PLANT DISEASE CONTROL 201

Sharon_2011

Guest Blogger Sharon Knight

The 3 categories of plant pathogens we are going to discuss are fungal, bacterial and viral.

I want to start by saying that there is a certain mindset when it comes to disease control that people need to change.  Currently people look at their plant, see that it doesn’t look healthy, then bring in a sample and ask: “what’s wrong with my plant, and what do I spray to correct it?”  What people should be asking is: “what are my plant’s cultural requirements, and how do I best meet them to keep my plant healthy?”

What makes a plant susceptible to pathogens?

-The wrong location. (sun loving plants in the shade, shade lovers in too much sun)

-The wrong soil type. (drainage issues, pH imbalances)

-Watering issues. (too much, too little)

-Wrong climate. (non-hardy plants out in the cold)

-Wrong fertilizer. (not enough, too much, wrong time)

-Injury from improper planting, pruning, severe weather, animals, mowers and weed whackers.

-Insects.

Three things need to be present for plant diseases to occur.  The host plant, the pathogen, and the correct environmental conditions.  Think of it as a triangle.  The pathogens are always there, so the only thing you can really control is the host plant and to some extent, the conditions.  If you start with a healthy plant, and give it the exact environment it needs you can go a long way to preventing diseases.  Remember the old saying; “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? It is still true today.

In addition to knowing what the plant’s ideal environment is and trying to come as close as possible to matching it, it is important to know what diseases that particular plant is susceptible to.  It may be surprising to realize that most plants are immune to most diseases.  By that I mean, tomatoes don’t get black spot from roses, apples don’t get peach leaf curl, artichokes don’t get shot-hole, and raspberries don’t get black spot.  That being said, there are a number of diseases that seem to infect everything, like powdery mildew, rust and botrytis.  We’re going to discuss some of the more common diseases, what conditions favor them, and what can be done to prevent or discourage them.

First, realize that not every plant will work in every environment.  While most of us can’t match all of the ideal conditions for every plant we want, we should try to get as close as possible.  If you have a shady yard, stick to shade loving plants, if your yard is sunny, stick with sun lovers.  If your soil is heavy clay and you want plants that require better drainage, amend the soil with compost or soil conditioner to improve it.  If the area stays too wet in the winter, you might have to consider putting in some kind of drain system or plan to berm up your soil to raise the root zone out of the water. And while we’re on the topic of soils, most plants have a preferred pH level.  It’s good to know what that is and if your soil is in the correct zone.  If not, you may have to add something like lime to correct it.  The actual planting of the plant is important too.  Make sure the hole is the proper depth and width, the soil is amended if necessary, the roots should be loosened so they can spread out properly, and if the plant is tall or wind may be a problem, it should be staked.  Also the use of root stimulator and starter fertilizers to get your plants off to a good start will be a big help.

Knowing what fertilizer to use and when to use it and how much to use is important, as is proper pruning techniques and timing of pruning.  Plants that don’t get proper nutrients are more susceptible to diseases just like people are more susceptible to diseases when they aren’t eating right.  Pruning or mechanical injuries like those caused by weed whackers and animals can allow pathogens to enter the bark of a plant and cause disease.

Clean up is one of the most important things you can do to keep your plants disease free.  Keeping the area around the plant free of weeds and decaying plant tissue (like last fall’s leaves) will keep down the concentration of disease pathogens in the area, and may eliminate some alternate hosts for some diseases. Pruning out dead wood or any twigs or branches that have cankers is important.  Be sure to sterilize your pruning tools between cuts to prevent further spread of disease. A 10 percent bleach solution or use of isopropyl alcohol will clean your pruners, just remember to oil them when you are finished. Crop rotation can also be a useful tool to cut down on disease in a vegetable or annual flower garden. Also application of lime to the soil around your plants can sometimes kill the overwintering stages of fungi in the soil and reduce the amount of spores available in the spring,

When choosing your plant,you should consider planting disease resistant cultivars when you have a choice.  Seed packets and plant labels may list if a plant is resistant to certain diseases common to it’s species, if you aren’t sure, ask someone at the garden store, or research varieties on-line.  When a plant is listed as resistant to a disease, its not the same as immune.  For example, Frost Peach is leaf curl resistant, which means, in an environment where leaf curl is a problem, Frost will be less affected by it and show fewer symptoms.  Some plants may not be resistant, but may just be tolerant, which means they can get the disease just as bad as the next plant, but will still live and be productive (some vegetable varieties are more tolerant of some diseases than others).

