17 September, 2010

Garlic and Vampires in The Garden

There will be no vampires in Saugerties next weekend! Vampire movies, novels and TV shows are all over the place these days. However one place there will be no vampires, no matter dark the night sky, next weekend is Saugerties. The ever popular Garlic Festival arrives the 25th and 26th of September. Already? You mean September is over and Christmas music hits the airwaves in six weeks? Indeed. Which is one reason I think fall festivals have gained so much popularity lately. Before you know it Summer is  gone and fall is already leaving before it gets here. So what to do? Cram in as many nice weekend events as you can. Car shows, farmers markets, harvest fests........hurry up winter is almost here.
The Hudson Valley Garlic Festival is one of the biggest in the nation. And  to think it started on a small farm on a small barely drivable dirt road many years ago. The festival is held at Cantine Field on the north side of town. However due to the fact that 50,000 people show up do not plan on parking anywhere near the site. There are several outlying parking areas well serviced by trolleys and buses to get you to and from the festival. Tickets are available in advance for $7, kids under 12 are free. Seniors tix are $3 in advance. There are no discounted tix available at the gate where prices will be $10. This is the only drawback. $10 to me is a little steep to bring a family of teenagers, especially if the promoters expect to have attendees purchase from the myriad of vendors inside the festival.
That aside there will be dozens of food vendors who must use garlic on their preparations! Garlic ice cream anyone. I purchased some garlic horseradish preserves at the Catskill Farmers Market awhile back. Outstanding for any garlic/horseradish lover. Almost ate the whole jar without putting it on anything! Since the festival is all about garlic it makes sense you can buy dozens of varieties of garlic for planting as well. Fall is the perfect time to plant garlic. In fact hard neck varieties must be planted now for best results.
planting in late September gives the roots time to set up for winter. Garlic is outstandingly hardy for this region as well as points north.
Break the bulb into individual cloves. Bigger cloves result in bigger bulbs come harvest time. use the small ones to keep vampires away after the festival is over with. Plant the cloves 1 inch deep in the valley 4-6 inches deep in those outlying frost pockets. Soft pliable soil is a must. My heavy clay, PlayDoh raw material, needs tons of compost added to loosen up the tight grip of compact clay platelets. Compost also does an excellent job at repelling vampires, ghosts, ghouls but not zombies. Zombies? Yes, that is what everyone who tries my home gown chile peppers looks like. The only connection I can conjure up is the compost!
Remove the stalks from hard neck varieties when it reaches 9 inches tall the following spring. This will concentrate energy into the underground bulbs instead of the ones that would normally form on the top of the stem Harvest times comes when the leaves begin to brown but there should still be a half dozen or so green ones left. Examine the bulbs by gently lifting one from the ground. If skins, the onion like slivery covering, have formed around the clove they are ready for harvest. Provide good air circulation for a few weeks as the bulbs cure. Remember for free garlic re-plant half of what you harvest each fall until your garlic bed is as large as you want and your vampire loving friends threaten to un-friend you online.
Another favorite event I attend is Tropic-Al's end of Summer Beach Party. Held the last  day of summer, this banana republic in the Catskills throws one last Beach Bum Bash. Pirates show up to play shipwreck games take part in treasure hunts and more. This year's plans include a huge bonfire in the new fire pit to roast coconuts,  bananas and shell fish. For more information log on to www.tropicalsbbqreview.blogspot.com . Yes these natives are restless when the leaves start changing colors.
Speaking of changing......I have changed my thoughts on farmers markets this year after attending several. I am appalled the prices many of these places charge. Several in the northern parts of the region I will not go to anymore. Without naming names I have seen the following. Uncertified "organic" mesculin mix 4 oz bag $5. That is $20 lb for salad greens!
A basket of 5 small peaches for $4. I equated that to be $8-$12 per pound.  Other price gouging includes $1 for 1 zucchini, $2 for a single tomato, Swiss chard in small six stem bunches at the equivalent of $10+ per pound. I actually looked forward to going each week to get fresh produce even though I grow the same stuff in my yard.
The Catskill Farmers Market, many reasonably priced products, is being sued by several businesses on Main Street in the Village of Catskill. The market moved from the river front where it was held in a beautiful old brick shipping warehouse, to Main Street in the village. Each Saturday morning a two to three block area is cordoned off to allow for the market to be held. A nearby barber shop took issue saying his business has suffered because of the street being closed down. I saw this scenario coming but from a different angle. Many thought farmers market visitors would then shop the local store fronts. Apparently they have not. I wondered why the market moved from its' covered but open location on a beautiful waterfront to the drab uptown look of Catskill. To this day the Hudson river is our greatest but most often ignored resource.
Some of this years' notable garden trends: garden sheds go upscale. I think this came out of the Man Cave phenomenon. The basic guys hangout in the garage went hi-tech uber decorative so why not garden sheds. Berkshire Botanical Gardens has several tricked out sheds on display through September.
Container and urban gardening are sizzling. he by-far best garden magazine on the planet Urban Gardener has staked out this trend as its' own. Filled with not just the pretty pictures but data and information to back it up. If you want to see it and do it this magazine is the only one to read on the subjects of indoor gardening container gardening, hydroponics and urban farming.
Community gardening has cooled off after the O'Bamas did not make a big deal of it this year like last year. I Think the topic is alive and well though.
And in the dept of strange gardening news: the Institute for Advanced Conservative Gardening has merged with the Society of Conservative Herbalists

10 September, 2010

Start a Home Food Biz...Saturday Columbia Greene CC

Start and Run a Home-Based Food Business

Do you love to bake or cook? Would you like to create an income doing what you love, making these foods at home? Whether you're interested in a part-time or full-time business, this course will guide you step-by-step through the entire process. Course seating is limited, register now.

