Monday, April 18, 2016

Peas and Garlic Overwinter Gardening Attempts

One of the reasons why I have been so busy is because I have been gardening. The worst part is that we've been in quite the drought so I've spent a lot of time hand watering. Anyway I've collected a series of photos about my attempt to garden over the winter.

My goal was to do a mini form of crop rotation in my square foot garden. Since I had a prodigious harvest of tomatoes and peppers last summer, and since tomatoes take so much out of the soil, I wanted to try to put more back into the soil by gardening during the winter months with cool season crops. I've always heard that peas are great for this! So I planted pea seeds as soon as I uprooted my tomatoes and peppers last September.

By November they were growing quite nicely. I should have had a crop...but nothing. Not a single blossom, so of course, no fruit. Deep cold fronts set in to Virginia in October, so I'm sure the bees are gone by then. Saddened with the loss of peas, I hoped that at least the plants had at least enriched the overspent soil. I ripped out the peas because I had never read that peas grow past November in Virginia. Besides I had a plan for a winter growing crop...garlic.

I went to my favorite garden center which sells the best quality bulbs and grabbed a pack of garlic. The package said to plant in Nov/Dec and harvest in 3-4 months. Perfect for another attempt at spring peas before I put in the summer plants.

My husband actually planted the garlic bulbs for me, nice and deep in the garden. This southern Texan gal simply cannot bring herself to endure the cold, cold winds of winter that descend upon Virginia from October through the first part of May. Those are my New York hubby's gardening days of choice. Then I take on May-September!

Thus I ventured into the garden on a rare yet mild day in April to collect my garlic. I quit after the last few, because they were so teeny weeny! They looked more like green onions than garlic!

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I brought them in and dug into my garden journal (after the style of Thomas Jefferson and for highly Jeffersonian reasons) to research precisely the type of garlic we had planted.

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Spanish Roja meant nothing to me at the time, but with further research I learned that Spanish Rosa is a most extreme form of garlic. Happily it is heirloom garlic. Unfortunately it is potently strong! Uh oh! I took a tiny bite and oh dear. As much as we like garlic, this was definitely potent. Well, I knew that cooking can mellow garlic, so I threw the few I had harvested onto the grill with the chicken. I tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper before grilling.  

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Then I chopped them up and added them to the butternut squash I had mashed. Yum! Perfectly mellow! This was some of the tastiest butternut squash we've ever had.

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About a month later I finally harvested the rest of the garlic. The garden was overgrown with peas, ripe for harvest. And being close to Memorial Day I was anxious to give the rapidly growing tomatoes space. It was amazing how large the garlic had grown in a month. They were definitely heads of garlic now. I had read that ideally they should stay in the garden until mid-summer but those tomatoes needed space. Now that I had all this garlic, what to do?

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In my original plan, I had thought they'd be harvested in the early spring when I'd have the luxury of harvesting about one a week. We really have nowhere to hang them for dry storage. I finally decided to clean them up and roast them on the grill. I chopped off the roots and tops, placed them in aluminum foil, drizzled them with olive oil and roasted them on the grill while cooking some meat for dinner.

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When they were nice and soft I took them off the heat and brought them into the kitchen to cool. Once cooled, I squeezed the cloves out of their papery cells. I then froze them.

To freeze them I set out a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I put about a tablespoon of garlic in mounds on the parchment paper, as if I was baking cookies. Then I popped the baking sheet into the freezer. Once frozen, I labeled a ziploc freezer baggie which I had labeled "roasted garlic." Then I plopped all the garlic into the baggie and stored them in the fridge.

Whenever I had a great application for garlic, I used it! Yum! So tasty and mellow! Now I don't remember everything I did with them. However one favorite dish was to add some to my roasted red pepper hummus. That was a hit with the family. The garlic was used up about midway through summer.

Memorial Day weekend was intensely hot. I spent much of that time gardening out front (forthcoming post on that). I had to do a lot of handwatering. When I checked on the vegetable garden way in the back of the back yard, I saw that the peas were ready for harvest, and that the squashes, peppers and tomatoes were trying very hard to take over the garden. I harvested the peas and pulled out the pea plants to make room for the summer crops. 

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The peas were absolutely delicious. We actually harvested a lot more than this. I did harvest in stages and this was only near the end of the pea harvest. The homegrown peas were far better than anything from the grocery store.

Well, the overwinter gardening didn't quite work the way I had planned. We weren't able to put in our second square foot garden. I don't think the soil was refreshed despite the garlic and peas crop rotation. Thus the tomatoes and pepper yield this summer hasn't been anywhere close to what it was last summer. All that...and the fact that it was not only a record setting hot summer for the Washington DC area, but we have been in a drought since early winter. Sadness. I'll need to regroup this winter. Stay tuned. 

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