It seems like this year’s gardening season flew by. Once again, we’re cleaning off the last bean seeds and running germination tests. Already everyone at Southern Exposure is getting ready for next year; we are starting to draw garden maps to figure out which plots will be fallow and which ones will grow Abe Lincoln tomatoes and Chinese Five Color peppers.
We figure that you, too, are ready to start thinking about something besides hard frosts and bare trees. I am thrilled to announce that our organic and heirloom seed catalogs 2011 will be dropping into mailboxes in the next few weeks!
On behalf of the whole crew at Southern Exposure, I hope that you have fun flipping through our catalog full of heirloom vegetable seeds, organic flower seeds, herbs and native plants. We strive to offer the best seeds possible. Many of our seeds are organic, or sustainable farmed by dedicated seed growers.
Some of the new varieties in our seed catalog include:
Lipstick Pepper This pepper is a great option if your growing season is on the short side since the plant starts fruiting three or four weeks before most other pepper plants. The peppers are chunky and triangular, and ripen from green to red. They are flavorful and sweet.
Nootka Rose Garlic
The Nootka Rose garlic variety is an heirloom that originally comes from Washington state. This is a great Silverskin option as it’s long storing and produces large bulbs 15-25 cloves. The cloves have a rich flavor and medium heat. Nootka Rose is almost too pretty to eat, with its white outer skin and pink clove wrapper! A must for garlic braids.
Broken Colors Four O’Clock Flower
The Broken Colors Four O’Clock is an heirloom variety that was recently all but lost. The plant grows about thirty inches tall and is a prolific producer of small flowers that open and close early in the morning and again in late afternoon. The speckled petals range in color from dark purple and pale pink to vibrant yellow and snow white.
Easter Egg Radish
The Easter Egg radish is a great way to add some color to your late spring salads since these radishes range in color from a deeply saturated purple to bright pink and white skins and uniform white flesh. The radishes have a light peppery taste behind their crispy texture.
Frances’s Choice Marigold Flower
A cutting garden must-have. These marigolds are well suited to grow in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. The plant produces abundant flowers that have dark red petals with golden edges. The flowers are great for using in bouquets and vases since the stems average eight inches long.
Kebarika Snap Bean
This heirloom bush bean originated in Kenya. The dry shell bean plants have excellent tolerance for heat and drought. Kebarika plants are sturdy and upright, and grow loads of six-inch pods holding about five black and white mottled beans each. Be sure to pay close attention to these plants as the harvest window is pretty short.
Of course, you’ll also find that our 2011 Catalog & Garden Guide is chock-full of our tried-and-true varieties. To us–and hopefully to you–these veteran seeds are trusted friends.
Recently, we here at Southern Exposure have had the pleasure of participating in two lovely, sustainability-focused events: our 4th annual Heritage Harvest Festival, held at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello right here in Virginia, and the inaugural Mother Earth News Fair at the Seven Springs Resort southeast of Pittsburgh.
Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello
Thomas Jefferson was an avid gardener and agriculturalist and, if alive today, would surely be a passionate advocate of the organic food movement. In honor of this, Monticello and Southern Exposure have been co-hosting the Heritage Harvest Festival (HHF)–a celebration of local food, gardening and sustainable agriculture.
On Saturday, September 11th, 3,000 people flooded Monticello’s West Lawn to attend workshops and hands-on demonstrations as well as to admire Jefferson’s beautifully-restored gardens.
Experts from around the country shared their knowledge with participants at a variety of wonderful lectures. Among these master gardeners were our very own Ira Wallace and Ken Bezilla. Ira educated listeners about heirloom garlic and later, she threw a tea party! At her workshop Herbal “High” Tea, Ira served fancy herbal teas and delicious anise cookies while teaching participants how to grow the herbs needed to make such sweet and savory delights.
At Ken’s lecture, he delved into fall and winter gardening for Zone 6. Besides recommending winter greens and roots that participants could begin growing as well as naming crops such as garlic and onion that could be started for next year, Ken talked about frost preparation for summer crops, row cover, and what to do for your plants when it snows.
Over at our Southern Exposure booth, we hosted pepper, melon and tomato tastings that enveloped us in a flurry of activity all day long. The continuous stream of people wanting to try our numerous heirloom tomato varieties kept our ex-line cook Andros chopping tomatoes at lightening speed for hours.
Mother Earth News Fair
The first ever Mother Earth News Fair, held at the Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania, was a huge success, with over 9,000 participants and nearly 200 workshops. The fair was a hands-on sustainable lifestyle event that featured an eco-friendly marketplace, organic and local food tastings, and lectures by leading authorities on gardening, green building and renewable energy. We’re glad we got to be there and that we were asked to be a Supporting Partner of the event.
An entire table of our booth was dedicated to seed swapping. We happily looked on as friends of Southern Exposure exchanged all sorts of seeds, from passion fruit to wildflowers, amongst each other.
People perusing our booth could also sample squash, tomato, pepper and garlic varieties–all of which we grew in our garden.
And Ira, ever a fountain of useful information, gave four lectures.
When she wasn’t teaching attendees how to grow garlic, perennial onions, herbs and heirloom tomatoes, she was instructing people on how to eat fresh from their gardens all winter long.
If you missed the fun in Pennsylvania, come visit our booth next year! We’ll definitely be back, and with even more Southern Exposure goodness.
If you’ll be on the West Coast in June or September next year, you can also find us at these Mother Earth News Fairs:
June 4-5, 2011 – Seattle Metro Area, Puyallup Fairgrounds, Puyallup, Wash. Sept. 3-5, 2011– San Francisco Metro Area, Marin Center, San Rafael, Calif.
