Q&A Thursday Live – July 11th, 2019

We get a lot of questions from clients about growing garlic – so we are going to discuss that today. The number one question we are asked about growing garlic is when can I harvest my garlic?  

Garlic is great to grow – easy, low maintenance Garlic is planted in the fall – beginning it’s growth in late fall and goes dormant in the winter to spring to life and continue its growth cycle in the early spring as the ground thaws.  Garlic continues to grow throughout the summer, sprouting leaves and a long flower bud that shoots up from the center of the bulb. This is the scape which is at the end produces a seed bulb and can usually be seen developing on the garlic plants around the end of June or early July depending on the zone you are in (even as early as May in some warmer zones!) Up here on the mountain in zone 5b we saw our scapes develop the first week of July. By cutting the scape from the plant, you signal to the plant that the energy gets sent down to the bulb, so it grows larger and more full.

Garlic scapes
Garlic scapes in the garden

Scapes are wonderful to use while cooking, as they give off a milder garlic flavor than the bulb. Scapes are healthy filled with essential nutrients and minerals; they are low in calories, high in fiber, vitamin C and provitamin A.

Scapes can be used in soups and salads; are good roasted or fried; and they make a wonderful pesto. Check out of our Recipes page of our blog for more info on roasting scapes and making pesto with them.

Another question we are asked quite often is when is it time to harvest my garlic?

Garlic is easy to grow and relatively low maintenance compared to other vegetables and harvest time is no different. Shortly after you have harvested your scapes – about a month later – the leaves of the garlic plants will turn brown and yellow. The you begin to notice the change stop watering, this is about 2- 3 weeks before harvest. On the calendar, in zones 5-6, this is around mid July through August, warmer zones this will be earlier in the summer. When 75% of the plant has changed to yellow and brown, it’s time to harvest your garlic. If you wait until the entire plant has turned you run the risk of the outer skin of the bulbs will shed too.

July 11, 2019 Homegrown Harvest Live Q&A Thursday

Out Like a Lion

Yay!
Spring is here!
We made it though winter once again!
Wait, what? There’s a nor’easter threatening to dump snow on the East coast tomorrow?  What’s this? There is as much snow outside my door here in central New Hampshire as any other time this winter! Wait a minute – the calendar says today is the vernal equinox, spring is scheduled to start at 12:15pm Eastern time. Yet outside the temperature is 15 degrees and the winds have it feeling well below zero! Happy Spring.

Yes, it is a happy spring. Today, we experience an equal amount of daylight as we do darkness and the days will just get filled with even more and more sunlight, warming the earth in the northern hemisphere.

Wikipedia

March has always been a month of tremendous weather and copious amounts of snow. The beginning of this month came in like a lamb up here. Another thaw took all the snows back to bare ground, even up here on the mountainside.  I was even thinking about toying around in the garden threatening to lay down two new raised beds we still have to place and get started.  However, there is a good 2-1/2 feet of compacted snow covering everything up once again. So much for that thought.

I love winter and all it has to offer. I find that it is as beautiful in its own unique way and has it’s fair share of crystal clear blue sky days and spectacular sunsets not often written about. We tend to hear more about the grey days of winter – but I find there as many gray days in any other season. Winter’s beauty is unique and if you don’t like the cold at all – you will never see it.  I made friends with the cold a long time ago – finding it better to get outside in the cold from time to time either skiing, sledding, ice skating, snowmobiling, snow-shoeing – and you find soon enough you aren’t cold for long once you begin to have some fun in it.

Newfound Lake, New Hampshire

Once you are out there enjoying winter and take the moment to gaze around on whatever trail you may be on, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the unique beauty winter has to offer.  Its colors not as rich perhaps as other seasons. The trees black outlines mixed with muted browns, grays amid the dark evergreens. Shades of white with hues of blue at times depending on the cold, paint the landscape. Mother Nature takes care of painting the morning and evening sky with her full spectrum of colors never skimping on the reds, oranges and pinks.  She reminds up that the earth is alive even when it seems not to be.

