Category Archives: Growing Garlic

A Year In Growing Garlic (Part VII)

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If you planted garlic last fall, as we did, by now you should be seeing vigorous green top growth. How vigorous can depend on many things. Variety of garlic you planted, clove size that was planted and soil conditions are all major factors. If You are not seeing vigorous green growth you will probably need to add some nitrogen fertilizer to give it a boost. It is recommended that nitrogen only be given up until the time that the bulbs start forming. This article explains that bulbs start forming around the time the ground temperature reaches around 60 degrees. http://greyduckgarlic.com/Southern_Garlic_Grower_Guide.html  Another article I read said that bulbs start forming around Memorial day. That article I’m assuming was referring to growing garlic in a cooler, northern climate like ours.

This time of year it is also important to make sure that garlic is getting enough water. This year our problem has been too much water, since we have had “April showers” in January, February, March, April and the first part of May. Although our garlic has shown signs of being stressed with some yellowing of the leaves, due to too much water, we are optimistic that we will have a decent crop.

It is recommended that garlic receive 1 inch of water a week during dry periods up until about two weeks before harvest. At this time we have no intention of watering the garlic anytime soon.

Keeping garlic weeded is the other chore that needs to be done from now until harvest. “Weed early, weed often” seems to be a garlic growers mantra as I seen it written in more then one article that I’ve read about growing garlic. Last week my husband and I spent several hours on two separate days weeding the garlic. Weeding garlic is something that needs to be done by hand, especially if it is planted with several rows close together, like our is.  At this point the weeds were still small and with the ground being wet the weeds came out easily. I believe this is the reason for the “weed early” advice. As bulb formation begins making sure the garlic weed free is even more important, as garlic that is crowded by weeds or roots of weeds will produce smaller bulbs. I do expect that we will be on our hands and knees weeding the garlic a couple more times before harvest. 🙂

 

 

A Year In Growing Garlic (Part VI)Unintended Consequences

Tuesday’s warm temperatures allowed me to get into the garlic field to do some work. If you are growing your own garlic this is a job that you shouldn’t have to worry about, but I decided to write about it so that others can learn from our mistakes.

My task for the day was digging green garlic. The garlic that I was digging were not the cloves that we planted last October for harvest this July. This patch of garlic was coming up seemingly independently. What happened was when we planted last years crop, in the fall of 2015, we planted a short row of small cloves that we thought we would use as a test row to try out the potato digger that we hoped to use to harvest the garlic. That row went largely neglected (unweeded and unfertilized) last year as it was not really figured in as part of the crop that we would sell. When harvest season came the condition of the soil was so dry and hard that using the potato digger was out of the question. That short row of garlic also went unharvested.

When my husband tilled the area to prepare for the next planting those garlic plants were tilled under. It is very apparent that many of the cloves from that unharvested garlic survived the tilling, as they sprouted up along with the garlic that we planted for this years crop.

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More garlic coming up would be a good thing except that they were coming up amongst the garlic that we planted for this season. If left in place they would be too crowded which could reduce the size of the bulbs.

Needing to get rid of them, but not wanting to waste them, I decided to harvest the greens. These are referred to as green garlic. Normally to harvest green garlic I would just snip it at the base of the plant and leave the roots in place, but since I did not want this to grow back up I needed to dig it. The job was somewhat complicated by the fact that the soil was still pretty wet and therefore sticky mud, also many of the plants were growing sideways so the roots were not directly below the greens. I spent several hours Tuesday with my hands and knees in the dirt and filled up a paper shopping bag with green garlic.

When I took home the bag full of green garlic Tuesday evening I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do with them. I started by clipping all the roots off that evening. I would decide more in the morning.

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Tuesday morning I decided my next step was to clean the greens. For several reasons I decided I was not ready to send these to market. Mostly because people are not familiar with buying and using green garlic, so before market it I need to learn a little more about it myself. I need to know the best way to store them and how long the will keep. I need to experiment so I can educate others.

I expect that they will keep well for a while in the refrigerator, but they do need to be sealed in a bag to prevent the garlic smell from adulterating other foods. So I put a sealed bag of greens in the veggie drawer in the refrigerator. I’ll add some to my salad this weekend.

I then decided to see how well they would dehydrate. If they maintain their flavor they would be even better than dried chives in my opinion. Using scissors I cut them into small pieces and loaded my dehydrator. I set the temperature at 90 degrees and checked them every few hours. It probably took about six hours to completely dry them. I was quite happy with the flavor that was retained through the drying process. A word of warning for anyone who might attempt this: the dried greens are very light weight and confetti-like; the least amount of movement can make them blow around. Many of the green flakes ended up on the counter and even the floor. So move cautiously around them and DO NOT open the dehydrator when it is still running!

