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Garlic Planting Guide and Discovering a Garlic Zombie!

I always thought garlic was used to ward off vampires and zombies. 
This season I learned garlic could attract a kind of garlic zombie as well.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
First, let’s get right to the important news: tips on
planting your own homegrown garlic. After all, there’s not a moment to lose.
The window for planting garlic here on the US east coast is
closing all too soon. 
But there is still time. 
Climate change can be your friend…
We thrill to our homegrown garlic – sharing it as a gift and
enjoying the taste and health benefits of garlic.  (See the Garlic “Fun Facts” below.)
I love to smash a garlic clove and add it to a savory
breakfast or lunch of Mother’s weekly, fresh-baked bread – lightly toasted,
doused with avocado or extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and fresh avocado. 
Sometimes I add fresh-made ricotta cheese.
Sometimes I also add anchovies with red pepper. 
At a recent WNYC Lopate & Locavore event, How
to Write a Cookbook
the NY Times food writer and cookbook
author Melissa Clark, (@goodappetite ) who I adore -and
refer to as “Culinary Cutie,” noted a shared love of anchovies and says she
uses them in most every recipe when she can.  Me too.
Melissa is so irrepressible – when I told her I
refer to her as a “Culinary Cutie” – she squealed delight in her signature high-
pitched, super-energy style, saying, “I love that!  I’m gonna’ put that on my business
More Culinary Cutie love…  
One of the garlic varieties we enjoyed last year was sweet
and juicy Music.
Another was Duganski.
 And then there was the exotic,
cinema-sounding “Indochine.”
This year we planted Inchelium Red Garlic. German Red Garlic and Russian Red Garlic.  

The texture of homegrown garlic is akin to a water chestnut
— its shared characteristics are crunchy, juicy, light and flavorful. 
Homegrown garlic is nothing like the overbearing, petulant
garlic that most are accustomed to — and that lingers on the breath and the
clothes far too long.
Not so with fresh-from-the-garden garlic. 
Soil Prep
My husband Bill – a passionate and dedicated master cook and
gardener –had already taken the soil from this year’s “Compost Cabanas” and transferred
it to the farm-ette – spreading the rich, organic “black gold” as a top
We got a bit more than usual
this year because we must have the house foundation rebuilt before we do the
second half of our home’s renovation – and the compost bins had to be broken
down and removed for the work to be done.   
(Don’t you just hate spending all that money on
infrastructure when it could go directly to a beautiful, glamorous tub or
fireplace?? Sigh…I’m having fun teasing friends, saying, “No one ever says, “I
just love your foundation.”  
But let me refocus.
The farm-ette benefited from the extra layer of black gold
soil there is no doubt.

Bill measured off three garlic beds marked by string; each
bed is nine inches by 12 inches, for a total planting bed that is 18 feet long
and 3 feet wide.  

We planted the garlic cloves about a foot or so apart.  


And labeled them.  

We plan to yield about 100 garlic bulbs next harvest.
Not to be overlooked is the beauty of the garlic plant.  Who couldn’t help love the graceful,
globe-shaped sphere of the allium flowers in the spring? A happy lavender color
– in fact it’s a glamorous Pantone Color of the
Year 2014
Radiant Orchid.

And we love eating the garlic scapes in late spring.

We order our garlic – and potatoes from the The Maine Potato Lady – a certified
organic grower and handler. I highly recommend them.