Every fall I plant garlic to overwinter. It’s a reminder to me that despite the blankets of snow, insulating snow – that dormant doesn’t mean dead and that life will spring forth. The last few lines in Bette Midler song, The Rose written by Gordon Mills that illustrates this beautifully.

“Just remember in the winter, beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.”

Now despite the official start to spring later today doesn’t mean we won’t see more snow this month or even in April. It snowed 3 inches up here last Mother’s Day. Even at my Connecticut house, we would get snow in April, you just knew it wouldn’t last the day usually. New Hampshire where we are now in the Lakes Region is a bit different, we live at 1500ft versus the CT house which is at 300ft above sea-level.  We’ve had a couple of thaws this winter, one in January another in February. An early mud season was starting since the February thaw had temperatures up into the 50s and 60s even up here. All the snow on the mountainside was basically back down to bare ground.  Then we had the third nor-easter, I think the weather station named it Quinn. Mark said that we’ve had a total of 116 inches about 9-1/2 ft of snow so far this winter season – thank god for those thaws!

Ragged Mountain, New Hampshire

To celebrate the end of the winter season, we will be out enjoying what is supposed to be another beautiful blue sky day on the ski slopes.  The trails are in fantastic condition and what better way to finish out the last hours of winter and bring in spring?! This afternoon apres-ski, I’ll start some seeds in the kitchen window to celebrate and commemorate the start of such a promising new season.

A Bittersweet Time in the Garden

I came to love my rows, my beans, though so many more than I wanted. They attached me to the earth, and so I got strength like Antaeus.~ Henry David Thoreau

Just as the Farmer’s Almanac called it, this autumn has been on the milder side. It’s not to say we haven’t experienced our first light frost – that happened the weekend of October 17th and 18thand again the other night. Having Mother Nature remind you of the impending change of the season during a warm autumn can shock crops – depending upon what’s still in the garden and what you have done to prepare for extending the season and fighting a little frost.

Peppers ripening on the counter

The beautiful autumnal colors of reds, oranges and yellows sprinkled through the beds in the form of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and marigolds up until mid-October. At that point we decided to harvest the tomatoes and let them ripen indoors. We always choose to do this at the end of the season for 2 reasons: 1. Tomatoes will continue to ripen off the vine and 2. Too many people, including us have left them out too long and Jack Frost has nipped them and that’s that.  This year due to the cool temperatures throughout the summer we still had tons of hot peppers fully developed but had not yet changed from their green color.  It’s not as well known, as there is some debate depending on what you read, as to whether you can finish ripening green peppers to their colorful counterparts once it has been picked. I had always thought that you could not do this; however, I have discovered that peppers that have started to change colors can be picked and they will continue to ripen of  But I have also read that as long as they are mature in size, given time, green peppers will finish ripening off the plant, according to Big Stone Bounty.
f the plant.

tomatoes ripening in bins


We’ve known this about tomatoes but not peppers – this good info. Of course, pulling any fruit off the plant before fully ripened results in lower nutritional content and they aren’t as sweet as their fully ripened counterparts, but I think anything from your own garden is way better than from anywhere else. Plus I usually only do this at the end of the season when I am worried about impending frost.

Peppers ripening in a bag with tomatoes

I’ve also read a lot of conflicting data about whether or not peppers react to ethylene gas or not. Ethylene gas helps stimulate the ripening process in many fruits including tomatoes. I’m currently conducting my own experiment to see if the peppers I put in the paper bag with the ripe tomato and ripening tomatoes accelerates the process of ripening the green peppers vs the ones one the counter on a dish. We have so many green tomatoes that I have been using unused earthworm bins that have holes on the bottom to layer the green tomatoes so they can ripen. The aeration helps the process. All the cherry tomatoes are in three bins and then I have a platter full of standard-sized heirloom tomatoes stacked up.