Even if you did everything right, sometimes spraying may still be necessary.  It should be considered as a last resort when care and clean up is not enough.  It is important to always know what you are spraying for and with.  That seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many phone calls we get that go something like this: “I have a plant that’s dying, and I sprayed it with some spray I have, and I want to know what else I need to do.” Often they don’t know what the plant is “dying” of, or even what kind of plant they have (I once got a call from a panicky woman whose maple tree must be dying because it was turning yellow and dropping leaves…in October!) When I ask what they sprayed it with, they often don’t know if it was a fungicide or and insecticide (or even a herbicide!).  The  best bet is to bring out a sample (in a sealed clear bag please) so we can diagnose the problem and steer you in the right direction.

When it comes to spraying for diseases it’s important to read, understand, and follow the directions on the label.  Not all fungicides are effective on all diseases.  Timing of the spray is also important. Spraying your apple tree once it is covered in scab won’t do any good.  Spraying should be done as a preventative before the infection occurs, or in some cases as a cure once the disease first starts.  Once the disease is well established, spraying is always ineffective. Spraying alone is never enough either.  Cultural practices like cleaning up fallen leaves, removing cankers and dead wood, cleaning up weeds to remove insects and alternate hosts is always important and should always be a part of disease management practices.

Now let’s talk about the 3 main pathogens.  Fungal diseases are the most common diseases we see here in the pacific northwest.  They usually overwinter on diseased plant tissue like fallen leaves and stem cankers.  Generally they produce spores in the spring when the weather starts to warm and the plants begin growing again.  Wet weather like rainy springs will splash spores onto the new leaves and start the infection.  Some fungi have a secondary infection after the initial spores grow and the fungus matures, it produces a different type of spore that is carried by wind and rain to infect more leaves. Generally wet or humid weather promotes fungal growth.

Bacterial infections are also a problem in the pacific northwest.  Bacteria usually infect the plant through an open wound.  Mechanical damage from pruning, animals and severe weather can leave open wounds for the infection to get in. Usually it is during a period of wet or humid weather.  Some bacteria can enter through normal openings in leaves like the stomata, or through flowers.  Bacterial infections often travel through the vascular system of the plant spreading the infection down the stems and to other parts of the plant.

Viral diseases, while less prevalent, are the most difficult.  There are no cures for viral diseases of plants.  Some viruses, like rose mosaic virus, don’t usually kill the plant, but in times of stress can weaken the plant and make it more susceptible to other infections. Other viruses, like tobacco ring spot in raspberries will weaken the plant and cause it to be non-productive.  Some viruses are spread by insects and are highly contagious and plants showing symptoms should be removed and destroyed before the virus can spread.  Others are less contagious and are usually spread by not sterilizing tools after pruning an infected plant.  Most viruses show up as mottled or streaked yellow markings in otherwise healthy looking leaves.  Some cause leaves to be distorted and yellow and look similar to herbicide damage.  Whatever the cause, the only treatment for viral diseases is to remove the plant and destroy it, usually by burning it. By removing infected plants, removing alternate hosts for certain plant viruses (wild blackberries can harbor raspberry diseases), and controlling insect vectors, you can cut down on chances of your plants getting viral infections.

If you want to learn how to deal with some of the more common diseases in our area, Garland nursery is offering a class on Saturday, February 21st at 11am.

