The day after the storms was so nice, so cool, breezy and pleasant, we had to have our coffee out of doors. The lilies are in bloom -all of them. The landlady surprised me, as I had my head down pulling the smartweed and dayflower, with a good morning. I didn't even know to whom I replied until I looked up. Then the landlord, who breathed "there he is -the gardener." What's going on here, I thought. And then I enjoyed the lilies.
Friday, June 29, 2012
This is healthy garlic, harvested on May 29th at the beach farm. The wrappers, those layers of paper-like sheaths, are actually the dried leaves of the garlic plant. The more leaves, the more papery layers. Wrappers are important because they protect the garlic in the ground and later in storage. Well-wrapped garlic will store longer.
Turbans harvest early, and this year, especially so. May was an exceptionally wet month and despite well-draining sandy loam at the beach farm, the soil was wet when this variety was ready for harvest. Except, we want to avoid water in the last week or two before garlic harvest. As the leaves dry above ground, they are also doing so below ground. Wet soil leads those dying leaves to split and maybe rot. When the wrappers rot, the garlic inside has less protection.
Have you ever wet paper and then left it to dry? If so, you know what happens -it wrinkles. That's what you see in the above Turban. The wrappers were wet and when dried in the curing process, they wrinkled. It's perfectly good garlic, just less attractive. I remove the outermost wrapper, losing most of the attractive purple mottle, in order to present a healthier looking bulb. We've been having drier weather now, so I don't expect any more wrinkles.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Asclepias syriaca in bloom; scented evenings at the beach farm.
Always worth a closer look.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Table quality garlic can be as perfect as seed quality, but it is not required. Table garlic is smaller (sometimes quite small), can be found with damaged wrappers, sometimes a soft clove or two, and may have disease that does not affect its edibility. If you grow table garlic, your concerns are yield, so you will toss the obviously sick, and sell the rest. If you are a seed grower, one diseased bulb (white rot, bloat nematode) can terminate a field's seed.
The garlic on the left is high-quality seed stock garlic purchased from Oregon, the garlic on the right is high-quality table garlic purchased at NYC Greenmarket. If you feel tempted to plant that farmers' market garlic (it is big and beautiful after all), don't. Several of the diseases in NYS fields will remain for years once they are introduced, and many can be hosted by any allium species in your garden.
When you buy from a farmer touting seed garlic, you enter a trust with him or her that they're honest about the health of their fields. They cannot know everything, and healthy looking garlic can harbor disease, but that farmer should be observant and resist selling anything as seed that has come from a field showing signs of the worst diseases. New seed in the field will be quarantined until it reproduces year after year with no disease. Old seed is trusted seed and a seed grower will be wary to ever run down his or her supply.
These are two seed stock quality bulbs from Washington state. Porcelain 'Georgian Crystal' on the left and Rocambole 'German Red' on the right. At 3.5 plus inches, it is arguable that these are too big. Giant bulbs have less flavor and may be more difficult to cure successfully for long storage, but no matter, you won't eat these -you'll plant them.
The best seed bulbs run from 2 to 3 inches across. Farmers' observation has long proven that the smallest bulbs and small cloves will produce weaker plants. They will grow, but less vigorously, and you will find small cloves on small bulbs at harvest time. Last autumn I planted garlic seed of the same cultivar from two different sources. One delivered medium-sized bulbs with medium-sized cloves. Another delivered giant bulbs with large cloves (the one you see above left). Both were sold as seed.
The soil and cultural conditions were consistent row to row. Yet, this image shows the difference between the two. The garlic on the left is nearly twice as large as the garlic on the right. The plants look healthier too, a deeper green with thick-stalked scapes. They are the very same cultivar grown in the very same soil -the only difference was bulb and clove size.
Monday, June 25, 2012
NPR has been talking lately of bee swarms and starving bees. Just a thought -honey may be costly but flowers come cheap.