Cold frame is up

There can be so much to do to get ready for winter, particularly if we get a winter as snowy as last year. Once again the Farmer’s Almanac Winter Forecast confirms our fears that we could be in for a doozy. To finish readying the garden beds for winter, we need to be sure any remaining tender crops have all been weeded out and pull any weeds that may have crept in over the summer.  By doing so we remove any possibility of leaving behind vegetation which may add to the promotion of disease. We put a cold frame over part of one bed where we are currently growing some broccoli – our broccoli in the past has been attached so I tend to cover it up to provide a little added TLC to give it more of a chance. We put another cold frame upon a bed of lettuce, carrots and arugula.  The hay/straw mulch still needs to be put down and I need to gather some pine needles for the asparagus bed.  


Yesterday during a break from the computer, I went out and pulled the entire bed of remaining bean, cucumber and morning glory vines.  All of which will be dumped in the woods since I worry about the morning glory seeds taking over.  In a few days I’ll harvest some more herbs – the mint, rosemary, sage and thyme should be trimmed back – as should the oregano.  I will leave some long and wild for the birds and bees to continue to enjoy. There won’t be too many days left where the weather will allow me to be outside and to me there is nothing better than working out in the garden.

3.5 inches of much needed rain
Asparagus ferns

It rained 3.5 inches yesterday and last night – we desperately need it. It’s why I ran outside the day before to deal with the vines since I knew I’d be stuck inside to deal with computer work and filing if the weather reports were right.  There is nothing I rather do less than file, which is apparent since I am finding statements from 2011 in the pile.  The spare garlic, shallots and onions I managed to plant in some containers and the remainder of the two beds I had planted some in last week. We use a ton of all three when we cook and buying them – particularly shallots – can be expensive; so there is nothing better than growing your own.  At this point the garden is ready for it hay/straw mulch in some beds.  I’m still waiting a little while longer before cutting the asparagus shoots down to 2- 3″ and mulching; their ferns are just turning a yellowish brown but most remain green still.  Once we cut them down we’ll mulch with as many pine needles as we can rake up from under our own trees and top off with the hay/straw mulch we use to protect the freshly cut tops from the wind and frost.


Our Brussels sprouts are still coming along – its our first year growing them so there is a learning curve. We had some pests eat away at the leaves at one point during the summer but we planted enough that we only really only lost one to the pests – the rest now have started to sprout their little sprouts which it fun to see. The end of the season list continues with dumping the new compost into the the 12 foot bed we had to empty thanks to the morning glory infestation.  We need to throw down some new compost in a few containers as well before putting the straw/hay mulch down. 

It’s a bittersweet time of year for us. We have worked in our garden as well as in our clients’ gardens all season. Preparing soil, seeding, planting, staking and supporting, watering, feeding, weeding, waiting, watching nature do what she does so well – grow, thrive, produce, feed.  It’s the most satisfying feeling in the world, helping people grow their own food.  But alas, all seasons must come to an end and our business, Homegrown Harvest is coming to the end of our third growing season.  We were thrilled the other day to receive photos from one of client’s boasting about their garden.  It’s the best feeling in the world when you have one of your clients send you pictures of her garden thriving or her standing there with a Cheshire cat grin holding a huge platter of homegrown vegetables. We are truly blessed!

As the season winds down we can take solace knowing that the garden may be still but underneath the soil, wonderful things are taking shape to fill our palates next season. 

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul. ~Alfred Austin


If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal – that is your success. All nature is your congratulations, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. ~ Henry David Thoreau

Kids are back in school – time to seed the garden for fall!

A recent August harvest of potatoes, cucumbers, squash and beans

It’s August and the garden is abundant with tomatoes ripening; beans dangling off their vines and peppers appearing in various shades. It’s been a summer season so far filled with cool wet days and nights followed by beautiful dry days that were so comfortable to work outside. Only in the last few weeks did the heat and humidity start setting, now finally the hot peppers are red!  But we still are experiencing the cooler nights, open your windows weather.        

