The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

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.


December 3, 2014

Taking care of your holiday rosemary plant

Filed under: Herbs,Indoor Gardening,Potted Plants — bob @ 1:06 pm

Although nowhere near as popular as poinsettias, rosemary plants are becoming a favorite holiday plant.

Rosemary trimmed to a conical shape bears a striking resemblance to a miniature Christmas tree. Though it may look like it, rosemary is not related to pine, spruce or any other evergreen trees. It belongs to the mint family of plants which includes basil, thyme, mint and sage.

Just brushing against the leaves of  a potted rosemary releases its signature fragrance that can fill a room.

In most cases, fresh sprigs can be cut from a potted rosemary and be used in recipes calling for this herb. I say in most cases because sometimes plant growers apply systemic pesticides to their rosemary crop. In that case the rosemary is intended for ornamental use only and not for consumption. Always read the plant tag before assuming your plant is OK to use in the kitchen.

Don't assume your plant is safe to use for cooking, read the tag first.

Don’t assume your plant is safe to use for cooking, read the tag first.

Rosemary is fairly easy to care for if you pay attention to its watering needs. Even though it grows wild in the dry, arid regions of the Mediterranean, to thrive in a home environment, rosemary requires even moisture.

To water a potted rosemary, I like to immerse the entire pot into a bucket of water until the soil is completely saturated. If it floats in the bucket, I leave it in longer. I then set the pot into the kitchen sink to let excess water flow through. When no more water drains out, I know it’s safe to put it back in its foil wrapper or on its saucer.

A bucket is a good way to make sure your rosemary gets adequate water.

A bucket is a good way to make sure your rosemary gets adequate water.

Don’t be tempted to water it and let water stand in the saucer or wrapper thinking that is supplying even moisture. Standing water will drown and kill rosemary roots and eventually the entire plant.

On the other hand, don’t let the plant dry out. The stiff foliage doesn’t appear to wilt much when the plant gets dry, but damage can happen pretty quickly from lack of water.

Try this little trick: try to gauge how much your rosemary weighs before you water it. After the plant has drained in the sink, note how much heavier it feels when you pick it up. After a few times you’ll be able to have a good guess at how dry the plant is. If you’re not comfortable doing that, use a moisture meter — they’re relatively inexpensive and make a great Christmas gift!


May 3, 2014

Planting horseradish

Filed under: Herbs,Planting — bob @ 9:12 am

Horseradish is one of my favorite condiments.

These hot and spicy roots are in an entirely different category compared to hot pepper sauce. I know people who have no problem with the hottest pepper sauce but can’t seem to handle the pungency of fresh horseradish. Maybe it’s because the active ingredient in hot peppers is capsicum, while in horseradish it is mustard oil.

As it turns out, horseradish is a pretty simple herb to grow and is not picky about soil. Of course, like most other plants, the better the garden soil, the larger the yield. Once you get it going, it pretty much takes care of itself.

Right now, is the time to get your horseradish started.

Even though seed is sometimes available, nearly all horseradish is planted by root cuttings. Plant the root cuttings at an angle in a shallow trench, about an inch deep or so, and cover them with soil. Keep them watered during any dry spells.

Horseradish root cuttings must be planted right side up. It is standard practice to  make a straight cut ant the top of the root and a slanted cut at the bottom.

Horseradish root cuttings must be planted right side up. It is standard practice for farmers to make a straight cut at the top of the root and a slanted cut at the bottom when they collect root cuttings.

Although I’ve heard of many instances of horseradish getting out control and taking over an area, I’ve never had that problem. The plants can easily reach a height of two feet or more. Two or three plants are enough for most households.

Horseradish roots are harvest during the fall after the first hard freeze.  I prepare horseradish the same way most folks do by grating the roots and mixing it with vinegar.






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