Tag Archive for garlic

What to do in the Garden in October!

October is a busy garden time as we prepare for the first frost of the year in Oklahoma. It’s time to put a lot of the garden to bed for winter. Adding compost to each bed is a great way to prepare for spring. It adds nutrients and moisture holding ability to your soil. I just layer mine on top in October and let the worms and other beneficials churn it into the soil over the winter.

Adding a cover crop or mulch to the beds will also help prepare your beds for spring. I have never planted cover crops, but if you want to learn about them, click here.

We heavily mulch our beds over the winter with leaves, straw, or some other material we can get for free or cheap. I have an awesome friend who “buries” me in leaves every fall, so I take advantage of that and use it in most of my beds. It works GREAT! Sometimes all you need to do is put the word out and you can get all the materials you need. They have so much, they are glad to get rid of it. Before I found that great source, I would drive around the neighborhood and grab bagged leaves off the curb of my neighbor’s houses.


straw mulch

The mulch prevents erosion of your garden soil and prevents the soil from compacting into a hard layer over the winter as precipitation falls. Have you ever been in the woods and lifted up the layer of leaves that have fallen from the trees? It’s rich, black, and sweet smelling soil under there that is teeming with microorganisms and nutrients. Nature knows what she’s doing. I try to duplicate that with my mulching. In spring, we just scoot the leaves that are left over and plant right into the bed with no other prep needed. Click here to see how we put our garden to bed for winter.

There are a few things we grow over the winter, so those beds are planted and we are eagerly awaiting crops from them. Last year, we grew and ate kale, Brussel sprouts, and herbs all winter and into spring. We are going to try that again this year. We also planted cabbage, lettuce, carrots, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, swiss chard, and a third round of green beans for the fall, so those beds are still working away.

October garden produce

Soon it will get too cold for the tomatoes, peppers, okra, and the like to continue producing any more and we will clean those beds out and prep them for winter as well. I let them grow as long as they will to get as much food stored up for winter as we can. We pull the tops off the plants and compost them if they are bug and disease free, and we leave the roots in the ground to add more nutrients to the soil. By spring, they are composted and the bed is ready to go.

October is sweet potato harvesting time. One bed of sweet potatoes has flowered and been harvested, and the other is just flowering, so we will harvest those right before the first frost. We are watching the weather closely. We got 60 pounds out of the first bed, so we are hoping for that much from the second one. We love sweet potatoes and they store great!

gardening with kids digging sweet potatoes

Another October project is garlic planting. Garlic is planted in October in Oklahoma and harvested in June, so chose a bed you aren’t planning to use for anything else. I rotate my crops from bed to bed each season, but the garlic stays in the same bed year after year. Click here to learn about growing your own garlic. 

October is the last busy month in the garden until spring. The garden is giving its last hoorah. We are enjoying every bite of what we know is limited tasty goodness and we have prepared as much as we can to eat this winter. We’ve been dehydrating, blanching, freezing, and curing everything we can manage to and we hope that will supplement what we are eating until the garden wakes up and bears more beautiful gifts for us next season.

Be sure to pin for later!

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What to do in the Garden in September

September is finding us a little cooler temperatures and a little rain here and there. At Little Sprouts, we are not harvesting a lot because of our animal ravage we have sustained all summer, but we have thinned down the amount of animals ravaging, so now we are seeing some things starting to come back. Since the temps are cooler, our tomatoes, tomatillos, and peppers are starting to produce again.

Get ready for the end of the season.

In September, it’s time to prune your tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos so whatever fruit is on them will mature. If you leave the plants still growing and flowering, they won’t have time to ripen the fruit that results, but the fruit you already have will have less chance of maturing as well. To prune, just cut the flowers off everywhere you see them and the stems they are on as well.

september tomatoes


In September, it’s time to pull all the plants that are disease or bug infested or have died in the heat and clean out the gardens that are done. It’s also time to add compost to each garden and top the beds off with mulch to protect the microorganisms and beneficial bacteria and bugs from the weather. If you leave your beds covered throughout the winter, you will have less moisture evaporating and less erosion of your soil. Another option is to plant cover crops in your beds for winter.

Harvest sweet potatoes.

It’s almost time to harvest our sweet potatoes, some have flowered and are ready, and some have not yet flowered so we will wait until it’s about to freeze to harvest them. If you have sweet potatoes planted, keep an eye on the weather for the best time to harvest. If the greens freeze, harvest them immediately. If you don’t get a freeze, the longer you wait, the more pounds of sweet potatoes you will get, so wait if you can.

Our okra plants are still producing prolifically, so we will leave them until they stop. You can make selections in your garden based on what’s still producing and what you want to keep tending.

september children's garden okra

If you haven’t planted seedlings for your fall crops, you still have a little time left to plant them. Broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, carrots, peas, radishes, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and other fall things can still be planted in Oklahoma, but hurry, the window of opportunity is almost gone.

Plant fall/winter crops.

There is a type of lettuce called Mache that you can plant now that should grow all winter long in your garden providing you with some greens. Last year, Brussels sprouts and kale also wintered over in our garden and continued to grow.

