Garlic and Chives Update

So, I decided to go out and remove the snow that accumulated on the sheets in the garden. We got a couple of inches of snow Friday morning and then lots of blowing snow during the afternoon so Mother Nature told me to forget it. “Your bulbs will be ok“, she said.

I could only wonder if the shoots looked healthy underneath the sheets.

Then, a huge snowfall of 15 inches came the following Tuesday, so I was really wondering about how the plants would fare.

Finally, the snow had compacted to a few inches and hardened with some really cold nights was reduced to very little left with the heat of the sun. The sheets were removed today, the 23rd, but not until a week and a half after that really big snowfall – on the 14th of March.

The flower bulb shoots are bent over but I have a feeling they’ll straighten out some before they treat us with their beauty.

Spring Flower Bulbs Sprouting Up
Tulips and narcissus bulb shoots have grown in the last month.
Compare to the photo taken a month ago that was shared in the previous post about Garlic and Onions. (Photos taken 23Mar2017.)

Garlics and chives seem very alive and green as well. I guess we’re good to go!

Elephant garlic sprouts were uncovered after the last coldest night which got down to the high teens.

Elephant Garlic Sprouts Are Large
Elephant garlic sprouts promise to bring big tasty bulbs.

Other garlic varieties that are sprouting are Duganskij and Chesnok Red.

Garlic Sprouts Uncovered
Normal-sized garlic sprouts have bent over tops from being covered with a sheet.

Chives didn’t seem to be too bothered by the extremes in the weather in the last month.

Chives Plants Ready for the Kitchen
Chives plants ready to be snipped for the kitchen.

So far, the chives are ready to be used/eaten. The garlics will have to wait a few months until we get well into summer.

Anxious For Garlic and Onions

The Winter of 2016-2017 has been very mild and dry in Northeast USA.

In Central Pennsylvania we’ve had the warmest February on record. We’ve also had the least amount of snow, like ever. Check the weather history for Harrisburg, PA and you’ll see record highs of 72 and 75 degrees for Feb 23 and 24. The high temperatures for the whole month didn’t drop below 30 degrees.

March started out much warmer than average, too. The observable effects of all this warmth, in addition to huge flocks of geese and swans flying north, is that bulbs pushed through the earth much sooner than expected. A few trees have popped out their leaves and lots of rose and bramble canes have new growth.

Heard my first Spring robin singing yesterday. It was funny that the puppy had to bark back at it because she never heard one before!

In the garden we have chives, garlic and some flower bulbs that are quite visible. Now that the weather has taken a U-turn back into winter I’m a little anxious about the garlic and onions and flowers. Will they make it ok?

Flower bulbs sprouting in late Winter.
Thin material now protects these tulips and daffodils from the elements, hopefully. (Photo taken Feb 26, 2017.)

The perennial chives seem to do well every year. Their greenery can always be counted on to appear very early in the year. So we have at least a couple of meals with cut chives on the potatoes, eggs or salad. It doesn’t seem to matter a bit to these small delicious Allium schoenoprasum if the late winter or early spring is very cold or snowy.

Chives Growing on the South Side of House
Year after year chives greenery doesn’t disappoint. (Photo taken Feb 28, 2017.)

Garlic bulbs were split apart and the cloves planted (Oct.) only a couple of months after being harvested in the summer (July).

Garlic Sprouting in the Garden
Garlic planted in the fall already sprouts from the ground. (Photo taken Feb 28, 2017.)

Each year we try to grow something new in the garden. This year elephant garlic looks like it may be a new one indeed. The size of the sprouts are admirable! No mistaking where the elephant garlic was planted among the other hardneck cloves.

Elephant Garlic Sprouting in the Garden
Weathered straw mulch will hopefully protect the elephant garlic sprouts. (Photo taken Feb 28, 2017.)

To try and protect the bulbs from being lost to some of the coldest and snowiest weather we’ve had all season, a sheet or thin material was carefully draped over the sprouts. This is a regular thing we do to protect lettuces from extremely cold temperatures, so since the teens are predicted for a few coming nights, I thought the bulbs might benefit.

Sheet Over Flower Bulbs with Garlic
Note the garlic sprouts in the foreground of the flower bulbs under the sheet. (Photo taken Mar 9, 2017.)

The thing I don’t know is, Will snow on top of the sheet be too heavy? This morning there’s already 3-4 inches of a fluffy but compacting wet snow.

