Category Archives: Garden Advice

How to Harvest Garlic Scapes

garlic scapes

Do you harvest garlic scapes while they’re still straight or after they’ve curled?

Garlic scapes harvested young are still tender enough to eat raw (although too pungent for some palates!) They can be cooked in stir-fries, pickled, or made into pesto. Harvested a little older, you may need to break off the woody bases, similar to asparagus, and just use the tender tops.

Scapes are the leafless flower stalks of hardneck garlic varieties. Harvesting scapes encourages the plants to put more energy into bulbs, increasing yields and improving quality. It’s usually done a few weeks or up to 2 months before the bulbs are ready for harvest. While scapes may be harvested by snapping or twisting them off at the base, many gardeners prefer to use pruning shears or clippers. A warm, dry afternoon is recommended for harvesting scapes, as this promotes fast healing.

While some folks advise to harvest when the scapes have curled once, others recommend harvesting while they’re still straight. The truth may be that tenderness varies by variety — some varieties stay tender after curling, while other varieties are best harvested earlier.

garlic scapes freshly harvested

We’d love to hear from you! Have you found variation by variety? Do you always harvest at the same stage?

Remember, we take pre-orders all year for our fall-shipped heirloom Garlic cloves for planting!

These links offer advice for growing your own garlic:

Garlic and Perennial Onion Growing Guide

Garlic and Perennial (Multiplier) Onions: Harvest and Curing

No-Till Permanent Beds & SESE at the Mother Earth News Fair

Less work, better production is every gardener’s dream. One method that can help you to achieve this dream is to use a minimal or no-till permanent bed system.

More Production

Permanent beds perform better because the soil is never compacted and rarely disturbed. By using no-till practices on permanent beds beneficial insects, microbes, and fungi are allowed to thrive in the soil making for healthier more productive plants.

The pathways between permanent beds also encourage beneficial insects. They can be mulched to provide habitat for species like predatory insects or cover cropped with something like white clover that can be kept fairly short and still attract pollinators. Additionally cover cropped pathways can be mowed and the clippings can be used to add organic matter to the beds.

Permanent beds especially with pathways in cover crop helps reduce erosion keeping more nutrients in the beds for your plants.

Less Work

Unless you’ve got a tractor rototilling is usually a very time consuming spring project. Obviously no-till agriculture eliminates this need but it also reduces the amount of space that you have to carefully maintain. Mulch or mow where you walk rather than worrying about keeping it weed free.

Permanent beds can also help you plan out plantings for easy rotation and maintenance. You can easily keep track of what was where each year and space plantings to allow for easy cultivation with hand tools like a wheel how or stirrup hoe. They also make it easier to set up drip irrigation systems which are more efficient than overhead watering.

Finally, they make it easier to integrate perennials and self sowing plants into your garden plan. These plants make productive low maintenance additions.

Less Money

Tillers can be a costly expense for farmers and gardeners alike. Avoiding the initial cost of a tiller plus the fuel that goes into running a it at least once a year is a great way to save money in the garden.

As permanent no-till beds also keep your beds healthier they’ll reduce the need for costly outside inputs.

Mother Earth News Fair

June 2-3 Southern Exposure will be putting on a few workshops at the Maryland Mother Earth News Fair! If you’re in the area be sure to check out SESE’s workshops for some excellent gardening advice.

Grow More, Work Less: Expert tips for your vegetable garden with Ira Wallace

Available in: Maryland – North Carolina

Maryland Time: Sunday – 10:00-11:00 a.m.

Stage: Heirloom Gardener Stage

Simple tips and techniques for adding self-sowing annual, perennial, and biennial vegetables to your garden. Learn how to save time and money in your edible landscape, permaculture beds, or any vegetable garden.

Sun Growing Common and Uncommon Greens for Summer Salads and More

Available in: Maryland – North Carolina

Maryland Time: Sunday – 1:00-1:30 p.m.

Stage: Heirloom Gardener Stage

Salad greens are some of the most satisfying plants a gardener can grow. What else can you sow a little of in a bare patch and start harvesting just four weeks later? If you’ve mastered the basic greens (such as romaine, leaf lettuces, and spinach) and you’re looking for something a little different, or if your salad patch looks a little peaked in mid-summer, Ira Wallace has a few adventurous ideas for you as well as tips, varieties, and timing to keep the ordinary greens coming. Learn about 10 out-of-the-ordinary greens to try this year, including some that bridge the mid-summer gap between the cool, prolific spring and fall salad seasons.

