The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

November 13, 2018

It’s garlic planting time


Since I ordered my garlic bulbs way back in the spring, I was not thinking of them at all when they arrived in the mail several days ago.

I got those garlic cloves into the ground right away even though they could have been planted anytime from October through November. Getting them earlier gives them a chance to put down some roots and get nestled in for the winter.

In the past, I’ve had to postpone my garlic planting until well into November and the crop seemed to do quite well despite the delay.

Garlic for planting looks just like a bulb from the grocery store produce department.

Garlic for planting looks just like a bulb from the grocery store produce department.

Cover the cloves with one  to two inches of soil.

Cover the cloves with one to two inches of soil.

Before planting you need to separate the cloves yourself.

Before planting you need to separate the cloves yourself.

Always place the garlic clove with the root end down.

Always place the garlic clove with the root end down.

You have to plan ahead if you want to grow garlic because when planting time rolls around, you very likely will not be able to find cloves to plant. So put it in your calendar for next spring as a reminder to yourself to place your order.


July 11, 2018

Lovin’ that lovage

Filed under: Herbs,Vegetables — Tags: , , , — bob @ 9:22 pm

Every once in a while we’ll be making something that calls for celery, like potato salad or chicken soup. I’ll check the fridge only to find out there’s no celery in the crisper drawer. Not to fear, there’s a perennial plant growing in the garden that’s always on stand by for such an eventuality — that plant is my cherished lovage.

I’ve been growing lovage for many years, it such an easy plant to grow. And once it gets established, it seems to grow forever barring any drastic; like letting the chickens roam in the garden in early spring forgetting that the lovage was there. But I digress.

It’s celery flavor is what I go for but it has other uses too, uses I’ve never tried. The herb is stronger tasting than celery but is much sweeter. All parts are edible. Homemakers in the past have used it’s seeds for flavoring breads, cakes and a whole lot of other foods. They’ve even added lovage leaves to cookie dough. A type of candy made from lovage was very popular at one time. The root is edible too.

Want to impress your friends and influence people? Use a lovage stem as a straw when serving Bloody Marys.

Want to impress your friends and go on more dates? Lovage stems are hollow, use them instead of straws when serving Bloody Marys.

My lovage is well over four feet tall and full of blossoms. It is really enjoying the regular rains we’ve been getting this spring. I have it growing in a sandy, well-drained area but my guess it will grow just about anywhere.

Lovage also has medicinal value helping to ease digestive problems.

You don’t hear much about lovage being used in the kitchen very often these days. Maybe back in the olden days it was grown a lot more because it has so many uses.  Then as people became more prosperous they started using store-bought herbs and spices, that’s just a guess on my part.

Chefs nowadays are always looking for that next big thing or that unique taste sensation that will bring them adulation from their patrons and admiration from their peers. I reckon lovage might be that flavor they’re looking for — it’s poised for a comeback in a big way. H-m-m, maybe I’ll start a lovage farm.



April 15, 2018

Spring planted garlic

Filed under: Herbs,Planting,Vegetables — Tags: , , , , — bob @ 8:48 am

Garlic is normally planted in the fall. Planting at that time of the year allows the garlic bulb to be exposed to several weeks of cold temperatures which stimulates bulb production. Missing the fall date can be disappointing, it means waiting an entire year before planting a crop.

If you are the type of person who doesn’t mind experimenting a bit, spring planting may be a option. Bulbs grown from spring planted garlic are significantly smaller which is why it is not recommended. Farmers would never be able to make a profit with an undersized crop, but in a garden it is worth having some fun with.

The other thing with spring planted garlic is finding bulbs to plant since most seed companies ship their garlic in the fall. One solution is to plant garlic from the supermarket produce department. You’ll never know what variety you’ll be getting but look at it this way, someone had a good enough crop with them to grow enough to sell.

Even though spring planted bulbs will be smaller, that doesn’t mean they will not be usable. You’ve probably eaten green onions before, you can eat green garlic too. If you’ve never tried fresh green garlic right from the garden, you’re in for a treat. The garlic taste is quite unexpected when your taste buds are expecting an onion flavor.

Don’t let them get too mature though. Green onions or scallions that swell up at the root end as they get older are still quite usable. Green garlic at that stage will start to develop the separations that eventually become cloves. When that happens tough membranes form that eventually become the papery wrappings over each clove that you see in full sized garlic. Those membranes make the young garlic too chewy to enjoy eating. At that point you just let them grow.

