Leaves are turning golden, days are bright yet shorter, and it’s time for one of my favorite chores in the garden: PLANTING GARLIC!
I have blogged my ‘how to’s a few times on this blog and have several links to garlic planting tips in my resources page. This post is a re-cap on what i tried this year with some ideas on improving garlic yield.
The first major tip when planting many vegetables and especially garlic: rotation, rotation, rotation….. and this year i’m planting garlic in the same bed as last year. :/ There’s a reason to this madness! My garden is new and i can create a new bed about one per year…. you can see behind me in the photo above a bed filled with sunflowers and cover crops. THIS will be the planting location for garlic next fall, but for now i must make do with the same bed. There is some risk of disease when repeating garlic in the same place, but i’ve done my best to ammend enough that this year’s crop should be pretty darned happy. Last year we tilled up the sod and worked the soil with my broadfork, planting the garlic with some added rabbit manure and not much else. My harvest was pretty nice, but the bulbs weren’t quite as huge as they COULD be:
To further spruce up this bed post harvest in July i added in more rabbit manure (i’m talking a LOT more) and further worked the soil with some growing pullets. We have a Salatin style chicken tractor that is just the right width to span across the entire bed. We started on one end, leaving the chickens in that section for a few weeks, moving down thirds and then back again – that’s a lot of chicken scratching, weeding, molting (feather meal!) and POOPING. The resultant bed was smooth, weed free, and definitely fertile. I lightly worked the bed up to loosen the upper crust and used my broadfork back and forth over the entire bed to open up the soil below slightly while still maintaining most of the natural tilth. (Over tillage is not what we’re about here on Birdsong Farm!).
Last year i planted 7 well spaced rows…. but there’s just something about an odd number of rows that drives me crazy. So, this year i did eight and had just the right amount of seed garlic saved from my July harvest to fill the whole bed. Note to self: Next year save 12 cloves Russian Red, 8-12 cloves Nootka Rose and hold the biggest hardneck cloves to finish up the 8×30 foot garlic patch.
For the actual planting, i marked my rows (one of my foot width’s apart) and used a how to dig a trough/furrow. I’m in the market for a plow style hoe – this was not the easiest. I planted about 4-6 inches deep, i think, placing the cloves blunt side down into the soil and following with about a table spoon of bone meal per clove and covering again with the soil moved out of the furrow. Once all the rows were in, ammended and covered i mulched the garden like crazy. I use oat or wheat straw…. which inevitably will grow baby oats or wheats but they’re easily pulled as they present themselves. I included a walking row down the center of my bed so that i can reach all areas – weeding garlic is essential! They do not like to compete.
You may ask – how will the garlic break out of such deep mulch? Every year i mulch heavily and every year i fear it was a bad idea and every year i’m once again reminded that it’s totally okay and, in fact, prudent. Garlic’s first shoot is a bit like an egg tooth and can break through pretty heavy mulch. We tend to get early or random frosts and that additional mulch helps keep the garlic from freezing. You want your garlic to kind of incubate under there and do the majority of its green growing in the spring. This year i’ve done an additional experiment and inoculated the southern half of the bed with a beneficial mushroom. We’ll get to eat oyster mushrooms and the garlic will have a comrade breaking down the mulch and turning it into nutrition. I can’t wait to see if i notice a difference in yield from one half to the other!
Now we wait. In February and April i will begin fertilizing the patch with liquid seaweed and blood water from butcher days. But, in the meantime – we just wait and let the garlic do its thing. I really couldn’t think of a better way to spend a gorgeous sunday than plowing up some earth and filling it with delicious potential.
Do you plant your own garlic? What’s your favorite crop to plant and harvest?