11 October 2010

Garlic planting

It's time to plant garlic. This year for my zone, October 12th was announced as the perfect day for planting cloves. Alas, I am not a perfectionist so I had to plant mine on the 10th when my husband was home to help keep the kids at the raspberry patch while I dug in the compost pile. Why the exact timing? So there is enough time to let the roots settle and grow but not for the shoots to break the soil surface before the first frost.

Filled with compost with room for a mulch layer. My raised beds are about 2' deep by 6' long. Plans for raised bed can be found here on Ana White's site.

I am planting garlic in the first raised bed I built. (When I can acquire more lumber, I plan to build at least four more raised beds, most to be filled with food, but my daughter will have her own for whatever strikes her fancy. My beds are 2' by 6', using 4 2x6s. This way, all the lumber you purchase is used.) I used a rake and hoe to loosen the soil beneath this bed, then dragged it into place. I placed 3 inches of composted hay in the bottom of this planter, then 6 inches of compost, which compacted the hay. Within a week I plan to stake two corners of the raised bed, but I haven't had the time to cut the stakes yet.

My garlic cloves should remain toasty enough this winter under their blanket of pine needles.
I planted 17 garlic cloves evenly spaced in the raised bed about 7" apart. I'm trying a California softneck variety this year. I pushed each clove 1 inch below the soil surface then sprinkled an additional generous inch of compost on top.  Because garlic is a spring crop that overwinters, it likes a good coat of mulch. Leaf mulches are the most popular for garlic but we don't have a system for mulching leaves. One popular method of making a leaf mulch is to fill a rubber trash can with raked leaves and then insert your weed whacker (like an immersion blender) and give them a good chopping. One day I plan to do that, but for now I simply raked some of the needles from our big white pine and mulched with a generous 4 inches. I know that pine needles are acidic but my organic gardening books tout it as an excellent mulch for most things because it breaks down so slowly. The waxy coating on the needles helps the soil beneath it retain moisture while the needles themselves do not absorb much moisture. They do a great job of keeping down weeds and I happen to like the look of them. Pine needles make a good blanket for winter crops like garlic so I'm testing this all out and keeping my fingers crossed for some delicious spring garlic.

Uh, oh! Didn't count on the appeal for local wildlife to climb in! Better add a layer of chicken wire across the top.
As long as I can keep critters out of my raised beds I hope for some delicious home grown spring garlic. I hope to count 17 sets of scapes curling out of their winter dormancy come May or June. I use garlic scapes in soups, potatoes and omelets. I place them in a vase to enjoy their wild green beauty and pluck them out at will. My children prefer the quick access because they like to nibble on them. My favorite website for garlic planting information in cooler zones is Boundary Garlic Farm.

Garlic scapes in a Ball jar awaiting their fate.

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