Garlic Madness

How does growing garlic get out of hand?

My garlic and onion patch

Most of this patch is German Extra Hardy, a common variety that stores well and is delicious.  Last year, I saved more than I need. If you would like some they will be for sale in the next month.

The other four varieties are Broadleaf Czech, Chesnok Red, Pink Music, and Hanging Dog.  I am growing Chesnok Red, Pink Music, and Hanging Dog for the first time.  It is always exciting to see how the plants look in the spring.  I had not seen them before this spring.  They are all heirloom varieties.  In a few years I will have enough of a harvest to supply my growing and eating needs.  I am most excited to dig up and eat Hanging Dog, from what I understand it is an elephant style variety.  So I am looking forward to seeing what a full head looks like.

Hanging Dog garlic

The garlic flowers are also developing.  The scape is the flower of the garlic plant.  I cut them so the plants put more energy into the bulbs.  There are some who disagree with this process, but it works for me.

The spring weather has been beneficial for the raspberries and other early fruits.

Spring Raspberries

The yellow raspberries are coming along nicely too. It is nice to go outside early mornings and pick fresh raspberries.

Fresh lettuce this time of year is great too.  Tennis Ball lettuce is a very nice head lettuce.

Tennis Ball lettuce

The Monticello gardens grow tennis ball lettuce.  Apparently, President Thomas Jefferson liked how easy and low maintainence this lettuce is.  It is also tastey.

This looks like a busy week, with lots of projects to get down.  Fortunately, we are eating well.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.


We Get A Bit Fruity

Spring has been busy this year at Cohocton River Rock Micro Farm. I was reflecting about how different two years can be.  Last year, on Memorial Day, I gave a farmer friend all of my black raspberries.  I had planted them too tightly and they never were able to reach their potential.  When the farmer came, the soil was dry almost a foot down.  What we all feared, eventually played out, was a long drought.  In contrast, this year we have more water than we can deal with.  Tractor farmers are struggling to their seed in ground, and get their hay in at the same time. However, I will take more water over not enough.

Nature, and I, abhors a vacuum.  Two empty rows, where the black raspberries were needed to be filled.  I wanted to keep those rows in fruit production. So I started to dream. Dwarf or small varieties moved to the top of the list.  My family really enjoys cranberry. I thought we could save a few bucks if we grew some of our own cranberries.  So I chose “Phillips” Cranberry from Fedco Seeds.  It is a “highbush” cranberry.  Not a true cranberry but looks and tastes like a cranberry.  I am told it will grow about eight to 12 feet tall.  Regular pruning will help it fit well into the space, and allow me to harvest all the fruits.

“Phillips” Highbush Cranberry.

I also added a dwarf mulberry tree called “Girardi”.  A tip from a farmer friend suggested this variety from Whitman Farms.  My farmer friend says mulberries make the best jelly.  I figured it will be the right size, six feet, and it is a fruit.  Also, it is a rarity so I have a good story to tell.  I am excited to taste these fruits.  The young tree has a few fruits growing, and I will get them before the birds do.

“Girardi” Dwarf Mulberry, So Fun To Show Off and to Talk About

My neighbor Ted and I were talking this week.  He was walking me around his growing totes and garden areas. He needed to clean up a bed, and mentioned he had horseradish wandering into an area that will be planted in squash in a few days.  He offered and all the horseradish root I wanted.  That was an offer I could not pass up.  I dug up the rogue horseradish(es?).  I transplanted them in a small area, and hoped they would survive the transplant. I was worried for the first few days. They did not look like they would make it.  Recently, it looks like they are enjoying their new home.  If the weather does not heat up to fast they will be in good shape.


Neighbor Ted told me a few days later he was given the horseradish by a friend from Prattsburg, NY.  He said his friend insisted he take the roots. He took them, planted them, and then never did anything else.   Hopefully, I can find a friend or two that would like fresh horseradish next year.

