Dear Helen: Gardening season has been so weird so far. My garlic plants are still mostly green. When should I dig up the bulbs?
Garlic bulbs are usually dug in the second half of July, when about half of the top growth has turned brown. Due to prolonged cool weather in spring, harvest time will be delayed in most gardens. Be guided by the condition of the stems and leaves.
It’s a good idea to dig up a test bulb or two before harvesting. The bulbs should have well-developed, tightly clustered cloves, each enclosed in its own paper wrapper.
When the bulbs are left in the ground too long, the cloves begin to separate. These overgrown bulbs usually don’t store well.
Expensive Helen: I recently heard a bunch of people talking about “starflower”. What were they probably referring to? I didn’t get a chance to ask them.
I know of more than one plant called “starflower”, but the main one is a small, carpeted perennial native to our area. It is a broadleaf borage (western buckthorn, Trientalis latifolia, T. borealis).
It is a short charmer, bearing low-growing whorls of broadly ovate leaves. In May, from the center of each leaf whorl, slender, curved stems emerge bearing pink-tinged white flowers. They are a familiar sight of late spring in my garden, which is dug into a wooded lot.
The common name “starflower” was given to Trientalis because of the slender, almost invisible flower stalks that allow the small flowers to appear suspended in the air, like stars.
The name Trientalis in Latin refers to the approximate height of this small native perennial: one third of a foot.
A much larger flower garden perennial actually has the Latin for “star” in its mane. The perennial plant is Astrantia, from aster: a star. The allusion here is to the starry bracts of the flowers. Astrantia is sometimes called starflower.
Dear Helen: Are plantings generally later than usual this year? Much of what I grow seems more than a little behind.
You’re not alone, and weather-delayed plantings are causing traffic jams in many gardens, at least for those who plan to have plantings like early-sown garlic and peas completed and cleared by mid-July. , in time for winter sowing. vegetables like cabbage, sprouting broccoli and overwintering cauliflower in the vacated spaces.
Dear Helen: Why do my cauliflower plants form cute little buds that separate into individual florets on elongated stems before they can develop true buds?
During this past cold spring, early planted cauliflower plants could have been tricked into acting like they were living through winter. In many plants, the follow-up to winter is the sending up of flower stalks and the formation of seeds.
This is a common cause of the problem. Other stressors that can cause a developing cauliflower head to branch into separate sections:
* A sudden change in temperature.
* Establish grafts that are overgrown.
* Lack of adequate moisture in the soil.
* Humid conditions as buds form.
* Too loose soil. For vegetables that form heads, such as cabbage and cauliflower, the transplants should be very firm.
Dear Helen: The square of garlic in my garden will soon be ready to be dug up, while I still have some bulbs left over from last year’s harvest. I don’t know whether to throw them away or find a use for the one year old bulbs.
Unless the cloves from last year’s garlic bulbs are almost completely dry, I would use them. The way I use garlic “extras” is to peel the cloves, halve them to remove the bitter pit, drizzle with oil, and roast in a heavy, covered pan.
I do not roast cloves at the high heat generally recommended. I let them roast at around 325 F only until they are completely softened. I don’t want them burned.
Cooled, roasted cloves will keep for two weeks in the refrigerator. Mine never last that long. Softened cloves have many uses – in salad dressings, tossed into mashed potatoes, chopped or sliced in vegetable dishes, soups and stews.