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.

Garlic Sprouts In The Garden Before Winter

Garlic was planted in the garden the same day we planted fava beans. It was the middle of October. I made notes of what was planted where but forgot to note the date. As Bugs Bunny would say, “What a maroon!

Garlic Sprouts in the Fall Near Fava Beans
Garlic Sprouts in the Fall Near Fava Beans

By the middle of November the garlic cloves had sprouted and grew enough so that about 2 inches of the sprouts were sticking out of the ground.

Both crops, the fava beans and garlic, should overwinter just fine.

The weather was so mild in the last of Autumn and the start of Winter. We even had a day warm enough last month to break a high temperature record at 64 degrees. Any time we get to feel the 60s in December is an oddity in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

To assure that the eventually harsh winter won’t freeze out the young plants, they surely should have been mulched. That would afford some protection against wild swings in temperatures come Spring. Oh well, we like to test the extremes around here, so we’ll see what happens to the garlic and fava beans without a layer of winter mulch. We’ll make sure to add some old straw once the pile of snow melts away.

Garlic Sprouting in the Garden
Garlic Sprouting in the Garden

The garlic varieties that were planted came from Nichol’s Garden Nursery out of Albany, Oregon: Garlic Duganskij and Garlic Chesnok Red. We picked these garlic varieties from the ones we liked the best out of their Garlic Sampler that we planted two years ago.

Sure, you can find garlic offered for sale on Amazon, like Chesnok Red Garlic, but the best selection is available in late Summer. It’s a bit late this year to be planting garlic, but even if you have a clove or two from store-bought garlic, plunk them in the ground if it’s not yet frozen. Else, you’ll have to wait until Spring thaw.

Fresh Native Chives for the Kitchen

We have these chives growing wild on the land. It seems a lot of front yards have them growing there, too.

American Wild Chive Plants
American Wild Chive Plants

I read where a woman loved the smell of chives being cut as she mowed her lawn. It reminds me of how we tame back the mints and throw the clippings in the yard before mowing it so the hot sweaty mowing person is treated to a refreshing blast of mint while they’re slaving away.

As far as the chives go for a lawn scent I think it would be good too.

Our chives seem to only grow in the ‘lowland’ of the mountain and not at the top. Now, we’re talking only a few hundred feet difference in elevation and I can’t swear that no chives grow up by the house.

Patch of Wild Chive Plants Growing in Pennsylvania Mountains
Patch of Wild Chive Plants Growing in Pennsylvania Mountains

But, the thing is there is a large patch of chives on the west side of the lane that seems to be thriving in a wooded area dominated by oak trees.

For some reason it always surprises me that chives would naturally grow in the forests of Pennsylvania. Who knew?

Read moreFresh Native Chives for the Kitchen

Husk Tomato Plants Sprout from Last Year’s Dropped Fruit

With little husk tomatoes you can never harvest them all, there’s just so many. The husk-wrapped fruits fall off the vine when they’re ripe.

Husk Tomato Volunteers Among the Lettuce
Husk Tomato Volunteers Among the Lettuce

A cool thing about all that dropped fruit is that the seeds from some of that old fruit will provide this year’s harvest.

Seeds overwintered on the ground and now they’ve sprouted into small plants. I guess that’s Nature’s way of assuring the species survival from one year to the next.

Many of the volunteers have been hoed or pulled out. As the lettuce gets harvested we’ll get more space for the husk tomatoes to grow. More of them will be culled when the lettuce is removed.

The remaining plants should be starting to flower when the hot weather gets here.

The only thing to watch out for is that you don’t let too many plants grow up in a small area. That will limit the amount and size of fruit. About one plant per square foot is almost too much. These plants do sprawl to cover a larger area, more like 4′ x 6′.

Years ago we found this special heirloom plant at a local greenhouse run by Amish folks. Since then, we’ve enjoyed the husk tomatoes quite a bit.

If you can find a husk tomato or ground cherry plant to add to your garden, you’re luckier than most. It seems garden centers don’t stock such an unusual plant very often, if at all.