Tuesday, January 27, 2015

THOUGHTS ON A SNOWY DAY

It's been months since my last post.  A combination of the holidays and a bad case of
"mid-winter blues" have overtaken me.  I feel like a bear having a bad hibernation.
Seeking inspiration, I recently had lunch with my friend Tom Stites, a retired newspaper editor.  He gave me some tips on writing and some helpful suggestions on ways that I can improve the
look, function and quality of my blog.

In the coming weeks I will be changing software from Blogger to Wordpress.  This will
allow me to design a more professional looking site with lots of  new "bells and whistles".
The most important words of advice that I received from Tom was to "find my voice" by
trying to write in the same style that I speak.  Sounds simple.  I am looking forward to
adding recurring features, recipes and planting guides for all of the vegetables that I have
grown successfully.  I'm getting "juiced" just writing about it.

I haven't been a complete sloth this winter.   Last week, I set up my grow light stand and
actually started some seeds.  On a whim, I ordered herb seed disks from Johnny's Selected
Seeds in Winslow, Maine.  After eight days, I am happy to say that all are emerging except
the parsley.  The sight of these seedlings has given me a bit of a lift.

Speaking of Johnny's, my friend and fellow gardener, Harold Babcock and I drove up to Johnny's retail store
yesterday ahead of the blizzard .  It felt  like a pilgrimage.  We were both expecting
to find this huge store.  I'm thinking  L.L Bean of gardening. I am sorry to
report that they put all of the glitz and glamour into the catalog.  The store itself is quite
small.  That said, we had a wonderful time chatting with other customers and the helpful
staff.  After a short wait, our orders were picked and ready to go.  I was impressed by
the large number of cars in the employee parking lot.  Johnny's Selected Seeds is a
large operation.  We capped off our visit with lunch at "Big G's Deli", the go to
sandwich shop in Winslow, Maine.  We made it back home just as the storm arrived.
All in all, a day well spent.
View from the back door 1/27/15

This bear is beginning to wake up.  There's lots to do, lot's to write about, and lot's to look
forward to.

All the best,
Greg Garnache
gcgarnache@gmail.com




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

IT'S TIME TO PLANT GARLIC

One of my favorite crops to grow is garlic.  Home grown  garlic is much better than store bought
in taste and is easier  to peel and process.  We grow German Hardneck garlic and as a result we
enjoy two harvests; scapes in the month of June and full heads of delicious garlic in July.
THE GARLIC PATCH IN EARLY MAY

Garlic is relatively trouble free.  There are no insect pests to speak of and there don't appear to be
any animals that like garlic.  It does involve an investment of time.  Garlic planted in October is
not ready for harvest until the following July.  An initial modest investment in seed garlic can
over a few years mushroom into a self-sufficient supply.  I started with 18 cloves the first year.
I saved twice that many closes after the first harvest for replanting in the Fall.  Now, I plant
120 cloves, more than enough to satisfy our needs.
GARLIC SCAPES IN JUNE

I had never heard of garlic scapes before I started growing my own garlic.  We now look
forward to scape season.  We make pesto, scape butter, scape spread and share scapes with
our friends and family.  I have also given heads of garlic to many gardening friends so that
they can grow their own.
HARVESTED GARLIC IN JULY

I plant my garlic cloves in mid to late October.  I will start by clearing one of last season's
fruit crop beds.  I will then add some limestone and compost to the bed and till the soil.
After raking the soil into a level bed I plant the cloves in two inch (2") deep furrows that
have been lined with a well balanced organic fertilizer such as Espoma Plant Tone.

The cloves are planted six (6) inches apart in rows that are six (6) inches apart.  This compact
alignment allows you to get a lot of production out of a modest square footage of real estate.
I just planted 120 cloves in 32 square feet of space.
A ROW OF GARLIC CLOVES

After the garlic bed is planted I surround it with a simple fence.  I then fill this space with
a bed of leaves approximately 8" thick to insulate the the soil to prevent the cloves from
being heaved by the frost.  The fence also keeps out skunks attracted by the fertilizer.
THE GARLIC PATCH READY FOR WINTER

A sure sign that Spring has arrived is the site of garlic shoots popping up through the
bed of leaves.  Once that happens, I remove the fence and the leaves.  People who see
my garden in late April and May always inquire about that lush looking bed and are
surprised to learn that it is the garlic patch.

