Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Big Garden Put to Bed

The above picture doesn't look like much but to this gardener it is a beautiful site! Today I finished digging up the last of my 238 dahlia clumps and it wasn't a day too soon. We have had multiple storms come through this month. Many of them have originated from the southern tropics and have dumped 2" plus of rain as they passed through the area. As each storm rolled by I could literally watch the water table rise in the garden. As you can see in the bottom of the picture, the soil is saturated and the water is starting to puddle and stand. I am really fortunate that I only lost two tuber clumps to rotting this year. I think that might be a record. Now it's almost December. Time to let the garden and the gardener rest for the Winter.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

The year has turned its circle,
The seasons come and go.
The harvest is all gathered in
And chilly north winds blow.

Orchards have shared their treasures,
The fields, their yellow grain,
So open wide the doorway-
Thanksgiving comes again!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Early Bulb Action

I took a walk around the house today looking in all of the flowerbeds.When I arrived at the west end of the house, I was shocked to find that two "Spring" bulbs have already pushed up. This last January 8th, I finally planted 3 specialty bulbs that I had purchased from Cherry Creek Daffodils at the Oct. 2011 Hardy Plant meeting. The "Kokopelli" & "Sabrosa" jonquilla daffs bloomed in late April and the "Rolf Fiedler" star flower bloomed June 13th. Now that they are happily planted I assumed that they would bloom a bit earlier in 2013..but I didn't expect them to be up this early! I am happy to see that all 4 of the "Rolf Fiedler" bulbs are up. Three of the plants look really strong. This last Spring only two of the bulbs bloomed, so I am hoping that all four will send up a bloom stem this coming Spring.

As you can see in the picture below, the "Kokopeli" daffodils are also really doing well. I planted 6 bulbs this last January and it looks like they are already beginning to naturalize. At this point I am only waiting for the one "Sabrosa" daffodil bulb planted in this flowerbed to sprout. Hopefully it is just naturally a bit later than these other two.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Digging Tubers & Record Warmth

Today I started the annual project of digging all of my dahlia tubers. The past few years I have made it a goal to dig, divide, wash and store three rows a week. This year however, I planted a record - for me - 17 rows of dahlias. If I only dig three rows a week, I will still be working on this project in December. So, to speed things up and keep me on-track to hit my Thanksgiving weekend "finish" goal, I decided that I need to dig four rows a week this year. I started at the end of the garden that I had planted first. I had already chopped down those dahlia plants last week so they were ready to go. The strange thing today was, that for the first time that I can ever remember, I was actually sweating digging up the dahlias. I was in jeans and a short sleeve shirt and really wished that I had worn shorts. After I finished digging all 55 clumps, I headed back to the house. That's when I found out that it was a record 73 degrees outside. No wonder I was so warm! I can honestly say that I haven't ever dug dahlias in 70 degree weather before. It sure beats the cold and rain.

After I returned back up to the house with all of the freshly dug clumps, I walked over to the front flowerbed. I then dug my one clump of "Weston Spanish Dancer". I originally planted that dahlia when I had one leftover tuber back in May, when I was potting up my tubers for the big garden. I couldn't bear to throw it out, so I quickly popped it into the front flowerbed. It grew, and grew, and grew! I also had four "Weston Spanish Dancer" plants down in the big garden and they grew fine, but nothing like the tuber in the front flowerbed. I was really curious to compare the tuber size between the two different planting locations. Voila! As you can see in the above picture, the dahlia in the front flowerbed produced a tuber clump three times the size of the clumps that were produced down in the big garden. And look at the size of that stalk! It looks like bamboo! I attribute the size difference to the Nature's Best soil mix that fills the front flowerbed. As you can tell, plants love it and thrive on it.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Garlic Planting

After spending last weekend getting the kitchen garden cleaned up and ready for Winter, I was finally ready to get the garlic planted today. Last year I planted on October 10th, so I am a few weeks later this year. Fortunately, garlic is very flexible and forgiving. If you plant anytime in October to mid-November, your crop should be just fine. I planted three varieties today. The first variety, pictured above is, "Russian Red". I purchased two bulbs at the Fedco Booth at the Common Ground Fair in Maine. It survived the trip home just fine and has been chilling in the refrigerator ever since. This is how Fedco describes this variety in their catalog:

Russian Red Garlic Organic - Named for its mottled burgundy skin, said to have been brought to the Pacific Northwest by Russian immigrants in the early 1900s. Forms a ring of 5-8 large plump cloves around a central stalk. Keeps well for over six months. 50-60 cloves/lb. MOFGA-certified. Maine Grown. Hardneck.

