Though March characteristically came in like a lion, it also went out like one – leaving the garlic slumbering under straw for longer than usual. About a whole month longer. But with temps in the 50s, 60s, and (today) 70s! over the last week, the bulbs-to-be got the boost they needed to make their climb toward the light. Temperatures are expected to move back into the 50s for the remainder of the week and with some nighttime temps below freezing. Still – the air has softened, the three feet of frost has thawed, and the soil is slowly beginning to warm up.
With the mild winters and early springs of recent years, I'd forgotten the challenges of mud season – how even though the snow had left and the light had changed I would need to wait to work the soil. Last month I ventured to walk the rows of the garlic beds looking for signs of growth, but one step in I lost my boot to the muck's suction – hissing at me as I wrestled my foot back to dryer land. Fortunately, the garlic is situated on high ground and in fairly well-drained soil. It's also planted in beds so that when the ground began to ooze its frozen mass the water only came to settle within the rows, and not on top of the seedbeds.
There are things garlic doesn't like - weeds, for instance, and drought - and yet the garlic plant is not easily thwarted. Spring may be late, but the garlic will move upward in spite of it. And it will also somehow catch up in the process. In fact, a number of old time northeast garlic farmers recently told me that those roaring days of March won't amount to a delay in harvest time.
Good news for a welcome spring