Some things in the garden have run their course and I need to start cleaning out those beds to ready them for seeding; there is still so many quick crops that can be enjoyed even this late into the season. However, I plan on using more low hoops this winter to protect the overwintering vegetables. If the Farmer’s Almanac is correct and we have the snows like we had last winter, we need to prepare ahead of time. This morning at 7:30a.m., the air temp is 60 degrees and soil temperature is at 70 degrees.  When we prepare a bed for receding or replanting, we remove as much debris as we can without disturbing other plants that may still be around producing vegetables. Right before replanting or seeding we will add more compost to the bed to replenish the depleted nutrients. 
Currently I have a 10 to 12 foot-long acorn squash that needs to be removed from its garden bed. It’s late 8 foot long bed but acorn squash need to take plenty of space up in the garden. It’s leaves are gigantic in comparison to other leads in the standard garden. We only recommend growing acorn squash if you have space for this plant to spread out. Pumpkins are the same way – gorgeous giant  plants with huge huge leaves.  The family which contains squash, cucumbers and pumpkins have that some of the biggest leaves and produce, for that matter, of any vegetable family. A topic to explore further in the future. Right now I’d like to focus on the fresh start that seeding and planting can provide families this time of year.

Carrots just beginning to sprout

August is a time when families look at the new fresh slate before them, the new school year. A new start for many,  you can view your garden bed much the same way.  If you don’t have a garden yet now is a great time to start one; as a matter fact we just planted and installed a new fall garden this past week. We planted the garden with broccoli and spinach starts and some marigolds. We also seeded the garden with lettuce, carrots and peas for our client’s enjoyment through the fall.   If you already have a garden going, there is plenty of time to add to it.  If you’re not rotating the plant families in your existing garden, now is as good a time as any to start. Perhaps you’re still enjoying a delicious tomato plants and are thinking there’s no way I can add anything more to this craziness. We keep the craziness that bag this time year by pruning back the leaves that are dying or simply unproductng they don’t produce any fruit. By doing this the plants are nicely trimmed, the energy of the plant is directed to the fruit and air is able to go through allowing the plant to breathe. We use companion plantings in our garden, so there are some marigolds below and a basil plant but there is still plenty of room to seed for cooler crops like lettuce or spinach in the spaces below.

before the snow

There are plenty of different vegetables you can continue to enjoy this time of year by doing a late summer seeding.  Carrots are wonderful to seed this time of year either to enjoy as baby carrots in the fall or to overwinter. Frost helps increase the natural sugars making them even sweeter. Radishes arugula and Asian greens are all quick growing crops that can be soon this time of year. There are 25 days until the first day of autumn and 63 days until Halloween plenty of time to keep growing wonderful, delicious, fresh vegetables. In the past we have had plenty of years where we don’t get a frost until mid-November, and working and I have been able to enjoy fresh greens growing in containers around our patio until mid January when this is finally fell. Last year we used a small low hoop on one of our beds and nothing on another that we had planted. We planted brassicas which like the cooler temps in the low hoop; the other bed which we left exposed had onions and garlic carrots and some lettuce. If you remember the winter 2015 was incredibly snowy here in the Northeast; our area of Connecticut we had 60+ inches of snow. This new began to fall around the second week of January I remember clearly his we just picked up a new tractor on January 6 and it took Mark a good week and a half to put the snow-thrower on it. The snow and finally melted by the middle of March definitely most of what was gone in the raise beds were set free by the third week of March. My notes show I was seeding snap pea on March 6.

Fall is also the time to plant bulbs- most people associate this with planting tulips and daffodils hyacinths and the like; however, this is also the time to put garlic which is in the alliums family. It’s also a great time to put shallots and onions starts. Super easy to grow and it’s psychologically nice knowing that when you stare out the blanket of snow that you know some sort of tasty magic is going on underneath.  Cooking with homegrown shallots and garlic – yum.

