Monday, 20 July 2015

Cure & Store Garlic

Curing garlic (and/or onions)...

Cure for 3 to 4 weeks in a shady spot with really great air circulation.

This fabulous open shed is just perfect for curing all kinds of veggies, from garlic and onions to pumpkins and squash.

Carports also work well for curing, or barns or garages, too. If you do not have great air circulation, add a fan to move the air around to prevent the growth of black mould on your bulbs.

Never cure your veggies on bare concrete floors, place down some newsprint or cardboard first.   

Lay out the garlic (or onions) with tops and all still attached, on wooden slat tables. Space them out well to provide great air flow between bulbs. Don't forget to label your varieties!

You can also hang them from the rafters in bundles of 6 or 8 staggered bulbs - do not hang too many per bundle or you compromise the air flow.  Onions and soft neck garlic can be braided.

For information on softneck garlic, see HERE!

So now that the curing process is complete... what to do? 

With all the dry heat we have had this year, your garlic has likely cured really nicely, is ready to be trimmed up and brought into your pantry.

Trim off the tops to about 1/2 inch. Leave them longer if you are going to be using them as seed stock for fall so that you can use the stem as a crank to easily open the bulb.

Rub off some of the wrappers to clean them up to that lovely white (or pink/red) colour. Do not rub off too many skins so that the cloves are exposed!

Trim off the beard (aka roots) nice and short with your pruners, to about 1/4 of an inch.

If you have some bulbs that have not dried quite as well, or as fast, as the others, they will be susceptible to mould. These guys will feel damp or moist to the touch. 

This variety that I grew, Kostyn's Red Russian, was still moist even after all these weeks in the curing shed. I cleaned them up, took off an extra layer of wrapping, and then vented the ones that were really moist.

To vent your garlic, tear a wee opening at the top of the bulb which allows all the moisture to escape. Perhaps does not look quite as beautiful as the lovely white wrapped bulbs, but saves it from spoiling. Is perfectly edible still or save till fall for planting.

Pick out the larger bulbs for use as seed stock in fall for large cloves will yield large bulbs.
Store them in a brown paper bag, a box, a mesh bag, anything that stays dry and breathes. Place in a shady, cool spot till planting time in late September.

Enjoy the rest of your harvest, use for cooking, pickling, roasting, salsa and pesto...  or dry to make your own garlic salt or garlic powder.

Your well cured garlic should keep for 5 to 8 months in a pantry or closet, any spot with good air flow but no direct sunlight. Some varieties store better than others, but you can count on about 6 months for most hardnecks. 

 Holy smokes, look what I found! 
A garlic bulb that was not harvested last year, turned into this monster garlic this year!
This is not the recommended planting/growing method ; ) 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

July Ramblings

What's happening in the month of July? What to do, what to expect, and some tips on how to keep your gardens thriving during this really hot and dusty month.

Is Berry Time....

Blueberries, currants, strawberries and raspberries are all ripening.  Pick them for jams, jellies, pies, wine, and freeze the rest to enjoy during the winter months.  

Pink and Red Currants

Pink and red currants are so gorgeous, so healthy for you, and so versatile.
Can be made into jam or jelly, or wine. Mix with bland fruits for an added kick, or toss into your yoghurt/ice cream for a pretty tint of colour, plus a bit of zing.

Currants come in white, pink red and black. They are all fabulous additions to your kitchen garden (potager) as they are adored by pollinators and beneficial insects! All currants are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, manganese, and potassium.

Jelly Bean - Dwarf Brazelberry Blueberry

This past winter, we planted our new 'fruit orchard' at this new place ... a few apple trees, pear trees, a fig and some cherries. No plums as we have some mature ones on the property already.

We also planted shrub fruits ... blueberries, currants, and gooseberries.
These shrubs will not produce many berries yet this year, being just newly planted, they are still working on forming a good, strong root system.

Luckily though, I also potted up some lovely, dwarf Brazelberry blueberry bushes ... and they are all fruiting like crazy! These dwarf blueberries are terrific for pots and planters, or small yards.

Peach Sorbet and Pink Icing are absolutely loaded with berries, and Jelly Bean, as you can see in the picture above, is certainly no slouch either.

I highly recommend these dwarf berries to everyone, whether you have a small patio or an acreage, they are so wonderful! The fruit in the first year, is a gorgeous shrub with colourful foliage, stays compact, and tastes terrific.
Pop a few blueberries on your deck, by your door, or line your driveway, they are that good!   

In The Greenhouse...
What to do to keep things looking great and thriving...

