Thursday, May 31, 2012

First Fifty

It was a hot, high dew point day, the kind you happily fight traffic to make way to the ocean, the kind we've been having lately. The wind was strong off the ocean, and welcome.

I did have purpose, other than cooling off, and that was to harvest the Turban and Asiatic variety garlic. They had mostly scaped, and were browning leaves at a rate that made me nervous given the imminent threat of rain. We've had quite enough rain over the last several weeks, and good garlic prefers a week or so of dry down before harvest. It had only two days, and that was going to be enough.

I won't give the reason, although I suspect it had something to do with the decayed outer wrapper, that had almost every root bundle the home of an earthworm or two. Can you see him, dead center.

It is normal for the outer wrapper to decay in the final month of growth. The wrappers of garlic are all leaves. As the leaves dry down above ground, they decay around the bulb, underground. We do not want the garlic in longer than necessary because of the potential to lose more wrappers as more leaves dry down. The wrappers offer protection to the bulb in storage. If the splitting you see above became more severe, perhaps in several wrapper layers, it would invite moisture, soil, and disease. So the early bulbs need to be pulled when they need to be pulled, especially if rain is forecast. We heart our wrappers.

Incidentally, we had these mushrooms sprouting, all over, just underneath the soil line. At first we thought, we hoped, that they were puffballs, but I've come to the conclusion that they are immature stinkhorns, which seem to really like our wood chip paths.

A posed picture. The whole affair at the beach farm is a practice run and coal mine canary for our upstate garlic harvest. We should be about two weeks ahead at the beach farm, and now I know to ramp up my attention, as I've only been visiting the upstate farm once a month until now.

Well, the storm materialized to the northwest, and although threatening, never actually wrung any serious moisture on the beach farm.

As the clouds built, I did a cursory cleanse of the lettuce. Lettuce needs washing, and washing again. A snail and a worm or two figured out I was growing the stuff. The snails prefer the bib, the green and black 'pillars the romaine. Me -I'd rather eat snails with my lettuce. Watch out snails.

The first fifty. No, it has little odor once it begins dry down, but the soil drops and scatters. I'm still looking for a cure site for the next 1950 bulbs. I've got lots of ideas, some prime, some less so. The living room? Less than prime, but air conditioned which the bulbs take to quite well. There's a barn where I'm growing upstate, but right now that barn is up in the air -although I got wind that maybe the masons are coming to pour a foundation on my next visit. Well, I don't think I could ask. I need to find a local spot and I think it's entirely possible, with some fans, and a dehumidifier, and some luck.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Cure

These curing Allium vineale inexplicably have the odor of the most intriguing garlic salt. Yes, garlic, but the clinging soil is possibly adding something else. When young and green, the field garlic has a more earthy onion/garlic scent. It is now intensifying into something quite a bit more beguiling.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Front

A cold front approaches, the first in some time, and that guarantees a stiff southwesterly. At the beach farm, that means a cool winds blowing in off the ocean, salt spray depositing a slight film on my skin, and the sound of crashing waves as I garden.

There will be storms this evening. I say look to the skies between 7 and 8 pm. These won't swell and develop the way stagnant air produces afternoon storms, nor will they make a show of clouds long before the embedded activity. No, tonight's storms will come with only little notice, and full of gust and thunder. If there's garlic to harvest, I will do it before the first crack of that electrical whip.

The storm strafes the city on the bias, reaching north before south. The winds are strong, blowing both the tumult of waves and whining of a lone bagpiper. Garlic is harvested, along with several heads of lettuce, a giant elephant leek scape, cilantro, chard, and the beautifully sweet anise of the vulgar fennel.

Update: it is hard to believe that we escaped with virtually no rain, no storm at all. Weather is a fickle beast.

Rain Salad

I'm afraid I am a little behind in my posting. These images are from last Thursday. I will be heading back to the beach farm today to consider pulling out the earliest garlic, some of which you see below, after the best we seem to get in a run of dry days.

Now the peas are growing. When it's good for peas, it's not so much for tomatoes, but the tomatoes are in and should be just fine when the sun comes out.

Good for peas is also good for lettuce.

And also good for fennel.

Which is fattening up nicely now, alongside all the warm-weather weeds.

I fixed this tear in the irrigation system, should it ever be needed.

I've harvested the Allium vineale, or field garlic, as it was starting to mold on the stems and probably would not size up any more.

I also test pulled one of my Turban cultivars, Tuscan -ready.

But I am not ready for an unexpected onslaught of locusts, err, grasshoppers. The young were everywhere, all over, ready and waiting.

Monday, May 28, 2012


What is it about these greenhouse heirloom tomatoes? I began seeing them last year at Fairway, although these were at Amagansett Farm Stand, which is hardly a farm stand, but an overpriced food trend outlet for summer residents and weekend trippers.

There they were, on the first day of open season summering, looking enough like the real thing from a distance to draw you in, but up close have a disturbing mix of right shape, wrong skin. Is it just me or do you feel somewhat (but not completely) repulsed by hothouse heirlooms? Is it more of a purist's stance than anything to do with the qualities of such a tomato?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Rain Date

Today I am heading out east with dual
purpose. I am handing my mom, who has been sharing our small apartment for the last month, to my brother, where she will stay for the next week before returning to Florida. We will sit in memorial day traffic, we will pick up my brother, we will stop for lunch, and then we will visit the Amagansett farm where I expect to be growing next year's garlic.