Three out of the last four years I have attended at apple tree grafting class.  The Cooperative Extension in the next county over offers this fantastic class.  Two years ago I thought I had been successful.  The drought and my poor skills were a deadly combination.  With renewed vigor and more experience I think this year will be different.

Keepsake Apple Tree
Newtown Pippin Apple Tree

I think I have successfully grafted two heirloom apple trees.  I will keep them in the buckets for this year.  Keeping them on the back porch should remind me to water them more often, and if they are getting too much direct sun I can move them to some shade.  If they do not survive I also do not have to dig a hole.  They will go into the ground next spring while they are still dormant.  The Newtown Pippin was originally found on Long Island, and was grown by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  Keepsake variety is  that is known as a “keeper” apple.  The instructor of the class said do not eat this apple until January.  It only gets better the longer you wait.  He said it “keeps” until late spring with little trouble.  One of Keepsakes parents is Northern Spy so I am confident it is a good baking apple.  Keepsake is one of the parents of the very popular Honeycrisp.  I am excited to see what these trees provide.  I am learning the best tasting apples may not be the best looking apples.  There are many, many, many, varieties of apples.  We do not get to see most of them at the store.  I encourage you to search out a new variety of apple.  Look with your taste buds, not your eyes.  You may really be surprised.

There is much more going on around the micro-farm, but for now…

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

Sugaring Time

A strange winter continues here in upstate New York.  Mostly it has been mild.  We have not recieved much snow. The temperatures last week were unseasonably warm.  Regardless, it is late February and that means the maple sap is running. How well it is running is the topic of conversation.  The truth is we will not know for another week or two how the season went.  Today, I get to boil, and boil, and boil.   The next timeyou have maple syrup on your pancakes remember some boil 40 gallons of sap for one gallon of syrup.  Usually, at this point in the process I wonder why I do this.  Mostly, because I like it.  There s deep joy in making something for yourself.  Maybe it tastes sweeter.  My little operartion begins with three maple trees.  They are old, wonderful producers.

I collect the sap daily, and boil when I can.  Last week I was getting about ten gallons a day.  I can not keep up with the much production. Sadly, some of the sap spoiled.  

I think I have found a boiling set up that will allow me boil more than before.  With some adjusts of our fire ring I seem to have found space to create enough heat to boil and to maintain that temperature for longer periods of time.  

I only do the crude boiling outside.  I “finish” inside. I use a candy thermometer to confirm it has change from sap to syrup.  I then bottle it.  At the end of the season I spend two weeks cleaning the kitchen.  While, the syrup smells nice ittends to leave a sticky film over the kitchen.  Two weeks usually is enough timeto find those surprising spots,and allows me to ponder “how in the world did that get there.”  

Time to add another log to the fire.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

Transplanting is Transformational

The Micro Farm is a “buzz” with activity.

Pollinators are enjoying the black raspberry flowers
Pollinators are enjoying the black raspberry flowers

The strawberry patch is also producing lovely berries this year.  Such a nice crop mean I need to protect the ripe berries from animals nibbling.

The strawberries protected
The strawberries protected

I use a bird netting purchased at a local nursery.  It keeps most of the critters from eating the ripe fruit.

I spent a good deal of the week transplanting seedlings.  One evening while working on the Micro Farm.  I noticed small movements near my neighbor’s shed.  Sure enough two small rabbits.  I knew I needed to do something to protect my tender and young plants.  Fencing is what I needed, but I wanted to avoid the traditional woven metal fence.  A local home store had landscaping timbers on sale, decision made.

New "fencing"
New “fencing”

Hopefully this will keep the rabbits out.  We will have to wait and see.

I transplanted tomatoes, peppers, celery, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Cabbage transplants
Cabbage transplants
Cauliflower transplant
Cauliflower transplant
Tomato transplants
Tomato transplants

I also planted five pounds of seed potatoes, another 75 onion sets, beets, edamame,  popcorn, and carrots.

