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Friday Favorite: Garlic Harvest

September 4th, 2015

There’s something about harvesting things that are buried underground. It’s like a treasure hunt. You never know quite what to expect when you plunge the spade into the ground.
garlic mulch
This year was especially exciting because I followed a friend’s advice. Susan from Moonlight Mile Herb farm mulches her garlic with litter from her chickens coops in the spring. She spreads it right on, straight from the coop. It’s always claimed that this should NEVER be done, because chicken manure it way too hot to put directly on crops. Let me me tell you, it’s the perfect mulch for garlic!
harvesting garlic 2
The chicken litter mulch provided some of the best moisture retention I’ve ever had with mulch. The fertilization was perfect as well. My garlic is AMAZING this year!
harvesting garlic 1
Another benefit is that the chicken litter kept the weeds from germinating as well, perhaps it heated up the soil enough for them to germinate under the mulch? You can bet I’ll continue using this method for years to come. I’ll also be experimenting with using fresh chicken litter on other crops (nothing that gets eaten raw within 3 months of application though).

What’s your favorite crop to harvest?

A Sunny Afternoon

October 30th, 2013

Yesterday afternoon was a lovely time in the garden. The night before it was cold, down in the mid 20’s – BRRRR. The chicken water was frozen and I needed a hat and boots to stay warm during my morning chores. That afternoon it was very pleasant, around 50 degrees and sunny, the perfect day for planting garlic.
Planting Garlic 3
Planting Garlic 5
The Sweets though so too, she was out helping me plant garlic all afternoon. She rubbed on my legs, stole cloves of garlic to bat around and searched for moles and voles.
Planting Garlic 2
I soaked the garlic overnight in liquid kelp, drained it and let it sit overnight again. It was raining on Monday when I planned on planting it. When I started placing the closed in the ground I was amazed to see that they were all developing roots, exactly why soaking in kelp is a good idea. It gets them off to a strong start right away, these guys will have a strong set of roots to get them through winter.
Planting Garlic 4
Loads of garlic went in the ground. I planted 8 different varieties and ended up with three 55 foot long rows of garlic.
Planting Garlic 1
This year I also saved all the small cloves and planted them close together, next spring/early summer I’ll harvest them as garlic scallions. I’m not sure where I heard about this, but I thought it was a great idea.

Are you planting garlic this year?

Garlic Planting Guide

October 23rd, 2013

Along with spring flowering bulbs, fall is the time to plant garlic for next summer’s harvest. If you didn’t check the blog last week, today is the last day to enter the Garlic Giveaway from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply (aka there’s still time to enter if you haven’t already, head on over to this post.

garlic growing guide
What kind of garlic should I plant?
As a general rule, northern gardeners in cold climates should grow hardneck varieties, southern gardeners in warmer climates should grow softneck varieties. That being said, experiment, try both types and different varieties of each to see what grows best in your particular area. It is reported that soft neck garlic stores longer than hardneck varieties, that might be enough of a benefit to try growing them in more northern climates. (softneck varieties to not have scapes and are also known as braiding garlic, hardneck varieties will produce scapes and have tough inner stalks that do not allow braiding, they produce scapes in early summer which can be harvested and eaten)

garlic and onion harvest

Where should I get my seed garlic?
I would recommend not using garlic purchased at the grocery store, as some or all of it may be treated to inhibit sprouting. Most likely, it will not the right variety for your climate/region. It’s also grown for it’s storage/shipping traits rather than for flavor. When possible, source your seed garlic from your area/region. The local farmers market is often the best place to find varieties that do well in your area. If you cannot find local seed garlic, locate a seller that is in your same longitude. That being said, don’t be afraid to try new and interesting cultivars to find one that works best with your climate and one that suites your personal taste.

Once you grow garlic in your garden, you can save seed garlic from your harvest as long as you haven’t had issues with disease. These will generally be best suited to your climate/garden as they acclimate to your specific conditions over a few years. Choose the best bulbs from your harvest for replanting.

garlic_harvest 3

When do I plant garlic?
As a general rule, you want to plant garlic three to five weeks before the ground freezes. In general, October is a good month in most US zones to plant garlic, unless you live in an area that expects a lot of heat during this month. Don’t plant your garlic too soon or it will sprout too much and the leaves may be damaged during the winter. If you plant too late, it won’t have enough time to develop sufficient roots to get it through the winter.

garlic_harvest 1

How far apart should I space my garlic?
There really is no hard and fast rule, numerous studies have shown that garlic planted closer together actually increases yield but it decreases clove size. I generally follow the guidelines from The Complete Book of Garlic and plant bulbs 4-5 inches apart in the rows with 10 inches between rows. My harvests have always been very good using this spacing method. However, if your soil is very lean and dry, you might want to space a little farther apart.