I want a soil sample for testing nitrogen (the only significant nutrient for growing garlic in generally good soil), organic content, and pH. I would also like my mother to have an image of where I am when I am not answering calls.

I used to be a better tourist. I used to go to the country to see the country, or to look for it. In recent years I've begun to need a purpose in the country, some kind of work. Something to do gives me vision, helps me see. In the sun, between two waters, fingers in the earth.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Rain Heavy

New Dawn, or any rose I suppose, doesn't like the heavy rains. It droops and sags, petals wither and drop.

 But it bounces back when the sun returns, albeit a little further from the wall than before.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May Rain

You may be wondering about all this rain we've been having. Most of it is the usual stuff, but the last couple of days it has been a tropical, warm rain. This is because this system is partly the remnants of the Atlantic's first tropical storm, Alberto. There's also a high to the northeast pushing and a low to our northwest pulling moisture onshore from the southeast. You've noticed the damp -that's the high dew point. As the moist air has come ashore, it has blossomed into thunderstorms since this morning.

Rain is normally welcome, and I've lettuce to pick, tomatoes just planted, but I've garlic that is near harvest at the beach farm and that requires some days of dry. I see it's getting darker now, another popup storm is nearing.

Measured In Distance And Time

It's hard to believe it was over a month since I last visited the garlic farm upstate. Is it because it has been so warm, the changes all around are less visible without the physical reminder of cool giving way to warm?

Upon seeing your work, only once in a month, you approach the field with a sense of apprehension and excitement. At first, taking it all in, quick judgement is made. Looks weedy, but not too weedy, Rocambole cultivars are too small, Porcelains strong, this is a small field, yet it's too big.

It's only when you get down into it, begin weeding, do I really know what's going on. The tallest garlic, by far the Porcelain cultivars, are just short enough to be straddled during weeding. I must weed rows in opposite directions or weeds are missed. Straw works well to inhibit weeds, but those that do make it force you to rout around looking for the hidden. Crab grass in the unmulched beds is sprouting strong now and is difficult to dispatch at such small size. I will need to be smarter about row widths and plant spacing for cultivation at the new farm.

On the right is Allium sativum ophioscorodon var. Porcelain 'Breezy Point.' I named this formerly nameless garlic after the neighborhood just west of the Beach Farm. The variety name Porcelain indicates beauty and fragility, but these are some of the strongest growing garlic available -it's no wonder Porcelain cultivars are the choice of northeastern farmers.

 The French Grey shallots, Allium oschaninii, are doing quite well, having gone from one shallot to several in 7 months. I like this math.

 If I could find one bug on the garlic, this is certainly one that I would choose.

Weeding a plot this size by hand always takes about three hours and I am pretty thorough. I ran out of straw and so chose not to mulch the three Silverskin rows. Of course, this is where the crab grass sprouts are making headway. I ran the hoe along the outer edges, making sure not to nick the stems or sink deep enough to cut into the bulbs. In between I ran the hoe on its corner.

At the end of the day it's hard not to want to sit and stare at the field, even one this small. I typed into the phone my notes about each variety and cultivar and then it was time to head back to Brooklyn. I have to remind myself that this is an experiment in work, distance and time. The longer it takes, the less likely it is to succeed.

Although my departure was stymied by this little guy. As my generous host and I chatted on our way out of the driveway, I noticed a stone still baby rabbit at the edge of the garage. It took us an hour to get him out of the clutter (the more space you have, the more stuff you keep), so we could close the garage door without trapping him inside. We let him go near some stuff and tall plants for protection and I was on my way.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's All Happening

The snap peas are a little slow this year.

And the chard? It keeps on giving -this is last year's chard!

When the chives are flowering, there should be some lettuce ready.

Not quite on this row of bib and romaine.

But this bed, yes, much to harvest.

And not a moment too soon.

Because the stinkhorns are up and when the stinkhorns are up -it's time to plant tomaduz.

And they are more than ready, they're past due (giving many away).

Look at that -cereal, bananas, and tomato roots. I will use boxes again -they work.

Twelve tomatoes into the cima di rapa bed...

and into the bib lettuce bed.

Including this most attractive plant -the velvet tomato.

All in all, quite a harvest -15 heads of lettuce, bunches of cilantro, a bag of mustard greens, a bag of chard and rabe, and the early scapes of Turban and Asiatic garlic.

This is our second snail. Why? Wood. A neighbor has framed out his beds, and I left a pile of wood over winter. Snails and slugs need cool, dark hiding places, and wood provides.

Bulbing fennel is up and making bulbs.

And Marie's strawberries -delicious.

A few notes on cima di rapa, broccoli rabe: Our rabe was flowering almost as soon as we put it in. I don't think it should, and I think I planted it out too late. Stems were tender at first, but, much like pea shoots and tendrils, if they are hard to snap between the fingers, they won't get any better cooked. A tough stem stays a tough stem. An early harvest is best, and repeats may not produce the tender stems.

On tomato beds: This year I placed fish bone meal on all the beds. I also limed the garden this winter after I had the soil tested. The pH was low. I'm hoping these two efforts keep in check the blossom end rot that my plum tomatoes suffered last year.