This is about the smallest size clove I would plant in the spring.

This is about the smallest size clove I would plant in the spring.

Since your spring planted garlic is late, you’ll have to give it every advantage to make growth. The first important thing to remember is garlic hates to be planted on it’s side. It’s critical that you plant the garlic clove with the bottom pointing down, don’t just toss it into a hole otherwise you’ll reduce the size of the mature bulb even more.

In your richest area of your garden, dig your planting hole so that top of the clove is covered by about two inches of soil. Plant the cloves between 3 and six inches apart; the closer spacing for green garlic, the more distant for garlic bulbs.

Early and season long weed control is essential, garlic just doesn’t compete well with weeds. Kill those weeds while they’re still little and keep it up all through the season. Make sure the soil is kept evenly moist but not soaking wet. The object is to try to encourage the garlic to grow as much as it can early in the season so that it will have plenty of green leaf area for photosynthesis.

If you’re going to do this thing, do it now — don’t wait until May. Garlic needs as much cool soil as you can provide during the early stages of growth.

With some care and persistence, you’ll end up with a culinary conversation piece that will surprise your garlic loving friends.



September 17, 2015

The medicinal garden at Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Filed under: Events,Herbs — bob @ 10:05 am

Not long ago growing culinary herbs in a home garden was regarded as an eccentric thing to do and only the most adventuresome gardeners grew medicinal herbs. Things have changed and more gardeners than ever are growing herbs of all kinds.

Seeds for medicinal herbs are readily available in catalogs and online stores making it easy to get started with medicinal herbs.

There are plenty of books and online resources available for anyone interested in growing medicinal herbs but nothing can replace seeing it first hand.

Over 40 percent of medicines are derived from plants.

Over 40 percent of medicines are derived from plants.

For a wonderful introduction to the world of medicinal herbs visit the Medicinal Garden at University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens. The folks at Matthaei have collaborated with the U of M College of Pharmacy to develop this garden. There you can see many different medicinal plants growing.

The garden is not organized by genus and species as botanists like to do but rather by human body systems: respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and more.  Other areas of the garden are devoted to disorders such as diabetes, infectious diseases, cancer, etc.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens is located near Ann Arbor at 1800 North Dixboro Road, a half mile or so south of Plymouth Road. They’re open daily from 10 am to 8 pm during the summer season.


June 10, 2015

Dill weed is easy and fun to grow

Filed under: Herbs — bob @ 12:17 pm

Whenever I taste fresh dill in a dip or salad, it brings up memories of my childhood spending time with my Polish grandmother. During the growing season I remember her using dill for a lot of different things. As a result, the lingering scent of fresh dill hung in her kitchen all summer long. For that reason alone dill is one of my favorite herbs.

Another good reason to put it at the top of the list, besides the nostalgia factor,  is how easy it is to grow. In my garden, I have it coming up year after year on its own.

It all started several years ago when I had a bunch of dried dill umbels (tops) hanging up in the open air in a forgotten part of a shed. When I found them they had collected a lot dust and I was in no mood to try to clean them. How would you do that anyway?

So, I crunched them up with my hands  and threw the seed into every corner and edge of the garden. Ever since then, I’ve never had to worry about planting dill. They show up every where. I just have to make sure I leave a few plants to mature and drop seeds.

The normal way to start dill is to sow them in rows at the spacing of about 15 to 20 seeds per foot. It takes about a week to ten days for the seeds to emerge. Once they are up, thin them to about three plants per foot. You will have to keep the weeds down around it, just like the rest of your garden.

I have dill growing in the garlic bed. Once the garlic is gone, I'll let the dill finish growing.

I have dill growing in the garlic bed. Once the garlic is gone, I’ll let the dill finish growing.

Keep in mind that dill typically grows to a height of three or four feet so it will shade shorter plants. That’s why I try to restrict my dill to the out of the way places in my garden.

Dill leaves — also called dill weed — can be cut and used anytime during the growing season. For dill pickles, harvest the umbels when the seeds are full size but haven’t turned brown. That’s the secrete for super flavorful dill pickles.

If you can’t use all of your dill right away, air-dry the umbels in the shade. Traditionally, the dried umbels are stored in glass jars but I suppose any air tight container will work. Besides, a glass jar of dill umbels sitting on your kitchen counter is very decorative and lets everyone know you are a real chef.

There is still time to sow dill seed.

Once you have your first crop of dill and remember to leave a few plants in the garden at the end of the season, you won’t have to plant it ever again.


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