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As Much as I try Not To, I Love Poinsettias

IMG_0658Every year I try to be blasé about the poinsettias.  I even go so far as to say “Oh no, here come the poinsettias”.  Then those big red, fluffy ivory and spectacular multicolored bracts fill the place and once again I’m smitten by the plant that brings breath-taking color to the drab months of November, December, January (February, March…).

Euphorbia pulcherrima, known as the poinsettia is named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, the IMG_9356first U.S. Minister to Mexico.  The plant is native to Mexico where it is called Flor de la Noche Buena and where it can grow to 13 feet tall (yikes!).  We owe the hybrid varieties we use to decorate our homes, businesses, schools, event venues, etc. to the Ecke family who popularized the poinsettia throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st.

Old Wives’ Tales Exploded:
Poinsettia_glitter1.  Poinsettias are poisonous.  Not true.  While they can be mildly irritating if eaten they are not considered to be toxic.
2.  Poinsettia plants can re-bloom year after year.  Well, we have a handout on doing it, but unless you want to spend a lot time,  find a prime place for a fairly unattractive plant and be rewarded with bracts approximately the size of a hamster’s ear I’d suggest just getting a new one next year.

Care Tips
1.  Poinsettias can’t spend much time outdoors during the holiday season.  55 degrees  is as cold as they can get and really they’re much happier above 60, so don’t leave one in the car.
2.  Likewise their soft, delicate bracts are easily damaged by crushing, bending, or hot or cold drafts.
3.  Even though they are technically Euphorbias they can’t stay dry for long periods of time.  Water them when the soil surface is dry and make sure they don’t sit in water.

Although red is so totally gorgeous and “Christmasy”,  both white and Cortez Burgundy are Poinsettiaextremely elegant.  Ice Crystals and Ice Punch are nearly fluorescent, walking the line between red and pink.  Ruby Frost and Jingle Bells (aka Shimmer Surprise) probably take the cake for unique.  But then there are the FANTASY poinsettias which are painted and glittered in every crazy, gorgeous color:  purple, turquoise, orange, blue…We really have a size and color for everyone’s holiday decorating.  Come and start enjoying the poinsettias with me!

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What I’m Thankful For: Growing up at Garland Nursery

1236796_10200598464107297_1091970345_nI spent this weekend wandering through Garland Nursery’s Gift Barn, a place as familiar to me as my own living room. I breathe in the scent of holiday candles wafting through the air and admire the Christmas decorations as I walk toward the front desk. On the way, I run into my Grandma and Grandpa, my aunts and uncles, and some of the staff members, many of whom I’ve known my whole life. Everyone else knows the Garland Nursery crew as Sandy and Don, Erica, Brenda, and Lee: friendly, helpful, and ridiculously smart about plants. But to me they’re just family.

Growing up at Garland Nursery shaped me into tGarlands-043he person I am today. I didn’t grow up in a neighborhood with a playground and a park. Instead I played in the Garland Nursery rock garden and ran free in the acres of fields behind our house. On hot days my sister and I sold lemonade and ice cream to Garland Nursery shoppers and caught tadpoles in the pond. My first job was weeding the grounds and watering the plants. My first bosses were my family members. I used to groan about the tedium of it all. I didn’t want to weed and take out trash all summer, and having your family members as bosses isn’t as fun as it sounds (does it sound fun?). When I was young I didn’t know just how lucky I was.

Eventually I grew up and I got a job away from the nursery. I went to college. I recently graduated and moved to Portland. But I always come back to the nursery. I am the person I am today because of where I grew up. The nursery taught me about work ethic, the Powellsimportance of making true connections with people in the community, and the relentless love of family. So this year I’m thankful for my entire Garland Nursery family. You helped me get where I am today and your constant love and support always keep me going. Plant people are good people!

As you prepare for this holiday season don’t forget to remember all the people and places in your life that made you who you are today. What are you thankful for?