Little Fingers Eggplants

Peppers and Eggplants

Neither of these are bothered by the heat and drought at all... they are thriving and fruiting, enjoying the weather completely as they both prefer to be grown hot and dry.

My peppers are eggplants are both grown in 3 gallon pots, inside the greenhouse, along the hot southern wall. You can practically see them growing before your eyes, every day they have more flowers, more fruit and have grown in height or width.

How to keep them thriving ...
Water once or twice a week. If you have wilting foliage, it is likely due to over-watering than under watering. Let it dry out and water only when dry. Over watering also gives you bland tasting fruits.

This is a good time to give them a jolt of manure tea and a foliar spray of liquid seaweed or manure tea.
You can also top dress with a scoop or two of organic goodness if you feel they need an extra boost.
Take a couple handfuls of compost, add a tablespoon of Epsom Salts, and perhaps a small handful of ground bonemeal, too, place on the soil around the plant. The bonemeal is helpful in preventing  Blossom End Rot (BER). 


In the greenhouse, all the tomatoes are indeterminate varieties ( the vining kind that grow up strings), grown in 5 gallon pots.

Water every day, if needed, or every second. I am currently watering every 2nd day. If you have larger pots, you may not need to water that often, try every 3rd or even every 4th day.
Water so that it flows out the bottom, water all the other plants in the area, then go around and do it all over again. Let the pots go a bit on the dry side before watering again.

Over-watering causes your tomatoes to taste bland, while under-watering and inconsistent watering causes BER.
The key to yummy tasting tomatoes with no BER is to water thoroughly and consistently, not constantly ; )

To keep your tomatoes happy and thriving, add a scoop or two of the above organic goodness to the tops of these pots, as well. As you water, the goodies will be slowly be fed to the roots.
Foliar feeds with teas or liquid seaweed are terrific for feeding your plants and preventing disease, too.
For more ideas about feeding your organic gardens and pots, see HERE!

Watering down the floor... 
This pic was taken over a month ago, so you know that it has been too hot a really long time! 

 Cool Things Down! 
The greenhouse gets awfully hot this time of year.
Though tomatoes like lots of sunshine and heat, they do not like this much of it, for this long!
The stress of trying to simply survive the heat may cause tomatoes to curl their leaves, abort their flowers, not form any blossoms, and/or poor pollination ... this all adds up to a whole lot less fruit.
The fruits that do form may have hard, green shoulders, cat-facing, sunburn, and perhaps cracking and/or zippering.

To help cool down the greenhouse, hang shade cloth and use it during the hottest part of the day, from about 10 till 4pm.
Water down the floor of your greenhouse in the morning to help keep the air cooler for them during the day.

In The Potager...
What to do to keep things looking good and thriving... 

The determinate (bush type) tomatoes in the raised garden beds are thriving, with great looking foliage and loads of green fruits. They are able to set down deep roots to gather more water, and are mulched up with manure to help retain moisture. They do not seem to be suffering from all the heat like the ones in the greenhouse are. 

To help keep your veggies happy and thriving, please see this LINK again for how to feed and care for your potager plants.

Water deeply once to twice a week.

 Corn and squash go together...
like rama lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong! (Grease)

Two Sisters ...

You have all heard of the Three Sisters Garden? Corn, squash and beans, the perfect companion planting arrangement.
The squash is meant to tumble along the ground, creating a great ground cover that prevent weeds and retains moisture, while also keeping critters away with it's large prickly leaves.
The corn provides nice, strong stalks for the beans to climb up and around.
The beans grab nitrogen from the air and put it into the ground for them all to utilise for bigger, better and stronger growth.

This planting arrangement actually works as planned. The squash vines do indeed make a great ground cover that is less than pleasant to tip toe through to harvest the beans!
The beans do climb the stalks really well, growing so tall that they actually spiral right over the tops and all over the place. They also create a wild and crazy tangle of vines, which makes it near impossible to harvest the beans without harvesting everything else at the same time.   

 My beanstalk... 

Therefore, in my garden The Third Sister .... well, she gets to grow all on her own, without help or hindrance from her other sisters ; )
These Romano pole beans are growing up a 6' tall trellis instead of up and all around the corn.

More beans... these lovely peachy pink hued blossoms are Sunset Runner beans, cousins to the Scarlet Runner bean, just prettier ; )

Watering the Potager
Water your garden every 3 to 7 days.
Cucumbers and tomatoes need about twice a week while many of the others can get away with once a week. If you are able to grow lettuce at this time of year, or other greens, they will likely need to be watered daily to keep from going bitter or bolting.

