Monday, August 26, 2013

A bulbil experiment

One of the garlic plants produced really huge bulbils this year. I mean five to ten times the size of normal bulbils. I'm going to use them for an experiment.

I have this theory that bulbils are sort of designed to be planted in July/Aug, when they would fall off the scapes naturally if they were allowed to remain in situ. The ones that grow wild in a corner of the garden do send up little sprouts this time of year. I'm wondering if planting the bulbils now would give them a head start, possibly even cutting one whole season off their growth.

What I've done in the past is to sow the bulbils in late October, the same time that the garlic cloves are planted. They then sprout in the spring, grow for a couple months, and die back in late May or June. The next year, unless they're crowded too badly, they grow a bit bigger before dying off, and then the third year they actually produce at least two cloves, sometimes the standard four cloves for this variety.

I'm wondering if I can cut off that first spring die-back by planting now, and letting them grow until the ground freezes in December, when they'll die back, sort of tricking them into thinking they'd had next spring's growth cycle, so next year they'll grow as if it were the second year in the ground.

So. I planted about forty of those mega-bulbils on August 24th in a generally fertile and sunny area of the garden, and I threw in a good amount of composted manure before planting. They're spaced at least an inch away from each other to give them room to grow, although they're scattered, rather than in straight lines. I have a thick layer of mulch next to the bed, but will wait until the first hard frost before covering them.

Now that I'm writing this down, it dawns on me that I should probably do a comparison row of just regular-sized bulbils, so there's no question that it's the timing, rather than the size of the bulbils, that's speeding up the maturing of the bulbs. I'll do that sometime this week. There's enough room in that part of the garden and plenty of manure and regular-sized bulbils for a second strip, and there will only be a few days between the two plantings.

ETA: I did plant that second row of bulbils about a week after the first row.

To be continued.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

THIS is why I garden

Okay, it's not the only reason I garden, but I really do love this time of  year when the peppers are at their peak.

Tomorrow, we're having banana peppers stuffed with rice pilaf and topped with cheese and a sprinkling of bacon, all served on a bed of wilted swiss chard.

The green peppers are going to be chopped up and placed on drying screens in my car so I'll have peppers during the winter (without paying ridiculous prices for inferior produce).

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Break even point

I think we've hit the break-even point for the financial costs and rewards of the garden.

We've spent a total of $85, and I expect to spend another $15 this fall for manure before I plant the garlic. So, let's say $100 in cash expenses.

Harvest to date (with extremely conservative FMV prices):

Summer squash (sells for $1.99 on sale): 17 pounds = $34

Garlic (3 heads for a dollar for main crop only) = $20

Onions (guesstimating at $1 a pound) = $10

Cucumbers (6 at $1 each) = $6

Banana peppers (32, probably 5 pounds, $1/lb) = $5

Ace peppers (40, but small, so let's say 4 for a buck) = $10

That's $95. Throw in the handfuls of cherry tomatoes I've eaten without counting, and the three Jetstar tomatoes, a few leaves of swiss chard, assorted lettuces and tatsoi, and the various herbs (chives, dill and catnip in particular), and factoring in the EXTREMELY conservative price estimates, I'd say we're at right around a hundred bucks in produce harvested. I'm not counting either the expenses (vinegar, pickling salt, spices) or the added value for the pickling I've done (pickled banana peppers, bread & butter pickles made out of zucchini, and pickled garlic to extend its storage life).

We've got (almost) all of August and September still to go, which will bring us the bulk of the peppers and tomatoes and swiss chard and a fall crop of tatsoi, and all of the winter squash, plus more summer squash. Except for the onions and garlic, which have all been harvested, and the cukes, which have developed the usual mid-summer wilt, the harvest so far is likely to be duplicated (and exceeded) in the remainder of the season. The winter squash will more than take the place of the onions and garlic (in terms of value of the harvest), so I'd expect to end up with well over $100 of produce in excess of what the out-of-pocket expenses were. Maybe more like $200, if the state of the plants right now is any indicator.