The Garlic Zombie
Ok, the zombie the reference might be a smidge too dramatic
but it’s a fun way to refer to a situation that is one of those bizarre “only
in the garden” tales.
Let me set the stage.
One of my dearest garden clients is a celebrated family who
live together in the best way possible: extended, multi-generational – with the
kids all the way to the great uncle — as in their grandfather’s brother.
“Great” is not just a moniker. But in the end – he is truly better than
‘Great.” I cite him as inspiration in my book, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook.”
The cultural, cerebral, adored uncle has been oh-so-unfairly
anointed with a progressive movement disorder. 
I only bring this up with great discretion and respect as it figures
into the garlic caper.
See, the medical situation gave rise to the need for an
in-residence/on-site medical professional to assist with nutrition, physical
therapy and consequently, a kind of  “Jeeves
& Wooster” errand and adventure, about -town kind of dynamic.
All good.
With regard to the garlic planning, the story’s first
chapter opened like this:
Last year about this time, I’d asked one of my Duchess
Designs team members – the master gardener, Dennis – to plant some of our Russian Red garlic that I’d gifted to
Uncle B.
This Russia element would come to play perhaps a critical character
role in the garlic saga…
See, the good doctor is from Georgia – not the state that
embraces Atlanta and all things peachy – but the country of Georgia.
And when Dennis attempted to plant the Russian Red garlic,
the good doctor stridently halted any notion of garlic planting.  In fact, he took the garlic and put it in the
refrigerator.  No planting till spring,
he declared.
Being the respectful, client-focused team member, Dennis
backed off and didn’t argue.
Later, when he told me, I thought it was a fantasy.  Surely it was a misunderstanding.
It was only after an early frost (precursor to last winter’s
crushing frost that area nurseries told me led to heartbreaking plant
loss.  One respected nursery owner described
the scramble to water spray to heat the plants and move as much as possible to
the greenhouses.  To no avail… it was too
much cold; too fast, too “unexpected.”
In this case, Climate Change – was decidedly not our friend.
Once that frost occurred there was no going back. 
We lost our window of opportunity to plant the garlic.
Nevertheless, like incredulous, bereft, caregivers, Uncle B and me found ourselves at the refrigerator door.  We couldn’t help but peer inside, staring
down the garlic.
It was perched there like bad kids in detention – knowing
that once the fridge door closed they’d be getting away with something – they knew
they didn’t belong there.
It was as if we were willing them to get out of there into
their rightful place in the garden.
The garlic seemed to thumb their nose at us – it was to be a
winter garden party of sorts for them – all snug inside and not working to root
in anything as their job required.
All aided by the good doctor.
My unconfirmed psychic-babble suggested that perhaps in
Russia it is far too cold to plant garlic in the autumn. Perhaps the ground
freezes way too much and so they plant garlic in the spring.
I meant to research this but because in our situation it was
of no consequence – I didn’t pursue it.
Woe to those who are unprepared …
Harvest Time 2014
This autumn, Bill and I harvested a bountiful crop of that
same, spicy, flavorful garlic. 
Uncle B’s? Not so much. 
In fact after a spring planting there was just a whisper of garlic to be
had – slivers  – not worth a smear, a
roast, or even a taste. 
It was like Scarlett O’Hara seeing the crummy carrot in
Tara’s fields when she passionately rips the tuber from the ground swearing,
“As God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”
Well this garlic was like that. No one was going to eat it;
much less enjoy it. 
So it was almost with a small sense of logical smugness that
I thought we would never encounter any kind of garlic contretemps this year.
After seeing the non-harvest tweezer-sized harvest, who could disagree that
fall planting was the way to go.
I was wrong.
What happened next is too hilarious – but trust me—all true.
This year, I asked my Mother, Virginia, to deliver the Red
Russian garlic to Darin – another superlative Master Gardener I’m privileged to
have working on the Duchess Designs team. 
Darin was constructing an extended edible garden bed with
borders from the wood we had left over after building the tiered corner “beach”
garden beds. 
I’ll write about this design concept and construction
As it was, we laid out the extended edible garden, secured
the extraordinary super soil for maximum benefit, eager to plant our client’s
edible garden.
Later the next week, I asked Darin via text how the new
garden bed construction and garlic planting went.
Confirming the garden bed was “all good,” he wrote that the
garlic was taken before planting.
I couldn’t understand 
– who took it and why.
So here is the incredible, can’t make this up sequence of
why the garlic wasn’t planted  — and how
my Duchess Design team – aka Garden CSI – and Uncle B surreptitiously
coordinated in order to get the garlic planted.
It seems the good doctor must have been monitoring the new
garden bed construction.
Is he a “Garlic Whisperer?” A “Garlic Zombie?!” 
How did he know we’d be planting the garlic?  Was he monitoring our moves?
In any event – it turns out it was indeed the good doctor
who saw Darin planting the garlic. 
At the point he came out to hijack the garlic! 
Despite the no-yield harvest and subtle suggestions about
the best time to plant garlic here, the good doctor was unyielding.
I was mystified about what had transpired, (not being on-site
that day) and had written to Uncle B to ask about shedding some light on the
I learned from great, good, uncle that in fact, he had
to intervene. He took the garlic from the good doctor, telling me, “We were about to face the problem again so I
confiscated the garlic and waited for your response. Let’s plant the garlic in
a place different from the beds (handled by the good doctor) and show him the
results in the spring. He is unreasonable on this subject. He does his job tending to physical arrangements for me… Attempting to persuade him on the garlic planting is a waste
of time…”