Turmeric and Ginger: Growing for medicinal and culinary use

Available in: Maryland – North Carolina

Maryland Time: Saturday – 10:00-11:00 a.m.

Stage: Mother Earth Living Stage

There’s nothing fresher than turmeric and ginger you grow yourself! Learn the fundamentals of planting turmeric and ginger for a bountiful harvest. Ann Codrington shares her tips and tricks to get the moisture, timing, and temperature just right for sprouting, and shows participants how to care for plants as they go through their natural phases of growth.

Hands-on: Seed-Cleaning Techniques and Tips  Irena Hollowell, Gryphon Corpus, and Sappho Heavey

Available in: Maryland

Maryland Time: Saturday – 11:30-12:30 p.m.

Stage: Hands-On Demonstrations

Irena Hollowell, Gryphon Corpus, and Sappho Heavey show you how to clean seeds you’ve harvested in your garden for good germination rates and shelf life. This workshop focuses on the threshing, winnowing, and screening of seeds that mature in dry pods or seedheads (such as beans, okra, and lettuce), and participants can try their own hand at winnowing. Hollowell also briefly touches on the fermentation of seeds that mature wet. These methods are applicable to seeds of flowers and herbs, as well as vegetables. Take home handouts and seed samples. Note: An extra pass is required for this workshop. Space is limited, get your passes today.

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9 Easy Permaculture Projects

If permaculture has peaked your interest any initial research can make permaculture seem overwhelming. You’ll quickly learn that it’s more than just some gardening tips. It’s a system that works to build a sustainable life. However  that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t start working on adding some permaculture projects to your garden. These projects don’t require a permaculture design certification or extensive research. They’re just a few easy ways to make a change.

Build a Hugelkultur Bed

Building a hugelkultur bed is an excellent way increase your yields and conserve resources, two important principles of permaculture. Hugelkultur beds are great long term sources of nutrients, help conserve water, and create habitat for beneficial insects, fungi, and microbes. You can learn how to build your own here.

Plant a Fruit Tree Guild

Another key permaculture principle is to integrate rather than segregate. While many traditional gardens separate trees and bushes from other plants permaculture works to integrate all plantings into a more natural ecosystem. The aim of fruit tree guilds is to plant varieties that support your fruit tree. Read our post, Planning a Fruit Tree Guild, to get started on your own.

Start Your Seeds Without Plastic

Trying to produce less waste is always a good idea but it’s also a permaculture principle. Starting seeds without using plastic is a great way to reduce garden waste. Check out our best tips in this post.

Set Up a Compost System

Another way to reduce your waste is to set up a compost system. Whether you use a simple  compost pile or even set up a vermicompost system it will help you turn more nutrients into produce and reduce waste headed to the landfill.

Save Seeds

The permaculture principles also suggest that you use and value diversity. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to purchase heirloom and open pollinated seed and save seed from your plants. By saving seed you’re helping to keep more varieties alive and create strains that are adapted to your local climate. To learn more read our posts, Seed Saving for Beginners and Garden Planning for Seed Saving.

Install a Rain Barrel

While rain barrels aren’t feasible or even legal for everyone they can reduce your need for water from outside sources. Installing one is a fairly simple and affordable project and fits well with the principle, to use and value renewable resources.

Use Companion Planting

If you don’t have the space or desire for a fruit tree guild you can still practice integration. Many plants benefit from being planted with others. A great example of this is the three sisters garden which includes corn, beans, and squash, The corn provides a trellis for the beans which provide nitrogen to the corn and squash while the squash shades out the weeds as it grows.

Go No-Till

No-till agriculture is as simple as it sounds, you never turn over the soil. Instead methods like cover cropping, mulching, and lifting the soil with a broadfork are used. This practice helps keep soil healthy which fits with a number of permaculture principles including using slow methods and valuing renewable resources.

Plan Your Property or Garden with Permaculture Zones

One of the permaculture principles is to design from patterns to details. If you have the opportunity to arrange your property or garden you can use your habits to help you achieve a more efficient layout. You can read our full post on planning with permaculture zones here.


While there is more to permaculture than gardening it’s a good place to start. These projects can help you apply a few of the permaculture principles to your backyard. They can help make your garden more productive, sustainable, and efficient.

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