Saturday, December 29, 2012

Northern Delaware Greenway Trail

      The Northern Delaware Greenway Trail spans 9 miles of northern New Castle County from Fox Point State Park on the Delaware River to the Brandywine Creek and the City of Wilmington.  The trail cuts through Bellevue State Park where my community garden plot is located.  Today I took the car over to the Blue Ball Barn area, to take my walk in the Alapocas Run State Park.  The walk cuts through gorgeous stretches of woods down to the Brandywine River.

Welcoming start to the walk
Into the woods

      The understory leaves of the younger beech trees is incredible at this time of year.  The coppery leaves appear as if they are a second forest within the towering trunks of the other deciduous trees that have lost their leaves.  The beginning of the walk makes me think of strolling through a natural cathedral.

Down I go toward the Brandywine River
Abandoned Bancroft Mills

An historical marker
And another marker
      This overlook of the old mills is at the half way point of my walk this morning.  So I double back by the old quarry, which is a rock climbing site by permit.

Old Alapocas quarry
A rocky tributary to the Brandywine, probably Alapocas Run
      Just at this point, the snow started coming down.  The walk back through the woods was accompanied by the quiet chatter of snow falling through the trees.

Just  one stretch of the uphill climb home

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

      Merry Christmas morning!  And Happy Holidays too!  The little snow event last night was certainly a bonus to ushering in the holiday cheer.
      Pop Pop's job for the Christmas eats was to provide the greens for not only one salad, but two.  A salad at lunch to tide us over, then one for the bigger feast at Christmas dinner.  I went to the park yesterday for the harvest, hoping that the voles had not decided to have their Christmas dinner before I had mine.  Luckily for me, all was fine.  Nothing was stirring, not even a mouse.  Well certainly not the four mice and one vole that I got in my five traps.  Five for five!  An early Christmas present.  A bad hair day for the rodents.

Cold frames to harvest,  Christmas Eve day,  2012
Nice oak leaf lettuce and some Tango lettuce
Red lettuce from recent transplant, just now ready

      Ah, arugula.  What better way to fire up the taste for a Christmas salad.  And the beautiful Four Seasons cos lettuce over on the left.  The upside down flower pots in several of the pictures cover mouse/vole traps.  I read that the voles want some protection before they will stop to eat.  With the five for five record this morning, I would say the method works.

      This thick stemmed Chinese mustard popped up as a volunteer in one of the garden beds.  It has a nice zingy flavor without being really hot.  Again, another way to liven up a salad.

Tatsoi and thick stemmed mustard in a cold frame
Two beautiful tatsoi heads
      Hope everyone has a great holiday season!  And remember to eat yours greens along with the turkey, ham, smoked salmon, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, pumpkin pie, and cheesecake and ........

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Umbils of Garlic

      You thought you were done reading about garlic.  I thought I was done writing about garlic.  But a couple of days ago I was cleaning up the porch and found some garlic seed heads that I had kept from the summer.  Not one to waste anything garlic, I decided to clean them up and plant them since I have some open space in a cold frame at the park.

Umbil of Garlic,  December 18th,  2012
      I found a helpful website today:  It was there that I first saw the term umbil, defined as the seed head of hard necked garlics.  The umbils are full of little individuals bulbils, which can be planted to grow into full garlic bulbs over a two to three year period.

Umbil separated into individual bulbils

Five umbils and many larger bulbils
Hopefully the last of any garlic to plant
      I was encouraged to plant these bulbils, knowing that I had a nice empty spot at a park cold frame from where the glass panels had been stored over the summer.

Bulbils sprinkled on top, mushroom soil to follow
Open space used
      Garlic is extremely cold hardy and does not require the cover of the cold frames.  I just had that space available and weed free, so in they go.  I also expect that the cold frame will help the bulbils to germinate better in the mid to later part of December.
      Is the trouble worth the effort?  I just went back through previous posts about garlic, and found that I had planted bulbils last December 15th:

       The picture above shows the garlic planted from last year, though the cold frame itself was moved to a different location and the cardoon plants were transplanted.  I pulled a lot of the bulbs that grew, and promptly forgot to keep track of the experiment.  Luckily I somehow lost track of these garlic plants, so I can follow their progress.

A closer shot of the top left corner

      This garlic plant was pulled from the bunch of plants in the previous photo.  It could be used at this stage as green garlic, using it like a scallion.  Slices of the garlic "scallion" would have a delicious garlic flavor, and can be used as if it were clove garlic.  I may dig, separate, and replant the shoots next spring, hoping to have some full sized bulbs in July.  If not July of 2013, certainly July of 2014.  If it were to take that long, I think I would eat the second year garlic as green garlic.  
      Finally, in the article from the link above, the author suggests that their garlic kept much better when the seed stalks were allowed to remain on the garlic plant until harvest.  Like a good reader, I cut most of my garlic scapes off this early summer.  And have a bunch of garlic with lousy wrappers.  Coincidence?  I don't know, but next year the scapes will stay.
      My wife just sneezed.  She will be eating some raw garlic to see if she can cut short an oncoming cold.  Google "garlic cold remedy" for some ideas.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gobs of Garlic

      I have always been a good procrastinator.  Why do today that which you can put off until tomorrow?  At some point you finally come to the end of the line, and then the project has to be done.  As in the garlic cloves I separated earlier in the season to replant for next year.