Time will tell if my beauties will make it. Fingers crossed. Stay tuned for an update once the winter weather breaks for good.

Hot Peppers and Dog Hair to the Groundhog

Anybody out there with a good Groundhog Remedy?

Frickin’ groundhog made her way into the garden a couple of weeks ago and munched on the sugar peas so about half of the plant tops were nibbled down to a few inches tall. Uuuuh! Here’s what they look like now.

Groundhog Damage to the Sugar Peas
Groundhog Damage to the Sugar Peas
The peas in the left row took a hit and then the fat pig wandered through the garden lettuce before I could chase her outta there.

Gotta scare ’em away somehow. Their tunnels are all over the place leading to and from the bean field. We live next to an agricultural field but separated by 100 feet or so of a wooded area.

I read in Dr. Bader’s Pest Cures Natural Solutions to Bigger Pests that the woodchuck doesn’t like hot peppers. The book itself is very basic but will introduce you to a lot of natural remedies that are definitely worth a try. It came with a second book on how to deal with bugs, the smaller pests. (Amazon offers both very inexpensively.)

So, instead of getting out the shotgun, I wanted to try something less destructive.

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Early Plantings Must Be Cold Crops

Is it cold crops or cole crops? Both terms work, actually. Let me explain.

First of all it’s the beginning of Spring. The Northern Hemisphere of the Earth is waking up slowly from its long winter nap. Birds and animals of all sorts have been wandering near and far to find mates as evidenced by the increasing roadkill we see at this time of year. I think the order is skunks first, then opossums, and raccoons judging by the carnage. 🙁

In the garden Spring starts a little slower than in the animal world. However, there are a number of plants that can take the cold and even grow in low temperatures.

Lettuce and onions have already been planted in our vegetable garden, but they’re not without protection from freezing temperatures. Old sheets to the rescue!

Cold crops would be described as all the plants that do well in the cold. How cold is cold? Just think Spring or Autumn temperatures at the ends of the growing season.

Cole crops are plants who are members of the Mustard Family, Cruciferae, now known as Brassicaceae.

The word cole derives from a Latin word caulis which means stem or stalk. A few of the cole crops even have names derived from the same term: cauliflower, collards, broccoli, kohlrabi, kale. All these guys excel at growing in cool temperatures.

In general leaf and root crops may do ok in the cold, but fruiting crops will have to wait for the warmer weather of summer. Tomatoes and peppers are example plants that need more heat to develop their fruits.

Here’s a list of cold crops separated into types of crops — leaves, roots, coles, and flowers:

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Early Plantings Protected By Sheets

Yes, it’s very early in Spring and it’s not officially Planting Season, but I did plant 12 alyssum next to the house this past Wednesday. The same type of plant did well there last year right up until a hard freeze. It’s a south-facing location protected on the North by the house, so captured heat from the daylight hours helps to keep the frigid cold at bay.

By the way planting season is considered to start in earnest when temperatures reach high enough that all danger of frost has past. Average last frost days can be looked up here. Take note: There is a 50% chance of a frost occurring after the spring date, so keep an eye on the weather or else!

In lieu of an actual chart for your specific area, just look around at what Mother Nature is doing. Have the grasses and trees greened up yet? Meaning, do the deciduous trees have their new leaves? Does the lawn look more green than it did in wintertime? The greening of the land is what you need to see before planting a vegetable garden or flower beds.

Cold Crops are those that can take a little cold and even grow without the heat of summer and that’s the only kind of plant that should be planted this early in the game.

Freckles Romaine and Buttercrunch Lettuce Starts
Freckles Romaine and Buttercrunch Lettuce Starts
Walla Walla Onion Starts
Walla Walla Onion Starts

Planted my favorite Romaine-type lettuce called “freckles” and a buttercrunch lettuce on 23 Mar 2016.

Walla Walla Onion starts were planted then, too.

(Photos taken 26Mar2016. Click on any small image for a larger view.)

Covering the tender young plants when the nights dip into the low 30s will have to be remembered, but I’m ok with that. I’m always watching the weather reports for what’s going on out there in nature. We just cover the plants with an old sheet or sheer curtain material to protect them from frost.

If you want your garden to look “nice” you can buy polypropylene row covers for the purpose of protecting your plants from frost and from hungry critters like birds, bunnies and caterpillars. Row covers should be available at any good garden center, but there are always a lot of options available at Amazon: row covers for plants.

Row covers and sheets work the same way to protect your crops.

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