Growing greens has been a failure so far this season.  So I am tried putting some seed in six-packs to determine the quality of the seed.  The seed produced well.  I In another week I will put them into the ground.

Lettuce seedlings
Lettuce seedlings

As the rain falls tonight.  I am excited to see how the young plants spring to life over the next week.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

Herb Garden On the Move

Thank you to you if your loved one did not return from service to our country.  Memorial Day is a time to remember and to hold those lost close in our hearts.

The roller coaster of temperatures has been an interesting challenge this week.  Monday was hot and humid.  Friday we had frost through out the area.  Monday is supposed to be 85 degrees.  We have had some rain, but sunny and windy weather means the soil is drying out and more watering.

I did re-locate the herb garden.

Left - cilantro; Top middle - thyme; Middle - winter savory; Bottom middle - oregano; Right - basil
Left – cilantro; Top middle – thyme; Middle – winter savory; Bottom middle – oregano; Right – basil

It took a good portion of the day, but the herb garden was moved.  Many of the plants were large.  So I only took a small section of them.  If the re-located plants do not make it then I will try another part of the plant.  I really like how this new garden bed looks.   I also added a toad house.

The toad house a cool place to hide
The toad house a cool place to hide

Toad’s eat a lot of insects.  The also tend to eat the insects I do not want eating my plants.  So I like to find ways to encourage them to hang out in my garden. One way is encourage them is to create a shelter where they can go if the sun is intense or they need cover.

Earlier this week on a Micro Farm inspection walk.  I noticed my grapes had been chewed down.

Chewed down grapes
Chewed down grapes

I suspect rabbits ate my grape vines, but I have no proof.   I have added protection so the grapes can recover.

I planed about 150 onion sets.  It took some planting plan changes but I got them all in.

The home of almost 200 onions
The home of almost 200 onions

I have written for several weeks about my rain barrels.  Last week I painted them to help improve their appearance.  One disadvantage of using rain barrels is the low flow pressure.  Raising the height of the barrel uses gravity to increase the pressure.  I have my barrels raised up on cement blocks.  Hopefully, a few flowers and plants can help mask the blocks.

Flowers to mask the cement blocks.
Flowers to mask the cement blocks.
The coleus is no doing so well
The coleus is no doing so well

I was hoping to use coleus to cover these blocks.  It is not doing so well.  I am afraid there might be something in the soil they do not like.

This week I have a bunch of seedlings to transplant.  I also need to start some new seedlings for second crops.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

One Big Hole

Some weeks the work around the Micro Farm revolve completely around plants and plant care.  Other weeks, like this past week, work revolves around preparing a place for plants.  When work is not directly plant and plant-care related often it is focused on soil improvement.

Project one was moving the herb bed.  I wanted to get control over the herb bed which has been assaulted by a very aggressive mint.  My plan is to relocate the herbs that I want to keep, and then figure out what to do about the mint bed.

Creating the new herb bed posed one problem.  There was a large metal pole in the area I wanted to plant in.  I had tried to find a way to use the pole so I would not have to dig it out.   However, none of my ideas were visually appealing to my taste.  So dig it out was the best answer.

Top left - The pole and cement that I dug out; bottom left - The hole; Right - the new herb garden cardboard down
Top left – The pole and cement that I dug out; bottom left – The hole;
Right – the new herb garden cardboard down

I will get some more cardboard, then lay a mulching layer of pine needles down, finally transplant the herbs into their new home.

My local furniture company gave me a king-bed box, which was awesome.  I was able to cover last year’s luffa bed, which is now extended.  My goal is to plant this bed with plants that I will use to barter with my neighbor who currently sells us eggs.

The extended bed looks nice.  It should earn a few eggs.
The extended bed looks nice. It should earn a few eggs.

I was also able to mulch another large area.  This area I covered with composting black plastic and pine needles.  It covers quickly.  I have used this plastic the past three years and it works well.  The only down-side is that it is more expensive than the free cardboard I have been getting.