Upcoming Events: Where to Find Us This Winter
We’re donating ten percent of our sales from winter events to the Organic Seed Alliance, so come on out and celebrate seeds with us!
Growing garlic is a great way to spice up your garden. And your kitchen!
If you’re a garlic lover, having your own garden is an absolute must. There are tons of garlic flavors that you just can’t find at a supermarket. From kid-friendly, mild-flavored Elephant Garlic to intense, fiery-hot Red Toch Garlic (go ahead and try it…I dare you!), there’s a different flavor for every taste.
Selecting Seed and Getting Started
A Note on Garlic Seed
It is best to purchase garlic seed from a source that you trust. Using cloves that you buy in the supermarket CAN work, but you run the risk of introducing diseases into your garden. You also run the risk of buying a bulb of garlic that has been chemically treated to never sprout. Is planting supermarket garlic really worth the risk?
A Note on Garlic Types
You have three main options when selecting a garlic variety: Softneck, Hardneck, and Asiatic.
Softnecks include silverskin and artichoke types of garlic. These varieties are the most domesticated. They are among the easiest to grow, and are among the highest yielding. But be aware: Softnecks don’t do too well in extremely cold climates.
Inchelium Red, Italian Softneck, Loiacono, Red Toch, Silver Rose, and Silverwhite Silverskin are a few varieties of Softneck garlic.
Hardnecks include Rocambole and Topsetting types. These varieties are enjoying a gourmet renaissance. The cloves are large and easy to peel. Hardnecks grow better in colder climates than warmer ones. For these garlic varieties, it is best to plant large cloves.
Appalachain Red, Music, Persian Star, Chesnok Red, and German Extra Hardy are varieties of Hardneck garlic.
Asiatic or Turban types of garlic are considered a subset of Softnecks. These are the first to mature in the garden. In warm climates they act like Softnecks, whereas in cold climates they act more like Hardnecks. Varieties include; Xian, Asian Tempest and Blossom.
When to plant garlic:
You’ll be planting garlic in the fall. Southern Exposure caters to Mid-Atlantic gardeners. So, we recommend that most of you plant in late autumn, usually this means planting garlic between Columbus Day and Halloween. However, if you’re a little farther north, your garlic cloves are better planted earlier in the season.
Preparing Garlic for Planting
The first thing you’ll need to do is separate the individual cloves from the bulb. This only takes about a minute or so. Be sure to leave the paper (the thin, papery skin) on the individual cloves!
Preparing the Bed
Garden bed prep is going to take somewhat longer. Garlic really benefits from compost early in its development, so you’ll want to be sure your garlic beds have a good, thick layer of compost when you first plant. Adding nutrients later would not be as helpful.
If you have a rototiller, toss some compost on there and go for it! If not, you can aerate and mix the nutrient-rich compost into your soil with a broadfork.
Next, dig your furrows with a warren hoe.
Mark the line you’ll be planting along by dragging the tip of the hoe down the length of the bed. Then, using more pressure, dig your trenches. A couple of inches deep will do. Place the garlic cloves upright (with the paper still on) into the deepest part of the trench. The bottom of the clove will put down the roots, and the pointy top will sprout the leaves.
Plant the cloves about six inches apart. If your beds are three feet wide, you can usually fit four rows.
After the garlic is in the ground, use a paddle hoe to cover the garlic and level the trenches. The next crucial step is to LABEL your newly-planted garlic, as it will be some time before harvest.
Now, mulch away! Don’t be shy–cover the garlic beds with about six inches of hay or straw mulch. This way, you will get far fewer weeds. (You’ll still get weeds… but at least not nearly as many!)
After about a month, it’s time to join the garlic liberation front. Your garlic should be starting to sprout, so help the new leaves find light by making a hole in the mulch for them.
The Waiting Game
What’s next? Learn a foreign language, rebuild a hot rod, or clean out the attic…you’ll have months before your garlic needs attention again.
Scapes and Weeding
In late spring, it’s time to weed. If you mulched like a champion, this shouldn’t take too long.
Now, depending on the type of garlic that you are growing, harvest the garlic scapes. These are the long shoots growing up from the middle of the leaves. The leaves are going to look like giant blades of grass, while the scapes will be round. You’ll know it’s time to harvest the scapes when they curl over. To harvest, pull the scape upwards slowly but firmly. You’ll want to pull the scape completely free without pulling the garlic out of the ground. (That comes later!)
When early summer arrives, but later than the Fourth of July -for the Mid-Atlantic it will be time to harvest your garlic. When garlic is ready, there will typically be only six leaves left on the plant. Get your pitchfork and dig about three inches in front of the stem. You’ll want to give your garlic a nice, wide berth. After all this work, it would be a shame to impale your plants!
Loosen the soil around the garlic and pull it carefully out of the ground. If you want to make sure that the garlic is ready to be harvested, cut the bulb down the center to see if the cloves are fully formed. If so, continue digging. If not, try again in about a week.
At this stage, garlic looks like it’s ready to try out for the Steelers. The bulb will be big, burly, and tough-looking. But it’s not actually that tough! The bulb is easily bruised and damaged, so handle gently. And no tossing!
Place each dug-up plant–with the roots and leaves still attached to the garlic bulb–in a pyramid formation. (Instead of going out for football, they should really consider cheerleading.) There should be space between the bulbs on each row. Now, tie up your garlic and hang it out to dry.
Reap What You Sow!
By mid-summer, your garlic should be cured. Cut off the roots and stem, and store your garlic in a cool, dry and dark place. Finally, it’s ready for consumption!
If your garlic grows well and you get a bountiful harvest, save some of the cured bulbs to plant the next year. Replanting garlic that has grown well in your garden will only make it even better next year. In time, selectively saving your own garlic seed will produce garlic that is custom-designed to grow fabulously in your garden, year after year!