Monday, July 16, 2012

Garlic Growing Results

Now that I have finally harvested the last of the garlic, I wanted to write a post detailing the process we used and the things that we learned. This was actually our second time growing garlic, although the previous year our results were very bad because we let the weeds overtake it and didn't remove the scapes until much later than we should have.

This year we planted 5 varieties of garlic, which are listed below. We planted on October, 30th. Since we were planting in soil that had been dormant for quite some time, and since the soil was dark and crumbly, we chose not to add any compost or other amendments. We simply tilled the existing topsoil to a depth of approximately 4-6 inches deep. I prepared an area that was 4ft wide by 10ft long, but we only needed around 5 to 6 feet of the length. The garlic that we planted was purchased from Enon Valley Garlic, of Enon Valley, Pennsylvania.  I suspect that I'll be buying from them again at this years Mother Earth News Fair, making it 3 years I've bought from them. We spaced our plantings approximately 6 inches, then covered with soil. Once everything was planted, we watered and mulched with straw.

Garlic Varieties Planted

  • Russian Giant - A hardneck variety that matures late. This is my first experience with this type.
  • Symphony - A softneck variety that matures early. This is my first experience with this type.
  • Bogatyr - A hardneck variety with a mid-late maturity. This is my first experience with this type.
  • Tochliavri - Also known as Red Toch. A softneck variety that matures early. This is our 2nd year planting this type. 
  • Stull - A hardneck variety with a mid-late maturity. This is our 2nd year planting this type. I'm especially fond of this variety.

Once the garlic was planted, we did nothing more until Spring. Once Spring rolled around we had to weed a few times, which is not something that we kept up with as well as we should have. The straw mulch helped to keep the weeds down pretty well, but weeding was still necessary. Towards the end we didn't give the garlic the attention it needed, and allowed the weeds to start crowding the garlic. We also harvested scapes from the hardneck varieties. We need a much better job this year of harvesting the scapes at the right time. I experimented with different ways of eating the scapes. I cut them up in pasta, cut them up in breakfast burritos, and even made some garlic scape and sunflower seed pesto. The scapes are certainly an added benefit of the hardneck varieties.

We did water the garlic several times throughout the Spring and early Summer. We were not following any specific guidelines for watering, so the amount and frequency with which we watered was likely inconsistent. This is something we need to work on for next year. I do know that we let the ground dry out too much at one point, as the ground was so hard when I tried harvesting that I had a hard time digging in it.

Unfortunately I just realized that my record keeping this year was not as good as I had planned. I do not have exact harvesting dates for the different varieties, and also did not record the yield. This is another area that we need to work on improving for next year. I did record that on 6/25 we harvested the Tochliavri. I believe that the Symphony was harvested shortly after that. The Stull and Bogatyr were harvested the first week of July, I think. I do know that the Russian Giant was harvested on 7/13.

In total we planted 43 cloves of garlic: 6 each of the Russian Giant, Symphony, and Bogatyr, 14 Tochliavri, and 11 Stull. I'm confident that our yield was better than 90%, but I don't know the exact numbers. I also did not weigh the yield, so can't compare it to the weight of what was originally purchased. Since I ate some of the initial purchase, rather than planting, the weight would not have been a good comparison anyway.

Overall I'm fairly happy with our results, although I don't think that we'll try to save any for planting next year. We're still probably at least a year or two away from producing garlic that I'd be comfortable planting. The Russian Giant seemed to have done the best. The plants looked better than the others throughout the entire process, and the harvested bulbs were the biggest. Of course the bulbs were expected to be bigger than the others, as that is the norm for the variety. Its too bad that I waited too late to harvest the Russian Giant. It is still going to be usable, but the cloves are splitting apart and the outside paper is mostly gone. It will need to be used up quickly, because I do not think it will last very long.

As the garlic was harvested, we tied it into group of 6 or so, and hung it to dry. We do not have a great place to dry garlic, but its better than what we had available last year. I have it hanging from the rafters of the shed where we park the RTV. The shed is open on 3 sides, but I have it hanging near the one enclosed side and high enough that it is reasonably well protected from any blowing rain. I did not bother hanging the Russian Giant, since I know it needs to either be eaten quickly, or used in some other way.

After the Russian Giant, I will likely eat the Stull next as the information I have found indicates it does not store as well as the others. After the Stull I'll likely finish off the hardnecks by eating the Bogatyr. By the time I start on the softnecks I'll probably just see which are looking best, and eat the others. Since I planted far fewer Symphony, I may go ahead and eat those first if both types seem to be in similar condition.

I'm not sure how long to expect the garlic to last me. Sometimes I eat quiet a bit, during which times I'll easily go through a bulb per week. Other times I don't each as much, especially if I am not eating a lot of pasta during that period. I suspect that quite a bit of it will end up going into pesto, since we have lots of basil in the herb garden. We may very well use up a lot of the Russian Giant this way.

All in all I'm pleased with how the garlic turned out considering this was only our second attempt. I have high hopes for next year. Between now and planting season I hope to have read both of the new garlic book that I purchased. In September we'll attend the Mother Earth News Fair, where I'll likely buy at least a pound of garlic from Enon Valley Garlic. If there are varieties that I particularly want to try that they do not have, I may try ordering that variety from another source, provided they aren't sold out since it will be getting late in the season.

If I can get some manure soon, I'd like to pick out a spot for next year's garlic crop and go ahead and do some sheet composting of that area. Failing that, I hope to at least apply some compost before planting, especially since I had the problem this year of the soil drying up and getting hard. Besides that, my main goals for next year are to better plan the varieties I plant, so we have fresh garlic available over a period of several weeks, while also having garlic that will store for a variety of time. I hope to keep better records as well, specifically regarding the weight of what is planted as well as the weight and count of the harvested garlic. Lastly, I hope to blog about this next crop throughout the process, rather than waiting until after harvest and blogging and doing it all at once.

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