NATURE’S TURN: The garden flourishes, ripens, brims over

July 20 – August 2, 2015

Mt. Washington — Summer is ripening everywhere – gardens, farms and the softly rounded and arrestingly rugged Berkshire and Taconic ranges are lush with gathered sunlight in the shape of leaves, flowers and fruits. From elderberry bushes to sweet corn, towering hickory trees to underground garlic bulbs, food is being produced in abundance. Sunlight pours down and we drink it, eat it.

As we approach the midpoint between summer and autumn, an overview proves refreshing. We begin early spring looking to the final frost date of the season as a planting guide. From April until late May frost hardy plants are our focus. Then our vantage point shifts and we project out to the first frost date in autumn, with an eye on the last week in September. We sow crops that require up to 120 days to mature and cure. Now, with day length just beginning to shorten at a quickened pace, we return to planting frost hardy crops and, in warm locations or micro-climates, tender plants that will mature in 55 days or less without protection.

Garlic plants nearing maturity. Photo by Judy Isacoff, July 17, 2015
Garlic plants nearing maturity. Photo by Judy Isacoff, July 17, 2015

Short season plantings of spring greens, peas, beets, carrots and turnips have been or will soon be harvested, making way for a succession planting. The garlic harvest, described below, opens up additional ground. If you’ve grown seedlings of long season vegetables to transplant, now’s the time to move them to spaces that have been thoroughly weeded and to which compost has been added. Seeds of 35 – 55 day Asian greens, arugula, lettuce, radish, cilantro and dill will mature before the first frost. Kale and collards are worth a try, since they withstand frost and are reliable at least through Thanksgiving. Heat sensitive greens will do best in part shade or under shade cloth during hot weather. All new plantings require diligent watering.

Continue to prune lower leaves from kale and collard plants for current eating and shred, steam briefly and freeze extra for fine winter food. Cut outer leaves of chard, leaf lettuce and parsley. Parsley in tight bunches freezes well and is easiest to chop when still frozen; same for cilantro and dill, except harvest the whole plant.

Garlic Harvest, August 3, 2011. Photo credit: Judy Isacoff
Garlic Harvest, August 3, 2011. Photo credit: Judy Isacoff

Garlic bulbs are usually ready to dig when leaves begin to brown but there are still green leaves on the stems. To be sure that individual cloves are fully formed in the head and are completely wrapped in their paper-like covering, reveal a few bulbs to check first before taking a fork or flat shovel to the whole plot. Best to harvest when the ground is dry. Once harvested, keep garlic out of direct sunlight. Tie bunches of a dozen whole plants each and hang for a few weeks in an airy spot like a shed, porch or indoor location. Finally, cut the stalks off, leaving about half an inch above the bulb. Separate out your largest bulbs with the largest cloves to save for planting in October. Count the number of cloves you will need, one for each new plant. Store the rest in mesh bags in a cold, dark location away from sunlight. They will be good keepers at near freezing temperatures, lasting until June without sprouting.


Garlic Festivals  

September 5 & 6

Bennington, Vermont   The Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival


September 26 & 27

Orange, Mass.       North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival

Sauguerties, N.Y.     Hudson Valley Garlic Festival