 

 

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Safe Haven, Heidi and Ladies Night Out

IMG_9389-EditThe Powell family and the staff at Garland Nursery love animals!  There is a long history of animals at Garland Nursery.  My great-grandmother, Corlie, had pet skunks named Fleur and Flower.  Cats and dogs too numerous to mention have called the property their home.  Numerous staff members have brought their pets out on visits.  One former employee, Janet, now a nurse at the Lebanon hospital, started a wall of pets, mainly dogs.  Photos with names (first and last) grace the door into our computer room.  Some have gone onto animal heaven, while others are still here on earth.  We welcome our customers pets, mainly dogs, to visit the nursery with their owners.  Each one is given, with permission, a dog bone and a little scratch behind the ears.  Many we know by name.  I’m just hoping we know the owners by name, too!

For several years, we have had a fundraising event for charity.  It has been during our 100_0256Ladies Day Out.  We have donated 10% of the product sales for that day to a selected charity.  We have donated to Samaritan Health Services Contours program and The Old School (at the Farm Home).  These causes that we have supported have had meaning to us.  This year we are holding a Ladies Night Out and when we discussed who we would like to support, Safe Haven Humane Society quickly rose to the top of the list.  As I wrote earlier, we all love animals.  But there is an even more special reason to support Safe Haven.  Erica adopted Heidi from Safe Haven many years ago.  I think it was 15 years ago.

100_02761Erica purchased her first St. Bernard, whom she named Ally.  Ally was a big, sweet dog.  Thinking that Ally could use a sister, Erica visited Safe Haven.  There she found a dog with whom she really fell in love, Heidi.  Heidi is a Welsh Corgie/Border Collie mix.  Erica had been hoping to adopt another dog by Thanksgiving, but someone else had a “hold” on Heidi. Erica kept calling to see if Heidi was available.  Finally, when the other family decided against adopting Heidi, Safe Haven phoned Erica.  Erica immediately rushed over to Safe Haven and adopted her.  When Heidi first came to live with Erica, she was slightly traumatized and did what many dogs do when left alone.  She chewed and chewed and chewed.  A lot of love and a little bitter apple spray slowly corrected that habit.  Heidi and Ally became sisters and best friends.  Erica was living in a home near highway 34 at that time.  Heidi and Ally had quite a few adventures together, including a break-out and journey along Highway 34.  Erica was working in her yard and the gate was open. Heidi decided that was a good opportunity to go sightseeing.  She and Ally trotted across a farm field and were walking along Highway 34 when a kind passerby picked them IMG_0078up and took them to a nearby vet clinic.  Erica had noticed they were missing and ran after them but was too far away.  She received a call from the vet clinic as she was getting into her car to go find them.  Within a year they all moved to the nursery.  Heidi has been her Mom’s shadow since then.  She has helped nurture and train 2 more St. Bernards, including the current resident St. Bernard, Corlie, who turned 9 last week.  The amazing thing is that Heidi is 17.  Erica says Heidi is “the best dog ever!”  When Jim Kaminskas entered the picture a few years ago, Heidi switched her adoration from Erica to Jim.  She now rarely leaves Jim’s side and really enjoys rides into town and the occasional McDonald’s hamburger.  (She’s 17, they’re figuring it can’t do her any harm).

Safe Haven Humane Society has been serving our community for 40 years. They are a no-kill shelter whose goal is “to find permanent, loving homes for all animals entrusted to our Heidiscare.”  Their mission is to “help our communities’ residents be the best “humane” beings they can be by providing: Compassionate temporary shelter care; healthy adoptable animals; information, understanding and education; spay and neuter programs, instead of euthanasia, for population control.”  Safe Haven does not receive any tax dollars or government funding.  They are a limited admission shelter.  Once the shelter is full, no new animals are accepted.  The animals may remain with them for as long as necessary.  The goal is to help the animals find their forever home.  Safe Haven offers training classes as well.  You can check out all their services at www.safehavenhumane.org.