Time: September 11, 2010 from 8:30am to 4:30pm
Location: SUNY Columbia-Greene
Website or Map:
Phone: (518) 828-4181 x3342
Event Type: class

08 September, 2010

Which Bulb With Which Perennial?

Another thought to ponder: since a rose is a rose is a rose, to what should I plant next to my tulip? Goodness knows!
Cornell has ventured into taking  the guess work out of bulb/perennial combos. Talk about relevance, fall bulb planting time perennial dividing time.
Good idea or just something else to complicate gardening?

Autumn a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing in the Garden This Year

Drought damage to your garden happens faster now than mid summer. The end of summer and the arrival of fall, my favorite season, gives a false sense of security to gardeners when rain fall has dropped off. This fall will be a perfect example since we are on average about 5 inches below normal rainfall.

One would think that hot dry summers are the main culprit in drought damage. They certainly do contrbute. But summer has a built in drought defense system in the northeast: humidity. The relationship between temperature and humidity is a complex one but has a drastic effect on how much water plants transpire into the atmosphere.

To put it simply, as simply as complicated relational analysis can be, air like most matter expands when it warms. A larger volume of air can hold more water than the cooler air. This is irregardless to humidity level. Therefore an 80* summer day with 80% humidity has much more moisture in it than a 50* day with the same 80% humidity.

So how does fall weather with inherent lower temperatures hasten drought damage?
Humidity is the answer. Fall temaperatures are also accompanied by very low humidity levels. While fall days may be only ten degrees cooler in mid September than mid August humidity levels plummet by a much larger percantage. Fall humidity levels often drop to 40% or lower meaning there is much more room for moisture to enter the atmosphere as a percentage of volume even with lower temperatures.

Think of 80*/80% humidity like a fuel tank. Let's say an 80 gallon fuel tank is 80% full. That means that there a 64 gallons of fuel in the tank with room for 16 gallons more.
That leaves little room for more fuel entering the tank. (Or in the atmosphere little room for moisture from plants to transpire into the atmosphere so plant "breathing" slows down).

Now look at a 70 gallon tank that is 20% full. There are 14 gallons in the tank and room for 56 more. In the atmosphere a lot of room for plants to transpire moisture into the air so there breathing rates increase rapidly.

While there is no correlation between the weather with the following example it speaks volumes about the subject: 80x80=6400 whereas 70X20 only equal 1400. That illustrates in graphic detail the difference between 80*/80% humidity and 70*/20% humidity.

Here we have a small drop of ten degrees in temperature but a corresponding drop in humidity of a much larger percentage. Result: even with a lower temperature plants transpire much more moisture into the atmosphere beacuse of low humidity.

With normal rain fall this difference is not a matter. But with the lack of rainfall we have experienced this year it matters a lot

07 September, 2010

Organic Food Now Mainstream in Hudson Valley Region

Today's Times Hear ld Record reports on the growing acceptance of organic food products.  There is one caveat in this seemingly positive story. 50% of organic food is now sold by supermarkets, aka, Wal-Mart. This is part of the problem. Huge retailers dictate to vendors what they will buy and what they want to product to be right down to how it is manufactured; in this case grown. Since when does a buyer sitting in Bentonville AR know anything about health food?
Anther issue with things going mainstream cause a reactionary from those who have been "in the know" in the early days. They often become angry at the newbies stepping on their turf. Kind of like when I have tried to volunteer for many organizations who say they have only a small number of people doing the grunt work. Just try to join them and you get an attitude as if you are stepping on their right to martyr themselves for the cause.
Unscrupulous manufacturers jump in on the band wagon as well. I mean organic garlic from China? Gimme a break!
What usually happens after the mainstream hype is over is logic and reason settles back in. The last groupies of the trend  lose interest and go away. The devious producers usually follow suit. The original groupies realize the trend is good as the hype levels off and join back in wiser for the move.
There will not be as many involved as during the hyper days of organic euphoria but the remaining crowd is much larger and healthier (pardon the pun) and the industry is better off in the long run.  

05 September, 2010

Still HAve Green Tomatos?

Green Tomato Marmalade
makes 2 pints

2 quarts small green tomatoes, sliced
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
4 organic lemons, washed, peeled, sliced, seeds removed (reserve the rind)
rind from 4 lemons, fine chop
4 cups sugar

1. Place sliced tomatoes in a stainless steel stockpot.  Add salt.
2. Add the chopped lemon rind to the pot. Cover with water and boil 10 minutes. Drain well and return to pot.
3. Add lemon slices, juice and sugar to the tomato mixture.
4. Cook tomato mixture over moderate heat, stirring constantly until sugar melts.
5. Now bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thick, about 45 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent scorching.
6. Ladle marmalade into sterile jars while mixture is hot.
Marmalade keeps for weeks refrigerated.
For delicious, quick hors d'oeuvres, lightly toast 1-inch squares of thin-sliced whole wheat bread. Let cool. Spread a thin layer of reduced-fat cream cheese onto the toast and top with a dollop of marmalade.

01 September, 2010

Just as the Heat Wave Ends....Ducth Bulbs Arrive!

Just walked into Adams Kingston location, where my office is, after four days of beach bum-ing. It is 95* today and Thursday but the weather is supposed to break Friday. While Labor Day weekend may have weather more like Memorial Day this year all is not lost. Dutch bulbs have arrived!  Thousands of tulips, daffodils, iris and hyacinths all ready for planting into your gardens during the next six weeks of fall weather.
What a way to break a heat wave,  better timing could not be predicted.