Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Garlic Planting - 2012

Now that the garlic is in the ground, I wanted to do an in depth post on the process I used for both prep and planting. I am trying to keep fairly detailed records this year, so that I can develop a baseline. Last year I was fairly happy with the garlic crop, but had no way of quantifying the results.

The garlic that I planted was purchased in September at the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs Pennsylvania. I purchased the garlic from three different suppliers, Enon Valley Garlic, Lambert Mountain Acres, and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. My prep work, however, began prior to attending the fair. Since I knew I would be buying garlic there, I did my research beforehand and made a list of the varieties I wanted to try. The list contained 5 primary types I wanted to purchase, as well as some alternatives in case I wasn't able to find the varieties I wanted. I was glad to have the list, especially since a couple of my most desired varieties, Spanish Roja and Stull, were not available.

During the month of October I worked, sporadically, on getting the garden tilled and ready for planting. Once that was done, we chose a spot for the garlic that was on the opposite side of the garden from where we planted it last year. Last year we planted in 4' wide beds, which were a bit too wide, so this year we decided to go with 3' wide beds. We used flour to mark off the boundaries of the  3'x30' bed, leaving a 12' path on all sides, and then I spread a couple of inches of compost over the area. After letting the compost sit for a few days I used a tiller to incorporate it into the soil, and then let it sit for a few more days.

I planted on November 6th, which was a couple weeks later than I wanted. We have already seen temperatures drop below freezing, but the forecast is calling for some days with high temperatures in the 60s over the coming week, which I hope will be enough to stimulate growth in the newly planted garlic. Another concern that I have is that the soil was cool and damp when I planted, which is not the idea condition. It would have been better if I had waited another day or two, and planted during the day instead of the evening. The weather forecast was calling for rain, though, so I was afraid to wait any longer. Only time will tell if this was a mistake or not.

Earlier in the day, before planting, I separated the cloves and chose the ones to plant. There were several of each variety that I chose not to plant for various reasons, such as size or condition. After separating the cloves, I took a final count and weight of each. I will do the same when I harvest, and then compare the numbers to get a baseline on success rate.

Quantity and Weight by Variety

Korean Red - 30 - 7.1oz
Tochliavri - 8 - 2.1oz
Inchelium Red - 13 - 2.3oz
Polish White - 31 - 4.1oz
Silver Rose - 17 - 2.0oz

Of the garlic I planted, I have previous experience only with the Tochliavri, which I've planted twice previously. I tested the Korean Red while prepping, and was very pleased with the strong flavor, so am looking forward to have that variety in quantity.

Before planting the garlic I used a garden rake to smooth out the soil. I would like to purchase a bed preparation rake, such as this one, but for now the garden rake is sufficient. Next I used a tape measure to determine the position of my first row, then laid a yard stick across the bed to help me determine spacing. My plan was to use 9" spacing, because I felt that the 6" spacing we used last year wasn't quite enough. I think I ended up with closer to 12" spacing between rows, however, which is fine since I had enough room to get everything planted.

I used a spade to dig a hole a couple of inches deep for each clove. The soil was loose enough that I could have dug the holes by hand, but the extra reach of the spade was helpful on the holes on the far side of the bed. Using the spade also helped to keep my hands mostly out of the cool, damp, soil, which was good since I was getting cold enough from kneeling on it. I planted 4 cloves in each row, and marked the first row of each variety with a labeled marker.

After planting all 99 cloves of garlic, I made 4 shallow furrows across the remaining bed into which I sowed some garlic seeds, of an unknown variety, I had purchased from eBay. This is my first experience with garlic seeds, and is more of an experiment than anything. I spaced the seeds out approximately 2" in the first three rows, then spread them more thickly in the last. My hope is that I will get some garlic scallions from the seeds. I only paid a couple of dollars for them, so even if I get nothing from them I will consider it a good lesson.

All in all i am happy with the way everything went. I do wish I had been able to plant earlier, but I'm fairly confident that the results will at least be better than last year's. I still need to mulch, which I'll try to do within the next few days. After that there isn't much to do until Spring, when I'll need to start weeding. I suspect that being vigilant about weed removal is likely to be the biggest thing I can do to ensure a successful crop this year.

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