LNO_BannerThis year, Garland Nursery is holding a Ladies Night Out event on Friday, November 21st from 4-7pm.  Tickets for the event are $25 and must be purchased by the end of this Friday, November 14th.  There will be yummy food, great gifts and specials that night for attendees.  Garland Nursery will donate 10% of all product sales from that night to Safe Haven.  In addition, we are extending the time period of donation to include the following day, Saturday, November 22nd, which is our holiday open house.  We hope to see you at one of the events, as we pledge to donate to a charity near and dear to our hearts.

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How to Get Your Home to Sparkle for the Holidays

BarnsmallAs we are now feeling the cool and crisp days approaching, I am once again in awe that this time of year has come full circle. I so look forward to the fall season when the colors, textures and smells of nature fill my senses. It is also when I start to think more about my indoor living space and how I can make it inviting and cozier for the longer winter days. One of the ways I accomplish this is by bringing the outdoors in. Another is to tastefully display different sources of lighting all through-out my house to create a feeling of ambiance and warmth. And finally, it’s the special seasonal decorations that give my home that final personal touch.

IMG_9018There are several great ways I like to bring the outdoors in. This time of year you’ll find so many beautiful tree branches with fall colored leaves that look simple yet stunning in a vase. Throw a few small gourds and pumpkins around it and voilá, you’ve created a lovely fall arrangement. There are also many evergreen plants with a variety of different textures that would make a lovely arrangement on your mantle, dining room table, or buffet table. What about a hollowed out pumpkin as the vase? Put a glass jar inside and you’ll find you’ve created a unique and inspiring arrangement for you and your guests to enjoy. This is also a good time to be thinking about bringing your houseplants inside that have spent all summer on your decks and porches. Not only do houseplants create a soothing environment, they also help filter harmful toxins out of the air we breathe.

RootsmallWhen it comes to ambiance lighting is everything!! This time of year there are so many wonderfully scented candles that not only set the mood but also make your home smell amazing. Of course, Legacy by Root candles, are fabulous candles and they have an extensive variety of holiday scents. They’re made from a beeswax/soy blend, have 100% cotton wicks, come in great home décor colors, burn long and clean, smell divine, and are made right here in the USA. What more could you ask for in a candle, right? If you’re looking for a candle made locally here in Oregon that has great packaging, Aggiesscrumptious scents, and is made with 100% soy wax, then Aggies Candles from Union, Oregon is the candle for you. Besides candles, another favorite light source of mine is lighted twig sticks and lighted twig garland. These sticks and garland have tiny little lights on them called rice lights. The sticks usually come in a nice bundle and the garland in a 6’ roll. The twig sticks look great displayed in vase or pot all by themselves or to really jazz things up you could combine them with an assortment of holiday picks. I even like to put the twig sticks in with my Twig_lightpotted houseplants. The twig garland adds an element of sophistication and nature to any mantle. Since rice lights are so small they put off a really nice warm glow that is not too bright but can really lighten up a dark spot. You can even display them outside under a covered porch where an electrical outlet is nearby. Another very hip and contemporary option for lighting-up your home for the holidays would be the pinecone pendant lamps from VITA Lighting. They come in white and copper and in two different sizes. If you want something with an urban feel, but would still be representing nature indoors, then you will love these lamps. With so many lighting choices you are bound to find something that goes perfect in your home or personal space and adds just the right amount of ambience for you to enjoy all winter long.Cone_light

With this time of year come many opportunities to entertain your family and friends. This is when it’s fun to spice up your home with seasonal décor and believe me the choices are immense…garlands, wreaths, silk arrangements, art, figurines, ornaments and so on and so on. Well here at Garland Nursery we try hard to find beautiful items with which to decorate your home. So come on in and see what we have awaiting you. We’d be delighted to assist in any way we can to make your home spectacular for the holidays. Whether it is candles, lighted sticks, table top arrangements, houseplants, or holiday décor, Garland Nursery has all you’re looking for and so much Brow_cone_smallmore. Best wishes for the holiday season and happy decorating!