Gobs of Garlic Cloves, December 14th,  2012

      These are the secondary sized garlic cloves.  I already planted most of the premium sized cloves, as the feeling seems to be that the larger the clove planted, the larger the full bulb harvested.  So some of your best looking garlic should be saved to be replanted.  These secondary cloves, as I call them, will hopefully still make quite respectable bulbs by next June or July.  By waiting so long to get these in the ground, I am testing the adage: "Plant garlic until the shortest day of the year, harvest by the longest day of the year".   I have the shortest day beat by at least a week.
      The next problem is how and where does one plant this mountain of cloves?  The first answer should have been the compost pile, but that only occurred to me after the fact.  If this planting is successful, what am I going to do with a whopping bumper crop of garlic next summer?  I guess become the number one garlic producer in New Castle County.  Back to planting, the faster the job, the better.

Garlic bed to be
      This bed was very productive this summer, with the tomatoes tied to the stakes, and a row of pepper plants in front.  If I plant the garlic in front, it should not delay whatever I want to plant along the stakes in early May.  The fastest way to get the cloves in the ground is to make a couple of furrows, then drop in cloves.

Did not get rid of enough
Entire row
      Wow, that was a lot of garlic. But.....

I still have half a box!
      Still did not think of the compost pile, so where could more cloves go.  Well right in the next bed.

Clean up required
Three rows in the one bed
Soil fluffed back over the two beds
      There, that looks nice.  And was a lot faster than bending over and planting all of those cloves individually.  Some of the cloves were fairly dry and thin, so I suspect that less than half will actually sprout.  At least that is a hope.  So, done for the day?  Not so fast buster.  That still leaves the last box of the smaller cloves on the porch.  What are you going to do with them?

Smallest cloves in a cold frame
      This is the cold frame that the voles cleared for me in the last few weeks.  The garlic does not need the protection of the frame, but why not use it.  I can always lift the frame later and move it to a different location.  The garlic will probably chase the voles from this frame as a bonus.

Last of the cloves, really

      Again, to plant the cloves as quickly as possible, I just tossed them by hand into the frame.  Rather than pushing them into the soil, I figured I would just add a layer of one year old leaf mold on top of the cloves. 

Last year's leaf pile just sitting around, only a few feet away
Finished, and it is only December 14th
      Wow. Done. Really.  There certainly is enough garlic planted to be able to use some in the spring or early summer as green garlic if my supply of eating garlic runs out.  This last bed of garlic planted will probably be edible in its second year.  Meaning that the bulbs will be pulled in late June, stored for a couple of months, then be broken down to cloves to be replanted in the fall of 2013.  Those cloves should produce edible bulbs by June of 2014.  A renewable crop.  And so delicious.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Countdown to Christmas

Back yard cold frame, December 11th, 2012
      Two weeks to go till Christmas!  I am in charge of providing the greens for a Christmas salad.  These would do quite nicely if I can keep them looking so happy for a couple of weeks.  The voles have been voracious lately.  They started on one end of the Trex cold frame and worked their way to the other end, eating everything in between except for a couple of tatsoi starts.  Maybe I have found something they won't eat.  But a whole garden of tatsoi?

Completely decimated by voles

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

White Icicle Radish, You're So Big

      When my white icicle radish plants bolted in the warm weather in the spring, I let the plants flower and set seed pods.  Then to make room, I pulled the radish plants, cut off the seed stalks, and hung them upside down from a trellis I use for beans.  And forgot about harvesting the seeds when they were ready.  I think I actually was planning to see what would happen naturally.  A few radish plants sprouted from those seed stalks, and I let them grow, and grow, and grow.  The plants have survived the several frosts we have had, so today I plucked one of the radishes before we get a really hard freeze.

White icicle radish, December 5th,  2012

      There were three or four radishes.  You can see the one I picked in the shot above.  In the picture it looks like two radishes, but it was just one long radish with a taper in the middle.

      You might say what is the fuss about this big radish by looking at this picture.  I was rather disappointed when I saw the shot later on the computer.  But it really is a case of not having anything in the picture as a reference.  So here is a little help in the next shot.

That is a whopper of a radish
      White icicle radishes are normally picked at the 4 to 5 inch stage.  The literature suggests that a radish left too long and allowed to get so big may be hollow, woody, or spongy.  And the literature was right, this radish was hollow in the middle, and spongy out to a solid 1/4 to 3/8 inch exterior.  The flavor of the solid part is fine, so rather than slicing across the radish in the normal fashion, I will cut the radish into four three inch chunks.  Then cut those three inch pieces vertically, throwing away the spongy core.  That will yield attractive and tasty strips.  I will eat produce out of my garden that I wouldn't touch had I bought it at the store.  All organic.  Fresh.  Scrumptious.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Red-tailed Hawk on Vole Patrol

      The Cornell Lab of Ornithology states that the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is probably the most common hawk in North America.  Several of the hawks have staked claims to perches over at Bellevue Park to keep an eye out for voles.  They may certainly have all they want.  I saw two different hawks by the gardens within a twenty minute span.  Hopefully they were well rewarded.

Hawk perched along busy I-95
A blend of nature and tech,  December 4th,  2012

How does he balance?
      The red tail only shows as the bird flies away from you, as the red coloration is on top of the tail.  I was not lucky enough to get that fly away shot today.

Different hawk, same day
      This second hawk is probably a young bird, as his belly is not so white and you can see the bars on his tail.  Hope he stays around at the park and enjoys all the voles I provide.