Bees, kiss my aster! I've got lots in my small garden. Each plant has dozens to hundreds of flowers. Asters can be sunflowers, goldenrod, chrysanthemum, fleabane, marigold, dandelions, dahlias, zinnia, echinacea, and on and on. If you have flowers, you probably have asters. Bees love them. If you want to feed your hyper local, artisanal, hand-pressed, cold-brewed, Breucklynn bred honey habit, plant an aster.
The landlady recently ordered the removal of our tree pit asters. She can't really do that, I mean, landlord's don't own the tree pits, do they? But her team of slow-moving, low paid handy men have all day. These were the guys who sprayed herbicide to do in the weeds around our garden a month ago (and garden plants are still dying a slow Monsanto-engineered death). Meanwhile, in 99 degree weather, another was painting the house with a roller and bucket. So many guys, but the dump never gets less dumpy.
Betsy worked hard in nasty dog and cat turd studded tree pits to make the asters orderly. I then lifted Chrysanthemums from the other beds to fill the street side. Asters are a great choice. They naturally grow under trees, are tough, don't require anything but rain, and they flower with buzzing activity in the fall that warms your heart. So far, dogs (and their owners) have resisted filling these with new turds. It doesn't look like much now, but it would, in time. Got to give it time.
Last year's asters were self-seeded into the tree pits by wind.
Ahh, the newly-painted siding. I'm not cherry picking, it all looks like this.
All the new plants mashed by the painter's boots.
I had a run in with the landlord's daughter. She complained that the cat dander was working up her asthma as she left our building. I said that it could easily be the carpet in the foyer and staircase that smells like a thousand wet dogs. She couldn't agree, and in fact, said that given our rent, I should keep my complaints to myself and, of course, I am always welcome to leave.
I do not like having the rent held over me to shut me up. The landlord can raise the rent if it's needed to keep maintenance up -everyone understands this, but a landlord has some obligation to maintain their building -at least the common areas. New tenants came in last year and their rent is nearly 50% more than the previous tenant, but those new tenants will attest that little has been done to improve the place. So the complaint that we don't pay enough to do some upkeep feels rather hollow.
We hear you, we can always leave -so we're looking.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Saturday, June 23, 2012
The word 'scape' is derived from the Latin word for stalk -scapus. It is the flowering stalk that rarely sets flower. Let a few go to see what they can do. You will still get garlic from those left or forgotten.
Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture for their Trustee/Governor weekend in July. There will be pesto at the big dinner.
Friday, June 22, 2012
I think of people carrying eggs in spoons.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
After 5 days, they'll look like this.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Monday, June 18, 2012
Very excited that each and every one of my 5 cultivars of French filet beans are up and doing well. This seeding is a grand experiment in growing what is known as a difficult bean and succession planting -I'm timing the seed plantings to the day. Next planting -June 23.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
And they stack. Over the last day Betsy and I worked on a design for both transporting and curing our 1200 French grey shallots. I finished assembly today. The beauty of this design is that they can be stacked, taking up little floor space and can also fit in the van at harvest. The pine boards are 1x3s and the mesh 1/2-inch. Materials cost - $34.
I'm teaching a drawing class at Sarah Lawrence College up in Bronxville over the next couple of days. After my last class, I will head up the Taconic speedtrap to settle in to a night of couch sleep. The next morning I wake to harvest, load up these very racks, and return to Brooklyn before the elevator operator heads home for the weekend. I do not want to carry 10 racks of shallots up four flights of stairs. Who would? There the shallots shall rest for a month's time, curing, building its tough outer skin. You need that in NYC.
This is my first time growing lettuce, at least since that long ago slug-infested lettuce patch that never made it in Oregon, 1995. We grew two varieties -a bib type and a romaine; seeds from Territorial. At first I was not impressed with the flavor of the romaine. Now I know why -I was harvesting too soon. Worried about bolting and hot June temps, we began harvesting head after head. But these big beauties, one tear of the leaf told me that they need a little heat, they need to mature in the field.