Winter Farmers Market
An exciting new chapter is in store for the fans and members of the West Tisbury Farmers Market. The inaugural Winter Market took place at the Agricultural Hall on Saturday and seemed a great success. Deborah Koines and Linda Alley headed up the effort to get the Winter Market up and running and are, according to Ms. Alley, "ecstatic, and happy it worked out so well." They created a congenial ambience and participating stalls provided an inspiring array of fresh produce, interesting value-added items, and delicious prepared food to eat on the premises. Congratulations to all the participants and best wishes for the new Winter Market. The next market is scheduled for December 12 and should be a fun holiday event.
Storing dahlia roots
There have been eras when dahlias have been declared by the garden gurus to be too colorful, too unsophisticated, too loud; maybe these tastemakers simply disapproved of the huge amounts of pleasure dahlias give. Dahlias are now enjoying a cycle of renewed favor with the gardening public. Of course there are many Island dahlia lovers whose steadfast affections over the years have never wavered. If you are new to dahlias, storing them over the winter is not difficult: here they cannot safely be left in the ground.
After frost has killed the tops, carefully dig plants, roots, tag and all, with a spading fork or shovel. Leave the soil adhering. Cut tops back to about five or six inches. Place in a garage or sheltered spot for a few days, where they will not freeze, to allow the tubers to cure. Keeping their tags with them, place the roots in garbage bags or the plastic bags that potting soil comes in, and store in an unheated cellar.
There are ways more conscientious and labor-intensive to store dahlia roots, but this is what works for me. Bring out in late March, chit, and divide. Pot indoors in early April. Withhold water until sprouts break the surface.
I have brought my three tender cyclamen indoors after their summer vacation out by the clothesline in the shade of the blue spruce. I was thrilled to see that two are filled with baby cyclamen plantlets, each bearing a minute round leaf. I take this to mean that they were happy out by the clothesline and contentedly set seed. Now, however, I must upset their cozy little world if I am to capitalize on this interesting development.
Some of the season-end activities in the vegetable garden last week consisted of emptying one of my compost tumblers and wheel-barrowing the contents onto the section that is to be the 2010 garlic bed. Then I gingerly raked it, writhing with wiggling red earthworms, to spread the compost. Broad-forking it in will have to wait until the soil dries from the latest bout of rainy weather, when I will also top-dress the whole area with Pro-Gro and my ground-up eggshell collection, and then plant the seed garlic. The bed needs to be as fertile as possible, so that the garlic grows vigorously and with no setback.
The usual recommendation is 6 inches apart in the row, rows 12 inches apart, and about 2 inches deep. In this part of the country, with our long, long, mild autumn, it is preferable to plant garlic late so there is no danger of its sprouting before spring. As with tulips, planting too early in fall may lead to premature sprouting and subsequent frost damage, resulting in a loss of bulb quality.
My source is our 2009 garlic crop, mostly 'Music,' with some 'New York White' also. It takes a certain amount of self-control, but one must save the best garlic heads for seed, rather than using them in the kitchen. For those looking to broaden their knowledge of varieties available, go to this heirloom garlic website: sev.lternet.edu/ ~jnekola/Heirloom/ garlicA.htm. Sources, photos, weights, and descriptions are provided.
A question came up at Homegrown, our vegetable gardeners' forum, concerning what crops are good to follow garlic once it is harvested. I have had good results planting beans, kale, and cabbages in the space vacated by garlic. Also try cucumbers, as well as greens and salads, such as chicory.
I grew more varieties of chicory, a cold-hardy bitter green, than I realized. The seed came from a June-sown packet of "assorted" Italian chicories and radicchios, so I know nothing about the different kinds I have. Some have skinny leaves like dandelion, some are upright, others spreading. Some are forming the solid heads we expect of radicchio. Some are butterhead green, others streaked with red. All are tough and need blanching. As a trial, I am tying up the outer leaves of upright ones with garden twine to blanch, laying plates on spreading ones, and others are completely covered. We may end up eating a lot of braised chicory.
I intend to winter over a few plants outdoors that are marginally hardy here. There are several rosemary plants, one planted in the ground and two of which are in pots, also the fig 'Brown Turkey' that I rooted from a cutting last winter. It is now chest height in a large plastic pot, and it gave me two little figs in September.
One way I can do it is to place fences of chicken wire around the plants and stuff them with insulating material, natural or man-made. Another way is to wrap the fig with some sort of batting or a tarp and place it in a sheltered spot.
On account of the holidays, the December meeting of Homegrown has been rescheduled to December 13 from 4 to 6 pm, right after the Spinners & Weavers, at the Agricultural Hall.