The Garlic Plot Thickens.
Alas, not the plating kind of plot! 
The next chapter in the garlic saga was me and Uncle B emailing about how the Duchess Design team would secure the garlic from him and
secretly plant it in the front yard – far from suspecting and suspicious eyes
that might yet again thwart the garlic growth.
After the clandestine
planting, Dennis wrote, “He (Uncle B) stealthily handed off the garlic goods
to me. I surreptitiously planted seven cloves of Russian Red out front. I
placed a small flag to denote the location. Hoping the garlic zombie is not on
to me.)
Fingers crossed our secret garlic planting is a) not
discovered and b) Mother Nature favors us with a bountiful garlic harvest next
Lest anyone think there is no intrigue or mystery in our
home gardens, this homegrown tale is sure to bring a smile and badge of hope to
all your armchair garden friends this winter who think the drama of King Louis
XIV and his Versailles and Nicolas Fouquet and his Vaux-le-Vicomte and their garden battle of the wills contest from a long-ago era doesn’t happen here.  Look no further.
We managed to triumph this year and look forward to a good
garlic harvest.
This was just an incredible series of garden dramas that will
surely be an authentic, fun story to pass on under the banner of “you can’t make this stuff up!”

Plants incite passion!

Garlic Fun Facts
— Did you know that?
  ·          Garlic can ward off vampires!
  ·          Garlic is rich in antioxidants which help
destroy free radicals
  ·         Garlic is used to prevent heart disease,
including atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and boosts the
immune system.
  ·         Garlic may also protect against cancer
  ·         Garlic may help prevent the common cold
  ·         Gravediggers in 18th Century France
drank crushed garlic in wine, believing it would protect them from the plague.
  ·        World War I & II soldiers were given garlic
to prevent gangrene.
  ·        China is the world’s largest producer of garlic,
followed by India
  ·        Egyptians fed it to the workers as they built
the pyramids
  ·        Alliums are beautiful plants with puffy hairdo heads on a slender tall reed
  ·         The word garlic comes from Old English: garleac
which means Spear Leek
But in the end – it’s all about the taste.  And homegrown garlic is unrivaled in its
flavor.  So get out and plant your
garlic. Even if it’s in your containers. 

You will thank me next year.

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"Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art."
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 I adore plants. Plants are my muse ~ they are my paramour… I’m a garden artist; a nature lover, & horticulturist. I’m an author & writer. My passion for culture & beauty, along with my trait curiosity, brings you an authentic celebration of life. I’m a storyteller ~ weaving the artful gifts of horticulture, garden design, tablescape decor, floral design, cocktail culture, garden-to-glass recipes & their glamorous garnishes, homegrown edibles, food & drink; & cooking, to bring you my flair & what I’ve been told is an avid elan ~ as well as the stories from those who inspire me ~ to pursue an elegant, enduring, & joyful, entertaining lifestyle. It’s an honor & a privilege to do what you love.

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