How do I plant garlic?
After trials in my garden, I recommend using the kelp bath before for planting garlic. Break apart the heads carefully keeping the paper sheath around each close intact. Plant only plump healthy looking bulbs (eat the ones that don’t look great). Soak cloves overnight in a mix of: 1 gallon of water + 1 heaping Tablespoon of baking soda + 1 Tablespoon of fish emulsion or liquid kelp. Results have shown this increases yield and decreases risk of disease & pests.

Prepare soil fairly deeply, garlic will sends roots down 18-24 inches. Lay out a grid and make dibble holes at the spacing you plan on using. Planting depth is determined by winter temperatures. Severe winter areas should be planted roughly 4 inches deep and mulched well. In warmer regions planting is generally 2 inches deep with mulch on top of that. Don’t worry too much about getting this exact, garlic is very forgiving. Try varying the depth a little and keep track of which depth produces best in your garden.

Garlic_in_spring 2

Should I fertilize?
The fertilization needs of garlic will depends on your soil and climate. In general, you should add compost and aged manure to your garlic bed in the fall when you prepare the soil for planting. In the spring, when the ground is still cold (generally late March/April) watering with fish or kelp emulsion every 2 weeks for a month or so will give bulbs a boost. Fertilizing too much might result in lots of leaves and smaller bulbs or bulbs that don’t store as long or large bulbs that don’t keep well. Do not fertilize close to harvest.

garlic combo Giveaway 1
Should I mulch my garlic?
Yes, I would definitely recommend adding a good layer of mulch to your garlic bed in the early winter. You probably will want to leave the mulch off of the bed until the ground is cold, adding mulch too early may prevent the freezing of the soil which will make your bulbs grow leaves prematurely. Also, do not remove the mulch too early in spring as a late spring freeze may then be detrimental to the bulbs. I find chopped fall leaves to be the perfect mulch for garlic.

Do you have any questions about planting garlic? Any great tips and tricks you’ve developed in your garden?

Want to know all more? Both of these books are phenomenal reads if you want to know all there is to know about garlic.

Garlic Giveaway

October 17th, 2013

It’s that time of year to start thinking about planting garlic. Mine is going to be planted where the sweet potatoes were this summer. I plan on planting a lot of garlic, loads and loads of it. I never seem to have enough and I like giving it away as well. We eat a lot ourselves and I feed it to the chickens and the dogs every now and again.
garlic harvest 2012 2
Last year I did a giveaway thanks to Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply (also known as, a company that my parents have been purchasing from since I was a kid. I’m more than happy to get a great prize for one of you while helping spread the word about this great company!  Peaceful Valley also has a in depth weekly newsletter with loads of how-to videos and lots of useful information.  They’re also on facebook if you want to keep up with their sales.
garlic combo Giveaway 3
The garlic giveaway special will feature: a Garlic Combo collection, a quart of liquid kelp and plant labels. The garlic combo pack contains: 1 head of Elephant (conventional), 3 heads of California Early White (organic softneck), 3 heads of Music (organic hardneck), 3 heads of Russian Red (organic hardneck), 3 sets of French Red Shallots (organic).
garlic combo Giveaway 1
So why the liquid kelp?  Garlic bulbs do better when soaked in liquid kelp before planting.  It gives them the boost they need to get a strong root system going before winter arrives in earnest.  The plant labels were included because I have a very bad habit of never labeling my garden plants, particularly the garlic.  As a result I have different kinds of homegrown garlic in my pantry but I don’t know which is which.  The labels should help you keep things organized!
garlic combo Giveaway 2
If you’ve never grown garlic before, don’t worry. I’ll have a garlic growing guide up on the blog next week.  Deadline to enter is Wednesday, October 23 at midnight. Winner has been chosen via – #72 – Matt who said, “I’ve loved garlic all my life.. Now I’m starting my own Back to Eden style garden and of course plan garlic to be part of it.”

How do you enter this giveaway?  Tell me what’s your favorite way to use garlic in the kitchen?

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Neat and Tidy

November 15th, 2012

I’m a big fan of the traditional rowed vegetable garden, perhaps it’s my inner tendency to OCD rearing it’s head. Usually, I try not to be too crazy about spacing, though I do like to use my square foot gardening templates to keep things neat. When you’re doing long rows of vegetables it can be tough to keep those rows straight.

Earlier this fall, I purchased a seed bed preparation rake from Johnny’s Seeds along with the little pieces of tubing for row marking. I must say, I LOVE THIS TOOL. It’s super wide, thus allowing me to prepare a large area very quickly. I also love the little plastic tubes, they can be put on different tines depending on the spacing you want.

This tool makes seeding an entire bed while keeping the lines straight go very quickly. I’m really looking forward to using this in the spring for nice rows of beets, carrots, and lettuce! Although my grandpa always did say, “You can fit more in a crooked row.”

When it comes to the vegetable garden, do you like neat straight rows or do you like things a little more natural?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.