Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Winding Down, Gearing Up and Garlic

This photo does not in any way capture the true glory of the orange and yellow nasturtiums growing here.
Summer's faded gown lies somewhat tattered across the landscape as Autumn arrives in full glory.
The summer vegetables decline, their production slowing as the sunlight hours wane. My energy also wanes a bit. I find it more difficult to get out of bed and half the morning is gone before I wander into the garden.

Yet the fall vegetables build up steam in the cooler air. Napa Cabbage and bok choy look gloriously robust. Lettuce, radishes, daikons, broccoli, cabbage seem to grow inches a day. It's time to top the brussels sprouts to encourage development of the "sprouts" in another month. Go ahead and harvest some of the large meaty leaves, they are tasty, nutritious additions to any meal.

The nasturtium plants, looking like small shrubs, are studded with brilliant, spicy blossoms. Outrageously beautiful and a welcome addition to our daily salads or as garnish for any meal. I will mourn their passing, but will valiantly try to extend their time by covering them during our first frosts.

The above photo shows only part of the fabulous show of nasturtiums, and is clear evidence of the beauty of serendipity. While I did indeed plant the nasturtiums in that bed, this does not look like my initial vision. The trellis rising above the nasturtiums was supposed to be covered with butternut squash vines. Another short arching trellis to the back was supposed to be covered with cucumbers. The cucumber plant is there, but hidden by the glorious growth of red malabar that planted itself there from seed from a plant I put there last year. The horta (a celosia with edible leaves) also came from seed dropped last year and the red amaranth lying on the ground toward the front showed up on its own, as well. Notice the morning glory weaving its way up the trellis and among the nasturtiums.


The biggest and best watermelon I harvested this year also was a rogue, growing from seed left last year. Serendipity. My gardens are full of plants that planted themselves and require nothing from me but that I don't discourage their growth.

Among all of this activity of waning and waxing I am gearing up to plant garlic. Typically I would have the cloves in the ground by now, but I decided to wait for the moon this year. On Oct. 25 and 26 the moon will be in its second quarter and in the astrological sign of Aries, a good time for planting garlic, which has an affinity for the dry, fiery signs of Sagittarius, Aries and Leo and is best planted in the second or third quarter. I don't always follow the moon on this, but garlic can be planted well into November here, so I'm in no hurry.

The broadfork has already loosened the soil in the garlic bed, after I laid a layer of compost. If we still don't see rain (please, please do!) I will water the bed well the day before I plant.

A company from which I ordered seed garlic a few years ago sent me information on planting and care, as well as instructions on a pretreatment that gives the garlic a nutritional boost and helps curb diseases.

Break the cloves apart (don't remove papery skin) and soak in a solution of 1 Tablespoon fish emulsion and 2 Tablespoons baking soda to 1 gallon of water. I won't need more than a quart for the six bulbs (aka "heads," the conglomerate of cloves) that I will plant. Soak the cloves for 1 hour or more, then soak in vodka for 10 minutes. Plant.

Place cloves 1 to 2 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 12 to 18 inches apart. Since my raised beds are 3 to 4 feet wide, I simply plant cloves all 6 inches or more apart. Sometimes digging a trench makes planting go quicker, but I find digging individual holes easier. Water in and cover with a layer of straw or hay. The colder your winter, the deeper the mulch should be.

I often see green shoots sprouting from the garlic before winter sets in full force. If they winter kill, that is no problem.

To avoid dragging this post out too long, I will save information on the varieties I am planting for another post. Happy October!

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