Sow More Seeds
As the peas, lettuce, broccoli and other cool season crops bolt in the heat or start to peter out, remove them and toss them in your compost bin.

Replace the burnt out plants with new seeds for harvest in late summer, fall, during the winter, and even next spring. This is the time to put in your fall and winter garden. For more information about Winter Gardening in July, please see HERE!

Reap what you have sown... 

Harvest your veggies daily, if you can, or at minimum once a week.
The more you pick the more they produce. Besides, no one really likes the taste of that humungous zucchini, impressive though it is ; ) 

Keep them happy and thriving... 

Water hanging baskets, pots and planters daily. Feed once a week to keep them blooming all summer long, pinch and deadhead, as needed.
Don't forget to shower the plants while you water to help re-hydrate them plus wash off any pests.
 This gorgeous rose is a 2.5' tall mini called Pumpkin Patch. 

All the roses are still flowering like crazy! Yay!

However, some of them are certainly getting that summer time, washed out look really fast from all this heat! Do not worry about this, for when the cooler, shorter days return, you will see your roses go right back to normal again.

Till then, mulch around the base, water once or twice a week, and top dress with manure. Deadhead often to keep them blooming.

Zinnias, dill, bee balm, sweet peas, and snapdragons  

As with the veggies, the more you pick, the more they produce... fill your vases often!

Happy gardening in July! 
Wear a hat, wear sunscreen, water responsibly during this time of drought...
and take care of yourself.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Plant Now For Fall & Winter Gardens!

Strange as it may seem, this is the time to plant your fall and winter gardens.  I know, I know, just as you are ready to chill and watch the gardens grow, watch the kids play, go on holidays...

However, this really is the time, esp during this next week!

You can plant quite a lot of things till early August, but if you wait to plant in September, when life is calmer, kids are back to school, etc... you will have very little options open to you as far as fall and winter veggies go. 

By the way, this is also a terrific time to plant some new crops in place of your already harvested vegetables, like the garlic, or the lettuce and radishes that went to seed in the heat and drought!

 So, question is... what to plant?

 A variety of beets...

What to plant NOW (from seed) .... Plant these before mid-month! ...  for harvest in late summer and early fall. 

- Carrots
- Beets
- Rutabaga's
- Kohlrabi
- Greens like endives and raddichio
- Cucumbers
- Beans
- Zucchini
- Cilantro (keep sowing!)

Brussels Sprouts in December

What to plant NOW (from seed) .... Plant these before mid-month!... for harvest in late winter and early spring.

- Carrots
- Sprouting purple Broccoli's, Broccolini, Broccoli Raab, Romanesco Broccoli
- Rutabaga
- Kohlrabi
- Winter Cabbage
- Turnips
- Parsnips
- Winter Cauliflower (Galleon, Aalsmeer, Purple Cape)
- Parsley 

How to Plant!

Going on holidays in the next two weeks? Do not plant a winter garden! Better to forgo all thoughts of winter gardening...  You will lose everything, the time and money and seeds.

Why? Because you need to sow the seeds now and then keep them moist till they germinate.

Newly planted seeds will need to be watered daily to keep them from drying out. 
You can decrease some of the worry and the work, by covering the newly planted seeds for one week, with shade cloth, Reemay cloth, or burlap ... but you still need to be present to water, as needed.

If you have little to no luck growing carrots, it is likely due to not keeping the seeds and ground moist enough, deep enough for long enough. Carrots will germinate very unevenly, over a period of several weeks ... so water daily till you see the tops coming up, then decrease to ever second or third day. Again, covering them for the first week helps to retain moisture.

Some veggies are better off started in flats or pots or 6 packs as it is much easier to maintain them in small pots than trying to keep garden beds soaked till germination occurs.
Start broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, onions and kale in flats, pots or 6 packs. You can also start lettuce, greens, and more (everything except root crops!) in flats, too. 

What to plant at the end of July thru early August ... for harvest in late summer and fall.

- Lettuce
- Radishes
- Spinach
- Scallions
- Chinese greens like Gai Lan, Bok Choy, etc.. 
- Arugula
- Kale 
- Peas
- More Cilantro

Plant in July/August    ... for harvest in winter and next spring!

- Onions (walla walla)
- Kale
- Kohlrabi
- Scallions


Moving Thyme

Sadly, the Nitty Gritty Potager blog is no more... but the good news is that I can now be found at my new blog called the Olde Thyme F...