Sunday, 29 May 2016

Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes ready to pick in May? Crazy!

Here on the west coast, we usually get scapes in June and harvest bulbs in early July. However, a mild winter and hot, dry spring means an extra early start to everything this year.

Scapes are the lovely, curly tops of hard-neck garlic stems. You won't find them on the Italian soft-necks, the braid-able varieties.

These curls begin to form about three to four weeks before the bulbs are ready to be harvested. Removing the scape is said to put the energy back into the bulb, making for a bigger, plumper garlic bulb. However, do not fret if you missed some, for quite honestly, I have never noticed much difference in size whether I did or did not snap them off.

They are incredibly delicious though, so picking them is a great idea ; )

With your fingers, simply snap the curl off just above the last leaf. Do this when they are young and tender as they will get woody and fibrous if left too long.

Scapes can be sauteed, made into pesto or hummus, pickled, or added to stir fries. I like them best when simply roasted or BBQ'd with a bit of olive oil and Himalayan pink seasalt. Yum!

Keep an eye on those bottom leaves... 

After scapes... Start checking your garlic regularly a few weeks after scapes form. When the bottom three leaves become yellow/brown, is time to consider lifting the garlic.

You can carefully push the soil aside and check your bulbs for size and readiness, if you wish, but there really is no way to make them bigger at this stage.. though you can leave them for a few more days to see if they size up a bit more.

Do not wait too long though, as each of the leaves on a garlic stem is a wrapping on the bulb. If too many dry up, your bulb will be exposed to the soil and bacteria, so will not keep/store.

  Happy scape eating and garlic growing! 

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Month of May - Garden Rambllings

Wow, finally May and time to really get the garden going. The weather is fantastic, lots of sunny weather.. though it looks like we are heading for a drought year again.

Cover carrot seeds with burlap to keep them moist till germination occurs

What to do in the potager? 

- Set out your weeping hoses or set up those drip tubes in preparation for the dry, hot summer ahead.

- Plant seedlings and sow seeds. See below for the list of what to plant now....

- Keep seeds moist when germinating! Carrot seeds, especially, will quickly dry up and die if not kept moist till you see green tops coming up. I like to cover mine with burlap sacks, watering through the burlap, till I see germination in 7 to 10 days.

- Harden off seedlings before planting them outside, to prevent sun-burn. In other words, acclimate them to more and more sunlight over a period of two or three days before putting out in the beds.    

- Clean out your winter veggies to make room for spring and summer veggies, all those bolting Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale. Replace with a batch of new seedlings. Broccoli gets replaced several times through the season, while the Brussels Sprouts and kale that you plant now will get you through till next spring. 

-Water your garlic every week or two if no rain in the forecast. If you did not feed them back in the fall when planting, this is a good time to give them an extra boost for nice big bulbs. Add a side dressing of bone and blood meal, or alfalfa meal. 

Nasturtiums, violas, snapdragons, and herbs in the potager... 
Add colour to your garden and provide diversity to appeal to all sorts of beneficial insects

Companion planting!

Don't forget about adding all kinds of flowers and herbs into the garden. Companion planting and plant diversity play a huge part in the healthy organic food garden.

Here are some of my all time faves and why...

Lemon Gem Tagetes

1. Marigolds - surprise! Not, lol.

These guys are real garden workhorses. They repel bad bugs like aphids, beetles and maggot flies, attract beneficial insects to eat the bad guys, and emit a toxin from the roots that repels nematodes. As a bonus, they also add colour and cheer to your garden. Deadhead often to keep them blooming all summer long.

The best ones to use? The dwarf French ones and also the cute wee Tagetes. Plant these throughout your garden, but most importantly, around your tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.

Sweet Alyssum and marigolds in the late summer garden

2. Sweet Alyssum

I so love alyssum in the garden.... Love the scent, the colour, the look, and all the hard work that it does, too.

Sweet alyssum is a draw for hoverflies, ladybugs, lacewings, and other beneficials that eat aphids and caterpillars. They attract birds and pollinators, too. The white one is the hardiest and most attractive to the beneficial insects, while the bees love the purple hues best. It spreads readily, so plant in all bare spots to provide weed control, also!


3. Calendula aka Pot Marigold

Is super useful everywhere and for everything, just like the marigold!

Is just as effective at deterring bugs and attracting beneficials, plus self seeds readily. Comes in singles or poofy doubles, yellow, orange or gold with red tips.

The petals of the calendula are also useful for making soaps, ointments, oils and, and shampoos.

Nasturtium blossoms and their seeds 

4. Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums are great companion plants for your radishes, cucumbers, melons and the entire brassica family. Tomatoes, too, if you have room, but mine are always surrounded by marigolds, parsley and basil ; )

They deter aphids, potato bugs, squash beetles, cucumber beetles, and white flies, too. Are often used as a trap crop to draw the bugs to them instead of the veggies.

Add the nasturtium blossoms to salads, enjoying their light, peppery flavour. They come in a great variety of hues from soft pastels to vibrant and popping!

Zinnias in the summer garden

5. Zinnias!

You all know how much I love the zinnias. They are drought tolerant, add huge impact, and are draws for pollinators, hummingbirds and all kinds of other bug eating birds. They deter tomato hornworms and cucumber beetles, while attracting hoverflies and other beneficial insects, so are especially helpful in mid summer as the aphids come around to attack your kale and Brussels sprouts. Plant loads of zinnias.

I add short border ones around the garden beds and in pots, plus grow the tall guys in the beds everywhere. Keeping the bee population happy in the 'hood!

Ladybug larva

What to do in the yard? 

- Stay on top of the weeds! This is the time that they seem to get out of control quickly!

- Bugs and fungal issues abound this spring as it was such a mild, wet winter followed by humid early spring weather. For fungal issues, pick off affected leaves and destroy, spray powdery mildew with a 10% skim milk solution.

- Do not spray for bug/aphids if you see lots of ladybugs or their larva around.. the soap kills the good guys as well as the bad.
Ladybug larva... these guys eat 3 or 4 times as many aphids and pests as the adults do, please do not kill them. They are everywhere right now : )

Celery - fantastic despite last years drought conditions! 

What to sow and grow this month! Everything! 

- Artichokes
- Beans
- Beets
- Broccoli
- Brussels sprouts
- Carrots
- Cauliflower
- Celery
- Corn
- Kale
- Lettuce and greens
- Leeks
- Onions
- Peas
- Potatoes
- Turnips and kohlrabi
... and herbs of all kinds. 

Sweet Pea Currant Tomatoes

Wait till nights and days are consistently +10C to plant out the heat lovers...

- Eggplants
- Cucumbers
- Peppers
- Red Malabar Spinach
- Squash
- Tomatoes
- Basil!

Dwarf Zinnias

Flowers to sow from seed this month.. or from starter plants ; ) 

- Calendula
- Cosmos
- Nasturtiums
- Sweet Peas
- Sunflowers
- Zinnias!

Happy Gardening! 

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...