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

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