Growing

Tulips and Dahlias

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We just had our first snow! Almost 6 inches over the course of a day and a night, and it was beautiful. We got really sticky snow, so each little branch and leaf on all the trees was covered in snow, making for an incredible picture. It was especially striking as most of our trees still have leaves on them, all in shades of orange, red, and yellow; made only more vibrant by the pristine white snow. It was really quite something.


But I digress, we knew this snow was coming and had planned accordingly. One major project on that plan was to dig up our Dahlia tubers so that we can store them over the winter and replant them in the spring. Dahlia’s are native to Mexico and parts of South America, and are therefore not resistant to freezing temperatures, especially not the freezing temperatures we get here in the mountains. Thus they need to be dug up before the first frost and stored in a cool place for the winter. We have a make shift root cellar under the stairs where we have this years sweet potatoes, and this is a perfect pace for them to rest.

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We grew quite a lot of Dahlias this year and have been enjoying them since the early spring, in bouquets in the house and just out in the yard. The digging process was really simple; just gently dig them up, brush off the excess soil, store on a rack that allows some air movement, and that’s it! They will keep great in our root cellar and we will re-plant them in the spring. They did double in size over the past year, so I think we will have an even better growing season next year! 


We also took this time to plant some Tulip bulbs. As a proud Dutchman, it would be unacceptable to not have Tulips growing at the house, so we planted about 50 bulbs of a few varieties. These are really simple to plant: pointy end up, about 6 inches deep in rows or clusters, and covered loosely with soil. They don’t need to be fertilized as they are little storehouses of food and nutrients. Now we wait till spring and hopefully we will have a beautiful bloom!

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Planting Garlic

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One of my favorite things in the world is garlic. People say that bacon makes everything better, and although that may be true, and I do love my bacon, I could argue that garlic should have the right to that statement. It’s just so delicious, healthy and amazing and so much fun to grow! Fun in the sense that it’s just about the last thing that you plant at the end of the year, and one of the first things that you harvest in the spring. And if you plant hard-necks like we did, you will be rewarded even earlier with garlic scapes, a tender springtime treat like no other. 

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We planted three varieties this year, all hard-necks. What are hard-necks? Well, there are two main types of garlic, hard-neck and soft-neck. The soft-neck varieties is what you see in the grocery store and is almost always grown in China. It consist of many cloves that get smaller and smaller the closer you get to the center. It is pretty decent in flavor, but the most important factor with soft-neck, is it last a really long time, hence it being the one you see at your local Ingles, Kroger, Giant.....insert local grocery store chain here..... 

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Hard-neck garlic has fewer cloves all set around a center stalk, hence the name. The center stalk is the flower stalk, and this will shoot up in early spring and give you scapes. These need to be removed otherwise the plant will flower and not grow a large bulb, and that goodness for that, as pickled garlic scapes are amazing, not to mention garlic scape pesto! 


 Hard-necks are much more flavorful garlics, some with huge cloves, yet they don’t last nor travel as well as the soft-neck varieties, so you will find these at your area’s farmers markets or specialty shops. 

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We planted Romanian Red, Metechi and Persian Star garlic this year and if my calculations are correct, we should have about 160 plants, which is a nice amount of garlic! We got whole heads of seed garlic that I broke apart into cloves. We prepped the area they were to be planted in by digging two trenches and filling them with mushroom compost and composted chicken manure, this was all worked in together. The garlic cloves were planted about 4 inches apart in two rows set at 18 inches apart, this will give them ample space to grow in. The cloves were covered with soil and then a thick layer of straw to keep them wet and protected over the winter, and to create a natural weed barrier when they start growing in the spring. Now we wait.........

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Cover Crop

Wheat and Clover seeds

Wheat and Clover seeds

As our garden starts to wind down for the winter, we have ended up with quite a bit of empty space, especially after we harvested all of our sweet potatoes, husk tomatoes and the last of our annual herbs. So what to do with all of this space? Some of it has been planted with winter greens; kale, cabbage, collards, kohlrabi, cauliflower, lettuce, arugula, beets, radish, turnips, etc, but there is still much more space that’s just empty. The answer? Cover crop.

Sowing

Sowing


Plants take quiet a bit of nutrients from the soil, some more than others, and some even put nutrients back in, more on that later. Certain plants take certain nutrients, and this is why it is super important to do two things: crop rotation, and the reintroduction of these nutrients. Adding fertilizer is one very easy way of doing that, and there are many options for that; commercial fertilizer from a garden center, composted manure or composted plants from last years garden, rabbit poop, the list goes on, and we will utilize some of these options in the spring when we get the beds going again for the year. Yet that leaves a lot of time between now and then, so once again, cover crop.

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Cover crops are plants that are mainly used to manage soil fertility and erosion by growing in a full “cover” to add lots of organic matter and nutrients to the soil, as well as holding the soil in place with a strong root structure. We used two crops this year, clover and wheat. Why? Well a couple reasons, clover grows low to the ground, and the wheat grows high, so they grow very well together, and eventually the clover will even grow up the wheat. Clover is a legume, and legumes are amazing as they grow small nodules on their roots that are packed with nitrogen, and essential nutrient needed for healthy plants. Wheat has very strong roots that grow very deep and will therefore break up the soil and add air and allow moisture to penetrate. Lastly, when spring time comes around, we can harvest the wheat to use for food, as accents in bouquets, and even for medicinal use! The clover and the roots of the wheat will be tilled into the soil and add a ton of organic matter that will give us a super healthy bed to grow in. Totally worth out effort. 

After one week, looking good!

After one week, looking good!