I was reminded this week, after visiting two clients gardens the other day, of the importance of water to life. Both of these clients have had watering issues this season; the first having forgotten to hook up their hose earlier in the spring the other thinking their irrigation spray head near the garden is watering at sufficiently. It’s not. The former finally got their soaker hose hooked up and the garden is looking so much healthier, seeds germinating, plants growing stronger and healthy. The latter garden has been doing well but more seeds belts germinate and areas of the bed that I believe is not receiving sufficient enough water. We recommend the spray head be switched to a drip irrigation line for the garden. It’s a much more efficient and effective way to water your garden. I look forward to the next few months we have left of our garden. We see so many people close up their garden once the tomato plants are done producing. We close up the beds as the vegetables end their course and keep some of the beds going throughout the fall and winter months. This way we can enjoy fresh homegrown vegetables throughout the fall and even into the start of the winter season.
Why not? If you can grow your own, it’s worth it.
 

Suggested varieties for fall quick growing cooler crop:

Carrots 
Yaya, 60 day
Mokum, 56 day
Paris market – 50 today
Sugarsnax 68 day
Peas
Dwarf gray sugar snow
Oregon sugar pod two
Mammoth melting snow 
Spinach
Palco 38 day – reliable quick crops seed to plate
Regiment 37 Day – speedy crops of flavorful greens
Tyee 45 day – great Four seasons spinach
Arugula 30 day
Lettuce
Sylvesta 50 day
Bibb 43 day
Merlot 55 day
Radish
Sora 26 day
Cherry bell – 20 day top-quality
Onion
Ramrod 55 day
Evergreen hearty white bunching
Beets
Golden Burpee 56 day
Boldor 51 day
Albino 50 day      

The End of the 2014 Season

I wrote this blog entry back in early October in a notebook. However, life got in the way of me sitting down and entering it; a resolution is to be more diligent in keeping up with writing and actually posting.

Garlic Planting Season

September has been cool and wet in our neck of the woods of SWCT, much like the summer was.  The first six days of October has proven to be both wet and cold; two inches of rain fell over the weekend and I woke to chilly 48 degrees. The marigolds don’t seem to mind the frigid temperatures and they continue to brighten our garden with reds, oranges and yellows.  Many people this time of year find themselves turning to chrysanthemums, but our marigolds have minimized our need to buy mums. The pink petunias as well have continued to thrive nicely into October.  In New England this is the time of year (October/November) to plant garlic. We decided to experiment with a few different varieties this season, after learning that there is a whole world of garlic of varying tastes and spiciness to them that I had never heard of or seen. I thought garlic was garlic but just in the way you can’t say if you’ve tasted one tomato, you’ve tasted them all; the same goes for garlic.

IMG_0007
Charley our gnome

Allicin: Mother Nature’s Insecticide

When I select seeds and starts for our gardens, I always look for varieties that are easy to grow in our zone (6), that will be prolific and delicious of course. Siberian garlic is an example of a wonderful cold weather prolific producer we planted this fall. It has a warm medium to strong flavor delicious in any dish. It is high in allicin content, the highest of any garlic. Allicin is an organosulfur compounds that enhances circulation; normal cholesterol levels; and boosts the immune system. Plus has a variety of antimicrobial properties.  Garlic is natural defense system from insects and fungi; enzymatic-ally producing allicin when it’s chushed.   It is Mother Nature’s insecticide. However, allicin is not found in all forms of garlic – it is primarily found in the raw state.

