Harbinger weeds of spring, and early garlic scallions

We’ve failed to restore the bog post that got hacked two weeks ago. Last week I reposted the Diversify Your Vegetables slideshow that had been part of the Lost Post. Today I’ll write more about garlic scallions. Here’s my general theme of today: is 2017 bringing an early spring?
Flowering Purple (or Red) Dead Nettle, with honeybee.
Credit Kathryn Simmons
I wrote last summer about the three early spring flowering weeds of chickweed, henbit and purple dead-nettle. At that time, I was watching for newly germinating fall seedlings of those three to indicate it was cool enough to sow spinach. Now I’m looking at these weeds flowering to see how fast the spring warm-up is progressing. The photo above shows the dead nettle in late spring, with some chickweed and a honey bee. Two weeks ago (2/6) I saw small flowering versions of all three. Is this early?? Yes, earlier than average, by a week or so. But still within the range of normal.:
Chickweed flowers.
http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/S/W-CP-SMED-FL.006.html
Photo by Jack Kelly Clark.
Chickweed has been seen flowering here as early1/1 (2007) to as late as 3/16 (2015, were we unobservant?) Average 2/13. One week earlier than average for that one.
Henbit flowers, Lamium amplexicaule.
http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/L/W-LB-LAMP-FL.004.html
Photo by Jack Kelly Clark.
Henbit has been seen flowering here on 1/6 (2007) to as late as 3/29 (2014). The average is 2/22. Two weeks earlier than average for that one.

Dead nettle has flowered here as early as 1/21 (2011) to as late as 3/18 (2003). Its average is more like 3/1. Three weeks earlier than average, but still not the earliest ever.

I think I saw a flowering dandelion too.
We make a Phenology List each year. No crocuses open here yet!

Garlic scallions in April.
Photo Kathryn Simmons

Last week I wrote about garlic scallions, in a bit of a hurry. We usually harvest these starting March 1st, but this year we started at the end of January, as the plants had grown tall enough. Another indicator of spring being warmer than usual, so far.

Here’s more about growing this tasty bonus vegetable

 Reasons to grow garlic scallions:
  • A very tasty and visually attractive crop during the Hungry Gap, the spring period before any new crops are ready for harvest, when our palates are getting tired of leafy greens and stored roots.
  • Supply garlic taste at a time when supplies of bulb garlic may have run out.

How to grow garlic scallions:

  • Set aside the smallest cloves when planting your main garlic crop
  • Find a small space which will be easy to get to in early spring (late winter), and make furrows a couple of inches deep as you would for planting regular garlic cloves.
  • Plant the tiny cloves close together in close-set furrows, dropping them in almost shoulder to shoulder, just as they fall. Close the furrow and mulch over the top with spoiled hay or straw.

Harvesting garlic scallions:

  • We harvest garlic scallions from early March, once they reach about 7-8″ (18-20 cm) tall,
  • They last till May, unless we need to use the space.
  • Loosen the plants with a fork rather than just pulling
  • Trim the roots, rinse, bundle, set in a small bucket with a little water
  • Scallions can be sold in small bunches of 3-6 depending on size

Alternative harvest method:

  • Rather than digging up the plants, cut the greens at 10″ (25 cm) tall, and bunch them, allowing cuts to be made every two or three weeks. Greens wilt quicker than scallions, and you’ll have to wait till later to start harvesting them.

We’re about to sow our first carrot bed, which will be our first outdoor sowing of the year. We are preparing beds to transplant spinach, cabbage, kale and collards. We belatedly noticed that our tiller tines are worn down! Oh, if only we had been on top of this and put new ones during the winter, we’d be having an easier time of turning under the cover crops and weeds this week!

We sow “indicator beets” with our carrots so that we know when to flame-weed them
Photo Kathryn Simmons

Good gardening weather at last! Sowing peas, harvesting garlic scallions!

Our greenhouse full of seed flats and sunshine.
Our greenhouse full of seed flats and sunshine.

Well, the photo is from another year, a few weeks later than now, but it gives a good idea of how full our greenhouse is. Currently the main user of space is broccoli. We have also started moving plants out to our coldframes, to free up space inside, and to harden off the plants ready for planting out.

We still haven’t done any tilling or disking, but if all goes well, we’ll do some tilling tomorrow and Thursday, before the next rain. Then we’ll work like crazy to make up for some of the time lost to snow and ice in the past month.

We have managed to sow our peas! It feels like such a triumph! We decided we didn’t need to soak the seed overnight as we usually do, because the soil is so wet. As I said last week, we sow peas in the middle of spinach beds. Several advantages-

  1. No need to wait for the soil to dry out to till – just hoe and sow.
  2. The spinach already has rowcover, which the peas can share.
  3. The peas will grow vertically, not encroaching on the spinach.
  4. As the spinach gets ready to bolt, and we pull it out, the pea plants are getting bigger. This “relay planting” makes good use of space and time – more efficient than using two separate beds for the two crops. (There’s more about relay planting in my book.)

30118_grandeBut, oh, the vole tunnels in those cozy row-covered beds! How to get rid of voles? Voles love pea seeds, so we have set out lots of mousetraps baited with peanut butter. We have flags marking the spots where the traps are, and the intention of checking them every day and re-setting them as needed. I like the Intruder Mousetraps (they aren’t paying me to say this!). They’re easier to set than the traditional wood and wire ones, and much easier to empty. Just squeeze the back flap to open the trap and shake out the creature competing for your food.

Sugar Ann snap peas. Photo credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Sugar Ann snap peas. Photo credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

We have a short spring here, and a hundred people to feed, so we don’t grow shelling peas. It would just take too long to pick them, too long to pod them, and the harvest season would be too short. Peas don’t thrive in hot weather. Instead we grow lots of Sugar Ann dwarf snap peas and some snow peas. I hope we win the competition with the voles!

Another sign of spring has been our first harvest of garlic scallions. They were a little bit shorter than usual for the time of year, but the psychological boost of harvesting a new crop made me do it! They are only a fraction of the size of these lush ones from a few years ago. usually we harvest them from early March to early May. We have lots, and a little goes a long way, so it will be OK to be harvesting them small at first. Garlic scallions are a treat! So easy to grow, and ready so early in spring, when there isn’t much else apart from stored roots and tubers and leafy greens. (Mind you, we are having delicious and beautiful salads, so I’m not disparaging leafy greens!)

A healthy patch of garlic scallions in spring Photo credit Kathryn Simmons
A healthy patch of garlic scallions in spring
Photo credit Kathryn Simmons

How to grow Garlic Scallions:

All you need is a small space that’s close to where you walk in spring. In the fall, as you prepare your garlic cloves for planting, set aside the tiny cloves. They wouldn’t grow good big bulbs anyway, so you’ll want to sort them out. After you finish your main planting, take your tiny cloves to your early spring-accessible piece of garden, make a series of furrows as close together as they go, tumble in the tiny cloves, any which way they fall, close together, shoulder-to-shoulder. Cover over with soil, then mulch with straw, hay or tree leaves. When they are 5″ or more tall, start harvesting. You can pull them up, trim the roots, peel off one outer leaf, then bunch. Or if you don’t have many, you do have a long spring, and you’d trade a longer wait for multiple harvests, wait till they are 10″ tall and cut the greens. They will regrow for repeat cutting. Garlic scallions are great for stir-fries, soups, pesto, omelets, salad dressings. . .