You can plant garlic at the end of September or beginning of October, whichever you prefer. I like to wait until October to have the kids plant ours. We will be planting around the 15. Check out our post on how to grow garlic for tips on doing that, click here.

What do you still have growing in your garden in September?

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 September garden chores

Homemade Pesto Sauce (without nuts!)

I am working on harvesting some of our garden surplus like the herbs that we haven’t used up and we had a ton of basil. I harvested two pounds of basil leaves from the walkways in the garden. Man did I smell good! What to do with all this basil? PESTO!

basil

I am allergic to nuts so I wanted to come up with a pesto I could eat too, so I decided to roast up some sunflower seeds to use in place of the pine nuts.  I used 1/4 a cup of seeds and toasted them lightly in a skillet.

I am allergic to nuts and I don’t know if I will react to pine nuts or not so I wanted to come up with a pesto I could eat too, so I decided to roast up some sunflower seeds to use in place of the pine nuts. I used 1/4 a cup of seeds and toasted them lightly in a skillet.

Toss the toasted seeds in the blender with 2 cups of basil leaves and we also added a couple of dried thai peppers for some kick.

Toss the toasted seeds in the blender with 2 cups of basil leaves and we also added a couple of dried thai peppers for some kick.

Add 1/4 cup grated parmesean cheese and two cloves of cut up garlic.

Add 1/4 cup grated parmesean cheese and two cloves of cut up garlic.

Blend until smooth.

Blend until smooth adding olive oil until sauce will blend. Approximately 1/4-1/2 cup.

We used some of the pesto as a topping for some cooked pasta and froze the rest in pint sized jars to use later.  It was delicious!

We used some of the pesto as a topping for some cooked pasta and froze the rest in pint sized jars to use later. It was delicious!

The kids loved this pasta and it was super healthy.


Stink! How Did THAT Happen?

Stink is something we have said in our garden more times than you could shake a stick at. What have we tried in our garden at Little Sprouts that has failed? A LOT! We are learning the key to gardening success is never give up and keep trying.

Many seeds we planted did not germinate. Why? I have no idea. When planting seeds in trays in the house, we had things fail to grow and things that germinated with ease. We also had many things germinate and die. There are multiple reasons why this can happen. Even outside we had many seeds fail. We were so excited about our monarch way station kit, but truthfully, we got a couple of zinnias and one other plant I haven’t identified and that’s it. There were some vines growing in it that I thought were part of the kit, but they turned out to be birdhouse gourds. They must have come from rogue seeds from the gourds we grew last year.

Let’s talk about our epic failure with squash. We planted a bed of summer squash, one full of pumpkins, and one with butternuts. Guess what? For the second year in a row, they are all DEAD. Squash vine borers-the bane of my existence. In the future, we will probably not even try to grow squash. We are going to give it another shot this summer, but if they get them again, we are done. Over it! Borers look like a wasp. They bore a hole in the stem of the squash, lay their eggs and fly away. The eggs hatch and the larvae inside the stem eat it from the inside out. And the plant immediately dies. We got a handful of squash, more than last year, but still disappointing from more than a dozen plants. I noticed today that our watermelons were looking like the dead squash and I wondered if the borers got them too.


What about broccoli? We grew broccoli, but most of the heads were the size of a thumb. Why did we not get huge crowns like you see in the grocery store? I really don’t know. We only had two cauliflowers produce and they were big, but what happened to all the rest? I don’t know. If we wanted to eat a lot of broccoli and cauliflower, too bad!

Oh my goodness, the weeds! What kind of supernatural weedy weed faces made all these weeds get in our gravel between our beds? We spent a lot of time and money planning for little weeding between the beds only for the weedy mc weedersons to ignore all of our efforts. Johnson grass and wild blackberry vines are creeping their way up everywhere. What’s the deal with that? And the brand new planting medium in the expansion is full of crab grass and Bermuda. In our original backyard garden, we never had grass like that, so it must have come with the medium which is a total drag. We have been relentless about picking weeds, but we are just not keeping up with the demands of the gardens. They look a fright.

The carrots we planted in the one bed that has clay dirt in it were a big mistake. They are growing in there, but if you try to pull one, off pops the top and you have to dig the carrot out with a jack hammer. I’ll remember next time to only have the kids plant carrots in sandier soil.

Last year was our first time to plant garlic and it grew beautifully. This year we grew it again and it didn’t turn out quite as well. I bought some giant cloves at the farmer’s market that were already separated. I shared some with a friend and neither of us got a great harvest from them. I did some reading and found out I had the kids plant them a little too deeply and you should not separate your cloves until you are about to plant them. Hindsight is 20/20 right? Also, some of the cloves just made one giant round bulb with no separate cloves. I asked my friends from Peace of the Prairie Organic Farm who have a stand at the farmer’s market and they said we should have snapped off the scapes and the cloves would have formed. The other garlic we’ve grown was soft neck garlic and it didn’t make scapes, so I didn’t know we were supposed to do that. Another lesson learned.