As I mentioned previously, we harvest garlic scapes in June.  Over the  last couple of
years we have had dinner parties in June with a garlic scape theme.  In July, I harvest
the garlic heads.  I pick the thickest stocks first, giving the thinner stocks some room
to grow.  After a couple of weeks, I pick the remaining garlic.  The heads will be
trimmed of roots and the stocks will be removed.  The heads will then spend a week in the
sun to dry out a bit.  I will then wipe the garlic heads clean and store in porous containers
in a dark, well ventilated space.

At some point after the garlic heads have been in storage for a while I will then choose the
heads which will be used for  next season's garlic crop.  I look for large six clove heads as
my seed garlic.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to send me an email.
All the best,
Greg Garnache
gcgarnache@gmail.com

Saturday, October 11, 2014

HOW TO BEAT ROOT MAGGOTS ON RADISHES AND BEETS

Beginning in 2013, I experienced problems growing radishes.  This year, I noticed that the
beets were under-performing.  A little reading revealed that the cause was most likely root
maggots.  The suggested solution was to cover the crop with fabric row cover.  I came up
with the following solution:

First, I built 1' x 4' frames  out of strapping  with chicken wire domes covered with fabric
row cover.  I planted beet seeds in  two rows 8" apart.  I then planted a row of radishes between
the two rows of beets.  Here is what that all looked like.
Beet/Radish enclosures from a distance

Planting beets and radishes

The bed two weeks later
As you can see from the last photo, this method works very well with no insecticides
needed.  Please let me know what is going on in your garden.

All the best,
Greg Garnache
gcgarnache@gmail.com








Tuesday, October 7, 2014

OUR WINTER SQUASH GARDEN

One of the most enjoyable gardening projects that my wife Catherine and I collaborated on this
year was a winter squash mass planting in our new sundial garden.  The inspiration for this garden
came from last year's visit to the COMMON GROUND FAIR in Unity Maine.  One of  the most
enlightening installations at the fair was the winter squash garden and display courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds.  It was impressive to
see so much variety of size, shape and color in one place.  We made a decision right there and
then to  join in fun.
Squash garden as seen from vegetable garden - June 2014

The sun dial garden borders the vegetable garden and creates a transition between that space
and the patio.  It is approximately 11' x 11 '.  We filled the bed with compost and planted two
each of the following:

Charisma pumpkin
Winter Sweet Kabocha winter squash
Carnval Hybrid Acorn squash
Sunshine Kabocha squash
Bush Delicata


Squash garden in July, 2014


In addition, we planted one hill "Metro" butternut squash in a different location.  The mass planting in the sundial garden
was a huge visual success,  Planting so  many varieties
in such a modest space created a beautiful display of contrasting foliage similar to that in a
hosta garden.  We got 45 fruit out of the sundial garden mass planting with an additional 14
fruit from our lone butternut squash hill.  The foliage became so thick that it was  nearly
impossible to keep pruned.  As a result, some of the plants were overwhelmed by their neighbors.
despite this we had a reasonably good harvest.  I look forward to eating the harvest.
Harvested squash curing in the sun

All the best,
Greg Garnache
gcgarnache@gmail.com

I would love to hear from you.

UPCOMING EVENTS IN GARDEN
Plant garlic
Set up low plastic tunnels for late fall/winter crops
finish taking down tomato and pepper plansts
plant mache for late winter/early sping harvest

              


Sunday, October 5, 2014

WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE GARDEN , OCTOBER 04, 2014

Apologies for not posting in a while.  I've had an accident involving the thumb on my right hand.
Suffice it to say that my life has had to slow down quite a bit while I have been slowly healing.  As
we speak, I am wearing a hard plastic thumb splint that makes typing more of a challenge.
Thanks to my wife Catherine, my friends Steve and KC Swallow,  Jim and Vicki Dyer and
Chuck Kennedy.  They all pitched in to help me get the garden ready for fall.

