I went out for a walk yesterday and while we have had some warm and sunny days already, it was the first one that really felt like spring. One of my favorite spring blooms, the pasque flower was out. I’m so glad I caught them because they’ll be gone before I get a chance to go out walking again.
Before I begin, a confession: I did not plant garlic last fall. You are horrified. You are storming away from this website in horror.
Allow me to explain / make excuses. I managed to harvest my garlic early last fall and it was fantastic. The biggest and best garlic harvest we’ve ever had. I grew three varieties: ‘Music’, ‘Persian Star’, and ‘Siberian’. I think I liked the red skinned ‘Persian Star’ best. We had more garlic than we could eat in one season. I fully intended to separate the best and biggest cloves from the harvest to replant in the garden come October. But then October came. And there were deadlines. And I kept saying, I need to get that garlic in. But there was never enough time. I rarely left my desk. I barely had time to practice proper hygiene let alone plant garlic. And that is how the garlic did not get planted. Boo hoo.
Cut to early April when I spoke at the Seeds of Diversity 25th Anniversary. The event also hosted a number of seed and plant vendors, including a young farmer who raises and sells his own garlic. [Update: While cleaning my office, two months after the fact, I found the info sheet that came with the garlic. Wolf Grove Garlic, RR2, Almonte, Ontario] At the show, he was selling forced sprouted garlic that had already been hardened off (properly acclimated to the cold outdoors) and could be transplanted directly into the garden. I figured I might as well give it a try and bought eight plants in four different varieties: ‘Malpasse’, ‘Spanish Anatoli’, ‘French Red’, and a variety developed by his grandfather called, ‘Nono.’
This should turn out to be a fun experiment. I’ve never done this before, having always planted my garlic in the fall. I had planned to plant some cloves in the early spring, as soon as the ground could be worked, in an attempt to get some garlic this year. By this late season method, the most I could hope for were tender garlic shoots and very immature little bulbs at best. I had absolutely no expectation of raising garlic to full maturity this year. But now I do. As long as the plants transplant well, I should have mature bulbs just a little bit later than usual in late summer/fall. I probably won’t have bulbs worth transplanting in the fall of October 2009, but I will have garlic. That’s nothing to scoff at.
However, I did notice something interesting while digging holes to plant the garlic pots in. It turns out that I missed a bulb when harvesting last fall and I’ve got garlic growing after-all. Based on where it is sprouting, the variety must be ‘Music’. Unfortunately, the sprouts are all clumped together, but I’m going to leave them as-is as another experiment in what happens when garlic is accidentally left in the ground to grow on its own.
I often allow some of my lettuce plants on the roof to bolt and go to seed in the late summer heat. They look beautiful and eventually produce seeds that can be collected for next year.
‘Mascara’ is a vivid, red oakleaf variety that comes back up on its own in the spring. I do collect the seeds, but since it sows itself I tend to just give them all away. I find the tiny seedlings popping up in pots scattered around the roof and carefully transplant each one where I want them. Free food! And all from one plant that I let go a few years back.
This is the first seedling that popped up this year. I thought the nasty snowstorm a while back would kill it, but its still kicking. Tough little thing.
More about ‘Mascara’ lettuce here
Fiskars, makers of the famous orange-handled crafting scissors and assorted gardening pruners, among other things (turns out they make boats too. o-kay), recently sent me their Power Stroke Telescoping Pruning Stik 12-Foot Tree Pruner as a solution to a problem we’ve been having at the community garden with weed trees taking over and throwing shade onto what were previously sunny plots, mine included.
I just need to hold for a moment here to say, Ummm… Power Stroke? Really? They make it too easy.
Back to the garden. Over the years, we’ve tried managing the problem with shorter tree loppers, even going so far as to send my brother up into the trees to cut some branches out. The trouble is that getting up into the trees to get at the tall growth at the top is becoming increasingly difficult, if not dangerous. We don’t have a tall ladder, and even if we did how would we transport it from our home to the garden short of marching through the neighborhood with it strapped to our backs? Completely impractical, if not a little bit strange.
This is where the pruners come in. As an urban gardener I find that I can generally get away with owning only a small handful of tools, so it came as a surprise to discover that I actually NEEDED a gigantic tool like this one. They’re looooong — 12 feet in fact and an ample length required to reach the offending branches.
We took it over to the community garden the other day to get a head start on pruning early in the season before the leaves fill up the trees and while we can still see what we’re doing. We used the standard pruner attachment and were able to easily and smoothly remove branches just over an inch in diameter. I have never used another tree pruning tool so I’ve got nothing to compare with, but it was easy enough, and I’m not particularly muscular these days having spent long hours over the winter months sitting on my butt staring at a screen and pushing a mouse. My spouse found it to be incredibly easy, possibly even too easy, since I had to take the thing away to keep him from going nuts removing every branch on every tree! It’s surprisingly light for such a massive tool (the website says it weighs only 5 pounds) and is simple to manipulate even when fully extended. Weight is important since we are not only concerned about pulling a muscle during use but potentially losing control and accidentally touching one of many nearby electrical wires. So far this has not been a concern, although I would avoid doing this kind of work on a windy day. It has a rotating head that allows you to get into difficult spots and cut on appropriate angles, which was something we weren’t too concerned about since we were pruning weed trees, not the family cherry tree.
We weren’t able to cut all of the branches we needed to remove with the pruning attachment, but this thing also came with a large saw attachment that is used for cutting branches thicker than 1 1/4″. We haven’t had a chance to try it out yet but will be back at the garden next week to finish the job. I’m not worried about whether it can handle the remaining thicker branches, that thing has got bite. In fact I’m rather afraid of the saw attachment on its own, even while still in the package! Stick it on the end of a sturdy, 12-foot pole and I’ve no doubt that it could cut through a small arm. Which is why I intend to keep my arms and all other appendages over at the opposite end of the garden when anyone but myself is wielding it!