Many mistakes have been made in the Learning Garden, but guess what? It’s a LEARNING GARDEN and we are here to learn in it. It’s still absolutely breathtaking and putting out vegetables as fast as we can figure out what to do with them, so it’s a blessing anyway. And every time we make a big mistake, we learn a lesson that we won’t forget. It’s the best way to learn. When you make mistakes, remember to focus on all the things you’ve done right and you’ll be okay. Enjoying the process is what matters.

Mmmmm…Garlic

Growing garlic is not difficult, but it does take a long time. Patience is key. But the reward is produce that will flavor your whole year and store wonderfully. You will save a ton of money not having to buy grocery store garlic. Once you plant it the first year, you will have seeds forever.

Last Year's Garlic Harvest

Last Year’s Garlic Harvest

I stored it on this shelf.  I didn't know I needed to take it out of the sun.  We had a few cloves that weren't good because of that, but not many.

I stored it on this shelf. I didn’t know I needed to take it out of the sun. We had a few cloves that weren’t good because of that, but not many.

The end of last year's crop.

The end of last year’s crop.

Garlic is planted in the fall and harvested in the summer. Here in Oklahoma we plant in late September or early October and harvest in late June or early July. I recommend purchasing a good quality organic garlic to begin with. I ordered ours online. If you want to store the garlic all year, choose soft neck varieties. They store better. Leave the heads whole until you’re ready to plant. Find an area that you are willing to commit to the garlic for the long season because you won’t be able to use it for anything else until summer.
Prepare your area. Garlic likes loose well-drained soil. Once your bed is prepared, break off one clove of garlic at a time and plant it 2-4 inches deep, with each clove 4-6 inches from the next one. One head of garlic could have anywhere from 8-20 cloves. Plant the largest ones and save the tiny ones for cooking. Mulch the bed well with about 4 inches of straw, leaves, or other mulch. Water it well. For the next few months, make sure the garlic receives one inch of water per week. You may see green shoots come up before or during the winter and you may not. Either way, no worries, your garlic is doing great. It’s pretty much a fool proof crop.
By June you should have tall leaves on top the garlic. Watch them weekly to see when the outer leaves begin to turn brown. When you have five green leaves left in the middle and the outer leaves are all brown, it’s time to harvest your garlic. Carefully dig around each head and work it loose. Don’t pull by the leaves or they could break off and leave your garlic head in the ground.
Immediately move them out of the sun to cure. A window screen, wire shelving, or something of that nature would work great to give the garlic air circulation and keep it out of the sun. My brother in law built me some awesome frames to use as compost sifters and I used those this year. It was a great help to have them! Thanks Chris! Let them cure for about 3 weeks.
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I store my garlic by braiding it and hanging it on the wall in my laundry room. If you can braid hair, you can make a simple garlic braid. You can also cut the leaves off and store it in panty hose or plastic mesh bags. Just place a head in and tie a knot and then place the next head in. Hang up your bags or braids and just cut one off as needed throughout the year. Remember to save a few heads for seeds next time!

Garden Glory, Pea Pickin-What else are my Little Sprouts picking?

This week’s harvest has been bountiful!

Pea pickers.  These peas are huge.  The kids LOVE anything that's bigger than usual.

Pea pickers. These peas are huge. The kids LOVE anything that’s bigger than usual.

We harvested our garlic this week.  We got 88 heads.  We used estimation to weigh some tops and calculate that weight times how many cloves there were and came up with 18 pounds of heads.  Budding scientists here.

We harvested our garlic this week. We got 88 heads. We used estimation to weigh some leaves and calculate that weight times how many cloves there were and came up with 18 pounds of heads. Budding scientists here.

The main haul.

The main haul.

A few more cloves we saved for someone who didn't come until the afternoon.

A few more cloves we saved for someone who didn’t come until the afternoon.

One day's green beans, about 2 pounds.

One day’s green beans, about 2 pounds.

Five pounds of lettuce.  This is nearly the last of it.  We had been getting about 5 pounds every few days, but it's getting too hot now.

Five pounds of lettuce. This is nearly the last of it. We had been getting about 5 pounds every few days, but it’s getting too hot now.

Two pounds of peas and a few squash, hot peppers and tomatoes, plus our first ever tomatillo!

Two pounds of peas and a few squash, hot peppers and tomatoes, plus our first ever tomatillo!

Our sample plate for this year's first tomatoes and our little tomatillo!  We are excited to use a batch of them and some of those hot peppers to make some sauce!

Our sample plate for this year’s first tomatoes and our little tomatillo! We are excited to use a batch of them and some of those hot peppers to make some sauce!

Here's the rest.

Here’s the rest.

Here's the action.  Getting that tomatillo!

Here’s the action. Getting that tomatillo!

The garlic harvesting.

The garlic harvesting.

The harvest for today.  Yum yum.

The harvest for today. Yum yum.

They are so proud of what they pick!

They are so proud of what they pick!

All smiles.

All smiles.

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The kids are having a ball bringing in our scores. This week we picked about 33 pounds of produce, 18 of that was the garlic heads. Not too shabby! What are you picking from your garden?