Steve and KC helped prep the legume beds for next season.  We pulled the remaining green bean
plants,  making sure to scrape the nitrogen nodules attached to the roots back into the soil.  I need
that nitrogen for next season's leaf crops. These would include; lettuce, mesclun, arugula, cabbage,
kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, etc.

THE GARDEN AFTER CLEAN UP (NOTICE THE ENCLOSURES)

Once we had cleared the bed we added the following:  ground limestone, rock phosphate
and green  sand.  After that we added a large wheel barrow full of compost and spread it
with the back of our rakes.  Steve then tilled the soil with my  little one  horse Honda
tiller.  We raked again and went on to the next bed, doing four in all.  For more information
on this topic I recommend that you check out one of my early posts, CROP ROTATION-
THE FOUR CROP METHOD

Chuck Kennedy helped me make some simple enclosures to keep cucumbers and zucchini
warm this fall.  Jim Dyer leaped onto my lawn tractor and mowed all the grass on the property.
Vicki helped with harvesting.  Catherine has been busy harvesting beans, hot peppers, tomatoes,
and squash; then she has processed all of  this stuff.  We have lots of green beans frozen.  We
now have our own ground chili powder, hot pepper flakes and dried peppers.  We have lots of tomato
puree and chopped tomatoes frozen.

I have been slowly reducing the tomato plant population.  As of today, I have two "Matt's Wild
Cherry plants, two "Japanese Black Trifele" two "Russian Ox Heart"  and one"Rose" still in the
ground.  The "Matt's Wild Cherry" will remain in the ground until the killing frost.  It is the most
hardy tomato I have ever grown.  It grows wild in Mexico.  It is one tough hombre.
THE FALL CARROT BED
A BASKET OF CARROT THINNINGS

This past week I concentrated on three beds:  the fall carrot patch, the Brussels sprouts patch
and the fall broccoli-cabbage bed.  I thinned the carrots and wound up with a basket full
of carrots ready to eat.  Judging from this harvest it looks like the best fall carrot crop ever.
It looks like we won't have to buy any carrots until Spring.  I cleaned up the Brussels sprouts
patch, added  some supports to keep the plants upright, sprayed for cabbage worms and fed
the plants with Neptune's Harvest 2-3-1 fish fertilize.  The broccoli - cabbage patch got the
same treatment.  Tomorrow I will set up a low tunnel over this bed to encourage the crop to
maturity.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS
BROCCOLI-CABBAGE PATCH


All the best,
Greg Garnache
gcgarnache@gmail.com





UPCOMING BLOG POSTS
OUR WINTER SQUASH  GARDEN
RADISH &BEET ENCLOSURE TO COMBAT ROOT MAGGOTS
FALL PLANTING OF GARLIC
 Y EAH! WE'VE  GOT CHICKENS


       

Saturday, October 4, 2014

TOMATOES - WHAT I GREW IN 2014 AND WHAT I LEARNED

Now that the gardening season is beginning to wind down I think it is time to take a look at
the tomatoes I grew this year and offer some thoughts that may be helpful to you.  It was a
pretty good year for growing; plenty of warm sunny days with an average amount of rainfall.
Early and late blight were a factor but I managed to stay on top of the situation by pruning
and spraying with copper sulfide and OXIDATE.

Over the years, I have shifted more of my crop over to heirloom varieties.  The tomatoes
are more flavorful and  have interesting histories.  We host a number of tomato tasting
events each year and my guests seem to really enjoy the stories that accompany each
tomato's moment in the spotlight.  Here are the tomatoes I grew this year:
ROSE TOMATO

ROSE.  This is a big pink to red tomato with great texture and taste.  This tomato makes
any sandwich taste better and tastes great on its own.  It is an offshoot of "Brandywine"
with equal taste but far better production. We did not offer it this year at many of our
tastings because we had so many new varieties.  It has moderate disease resistance.
NEBRASKA WEDDING

