Thank you to Michelle Sutton and Larry Decker for such a wonderful article. Now out in the September 2015 issue of the Chronogram.
The garlic was cracked and planted. Thanks to all who helped! Dry kelp was spread over the beds. Then straw mulch. Finished up yesterday just in time for the first dusting of snow.
A special thanks to Vito for crafting what can only be described as the most useful and amazing garlic sowing machine ever. It's a dibbler, a vibbler, a vitolater. It's an awesome planting tool that made getting 25,000 head into the ground a realizable goal.
Thanks to everyone who helped in what looks to be a great 2014 harvest - Laura, Lily, Serena, Mom, Cassandra, Jeanne and Mick.
Thank you to the many restaurateurs and market owners who purchased our tender, delicious and, ultimately, fleeting garlic scapes. Such a pleasure to snip, collect, and see them off - it's been a satisfying two weeks.
Yesterday marked the summer solstice which means that as the days get shorter the garlic will respond by putting all its energy into staying alive. With the scapes gone, the garlic knows that its next best chance at survival is to create as large and robust bulbs as possible.
Looking forward to a great harvest.
In the 1870's S.L. Allen & Company began manufacturing lightweight multipurpose tools small scale farmers could push. The most common was the wheel hoe - specifically, the Planet Jr. - which had all kinds of devices geared toward making growing easier.
All of this changed with a move away from small-scale farming. By the early 20th century crop-growers had largely abandoned The Planet Jr. in favor of gasoline powered tractors. The Planet Jr. remained popular with home gardeners up and through WWII, but they, too, eventually tossed them aside for less green tilling machines.
Though the wonders of the wheel hoe seem forgotten, a few companies now make modern versions of the Planet Jr. Mine's from Valley Oak Tool Company in California - a fabulous tool. I couldn't manage garlic growing without it.
With the hiller and furrower attachments, I created eight garlic beds, each 24' x 130'. (Ok, no small feat, but satisfying.) The tine cultivator attachment worked great for incorporating kelp meal pre-planting. With the wide hoe attachment I've been able to keep up with the weeds growing between the beds without the hard work of a hand held stirrup hoe or the waste of firing up a tractor. It's also made my life in the vegetable garden a whole lot easier. What more can I say?
I love my wheel hoe.
A few weeks ago I thought of George Jetson twice. First, when I was giving a green burial lecture via SKYPE, a thoroughly interactive and rich experience. Second, when I strapped on my backpack sprayer to fertilize the garlic.
Sometime during the winter I had this vision of donning my pack, jetting through the rows, and magically greening up the garlic. Tinkerbell like, sprayer wand in hand, I was convinced this was the fertilizing method I'd long been searching for. And it might have been if I'd planted a lot less garlic. But with its four gallon tank and weak stream it would have taken me weeks to get the job done. Because fertilization should optimally cease by mid-May, I knew I would need to find another method.
Liquid fertilizer is easier to apply than side dressing which would require removal of the much coveted straw mulch that is doing such a great job at keeping down the weeds. I use a liquid fish and kelp emulsion, a blend that works well as both a root and foliar feed. As liquid fertilizer is concentrated it needs water for application, so I got back down to basics. I fastened an end sprayer to my garden hose, filled it up with fertilizer, and finished within a day's work.
It's been a cool, wet spring and though the fertilizer gives the garlic a nice boost during its early growth, it didn't actually need the extra water. Next year, I may try pulling back some of the straw after all, and let nature do the work by side dressing with dry kelp before a good and gentle rain.
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