Tag Archive: Gardening

Growing Garlic

This year I grew garlic in my garden, and I was rather surprised at how easy it was to do.  Really, it’s almost a no-brainer.

Now, I’ve had many garlic failures in the past and most of them were due to one thing: planting them in the spring.  Yeah, don’t do that.

Growing garlic is pretty simple, and it needs to be planted in the mid to late fall.  Late October/early November is the best time to plant.  To start, you’ll need a bed with a decent amount of sun (they prefer full sun, but can work with partial).  You’ll need to till a fair amount of organic matter into the bed.  This is crucial since garlic’s one big need is a bed with good drainage and a lot of decayed organic material.  I recommend compost and/or manure of some kind.

Planting garlic should be done according to the directions that come with your bulbs, but if you don’t have any, the rule of thumb is to plant individual cloves upright in the ground so that the tip of the clove is roughly 2″ below the surface.  You’ll need to space them about 8″ apart in all directions.

Once they’re all in the ground, you’ll need to mulch them with about 8-12″ of loose mulch (or 4-6″ of heavier mulch).  I find that grass clippings and shredded leaves work pretty well for this.  I just mow everything in the yard into the grass collector and empty it on the bed.

And that’s it until spring.  One spring hits, you’ll need to pull back the mulch to expose the new shoots.  At this point you can fertilize them with some mild fertilizer (such as fish emulsion), but I found that fertilization is really not necessary since there should be plenty of nutrients there from the compost/manure.

And that’s pretty much it.  If you leave the mulch on the bed, there should be very little in the way of weeds, and garlic works as a deterrent for a wide range of pests, so it should protect itself there.  The mulch will also help keep the soil moist, so the garlic won’t need a lot of watering.  You’ll only really need to water if the soil gets dry down to about 3 inches.

Once you get to about mid-late June, stop watering the garlic.  This is when bulb skin formation starts and too much water can make the bulbs malformed or even cause them to rot.  Once the garlic plants have only 5 or 6 leaves still alive on it, it’s time to harvest.

Gently dig up the garlic and brush off as much of the soil as you can.  Do not cut the tops off or trim the roots back.  Hang the garlic plants in bunches in a dry place (like a garage) and let them cure for 4-6 weeks.  You’ll know they’re ready when the skin around the garlic is very dry and brittle and it clings to the garlic.  Cut the tops off about 1″ from the garlic bulb and trim off the roots.  Hang the garlic in net bags in a cool, dry place (like a basement in the same room as a dehumidifier).  You’ll want to save your best/biggest bulbs for planting in the Fall.

This is what you should end up with.  Notice how the skin is clinging to the cloves.

Out of all the plants I grow, garlic has been one of the easier ones so far.  It’s almost a plant and forget crop (at least in Wisconsin).

For more information, check out this great garlic resource: Growing Garlic

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

NOTE: Taco is not responsible for garlic addiction and the loss of flower beds to overwhelming hordes of garlic plants.

The Planting Continues

My pepper plant selection this year is doing rather well. All told, I planted 26 pepper plants, only 5 of which did not germinate. Of those five, I rather expected 2 of them to not germinate anyway because the seed had done so poorly the previous year.

Further, my four onion sets are also up and growing, these will be headed into the garden in 2-3 weeks. This weekend I’ll be starting my tomato seeds. I’ve got three primary varieties that I’ve been growing for the past three years, one that I got from my father in law last year that I’ll be growing again, and a new one. These are all fairly good:

Black Krim: A dark purple tomato that’s very sweet but with a robust smokey flavor. Makes awesome sauce and salsa. Pretty prolific production too. I’ll be keeping this particular species around for the foreseeable future as it’s my all-time favorite tomato (thus far).

Gold Medal:: A large, sweet yellow tomato. This may be my last year growing this tomato as I’m not terribly happy with it. The plant produces few tomatoes (1-5 very large) and has a huge problem with shoulder splitting. Likely I’ll replace this with another variety of yellow.

Federle: A long, pepper-type pasting tomato. Very good for sauces, but has a problem with blossom end rot early in the year. I’m going to try supplementing with calcium earlier this year to see if I can get past that issue. Pretty good producer.

Amish Pasting Tomato: A tomato given to me by my father-in-law. Prolific production of clusters of small tomatoes that are great for pasting/saucing. I was pretty happy with this tomato last year, so I’m going to keep it on the roster a while.

Austin’s Red Pear: New this year. It’s a red pear shaped tomato that is supposedly very tasty and prolific. We’ll see how much I like the plant.

Also going into the seed planters this weekend is my new collection of herbs: Purple Basil, Black Cumin, Lemon Balm, Mint, and some Cat Mint. Hopefully those will turn out as I’ve always wanted to have a small herb garden.

-Confusion is a state of mine, or is it?

Yup, it’s pepper time at the Taco household! My yearly foray into the world of gardening starts the first weekend of February with the planting of pepper seeds destined to become lovely pepper fruits for salads, salsas, dinners, powders, and the odd pepper jam. You have to plant hot pepper seeds way before everything else (aside from onions which also get seeded around this time) because they take a while to germinate and the plants grow rather slowly in the “cold” temperatures of the house (A pepper plant does best between about 80 and 95 degrees, and I’m not paying for that gas bill). By the time they go out in the garden (Early to mid June) they’ll only be 6-8 inches high. Once they hit the hot weather in July, though, they tend to finally take off and go crazy.

Two years ago was my first pepper harvest, and I’ve still got loads of peppers ferreted away here and there from that harvest (mostly pickled and frozen).

Here's a small sample of my harvest from 2010.

I’ve also got most of last years harvest tucked away as either dried or frozen peppers. Granted that last year I got roughly half as many peppers due to a short growing season and poor germination rate, but still, I’ve got a lot of peppers hanging out. Something like 10 pounds or so, and most of them so hot it would make a grown man weep.

I powdered a bunch of them so I’m not really in the need for more of that, and I’ve got a baggy of dried peppers for when I start getting low on powder. My wife doesn’t like her food as spicy as I do so many of my super-hots don’t get used in daily cooking. So what’s a boy to do?!

Well, two things really. First, this year I’m growing out mostly mild verieties. I’ve got a few of my super-hot varieties mixed in, for sure, but my garden will be largely dominated by medium, mild, and sweet peppers. Lots of Serrano, Jalapeno, and Ancho seeds were planted in my basement seeding tray this year.

But still, what does one do with all those stored chilies? Well, today I may have found my answer: Sambal Oelek. I love this stuff (normally I buy it in the plastic jar with the green lid) and use it quite often. I’ve decided that I’m going to give this recipe a try in order to thin out my pepper ranks a little. Granted, my version of this paste will likely be way more hot than the commercial version, but I think I might be more prone to using up my peppers if I had a handy sauce that I could just splash on whatever I want to heat up.

Hopefully the cat won’t get too interested in the plants as they grow… I may have to tactically plant some nip to keep him distracted…

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

NOTE: Apparently Food.com is having some server trouble this morning. My link does point to a real recipe, but it isn’t working right now. Most of the recipes on Food.com aren’t working right now either. Hopefully they’ll get it sorted out before too long.