NEBRASKA WEDDING.  A large orange tomato with a low acid sweet taste.  This
was the overwhelming favorite at our tomato tastings.  One of the primary characteristics
that drew me to this variety is that it is a determinate tomato, meaning that it grows on a
short vine.  There are not many heirloom tomatoes that grow on a short vine.  I need to
grow a certain number of determinate tomatoes each year to keep the tomato bed from
shading the root crop bed behind it. What an advantage.  In addition to great taste, eye
appeal and growing habit, the Nebraska Wedding tomato has very good disease tolerance.
I did not have to trim as many leaves off these plants as I did for some others.

BLACK KRIM.  This is a rustic looking red tomato with great taste.  It gets it's name
by being from the island of Krim in the Black Sea.  It is an indeterminate tomato
that I train to a trellis system I have been using since 2007.  In addition to having
great taste, Black Krim started ripening two weeks earlier than my other heirlooms.
My tomato tasters gave this variety high marks.  My only complaint is that this
variety has low disease resistance.  It seems that I nearly cut every leaf off both
plants.  That said, I still managed to get good production until the last tasting
Labor Day Weekend.
BLACK ETHIOPIAN

BLACK ETHIOPIAN.  This was a new variety this year from seeds given to me
by my friends Pam and Dave.  It was their favorite in 2013.  Let's start with the
appearance.  The fruit are on the small side, a bit larger than an extra large egg.
However, the color is a deep mahogany with green shoulders.  This is a beautiful
looking piece of fruit.  The taste is excellent; sweet with lingering notes of
earthiness.  This was a hit with my tasters.  Disease resistance is moderate.
Regarding the name, the tomato actually comes from the Ukraine.  It is believed
that Soviet troops who were in Ethiopia as advisers in the 1980's introduced this
variety to the native population.
JAPANESE BLACK TRIFELE AND MOMOTARO

MOMOTARO.  This variety is actually a hybrid from Japan.  It came to my attention
several years ago when I learned that it had won some tasting contests on the
West Coast of the United States.  It is medium sized, It is dark pink in color and
the fruit are mostly perfect - no blemishes, etc.  I have to say that for a hybrid this is
a very good tasting tomato.  It has a combination of sweet and tangy.  My tasters
continue to like this variety.  It is an indeterminate tomato with good production and
moderate disease resistance.

JAPANESE BLACK TRIFELE
  This is a medium sized pear shaped tomato with excellent
taste.  It is a bit unusual in that the leaves are shaped like potato leaves.  The plants are
indeterminate with moderate disease resistance.  The fruit look a lot like the Black
Ethiopian tomato except somewhat larger.  Most of my tasters really liked this variety.

GREEN ZEBRA.  We have been growing Green Zebra tomatoes for the last six years
and count them as a perennial favorite.  They are tangy, almost citric in taste.
They are salad sized and make a great addition to any salad with their electric green
appearance.  They have an indeterminate grow habit, great production with moderate
disease resistance.
RUSSIAN OX HEART

RUSSIAN OXHEART.  This is a large red tomato shaped like an ox heart with very good
flavor and texture.  It makes a great sandwich tomato, but is just as good as a slice
with some artisan salt.  All of my tasters like it and there is always at least one person
who says that it is their favorite.  It is an indeterminate with very good production
and good disease resistance.  I was given seeds by an acquaintance four years ago and
was pleasantly surprised.  We have been growing it ever since.
PRIMO F1 HYBRID ON THE VINE

PRIMO F1.  This is another hybrid that I tried for the first time this year.  What attracted
me to this variety was the promise of large red fruit on a determinate vine.  This plant
was prolific to say the least.  The fruit are not as flavorful as the heirlooms.  However,
if you have limited space and want a tomato you can use in a sandwich, this might work
for you.  It has a dense center with not many seeds and makes a very good salsa tomato.
I was disappointed with the low disease  resistance of this variety.

