Monday, July 21, 2014

Garlic Harvest 2014

Growing garlic in this part of the world comes with weather hurdles.  Late frosts can burn tender new growth but the real problem is with our July weather.  High daytime temperatures and humidity combine with frequent severe thunder storms to keep the plants constantly wet when their natural growth cycle signals that it is time to dry down.  Leaf structure promotes rot.  Where the leaf joins the stem a water holding cup is formed.  As the lower leaves begin to brown this water enters the stem and supports the growth of gray slimy mold inside of the stem.  Trapped water also finds its way down to the bulbs.

Two visually different varieties can be seen in the first photo.  The left most variety was purchased from a roadside stand located near the west side of Canadargaro  Lake.  I have purchased seed from her before but all of my plants died last year.  My newly purchased seed was found to be full of rot when I began to process it for planting.  Most of it was trashed but enough sound cloves were found for planting.  Sixty cloves were prepared using Daphne's method and sixty plants were just harvested.  Last fall I was reluctant to commit all of my seed garlic to the baths and peel but the results have made me a staunch believer.

The center variety is from my own seed.  A purple stripe, it grew great here last year.  These sixty cloves were planted without the baths and peel.  It is not yet ready for harvest so the actual outcome is not yet known but the plants look impressive now.

Look past the weeds and notice how the leaves join the stem.  The lowest two or three leaves have softened as they died and a pathway for water to enter the stem is now present.  Five or six still green leaves each form a tight wrapper around the bulb.  Moisture has in the past been found between the layers of wrappers.  Four consecutive days without rain signaled harvest time.

This variety was purchased from Lamb's Quarters Farm.  Here again I lost all of the plants from previous purchases.  The eight cloves deemed clean enough to plant were given the soak and peel treatment and all of them grew.  The upper three show the tan discoloration that signals moisture inside of the clove wrappers.  Seed will only be taken from the five white bulbs.  Cloves from the tan bulbs will be eaten if they prove to be sound.

Two days separate the photos of the same eight bulbs.  Purple stripes appear as the bulbs cure and they are visually striking.  One of the upper three tan bulbs shows spots of possible rot.  These three need to be moved away from the others although the other two both look good.

Freshly cleaned these bulbs from Canadarago Lake show pure white.  Their purple stripes will soon be evident.  At first glance these bulbs seem smallish.  They are small but many contain only four cloves.  Individual cloves are monsters by comparison to other hardneck garlics.  Since I prefer the bulbs with only four cloves, all of next year's seed will be taken from bulbs with exactly four cloves.  For now, the cleaning continues and the basement smells like a salami factory.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hope For The Monarch Butterflies

A very famous blue monster named Grover once said: " Where there is life there is hope!"  I'm sure someone else said it first, but that is who came to my mind while I was writing this. Serious concern for the survival of the Monarchs has been in the news, but I'm so happy that there are still Monarchs who made it here to lay their eggs on the acres of milkweed plants we encourage to grow here.

I did not see this Monarch in the field of milkweed.  This one chose to lay her eggs right inside the stone square of the garden.  We have allowed milkweed to grow in the garden and I would encourage any gardener in the paths of the migrating Monarchs to do the same.  One Monarch and 4 eggs doesn't seem like much, but I hope that this is being repeated over and over again in places out of my sight and camera range.  I happen to know where this milkweed leaf is growing.  In a few days the first instar should hatch.  I will be watching!  I hope that there are enough gardeners to make a difference and that we have not noticed too late.  But there she is, real proof that we can all hope for the best and do what we can.  For more information about Monarch butterflies, I recommend  the book,  An Extraordinary Life:The Story of a Monarch Butterfly by Laurence Pringle. It is a story to  read to children, but it contains a great deal of helpful information as well.  If we all do what we can to help we have great reason to hope!