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Please Welcome The White Rose Custom Floral Design

White_RoseThere are a lot of changes going on at Garland Nursery.  All good, I hope.  Some are small and some are large.  We hope that you, our customers and friends are happy with those changes.  The change I’d like to highlight today is the relocation of The White Rose Custom Floral Design into the barn at Garland Nursery.

When Jim Somppii and Jim Schulte, co-owners of The White Rose decided it was time to close up shop at the downtown Albany location they had been in for over 10 years, they decided to visit Garland Nursery.  It just happened that it was one of our customer appreciation days.  Both Jims have been longtime customers of Garland Nursery and signed up for our rewards program early on.  It was July and it was hot but they felt very relaxed as they wandered through the nursery.  At that time they weren’t sure where they were going to relocate, they just knew it was time to move on.  As they made their way around the grounds, they walked through the courtyard area next to Wee Tree bonsai and said to one another, “This would be a great place for a flower shop!”

IMG_0624The strangest part of the whole story is that they did not approach us about moving in here at the nursery.  They started the process of selling down on stock, packing and advertising that they were closing their downtown Albany location.  I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and there is often divine guidance and direction.  When my sister, Erica received their e-mail about the store closing, she thought we should both go see what they were selling and talk to them.  So we set a time to meet at their store.  Up to this point there was no thought in either of our heads about asking them if they’d like to move in with us.  That idea came from a third Jim, Erica’s new husband.  Cue the proverbial light bulb.  What a great idea, we thought.  But would they really want to relocate here?  They were very intrigued by the idea and we met to discuss possibilities.  When we met again to discuss particulars, I took it as a very good sign that Jim Schulte brought an amazingly delicious sour cream chocolate cake.  We agreed on the particulars and began to remodel a small portion of the barn.

IMG_0626As is the way with most remodeling and change, it took longer than we projected.  They are up and running now and doing what they do best, creating beauty out of flowers.  Jim Somppi started The White Rose Custom Floral Design on October 22, 1983 but that isn’t the beginning of the story.  At age 11 he attended a Junior Gardener’s Club sponsored by the Corvallis Evening Garden Club.  He wanted to learn more about raising flowers.  In the third month he attended, the guest speaker taught the basics of flower arranging.  He embraced this skill, entered an arrangement in competition, took third place and was immediately hooked.  He had found his passion in life.  So in 1983 Jim launched his business out of his garage.  In the very early 90’s he moved the business into the Cannery Mall in Corvallis.  It was in that location that he hired Jim Schulte.  Jim Schulte previously worked at Wah Chang as a barrel grab driver.  Driving large machinery with strong, curving forks is not what immediately comes to mind when you meet him.  Especially after you’ve tasted his sour cream chocolate cake.  After they started working together they found out they are actually related.  Their mothers were first cousins.

Jim_SompiiJim Somppi, the originator specializes in weddings and everything else that nobody else wants to do.  Also, he teaches classes through LBCC.  This fall he has been teaching a 10 week course on Floral Design.  For winter term he’s changing it up.  He will be teaching 3 3 week classes, so the investment of time is shorter.  He is a fabulous speaker.  He has given presentations several times at Garland Nursery.  We’ve known Jim and his family for a long time.  As he and I were discussing the business history today, he wanted to make sure to point out that the first person to teach him to make a hand-tied bow was my mom, Sandra Powell, right there in the barn at Garland Nursery.  I should also mention that the original Jim also bakes delicious cookies.  We’re getting a little spoiled!

Jim_SchulteJim Schulte as I shared earlier had a different background until he got into the florist trade.  Now he applies his flower arranging expertise to funeral arrangements and wild and exotic floral arrangements.  He was most delighted to learn that the tropical flowers (Orchids, Anthuriums and others) had arrived today.  I can’t wait to see what he creates.

We are celebrating The White Rose’s “Fresh Beginnings” at Garland Nursery this Saturday, November 1st from 10am to 3pm.  If you don’t know them, take this opportunity to come in and meet them.  If you are loyal customers, stop by to say hi.  They will be doing floral arranging demonstrations.  We’ll be pulling names for door prizes.  And there will be cake.  Unfortunately, it’s not sour cream chocolate cake but it will be delicious anyway!  Hope to see you this Saturday.

