Tag Archives: garlic


It’s ‘Officially’ Here

Today is ‘officially’ the first day of spring.  That’s what it says on the calendar but in reality our garden is still snowed in.  The temperature is hovering a little bit above 30°F and there will be more snow coming down tonight and continuing until Wednesday night. We expect a foot of wet snow accumulation added to what we already have on the ground.  That’s why I say ‘officially the first day of spring on the calendar‘ only.

Plants in the little plot right next to the house have started to come up.  Daffodils and irises the previous owner planted next to the garage are sprouting leaves.  The Siberian garlic are braving themselves in the cold next to melting snow and will be buried again tonight.  But they are Siberian, they should be fine.  Rocambole garlic that I’ve been growing for many years are still staying comfortable underground.

Daffodil & Iris
I’ve been trying to dig this clump of daffodil out from the corner many times but what’s left underground keeps coming up every spring.  It’s always the first to come up since it’s so close to the warm house.
Siberian garlic
Siberian garlic started up in late February but was covered with snow, now the snow has melted away and they still look healthy.

Inside the house is another story.  Amaryllis ‘Red Lion’ that one of my colleagues gave me many years ago welcomed spring with its bright red flowers.  Still one more set of flowers from this bulb is just about to bloom.  I moved them up from the basement as soon as the flower buds came up.

Amaryllis-Red Lion
Amaryllis ‘Red Lion’ bloom with deep velvet red, four huge flowers on one stem. One more stem coming up on the left.

Hibiscus ‘The Path’ also senses the warmth of spring and welcomes it with a bright yellow flower.  I found that the color is paler than when the plant is outside but it’s still beautiful and cheerful as all hibiscus are.  I left it in the basement though, since it’s too big to be in the bay window with the other plants.

Hibiscus-The Path
‘The Path’ hibiscus always blooms through summer, providing that it is well-fed. This one probably sensed the spring warmth and is itching to get outside so it flowered really early, probably as a hint.  The red color in the middle is much deeper when it is outside.

But, …darn, We’re still waiting for reality spring.

Growing Garlic

Plant Them Now

I use a lot of garlic in cooking and like to try various types of garlic.  Supermarkets don’t offer any real varieties of garlic and hardly provide any information about the origin of the garlic they sell.  I want to know where the garlic comes from because any roots, bulbs and rhizomes will usually absorb whatever is in the soil and store it, minerals and toxins included.  I used to purchase my garlic from the farmer’s market which guaranteed freshness and origin.  Years ago when my previous neighbor offered me garlic from her garden, I was hooked.  I’ve been growing my own garlic ever since.

There are several varieties of garlic to choose from.  Rocambole is the type I’ve been growing from the beginning.  I’ve also grown Korean, Tibetan and Siberian.  I found that the Rocambole and Siberian varieties produce large heads and grow well in the northeastern U.S. climate.

Autumn is the time to plant garlic, just a few weeks before a hard frost.  I do not use garlic purchased from the supermarket for planting.  The best way is to get them from your local farmer’s market or order from a reputable company.  One of the vendors at our farmer’s market this year posted a sign explaining his garlic was not for planting this year because he had a problem with fungus.  Honesty is always the key to good business.

Once you get your first harvest, use the largest clove for planting.  You’ll have to buy new garlic for planting again if you want to try a new variety.  Put them in now and wait, they will come up next spring when the soil starts to warm up.

I use a few large heads from this year harvest. These are Siberian garlic.
Separate the heads to individual cloves. Use large cloves for planting and use the small ones for cooking. I grew only Rocambole and Siberian this year
Put selected cloves on the ground, with 4-6 inches between them. I do the ‘X’ instead of parallel rows to save space. I use a stick as a divider between the two varieties
Pick each clove up, use a trowel to separate the soil around 2 inches deep. Put a clove in, with the side that was previously attached to the stem (the blunt side) facing downward, cover with soil.
After every clove is under the ground, water a little to eliminate air pockets then cover the area with mulch. I use shredded leaves and grass.

Then sit back and wait until next spring.



Snow In April

The Morning of April 16th

I’ve been so happy with the temperature climbing up and the ability to see green again.  I started to clean up the garden, pruning roses and feeding plants.  Happiness, it seemed, was short lived.  The rain that started on April 15th turned to snow overnight and dumped two inches on the ground.  The temperature has dropped down below freezing.  I felt guilty for removing all the leaves covering the flower plots last fall as winter protection for plants and a refuge for the good insects.  Now they will have to deal with more cold nights unprotected.

I haven’t removed the extra bird feeders yet so the birds have their food supply and shelters still available to them.  I think they’re happy that I’ve removed the leaves as it gives them easy access to insects and worms.  A few more cold nights and then the temperature will climb up again.  Hopefully, nature can make up her mind this time around.

