Here we are, post-Thanksgiving. It has been an unseasonably warm winter. Most of you have managed to get your garlic, potatoes and cover crop in the ground, and I suspect you are beginning to see some sprouts! So, what happens next? Mostly with your gardens put to bed for the winter, you just watch and wait, but there are a few things you will want to look out for.
If you planted potatoes, you will begin to see leaves sprouting within a couple of weeks of planting. Potato leaves are sensitive to frost….so if you are prone to frost in your area you may want to surround them with a nice cushion of straw to protect them a little bit. Potatoes take 60-80 days to mature, so they will be out well before your cover crop or garlic has finished. Remember that potatoes need to be hilled up periodically….as the stems grow, cover them about halfway with extra soil. This will give you higher yields in the log run, as potatoes are actually modified stems not the tubers that we all tend to think they are. Towards the end of the growing cycle your plants will start to yellow and turn brown, and eventually die back altogether. Don’t worry…this is what is supposed to happen, and this is also what signifies that it is time to harvest! Your plants may flower along the way, which is nice for the pollinators, but doesn’t matter much to you. They may even produce little berries, but ultimately this has no bearing on your harvest. Wait for your plants to die back, then carefully dig them up. Then….eat and enjoy!
Garlic will be in the ground until early to mid July. Garlic has a shallow root system and is prone to drying out, which is why we cover it with a straw mulch. Refresh this mulch over the winter if it looks like it needs it, but really you shouldn’t have to do much of anything. Garlic is ready when the stalks start to dry out and turn a little brown. Keep an eye on this, and if you see the stalks turning yellow or brown, dig up one of your garlics and have a look. The paper coating will likely still be wet, but if the bulbs seem fully formed, then it is time to cut off water to them. This will allow the outer paper skin to form. We will talk more about harvesting and curing garlic in a later blog…..for now, just sit back and enjoy watching it grow!