When roasted Siberian garlic deliciously caramelizes, its delicate mild flavor compliments without overwhelming.  A perfect addition to stir-fries, dips, sauces, soups where you are looking to add a subtle hint of garlic.  Originally from Europe and used in traditional European and Russian cooking, Siberian garlic made its way to Alaska in the 19th century. Legend says it was traded off the docks for fresh veggies, probably making its way across the Bering Strait. It’s an easy to grow hard neck garlic in the maple purple stripe family. A medium-tall plant, it produces large bulbs and beautiful purple flowers making a lovely addition to any garden.  Bogatyr is also in this family. This rich flavored garlic is extremely robust and great in Italian dishes. I look forward to having this in our sauces!  Chesnok Red is one of the best baking garlic around; mouthwatering sweet when baked. Rounding out the garlic bed we also included Elephant, Music, California Early and Late Italian. All milder than the easier mentioned varieties but add just as much to the culinary cues of the kitchen.

When planting garlic cool temperatures are the best conditions for planting.  Look for a sunny site, preferably in a raised bed rich with compost.  Break bulbs into separate cloves, the plump ones are best for the garden – save the smaller ones for containers or to force chivelike foliage.  Set and space cloves two to three inches apart in all directions.  Along with the garlic, we planted other alliums like onions and shallots that like other bulbs do best when planted in the fall.

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Our garden.

December Entry- Getting up to date and ready for the snow

It’s difficult to believe that despite the calendar and the fact that many parts of the country have been buried under snow; 6’+ in Buffalo a week before Thanksgiving – it’s still fall. Autumn, that beautiful time of years where Mother Nature truly can put on a spectacular finale before closing the final curtain on the season.  The winter solstice doesn’t begin until December 21 – over two weeks away. We put a straw/hay blended mulch down on top of the bed that are seeded or perennials to protect from the expected harsh winter snows.

Just as the leaves were turning dazzling shades of orange, yellow and red, the trees and shrubs begin to shed their glory; there is a part of the garden that is just getting started. As I have discussed above, early fall is the perfect time for planting garlic bulbs, onion and shallot starts. They start to grow just a little in the ground before going dormant for the winter months.  It’s like they hit the pause button until the spring thaw warms the ground once more, kick starting their growth in to overdrive.  Many vegetables benefit greatly from spending some time in the frosted ground – it tends to bring out the natural sugars and makes things like peas and carrots sweeter.

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Winter Brown Lettuce under the glass bell cloches.

The other day I walked out in to the garden and checked on the things that we had seeded in late summer that we have been able to enjoy for a few weeks now.  First there is the dwarf bok choy that we look forward to throwing into some stir-fry this weekend. We would have already had some but our 11-month-old puppy, Marley Sage Mulch can add bok choy to her list of last names. On numerous occasions she got into the raised bed and munched away at the crispy ends of the vegetable managing to eat up three plants.  We were able to save a few others but have had to wait to make sure the plants would survive.

Today another walk through the garden I see in one raised bed that there is plenty of kale that is ready to enjoy. The arugula should be cut so we can make some pesto and the Golden Acre cabbage looks delicious.  I check the progress under the stray/hay we put down as mulch to protect from the expected harsh winter.  Underneath the yellow multiplier onions is nestled next to Italian late garlic with Artic butterhead lettuce on the other side. Music and Elephant garlic sit next to the Giants of Colamar carrots at the garden party. The exotic Sante shallots and French red shallots mix with California Early and Siberian garlic. Finishing the bed up with Bogatyr and Russian red garlic coupled with Russian Red torpedo and Walla Wallas onions.

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Golden Acre Cabbage

Finally I walk through the gate of our Maine Kitchen Garden where under a cloche Marvel of Four Season lettuce and Paris Market carrots are growing.  Under the glass bell cloches it’s easy to see the leaves of the Winter Brown lettuce. We also seeded a number of overwintering carrot varieties like Meridia Hybrid and Giants of Colamar; a few varieties of greens such as Giant Winter spinach and Winterwunder looseleaf lettuce that we will be able to enjoy in early spring.

As the holiday catalogs continue to fill our mailboxes with cards and catalogs, the first of the seed catalogs have also started to come in sparking the beginning thoughts, dreams and discussions for next season.  We wish all our readers and followers and very joyous holiday season and a bountiful New Year!