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Spooky State of the Garden Address

It's almost Halloween and that means garlic planting. If you are a garlic connoisseur, you can buy dozens of exotic varieties from seed companies. Or you can pick up some bulbs from your local organic grocer, which is what I did. Garlic falls into two main categories: hardneck and softneck. Hardneck garlic has a central woody stem from which a scape (edible flower) is produced in the spring, shortly before the bulb is ready to harvest. Softneck garlic does not produce scapes, but it has a flexible stem that may be braided to create decorative ristras. Both hardneck and softneck garlics grow well in DC. I'm going with hardneck garlic because that's what was available at the market (and garlic scape pesto is delicious).

Hardneck garlic: the bulb on the left is whole. I broke apart the bulb on the right to reveal its central woody stem and individual cloves.

No matter what type of garlic you choose, planting is the same. Break the bulb apart into individual cloves. Each clove will grow into an entire new bulb. If you have any cloves that are just too impossibly small to bother planting, eat them. For the rest, plant them about twice as deep as they are long, pointy end up, root end down. Spacing is about 4 to 6 inches apart and they grow best when planted in full sun. The 2 bulbs of garlic I bought contained 28 cloves, enough to plant a long single row along the fence in my backyard. They will be ready to harvest next summer.

I also planted some inedible, ornamental bulbs for phenological purposes. No, not phrenology, the pseudo-science that attempts to reveal a person's inner character by studying the bumps on their head. Phenology studies living things' responses to seasonal changes. Climate change has been making seasonal weather more erratic, which in turn has been making it harder for gardeners to decide when to begin seasonal planting. Early spring planting is particularly tricky because you want to catch that golden hour of when temperatures are still cool, but there's no longer a danger of hard frost or heavy snow. So I'm trying to be more observant of Nature's cues by planting daffodils as a phenological indicator of spring. When the daffodil leaves start to sprout, I'll know that the time is near for planting bok choy, broccoli raab, and baby turnips.

And speaking of strange seasonal weather, October has been so warm that my garden beds are exploding with growth. A month ago, the beds were looking sparse, and now they are overflowing.

Left photo is from last month, right photo is now. The biggest leaves are radishes; the greens are too prickly to be edible, but the roots are lovely. There's a lot of cilantro on the right that I'm going to use this evening to make chermoula.

We've been eating a lot of lettuce and arugula in salads and on sandwiches. And I've sauteed up a few tender rutabaga leaves and added them to frittatas to delicious results. I've also been making kimchi with mustard greens and radishes, but I'll tell you all about that next week.

#sotg #fall #vegetables