In addition to the fruit listed above we grew two varieties of plum tomato, San Marzano and
Milano.  San  Marzano is an heirloom  tomato with a relatively dry interior perfect for
processing into puree or sauce.  It is an indeterminate with good disease resistance.  Milano
is a short vine determinate tomato that tends to ripen over a short period of time.  My one
gripe with this variety is low disease resistance.

We   also grew 3 varieties of small tomato:  Matt's Wild Cherry, Yellow Pear and and
a hybrid cherry tomato with the catchy name of BHN-624.  Matt's Wild Cherry has been
a perennial favorite for ten years.   It has very small fruit that are packed with flavor.
Matt's will also keep producing until the first killing frost.  The Yellow Pear are interesting
but not very tasty.  I probably won't grow these again.

I tried the BHN-624 for the first time this season.  What a great producer.  It also has excellent
disease resistance.  By mistake, I grew  this variety as a determinate and it responded quite
well (see picture).  The taste was good and the dense texture made it a good choice for a
cherry tomato pasta sauce.  
BHN-624 CHERRY TOMATO
That about wraps it up.  If you have any questions or comments please send me an eamail
to gcgarnache@gmail.com.  I would also like to know what varieties of tomato you grow
and what you think about them.
All the best,
Greg Garnache



Saturday, August 30, 2014

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT ZUCCHINI

Let me start this off with an admission:  "I have not been a big fan of zucchini".  That is, until we
got a copy of Susie Middleton's great cook book  "Fast, Fresh & Green".  She advised in one
of her recipes that one cut around the center and discard it.  This was an AHA moment for me.
What have I always hated about most zucchini recipes?  Why, of course, it's the watery
consistency of most recipes we have tried over the years.

Ladies and gentleman, this is a game changer.  In my humble opinion, zucchini is best when
prepared in this manner.  One of my favorite
side dishes these days is a saute of zucchini and onions in extra virgin olive oil over medium
high heat.  The vegetable is firm and crispy with lots of flavor when cooked this way.

I also feel that zucchini is best when picked at about eight inches long.  The flesh is nice and
thick but the center isn't bloated with water and seeds.    I am also
partial to yellow zucchini.  My favorite variety is "Golden Glory"".  It is easy to locate the
fruit on the vine because of the contrast in color.  In addition the vine itself is compact and features
beautiful oak shaped variegated foliage.
The ideal picking size

One issue I have always had with zucchini was that it was a favorite target of  the dreaded
and hated Squash Vine Borer.  This year I treated my two plants with Rotenone-Pyrethrins,
spraying three times over a three week period in July when the females are looking for
places to lay their eggs.  This strategy was successful.  I am happy to report that my two
plants are still producing.  They look tired but both have small fruit and new blossoms: Not
bad for plants that have been in the ground since late May.
Golden Glory Zucchini foliage in late August

My final thought is that I am sick of stories about people leaving baseball bat sized zucchini
on their neighbors back door step or leaving them in unlocked vehicles.  People, get control
of your zucchini patch.  Only grow what you can eat.  Pick early and often.  Enough said.

ZUCCHINI, ONIONS AND BROCCOLI WITH PORK TENDERLOIN, NOODLES AND
MANGO, GINGER & HABANERO SAUCE

Now that I have had my rant, let me share a recipe that I came up with recently.  It all started
with my discovery of "Mango, Ginger and Habanero  Sauce".  We had leftover pork
tenderloin in the refrigerator along with some cooked spaghetti noodles.

I started by cutting a zucchini in half lengthwise and scooping out the center with a spoon.
I then cut the flesh into 1/2" x 1 1/2" pieces.  I then cut up a large onion into pieces
approximately the same size as the zucchini.  My late summer broccoli was ready so
I picked a head and trimmed off florets about the same size as my other ingredients.
Zucchini hollowed out

I sauteed the vegetables in extra virgin olive oil at medium high heat for approximately ten minutes.
I cut up the pork tenderloin into pieces, and added it to the mix.  I then added about 5 or
six ounces of the Mango, Ginger Habanero sauce to the pan.  Once that heated up I added the
precooked noodles.  This dish made my picky wife very happy.  Give it a try.  Let me know
what you think.
The finished dish
All the best,
Greg