Sunday, February 24, 2013

Toeing the Line

February is time to dig. The frost has only reached skin deep this year, and the rain rain has stayed away to come again some other day. This perfect non-storm afforded me the opportunity to dig, shake and rake. I dig up some sod, shake off whatever topsoil and worms I can (most of 'em, when to soil is not saturated), and use my grandma's long-handled garden rake to get the beds ready.

My maternal grandma, whose rake I think this is, was more unruly than row-ly. Like her, I plant haphazardly, tucking things in here and there. But a true chaotic high note takes some time to achieve, and being on rented land (owned by someone I have reason to believ would not appreciate random island of plants in his lawn), I've gone for a more orderly, rectilinear garden layout this year.

Ergo the row-beds and rectangles that comprise my garden this year. The ones pictured above (wide one is for a hoophouse full o' tomatoes, other one for taters and pole beans), and a strip along the house's eastern front for snap peas, the early potatoes and various herbs and flowers. Oh, and another rectangle in the far back where there is sun in the morning and again in the later afternoon, when rays sneak in beneath the neighbor's trees. 

Planting has begun--early taters and snap peas in the sundrenched east, poppies and the first lettuce and radishes wherever--but February is mostly about getting ready. Dig the bed. Apply gore (blood and bone meal).

The linear beds will flow and then ebb, and probably become a grassless mass by Summer's end. If this became my place for more than a year, a piece of ground I could count on long-term, the lines would meander, the rectangles would chaoticize. But however anarchic my gardening may be(come), however prone I am to planting hither and yon like my grandma, a Year 1 garden looks tamer, rowed, and conventional.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Garlic year: Sprouts, Procrastination, and Loving Your Volunteers.

Everything's tilted but the garlic.

Here it is the first week of February, and the tentative sprouts of January are already nearly a brick-width high. These were planted in October (barely) in accordance with (barely) The Year According to Garlic Calendar. Blanched tips were visible weeks ago, but now the Sprouts are well on their way to Shoots, the almost-halfway-to-Equinox sun tempting chloroplasts into action. Stand back and enjoy.

Meanwhile, those few cloves not already et, dried, salted, or drowned in olive oil are impatient with waiting, and haved decided to grow now. Mostly, these are the center cloves of large softneck garlic (Inchelium? Music? I stopped keeping track years ago.) that were already getting spongy a month or so ago when I was putting up the crop. These were the impatient individuals of their respective knobs, itching to sprout and grow as soon as the Solstice passed, and hence past their prime by the time I got around to preserving.

As is my wont, I procrastinated on the planting as well. They could have gone in my Puget Lowlands ground a month ago, but an additional month of delay--no, outright neglect, tossed on a side counter in the kitchen without even the benefit of decent light--is my bow to evolution. Or more precisely, selection. A month gives mold and rot a chance to attack, and forces the malingerers and weaklings to show themselves. Maybe they would not die, but I would kill them (in soup or fried with onions and sausage, if they grew not into blue  fuzzy mold-bombs), and plant only their virogorous sistren.

OK, I admit it, this picture is from October. There are no green poplar leaves on the ground now.

And so today, at long last, I poked holes in the ground and dropped in the sprouting cloves. Yes, you are supposed to plant in the Fall. No, I won't regret this come Summer when I am getting big-ass bulbs of garlic from this procrastinatory planting. 

Meanwhile, back at your ranch, check and see what's sprouting this month. The forgotten and ungarvested garlic will be popping up, and you can uproot and split these heads into cloves and re-plant if you want. Sure, it's not what the books tell you to do, and it may not be optimal, but as long as you have any space to spare, it's better than letting them cram together and produce nothing, and way better than pulling and tossing them out. Let the volunteers know they are loved, give them room to grow, and your nurturing will be repaid.