Sunday, December 26, 2010

Winter Garlic

One of our best selling items at the farmers market last summer was garlic.  Not the mild little generic garlic that you see in the supermarket.  But, garlic with names like Romainian Red, Persian Star and German Extra Hardy.  I'm not a garlic expert, but I can tell you that these are much more flavorful than the generic supermarket garlic.  The Romainian Red is a hot, pungent garlic that brought some of our customers back week after week for more.

Most people assume that you plant garlic in the spring, like onions and other vegetables.  But that is not the case.  In Oklahoma, garlic should be planted in October.  In fact, most seed companies will not even ship it to you until after September 1.  

We order most of our garlic from Filaree Farms.  They are located in Okanogan, WA, are organic certified and have a wide selection of different types and varieties of garlic.  They shipped our order to us the last week of September.  Planting garlic is pretty hard work, so Tom spread the work out over about a three week period devoting a couple of hours several times a week to planting garlic.  The garlic is shipped to you as "heads".  Heads consist of several "cloves".  You break the heads apart into the individual cloves and the cloves are what you plant.

After planting, it takes 2 to 3 weeks before the garlic sends leaves up through the soil seeking the light.  At that time, Tom mulches it with leaves or pine needles.  This year he planted oats between the rows as a winter cover crop.   Now that we've had several killing frosts, the garlic looks pretty sad.  See below.

The leaves have been nipped back pretty badly by the cold weather.  One would think that it is ruined.  However, once the weather warms up in the spring, this garlic will come to life and begin growing again. 

By June it will be ready for harvest.  You know it is ready to harvest when the tops begin to die.  It is a lot of fun and quite exciting to dig the garlic.  It seems like magic to see how one small clove has grown into a head of garlic that may be a couple of inches or more in diameter!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Leaf Mountain

We use a lot of leaves for mulching and for incorporating into our clay-based soil to add organic matter.   However, even though we have some large trees west of the house, most of the leaves that fall off them blow away.  Remember our name....Windy Acres!  Therefore, we have to get the leaves elsewhere. 

During the fall, Tom keeps an eye out for leaves that people set out for the trashmen and will pick them up and bring them home when he finds some.  Here is a picture of what we have accumulated so far in our "leaf bank".

I suspect that by spring this pile will be 2 - 3 times as big!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thornless Cacti

We have moved most of our potted plants into the hoophouse for the winter.  Remember the hoophouse is our big unheated greenhouse.  We grow lettuce, spinach and other greens in it during the winter months.  These will survive the cold just fine in there......although, during the coldest part of the winter, they don't grow very much. 

Among the potted plants that we have moved in there this year are the rose bushes that I started from cuttings I took on Mother's Day weekend (see May 30th post) and some lilac bushes that I didn't get set out this fall.  But, the most interesting plants that are spending the winter in the hoophouse are some "thornless" cacti.  Here they are.

My son in the Dallas area is a math teacher, but he should have majored in horticulture because he has a flare for landscaping and growing things.  He is the one who told me how to root those rose cuttings and he is the one who came across these thornless cacti.  If you cut a pad off of a cactus, put it in a pot of dirt and don't water it too much, then it will grow into a large cactus, like the ones you see here.  Each of these started from ONE pad.

Our son gave us one of these thornless cacti several years ago and we set it out on the south side of our house when we lived in town.  It grew into a large cactus about 3 feet tall with many pads that have yellow flowers in the spring.  I was surprised that it survived the winters this far north, but it seemed to thrive in that location.

In this picture, it looks like it has thorns, but those are soft little "leaves" that grow on the new pads each year.  They fall off as the pads mature.

All of the cacti we have in the hoophouse are from the "mother" plant above.  We sell a few of these cacti at the farmers market, but I want to plant a few of them out here at the farm too.  I just have to figure out where to put them.  I'm not very good at landscaping......maybe I need to get my son to come up here and give me some advice!