Sunday, October 31, 2010

Garlic 101

We had a great response to the garlic we grew this year so we thought we'd grow a little bit more for the 2011 season. The trick up here of course is to catch a dry day(s) to get the soil prepped for planting. As noted in every gardening, hobby farm, and trade magazines at this time of year, one thing is absolutely undeniable . . . plant the tips up. After that, it's experience on your piece of land that's going to tell you what types, to mulch or not to mulch, 3, 4, 0r 5 line, and 4, 5, 0r 6 inch spacing in line, fertilizer types, the list goes on. And then you get to play with all the different seed sources. We went with a local grower, Northwest Organic Farm up in Ridgefield, WA for three varieties: Purple Glazer (20 lbs), Chesnok Red (15 lbs), and Shandong (4lbs). It was great to meet with Greg and Joyce to hear how they approach growing their varieties out each year. I also ordered a few varieties from Peaceful Valley: Metechi, Bogatyr, Spansish Roja, and German Red (3 lbs each), Russian Red (6lbs), Music (8lbs), and Dujansky (10 lbs). I also managed to salvage a couple pounds of my own Music, Chesnok Red, and German White. The common theme amongst all varieties, they are all Hardnecks, meaning they'll all produce a flower stalk, or scape, which will be snapped off in the Spring and sauteed in butter, or sold to a chef who will do something very similar. I had a lot of time to read this past June, while we were getting record rains, and managed to get through most of Growing Great Garlic for some great history and sage advice on things to consider while growing garlic. #1, don't get too big too quickly. It is really easy to look at all the seed sources and get excited about all the potential varieties that are out there. In the end though, it is obvious that while growing garlic out into a mature bulb takes a lot of good planning and attention, it is just as important to have enough space to cure the cloves down properly so the true flavor of each variety can really stand out. So begins our adventure with a few different varieties. In the end we'll have planted about 9, 100 foot beds of garlic, some on 3 line, some on 4, one on 5 (why not) and one dry farmed. The photo is Jason prepping a raised bed with the Berta Rotary Plow. The movie is not, but just in case you wanted some Italian instructions on how to use it . . . Happy November.