Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Planting Time

In Houston, we have two seasons.  Summer (which lasts for about 6 months) and the rest of the year.  Our trees don't turn fabulous shades of red and orange, nor do we eagerly anticipate the first snow.  For us, autumn is the time of year that we celebrate that we survived the summer.  We are reinvigorated by the cooler weather and thoughts of cruciferous vegetables growing in the garden.

October is the time to start seeds for most of those fall vegetables.  First we had to make some room, so we pulled up the okra and the chile pepper plants.  The plants would have continued to produce for several more weeks, but we're ready for some new options.  We left one jalapeno plant since those peppers are best fresh, but we will have to rely on our vast stores of dried cayenne, poblano, and anaheim peppers until next summer.  If David had his way, we would have removed all the eggplants and lima beans too so he wouldn't have to cook with them any more.  But those plants are too loaded with vegetables and flowers to dig them up.  And they're among my favorites.

The weather was perfect for working outside, with temperatures in the 60's and 70's., and it stayed dry until Sunday night.  The list of what we planted is long -- check out the "what's growing" column to the right.  The kids even helped out in between laser tag battles with the neighbors and tennis matches in the middle of our street.   The dragonflies seem to have disappeared, but there were lots of Gulf Fritillary, Sulfur and Monarch butterflies keeping us company.

The biggest project of the weekend was planting the rest of the garlic.  In addition to the ajo rojo already in the ground, we ordered an assortment of garlic from Nichols. Many of the varieties are new to us, including Bogatyr, Purple Glazer and Oregon Blue; it was interesting to work with all the varieties at once.  There are clear differences in size, color and aroma.  We didn't cook any of them, but the flavors promise to be equally distinctive when we harvest our garlic next spring.  Such variety is especially exciting after years of cooking exclusively with grocery store garlic.

First, each garlic bulb was separated into individual cloves.  The cloves were then soaked overnight in water mixed with baking soda (the recommended ratio is 1 Tbs per gallon).  Perhaps this is obvious, but each variety of garlic should be soaked separately to avoid confusion.  In the morning, the skins were removed from each clove.  The skins were loose for the most part, but this is still a tedious project.   There are always some cloves that look healthy until the skins are removed, revealing damaged or badly discolored cloves that should be discarded.  The healthy cloves receive a quick (about 4 minute) bath in rubbing alcohol before going into the ground.   All our garlic was planting in raised beds.  For more detailed instructions, Gourmet Garlic Gardens is an excellent resource.

As if on cue with all our seeds and garlic cloves freshly sown in the garden, it started raining last night.  Today brings even more rain, promising lots of seedlings in the next few days.  This intensive fall planting was exhausting, but what a relief to have almost everything done.  With just a few seeds left to start in November (including peas, agretti, and onions), now it's time to relax and wait.  And continue to eat lots of eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes and lima beans.

1 comment:

  1. I recall visiting Houston once over the summer that the month of August was also its own season. LOL!
    Thanks for the tip on soakin the cloves in diluted baking soda, I've never heard of that before.


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