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Garlic

The sunken gardenMy great-grandmother Corlie, first proprietess of Garland Nursery credited her long life (91 years) to Listerine, honey and garlic.  Personally, I think it was good pioneer stock, plenty of activity, healthy eating, and the fact that as a woman she didn’t operate heavy machinery.  Her husband, William, died in a farming accident.  At any rate, when garlic planting time rolls around, I remember and celebrate her memory.  Corlie was one of many women that cast a long shadow and shaped who I became.  She died when I was 4, so it wasn’t a personal relationship that influenced me.  Rather, it was the respect and honor that others gave her that made her appear larger than life and one to be emulated.    So, great-grandmother Corlie, this blog is dedicated to you.

Garlic is a staple in my house.  I use it in almost every dish I prepare.  The only thing I use more of, in terms of quantity, is another member of the Allium family, the onion.  I have garlic powder, garlic salt, minced/roasted garlic in oil, and heads of garlic.  I prefer freshSoft_neck_garlic garlic.  If I’m in a hurry I will use minced garlic.  The powder is so old, I probably should throw it out, but every now and again I run into a recipe that calls for garlic powder, so I keep it around.  As far as the garlic salt, I really need to toss that.  If I have garlic powder and I have salt, why do I need garlic salt?

This past weekend, we brought back our Garden to Table (G2T) class that had been on vacation through the summer.  We celebrated, discussed and tasted: Garlic, nuts, and hops.  I figured that it would be a good opportunity to taste test the different varieties of garlic that we sell.  And the best way to get to enjoy that pure flavor is to roast the garlic.  Roasting creates a buttery texture and lets you enjoy the subtle (and not so subtle) differences in varieties without the sharp flavor of raw garlic.  Unfortunately, our garlic shipment 3 weeks later than and 2013 and 1 week later even than I expected.  So, we didn’t get to sample all 9 varieties that we sell.  But thanks to the farmer’s market and 2 of our smaller suppliers of garlic, I was able to roast and sample 5 different varieties.  I had only roasted garlic 1 other time.  It is so amazingly simple, I’m surprised I don’t do it more often.  The basic steps are:  1.  Remove a lot of the skin.  2.  Cut off the tops of the cloves.  3.  Place on aluminum foil.  4.  Pour olive oil over the head.  5.  Seal up the foil.  6.  Place on a baking tray and bake at 425 deg for 35-45 minutes.  The larger the head, the longer it takes.  The elephant garlic took a full 45 minutes.

Hard_neck_garlicI was unprepared for how much people enjoyed it.  I will admit that if even one person compliments me on my cooking that it goes to my head.  So it wasn’t like I had 100 people raving about the roasted garlic.  It was probably 4 that mentioned how wonderful it was.  Like I said, it was easy, so it wasn’t my cooking skills that made it delicious.  It simply was delicious and I didn’t screw it up.  What that tells me is that there are many people out there that enjoy encountering something new,  prepared simply, with fresh ingredients. We sampled the roasted garlic on crackers, although sourdough bread pieces would be lovely as well.

We sampled the following varieties: Elephant, German Red (hardneck), Spanish Roja (hardneck), Inchelium Red (softneck) and Shep’s EZ Peel (softneck).  The staff got to sample German Porcelain, a hardneck variety that we ordered but were cancelled on.  In general, hardneck varieties are stronger flavored but do not have as long of a storage life (4-6 months).  Softneck varieties are the ones you see more commonly in the stores.  They have a nice but milder flavor but a longer storage life (6-9 months). They also are the kindGN-Handout-Garlic used for braiding.  Elephant garlic is actually more closely related to leeks than garlic.  It is extremely mild and sweet.  My favorite was Spanish Roja, followed by Inchelium Red and then German Red.  Although I used to eat more Elephant garlic, I am no longer a fan.  The Shep’s EZ Peel was almost as large as the Elephant garlic and I wonder if I roasted it long enough.  Many people did enjoy it, because we sold a lot of it that day.

