Sunday, October 11, 2009

Time to Plant Garlic!

There's a definite chill in the air. Actually it seems like it's been here since July--did we HAVE summer this year?? Looking back on the garden season there were certainly highs and lows. The peas were wonderful, and we're still eating carrots and parsnips from our garden bags. And the fairy squash were as prolific as usual. Last week I finally pulled out the pathetic remnants of our tomato plants, along with the barren eggplants and monster ground cherries. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat! But one of the really great things about gardening is that one can always find solace in the crops yet to come. The drop in temperature means it's time to plant one of my favorite crops: garlic! The raised bed that for the most part gave us next to nothing this summer will (hopefully) produce lots of garlic for next year!

Garlic likes nice fluffy, well-fertilized, loamy soil. To prepare the bed I made sure there were no weeds, and added some basic organic fertilizer, lime, and a bit of compost. Since our raised beds are pretty well-established the soil is really nice and light. I turned the amendments into the soil, and then covered the bed with black landscape fabric. The fabric not only keeps weeds to a minimum, but it seems to give our garlic a head start in the spring because of the extra warmth it gives to the soil. Next, cut some "X's" into the fabric about 4-6" apart. Plant the biggest, fattest cloves you have, pointy-side-up, about 2" down in the soil, one clove per "X". Prior to planting I put each clove on top of its "X" so I don't lose track while I'm planting. Remember, the bigger the clove, the bigger the head of garlic you'll get from it next year!

One thing that's really hit me since I started growing vegetables is just how narrow the supermarket offers are. Buying garlic at the supermarket is simple: what's in that little bin in the produce section is pretty much your one-and-only choice. The only decision-making necessary is whether to buy garlic or not. Deciding which garlic variety to grow from the seed catalogs is another experience entirely! For true garlic connoisseurs there are seemingly infinite varieties to choose from. Over the years I've narrowed my ultimate favorite down to one: Music. It's a hardnecked garlic, which means come early June you'll get a preview harvest of scapes. It has a great garlic flavor, but best-of-all, it makes great big heads with great big cloves that are easy to peel. (And since they're big, you don't need to peel as many of them!) Whichever varieties you choose, you'll be glad you chose to grow your own. Garlic is one of the most satisfying crops I've ever grown, and once you've tasted fresh garlic you'll never go back to the generic stuff in the supermarket!

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