Saturday, October 13, 2018

Time to Plant Garlic

Choose large, blemish free and disease free cloves
For those who grow winter vegetables, it's time to plant garlic for next years crop. If you have never tried growing your own garlic, it is easy to grow with a few guidelines. 

Garlic is not suited for growing in containers, it is better in the ground or raised beds. Any time this month is good but definitely have it in the ground before the end of October. I used to plant later in the year but an October planting gives the root system more time to develop, therefore larger bulbs at harvest. Once warm weather appears in May, the plants are stimulated to form bulbs regardless of how much root system they have at the time.
February ~ pull mulch back a bit

To prepare the garlic for planting; separate the cloves but don't skin them. Use large, blemish free and disease free cloves. Dig over the soil well, add compost and rake the bed to level. Be sure not to compact the soil by stepping on it. Set each clove, pointed end up about 4-6 inches apart with the tip of the clove 1-2 inches deep. Plant deeper if frost or rain may expose the cloves and plant shallower if planting into heavier soil or mulching heavily.

April 2016 garlic crop
After planting, mulch the beds with a 3-6 inch layer of straw or dry leaves. This protects the soil from erosion and protects the cloves from being heaved up by frost. If you see tips of green shoots poking up in December or January, don't worry, garlic shoots are very hardy and will be fine. 

July 2015 Harvest
Once the sun is on the garden, (in my garden usually by late February), pull the straw mulch away from the emerging sprouts. Do not totally remove the mulch as the weather is still unpredictable. Fertilize the spring growth, water as needed and keep weeded. 

When the flowers develop at the top of the stalk, cut them to keep energy in the bulb. These are called garlic scapes and are delicious to use in stir fries, pickled or in my incredible 'Garlic Scape Pesto'. 

A whole new meaning to the term 'one clove of garlic'!
On a final note... 'White Rot' is a fairly common disease that causes black spots and decay on the bulbs. It is easily spread in infected soil and water ... and is very persistent in the soil. The best way to avoid it is not to leave decaying alliums in the ground and by using a strict 4-year rotation in your garden. 

I grow two varieties of garlic but hands down, these huge garlic cloves are my favorite! Each garlic bulb has only 2-4 huge cloves! Unfortunately I don't remember where I originally acquired the seed and don't know the name ... and no, it is not elephant garlic!! Each clove is equivalent to 3-4 'normal' garlic cloves but is slightly more mild in flavor than the other variety I grow. 

Until next time, enjoy your garden clean up jobs in the coming week of sunshine, and ... Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Marvelous Melon Experiment

I know for a fact ... juicy, sweet, melons can be grown on Denman Island because I buy them at our Denman Saturday Farmer's Market!
I had access to a second portable greenhouse this summer and decided to try my hand at growing several varieties of melon in containers. Through research on the topic of container planting for melons, this is possible with one plant per (at least) 5 gallon pot. I started the seeds a bit late, but still got a few melons to fully ripen on the vine. To judge ripeness; watermelons are ripe when the tendril nearest the fruit is dry. Ripe cantaloupe will easily detach from the vine with light finger pressure. This is why most grocery store melon is lacking in flavor... when commercially grown they are picked, shipped and sold before ripening. The problem being, melons do not ripen off the vine

Cream of Saskatchewan Watermelon
 'Cream of Saskatchewan' Watermelon from Seed Savers Exchange ... was "brought to Saskatchewan by Russian immigrants and does well in cool northern climates. Fruits are round, up to 10" in diameter and 4-10 pounds. A rare treat with sweet, white flesh, exceptional flavor. Pale green skin with dark stripes. Very thin rind, must be handled with care - strictly garden to table."

This melon is indeed delicate and its pale flesh is unusual to the eye. It was crisp and extremely juicy with a very thin rind. The flavor was mild and not as sweet as I had hoped. I feel this delicate melon required more sunshine and heat than my north facing property could provide.

Seascape Strawberries and 
 Cream of Saskatchewan Watermelon
As usual, the Seascape Strawberries did not disappoint! These huge, juicy, sweet berries produced a larger June crop than usual. The second crop is always very impressive with even larger fruit. Finally at this years Denman Island Blackberry Faire, my fresh strawberry entry won first prize in the Berry Category of the produce judging. Although shortly after that the rains came and the rodents took advantage of my sparse garden visits. The plants are loaded with large green berries that will not ripen unless we get some sunny, dry days soon. My last big harvest in this photo was September 11th, 2018. 

Earlichamp Cantaloupe
'Earlichamp' Melon is from West Coast Seeds, "a cantaloupe with slight sutures and heavy netting. The fruit is large and heavy. The bright orange flesh is cool and sweet."
These melons were impressive to watch grow. The tiny pollinated fruits seemed to explode in size every day! I knew they were ripe and days away from picking when I opened the greenhouse and the sweet aroma of ripe melon filled the air ... simply intoxicating! 
Earlichamp Cantaloupe
When ripe the large, heavy fruits easily released from the vine. Again, I expected more sweetness from this melon. This may sound odd, but their aroma was sweeter than their taste. 

It was an interesting experiment and next year I may try them again but in the garden with black plastic mulch to increase the soil temperature and possibly a poly tunnel to increase the air temperature. I hope the garden will get more sunshine hours than the new location of the greenhouses this year. Melon plants need 8-10 weeks of good, hot growing weather from the middle of June to the end of August. So if you are planning to give them a try in your 2019 garden or greenhouse; mark your calendar, order your seeds early and start them indoors or in a greenhouse in the third week of April. Transplant at the end of May or early June when the seedlings are 5-6 weeks old. Remember, melons do not ripen off the vine, so plan to leave them intact even into September.
After growing up in Alberta, this was a rewarding growing experience and I'm planning more marvelous melon experiments for 2019!

Until next time... Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appétit

Photos by Sally Rae