When I buy garlic, I rarely know what variety I am purchasing.  Grocery stores don’t list a variety.  Shopping at the Wednesday farmer’s market in Corvallis, I had to ask most vendors what variety of garlic they were selling.  There were a few vendors that labeled the variety.  If you are looking for a specific flavor profile, you probably need to be growing your own garlic.  Growing garlic isn’t difficult.  However, it is not a quick crop so it requires some dedicated space.  You plant in Sept-October and you harvest in July or August.  I have 2 small raised beds.  I do not have enough space to grow the amount of garlic that I need to supply my cooking for a whole year and have other home-grown, fresh vegetables to eat.  I decided I would grow the other stuff and buy the garlic.  But now that I have tasted the roasted garlic again, I’m thinking I really need to lease some land-or take over a little plot at the nursery to raise some garlic.  I need to space the cloves 4 inches apart in rows that are 8 inches apart.  From each clove, you harvest a head of garlic.  If I want to harvest 36 heads (that’s 3 heads to cook per month), I’m going to need a space 2 feet wide by 4’+ long.  Okay, that’s really not that much space.  But it’s going to be occupied for 10 months of the year.  And you’re probably going to rotate that planting space every 2-3 years.  I might be able to make that happen.  Especially if I install a couple of raised beds at the nursery.  There’s a lot of property.  It has to be sunny.  And I can’t pick any location that can be used to grow pumpkins!  Maybe I can talk my husband into taking out the front lawn?

Wherever I decide to place my garlic growing enterprise, this is what I’ll need:  Well-drained, fertile soil.  A typical garden soil would be great.  However, most of us have compacted clay soil.  If we don’t have a dedicated garden spot with well-amended soil, we’re going to have to work in a lot of compost to get the bed ready before we plant.  The location of the planting should be in full sun, as much sun as possible.  The area needs to be weed free initially and kept weed free.  There needs to be a water source, as garlic needs to be watered regularly when the plants are growing green leaves.

You break up the head of garlic into individual cloves.  Plant the cloves 1-2″ deep with the root side down.  Make a note of that when you break out the cloves.  It’s far easier to see which is the root side when you’re looking at the whole head as opposed to just the clove.  I’ve mentioned planting distance above.  As the garlic begins to grow in the spring, it should be moderately fertilized.  Use a higher nitrogen fertilizer, organic preferred.  It could be a liquid feed, if desired.  If you use a liquid fertilizer, apply every 10 days to 2 weeks apart.  An organic meal fertilizer could be applied less often.  When the foliage stops growing, you stop fertilizing and ease back on the watering.  Flower stalks emerge in early June and need to be removed.

Once the leaves begin to brown  and 2/3 of the leaves are brown, it is time to harvest the garlic.  If you loosen the soil around the roots with a spading fork, you should be able to pull up the garlic by hand.  Tie the leaves or stalks in loose bundles and hand under a covered area.  Garlic stores longer if cured with stalks and leaves attached.  Good air circulation is essential.  Curing takes 2-3 weeks and as long as 2 months depending on the  humidity and air circulation.  Once curing is complete, trim the roots.  If storing garlic in sacks, cut the stalks off 1/2 inch above the bulb and gently clean the bulb with a soft bristle brush.  Avoid stripping off the papery skin.  Hang garlic in netted sacks for air circulation on all sides.  Perfect storing conditions are at room temperature.

Okay, I want you to report back to me.  Let me know if you tried growing garlic for the first time this year and if you were happy with the result.  Let me know if you bought different varieties of garlic at the farmer’s market and roasted them and established a favorite variety.  I want to know which one you liked the best.  Finally, if you love garlic but you would rather let someone else grow it, let me know.  I’d love to hear why you love garlic and why you choose not to grow it.  Is it a space issue?  Time?  What?  I’d love to hear from you.  In the meantime, Happy Gardening.

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