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Garden wisdom from deer country!

Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer



The seasoned gardener


published in The Union in Grass Valley CA



July in the Garden
Perennial flowers, garlic scapes, and serendipity

by Carolyn Singer
July 2, 2011

Matilija poppyIn late June and early July comes one of the most beautiful displays of a California native in the foothills with the opening of the Matilija poppies (Romneya coulteri, photo right). Along Sierra College Drive, this spectacular crepe-paper white blossom with its pollen-laden yellow center, is in full bloom. This week, I stood quietly on the eastern slope of my property where hundreds of honeybees were working the flowers in my poppy field.

Each winter, usually in January, I cut the old stalks back to the ground. This pushes growth of new stalks in spring, and prevents the plants from falling over with their own weight. And it certainly does not seem to diminish the flowering each summer. I do not water my field of Matilija poppies, though I did irrigate a few times each summer for the first two seasons after planting.

thymeIn the rock garden, thymes (photo, left) continue to be strong bloomers, and in July many Dianthus and lavender are adding to the colorful display and fragrance in this low-irrigation garden. Butterflies are particularly attracted to the many species of Dianthus (photo, below right) which bloom throughout July. Children visiting me this past weekend were captivated by the activity.
20Dianthus

Seeding continues in the vegetable garden. This week I added more greens, the third succession planting for this season. By planting just a small section each time, I have greens in different stages throughout the summer months. I prefer the butterhead lettuce for its tolerance of heat, although sometimes I have to shade the plants when the temperatures climb to the mid-nineties and above.

My garlic has just been harvested, except in my "garlic field". This large patch grows outside the fence since the deer do not touch it. It started a few years ago with some small cloves that got tossed aside because they were not large enough to be considered for good production from my fall planting.

garlicWhat happened next was one of those wonderful, serendipitous discoveries that often occurs when I don't try to orchestrate everything that happens in the garden (a metaphor for life, I believe!). The small cloves sprouted in the leaf mulch where they landed. And they grew. I ignored them. Each year the clumps got bigger, and soon I was harvesting green garlic shoots during the late winter months, pulling up the larger ones but leaving the clump intact (photo left).

However, the harvest cycle does not stop with the pulling of the green garlic shoots. In early summer, scapes begin to form on the older plants, the twisted stems culminating in a bud. This is a garlic delicacy I first discovered at a farmers' market. It is a more mild garlic taste. The harvest is of the top foot of growth while the flower bud is still tight. Cut into short pieces, they may be sautéed to flavor asparagus, broccoli, peas, and greens. Or eaten by themselves by a true garlic lover as I am.

Leave some of the buds to bloom and scatter their seed naturally, increasing the density of the garlic field. Small plants are easily transplanted, even during summer heat. Without irrigation, the plants will die back by midsummer and remain dormant until next winter. In fertile soil, the individual plants will be larger by the second year, but by managing the natural succession planting of this essential vegetable, you can have green garlic for many months, and scapes during the early summer. A true perennial vegetable. And one that keeps you healthy!

©2011 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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