The Fedco catalog lists ""Russian Red" as a Rocambole-type, hard-neck garlic. It should produce 6-12 large tan, brown, or reddish cloves which are easily peeled. It has a slightly shorter shelf life due to loosely attached skins. It will store until February and, if cured well, can store months longer. The scapes will form tight coils. I noticed, as I broke the bulb into individual cloves, how big the cloves were.

The second variety that I planted was "Chesnook Red". I grew this variety for the first time last year. I saved the biggest bulb that I harvested this past July, and I am using those cloves as my planting stock.

Chesnook Red  Organic - Large bulbs with purple stripes, hard tight heads, and easy to peal cloves. An excellent garlic for baking with a nice creamy texture. Pleasant medium pungency, long lasting flavor. Late Season. Hardneck.

I built a long raised bed for the cloves. I added a tablespoon or so of bone meal to the bottom of each hole before I placed the clove. Since our Winter weather is generally mild, I only needed to plant the cloves 1 inch deep, pointed end facing up. I planted 10 cloves of "Chesnook Red" and 15 cloves of  "Russian Red".

Here's the finished bed with all of the cloves settled in for Winter.

When I was done I then covered the whole bed with hoops and a blanket of Remay. I have learned from experience that in the Spring, when the garlic first send up its delicate green shoots, that the finches can not resist pulling on the shoots. The last thing I want to find is a my whole garlic crop lying on top of the soil one morning. I will leave this protective tunnel on until the plants are 2-3 inches high and then it will be safe to remove it.

Once I finished that raised bed, I needed to move to a new space to plant my last variety. As I walked around the house I found this little guy basking in the sunshine. My sister had seen him previously and thinks that it is a young gopher snake. Some great organic pest control!

My final variety that I planted this year was "Tzan". My mom picked up three large bulbs of this variety while on a trip to a nursery on Bainbridge Island, WA. Like "Russian Red" it has extremely large, fat cloves.

Tzan (Turban artichoke hardneck variety)- It is said to be a really hot Turban from Shandong Province that was collected by J. Swenson. Fat, round, easy to peel cloves with beautiful tannish skin that has purple stripes makes it easy on the eyes as well. Averages about 7 cloves per bulb.

I wasn't at all familiar with the term Turban garlic. After some poking around the Internet I found this useful description:

Turbans usually have 5-7 very large fat cloves that form something of a circle around a center that may or may not have a scape. There are few or no tiny interior cloves. Turban garlic's bulb wrappers are usually very colorful with lots of purple splotches and stripes. Some cultivars are very white but vividly striped with red/purple vertical lines. Most of the Turbans I have grown have had stalks (called scapes) that form an upside-down U before straightening up. All cultivars of a given variety of garlic generally have the same scape pattern before they straighten up; all Rocambole scapes form a double loop while Purple Stripe garlics form 3/4 of a loop. Asiatics have a smaller seedhead (properly called an umbel) while Turbans have a larger umbel that resembles a turban. The umbel is covered with a membrane called a spathe and the pointed end of the spathe is called a beak. Turban garlics usually have a beak in the range of 6 to 9 inches or so and have the second-longest beaks of all garlic varieties. Not all have scapes but most usually do. Turbans have 30 to 100 small rice-size bulbils in their bulbil capsule. Some cultivars are instantly hot to the taste while others may be remarkably mild for up to half a minute before you get a very hot taste that spreads from the back of the mouth forward. They can be very pungent and have a musky aftertaste. Not all Turbans are hot although some are but there are also some rich garlicky ones that don't overpower with pungency. - From The Gourmet Garlic Gardens web-site

Well, that explains why the cloves were so fat- they are suppose to be that way!

I built a large, rectangular raised bed against the west end of the house. I was able to fit in 20 "Tzan" cloves. I have them safely planted now and only need to buy a few more metal hoops so that I can get the bed covered in remay for the Winter. Finally, the garlic is planted!