers – this time of year annual pots and vegetables.  He comes around every other week or so with what he figures will sell for the season.  During the winter it’s always long stem roses from Ecuador.  Easter it’s lilies, cut flowers for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the shop the other day to four pepper plants and four tomatoes.  Bill always buys me flowers but apparently he’s been listening and bought food.  Hehehe, excellent, my plan is working, one person at a time.

It’s That Time of the Year

End of year garden 2012

Many people are getting their seed catalogs out and pouring through them this time of year.  It’s good to do a little planning and have your seeds ready to go whether you need to start your tomatoes in the house, are sowing some seed in your hot or cold frame or are just thinking about what will go where in the garden this year.

I’m a planner, it’s one of my favorite parts.  I plan what I’m going to plant and where it’s going to go in the garden this year.  I plan what plants will be next to the others keeping companion planting in mind.  I plan different designs because I hate how boring it is to look at a garden with plants in rows. I pour over the charts I’ve kept in past years to make sure I don’t plant the tomatoes and potatoes in the same place year after year.

I work on an order with High Mowing Organic Seeds that I continue to change week after week from October on, waiting until the last minute to place it.  I read their website for all the info I can gather about the new seeds I want to try growing.  There are always the tried and true to grow like last year’s Gold Rush yellow snap bean.  I cannot say enough about this bean, it was prolific.  I started picking beans in July and picked them until frost.  They weren’t those tough, tasteless beans either.  They were tender and tasty until the very end.  I lost count of how many pints I canned but I know Sue and I complained towards the end of the season every time we picked enough beans to can once more.  Of course now I’m glad I did.

The other plant I grew this year and introduced to everyone I knew was Joan Rutabagas.  I grow them every year and was a little in awe at how few people had never tried rutabagas (probably because they are my favorite vegetable).  They require a fairly long growing season but are very cold hardy so they weren’t dug until well into October.  I fed them to everyone.

Every year I pick one or two new plants to try. Some work out very well like the Gold Rush beans. Some don’t
but I feel like I haven’t given it a real chance unless I plant it a couple of years in a row. Each growing season is so different.  Here’s the problem, every year there are more and more things I want to plant but I don’t have the space to plant them all.  I have to cut down my list of seeds.

Sad, sad.

There are currently 27 items in my cart.  I probably should get rid of half.

What it really makes me do is plan a new garden in another spot on the property.  It’s always some nice piece of lawn that Bill has worked on for years.  He’s not going to like this.