On Thursday as we continued to prepare for planting we made a couple of “executive” (meaning my husband and I agreed) decisions. The first one is that we will not plant Spanish Roja garlic this year. We decided this because this variety does not store well and thus does not meet the standards that we have set. It seems to start going bad within three months of harvest even when properly stored, while the other varieties will remain fresh for 5 or more months when properly stored. The second decision we made is that the chickens would stay inside the chicken yard while we were planting.
While the chickens have a large penned area, most days we leave the gate open and they are free to roam our farm. We know all too well that when our chickens spot freshly tilled soil or straw piles it is a free-for-all, they scratch and peck and then nestle their whole bodies into the soil or straw without a care for what they may be destroying. So for the next few days, until we are done planting, and mulching with straw, and the straw hopefully gets rained on and matted down so it is less appealing to the chickens, we will keep the chickens in their pen, and save ourselves a lot of grief.
WARNING: If a garlic farmer ever asks you if you want to “get down and dirty”, participate in “grounding or earthing” https://draxe.com/earthing/ , or “play in the dirt”, they may be trying to recruit you to plant garlic :).
Friday October 14th was, as I like to say when we are about to start a big project, “Game On”.
The job started with my husband tilling up the garlic bed in the morning. The soil was very loose, with no big clumps like we have dealt with in past years and very few rocks. What a blessing this was.
He also set out the stakes and twine, that we would use to mark the rows, as well as our lattice planting grids.
In past years we have used one 8×2 foot piece of lattice to make our four rows. We plant in the rows that had four spaces across this gives us 64 cloves in the ground and then we pick up the lattice and place it in the next (8×2 foot) space in the row. This year we purchased 2 more 8×2 foot pieces of lattice. We placed them end to end in the row and were able to plant 192 cloves before getting up to move the lattice. We found that each row would accommodate eight, 8 foot, lengths of lattice, so our 64 feet long rows contain 512 garlic plants.
We each started out with a bucket full of garlic cloves, our planting stick which we use to make the hole that the clove is planted in, and a foam kneeling pad. Although the foam kneeling pads were comfortable, we abandoned them early on as the soil was soft enough that the kneeling pads were not necessary. I suspect they also would have negated any positive effects we attained from grounding.
Using our planting sticks we poke a hole about 4 inches deep in the soil and then place a clove in the hole. The clove must be planted root side down/ pointy side up and this is the reason we are on our hand and knees in the dirt planting each clove with TLC. My husband eventually realized that the soil was loose enough, this year, that he could simply push the clove deep enough into the soil without using the stick to make a hole first.
After each of the lattice sections were planted, while my husband moved them to the next section in the row, I cover each planted clove with soil. Since the soil was loose and not clumpy this was done by simple running the back of a garden rake over the area.
It took us an average of 45 minutes to plant one 64 foot row or 512 cloves of garlic. On Friday we planted Red Toch and S&H Silver and ended with 3 full rows and partial row planted. On Saturday we planted Music and Chesnok Red and at this point we have 7 1/2 rows or 3840 cloves planted. With the 20 lbs. of Chesnok Red that are arrived today, and will hopefully be planted tomorrow, we should end up with somewhere in the area of 5000 garlic planted this year.
Once the planting was done on Saturday we mulched all of the rows with a thick layer of straw. It took one bale of straw per row. Over the winter the mulch will insulate the ground and protect the cloves from extreme temperatures. The rain we got on Sunday weighed down the straw so it will not blow away. My husband also ran several rows of twine around the whole area close to the ground. This will keep the dogs out of the area and hopefully the chickens as well.
My husband and I agree that garlic planting this year has seemed easier than in any of the previous years. Continually amending the soil and some tweaks to our process are really paying off.