This is a main area mulched.
This is a main area mulched.

A few plant notes.  I was excited to see the Niagara grapes start to bud break.

The buds are swelling and a some have broken open
The buds are swelling and a some have broken open

I am always nervous when working with a new plant.  There is so much to learn, and I do not have a “feeling” for the timing of how things work.  I am pleased to see them doing well.

Next to the grapes are the red raspberries.  Unfortunately, I do not think the over-winter canes did very well.

No growth higher up, but lots of growth around the bottom
No growth higher up, but lots of growth around the bottom

I am going wait and see what happens with last year’s canes.  If they do not leaf I will cut them.  These raspberries fruit on the previous year’s canes so it appears there will be no spring raspberries on the Micro Farm this year.  It is possible I will get a fall crop, if they follow their history.

Plants sales are going on almost every day in our area.  I have a couple that I like to support.  One is at a local vocational high school.

There are 96 marigold plants.
There are 96 marigold plants.

I may have gone a bit overboard with the marigolds.  I use many of them to border my gardens.  They help keep the insects I do not want away.  But 96?

We have been getting adequate rain, and expect more this week.  The rain barrels are full and I have been using them regularly.  I enough water so far that I have not hooked up the hose at the house.  It is great to not have to spend energy to pump up water from the ground to put it right back in when I water my plants.  Now that they are hooked up, I have focused on making them a bit more attractive than giant, blue barrels that I am sure my neighbors love looking at.  I found a couple of spray paint products that cover plastic.  The one I picked up appears to work very well.

The rain barrel before and painted
The rain barrel before and painted “Nutmeg”

I think it looks less conspicuous and is more appealing.

Well, things are progressing on the Micro Farm.  Planting transplants is coming soon.  It has been tempting to put them in the ground, but late last week we had a frost warning.  I can not risk it, I do not want to lose my plants now.  To much work and time has gone in to them.  They are doing well where they are.  But, the time is coming.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

Unexpected Productivity or Who Knew?

Earlier this afternoon I started to wonder what had happened around the Micro Farm this past week.  The events of the week that first came to mind were good things, and productive, just not around the Micro Farm.

Then I went out to take pictures to document the plant growth of the past week.  The pictures tell the bigger story.   After a light rain in the middle of the past week I realized I needed to re-configure the angle of the gutters.  After thunderstorms today the gutters are working better.

These are things growing well on the Micro Farm  Upper left - strawberries; Upper right - rhubarb; Lower left - blueberry;  Lower right - peas
These are things growing well on the Micro Farm
Upper left – strawberries; Upper right – rhubarb; Lower left – blueberry; Lower right – peas

The rhubarb is coming along well.  It has been a very dry spring for us, and I was concerned it would slow down the rhubarb.  I am please to see it doing well.  I have a rough history with this blueberry bush.  It has been there for about three years.  It has watch me kill its three other compatriots.  Now it is full of green growth.  I am very happy to see it doing so well.  I am looking forward to strawberries, basically for strawberry-rhubarb pie.  Hmm. Now I am hungry.  The peas are pushing their way through the pine needle mulch.  They are looking very strong.  Although, it has been unusually hot here for about a week it is expected to cool down.  This is good news because peas get tough in the heat.

Upper left - cilantro;  Bottom left - basil; Right - alyssum
Upper left – cilantro; Bottom left – basil; Right – alyssum

I have grand plans to re-located my herb bed this spring.  I have a spot that gets a little more shade that I think would be more conducive to herbs.  It would also let me get away from a wildly aggressive mint plant.  So I started a bunch of basil and cilantro.  I also use flowers to help with insect control.  I like alyssum, or carpet of snow, so I started several six packs recently.  It will not be long before they are placed in the gardens.

So while I was thinking not much happened, I am thrilled to be wrong.  There is much more to do this week.  It would be nice to get more done than I think for two weeks in a row, but that might be expecting too much.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.