Morning, April 16th
Morning, April 16th
Helleborus half buried under the snow
Helleborus half buried under the snow
Partially covered garlic. But they'll survive.
Partially covered garlic. But they’ll survive.


Spring Vegetable Garden

Sprouting Time

After a long wait for fresh backyard salad, I can hardly stop myself from sowing seeds in the vegetable garden.  As soon as the soil softens, judged by seeing weeds coming up, I put Arugula, Radish (Cherry Belle and French Breakfast), Pak choi, Mizuna, Kale, Swiss chard, Scallion, Lettuce, and Broccoli Raab in.   The arugula is always the first to come up.

I also put Snap Peas in the soil directly.  I find that they grow stronger that way than starting them in a container and replanting them.  I just soak the seeds in water for a few hours, placing them between damp paper towels.  The roots will sprout out in two nights.  I drop the ones with roots in the soil and cover them.  I don’t have to worry about hardening them.  If they feel it’s the right time to poke shoots above ground, they will. They are already a couple of inches tall now.  I will have stir-fry sized pea shoots in a couple of weeks.

Some self-sown Broccoli Raab, Borage and Calendula also came up.  Last year’s Red Russian kale, Scallion and Radicchio looks pretty fresh and healthy.  I can pick them while waiting to thin the seedlings (great baby greens for salad).  I also picked my first Asparagus of the season last weekend and will have some more this weekend.  Garlic is looking lovely at this time too.  I have already fed them once.

Yes, the tomatoes have sown themselves again.  They are just an inch above the soil surface right now, not big enough to be transplanted yet.  I will take most of the Borage and Calendula out from the vegetable garden and transplant them along with the flowers.

Anywhere I turn there are signs of new shoots and leaves unfurling, another cycle of life has begun.

First fresh, sweet, asparagus of the season.
First fresh, sweet, asparagus of the season.
Most of these Calendula seedlings will be transplanted to the flower garden.
Most of these Calendula seedlings will be transplanted to the flower garden.
These Snap peas were sown directly in the soil.  I don't have to cover them even on a 39 degree night.
These Snap peas were sown directly in the soil. I don’t have to cover them even on a 39 degree night.
Borage sprouts up right next to the garlic.  I keep a few of them in the vegetable garden, but this one will have to move.
Borage sprouts up right next to the garlic. I keep a few of them in the vegetable garden, but this one will have to move.
Put the garlic cloves in last October and they came up in March.
Put the garlic cloves in last October and they came up in March.

Growing Garlic

Never thought it would be this easy

We loved eating garlic even before doctors and health gurus piled on claiming that it’s good for your health.  Our kitchen has never been without garlic.  I actually have reduced the amount of garlic I consume, especially the fresh ones, since I still have to verbally communicate with other people in close proximity.  But I have never thought of growing them until a couple of years ago.

Our neighbor gave us some fresh garlic from her garden, the Italian type…we were told.  She’s a first generation Italian in the US, so a lot of vegetables in her garden have to revolve around Italian cooking.  Italian food without garlic is not really Italian, is it?  I must admit her garlic was really tasty.

Still, I thought growing garlic would be a pain to do.  I decided to try growing it when I purchased some “scape”, the garlic flower,  from a farmer’s market.  I didn’t know that scape was edible, neither did my neighbor.  She had been picking them off and tossing them.  The scape tastes just like garlic but milder.   It’s great in stir-fried or steamed vegetables, but it’s not cheap and it’s a little bit rubbery when it’s not really fresh.   Now, both my neighbor and I treasure the scape.  Once I realized I didn’t have to wait for months to taste fresh home grown garlic, I set out to experiment.

My first year of growing garlic comprised of digging up the seedlings from my neighbor and replanting them in our garden.  I didn’t know I was supposed to grow them in autumn, not in spring, so what I had at the end of the season was small garlic bulbs.  Now I know better and have tried growing a variety of them.

Garlic in April
Scape. Great for stir fry or steamed with vegetables
Just pulled some of them up

How easy is it to grow garlic?  It’s easier than growing a lot of things:

  • Buy some garlic heads from a farmer’s market.  Pick the ones you like the taste of best and the healthiest looking ones too.  If you are not close to a farmer’s market, you can buy them from garden catalogs.  Don’t buy them from a supermarket since most are imported from China and are treated heavily with chemicals.
  • Separate individual cloves from the head.  Select the large and healthy ones for planting, keep small cloves for cooking.
  • Prepare the soil: need well drain soil and full sun.
  • Put the cloves you have selected in the soil around early to middle October, with the part that was attached to the head downward.
  • Mark the area otherwise you will forget they are there.  Germination takes a long time.

And wait for spring to come!   Once the soil starts to warm up, they will sprout, one garlic per clove.  Weed, feed and water regularly, if you like to have large garlic heads.  They can survive on their own, if you don’t have time.  Some of my self-sown ones-I let some scape set bulbs and let them grow wherever they dropped.  They did fine without being taken care of.