My sister and my aunt who stopped by while I was cleaning the green garlic were each given a bag and we talked about ways to use them. I hope to hear back from them how they used them and how well they liked them. 🙂

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I had enough to fill the dehydrator again on Thursday so I did a second batch. I’m sure my husband will agree that dehydrating garlic should come with this WARNING: Do Not Try This At Home. During the first few hours of the process the smell of garlic is over powering. We opened windows and put in a window fan blowing outward. We also agreed that in the future when we dehydrate garlic it will be done outside.

In conclusion, I highly recommend growing (and eating) green garlic, so watch for future posts about where I will be intentionally growing it. 🙂

A Year In Growing Garlic (Part V)

If you are new to reading my blog you may have missed these earlier posts, so check them out and catch up on our year in growing garlic.

https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/09/30/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-i/

https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/10/13/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-ii/

https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/10/18/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-iii/

https://donteatitsoap.com/2017/01/28/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-iv/

In my Part IV post that I wrote in January I expressed our great concerns about how well the garlic would grow in the wet conditions that we were having this past winter. The wet conditions continued pretty much throughout the winter, with only short freezing periods, and now into the spring. At this point we have learned that garlic is much more resilient that we believed it to be.

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The garlic is coming up beautifully and we are so thankful. Since it has all grown up through the straw, we will leave the straw in place to help with weed control. If the garlic had not grown through the straw we would be raking the straw away in hopes of revealing the garlic spouts.

As the ground dries and temperatures warm I expect to see vigorous green growth on the garlic. We will keep them weeded and watered as necessary and probably side dress it with nitrogen fertilizer in the spring to encourage the green growth. It is recommended that fertilizer not be given after May because at this point the bulb will be developing.

 

A Year In Growing Garlic (Part IV)

It has always been my intention to give a mid-winter garlic growing update, and I thought it would say something like this. “This time of year the garlic does not need our attention. It is dormant in the ground waiting for temperatures to warm so it can resume it’s growth cycle.” That is the way it should be.

Unfortunately, at least a far as growing garlic is concerned, we are not experiencing a normal Michigan winter where temperatures are below freezing and precipitation comes in the form of snow and stays on the ground until the warmth and sunshine of spring melts it away. Winter started out with good snowfalls coming before Christmas. In early January we had some days of single digit temperatures and wind-chills even lower, and while we were uncomfortable, I had no concerns about the garlic.  Then the weather changed, we started getting warmer days. Any snow that had accumulated melted, and any precipitation that we have gotten has come in the form of rain or freezing rain. In the past 10 days our daytime high temperatures have been above freezing and nighttime lows have only been at the freezing point on a few of those days. The sunshine has been scarce, most of the days the sky has been gray or the fog has been so thick that, even though it is not recorded as precipitation, it is certainly adding moisture to the environment. As a result the ground has been wet and muddy.

Earlier this week when we noticed water sitting on top of the ground in the isles between the garlic rows we decided to check the condition of the garlic field. It was distressing to find that the ground was completely saturated. Stepping in the garlic field resulted in sinking well above our ankles in the mud. We had great concerns about the garlic being so wet. Can it tolerate these conditions and if so for how long?  At that point we cleared the drainage routes so more water was able to run off, and we prayed that we did not lose the crop. We were encouraged when my husband pushed back some of the straw mulch and saw some green garlic shoots. A least at this point those plants are still alive.

Yesterday’s mix of rain and snow did not help matters any, but I am encouraged when I look at our 10 day forecast that shows temperatures, beginning today, only getting as high as the freezing mark on most days. I believe what we really need right now is for the ground to freeze, for the sun to shine, and for precipitation not to fall. Since we can’t control the weather we will continue to pray and realize that there is a lot of risk involved in farming.

In the mean time I have been experimenting with another way of growing and eating garlic.

Green garlic is the aerial, or above ground, part of the garlic plant. It is edible just as green onion or chives are. It is best eaten when the greens are young and tender. It definitely  has the garlic flavor when eaten raw but the flavor mellows quickly when it is cooked.

Growing green garlic can be as simple as planting some garlic cloves, give them plenty of sun and keep them watered (although not over watered) then cut the greens when they are young and tender. They will probably grow back a couple of times but eventually the plant will die off. Green garlic can be planted outdoors pretty much anytime of the year that the ground is suitable for planting. Depending on temperatures expect to see it sprouting in 4-8 weeks.

I am using a different approach to growing green garlic. I am growing green garlic indoors, in pots.

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Green Garlic Planted From Bulbils – the pot on the right has been cut and is growing back.

 

And rather than plant small cloves in the pots, I planted bulbils.

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Garlic Bulbils

Although I have read that they are not true seeds, Garlic bulbils are  produced by the garlic scape of hard neck garlic plants. If the scape is left on the plant to mature it produces a flower which then forms the bulbils. Each year we allow some scapes to mature and produce bulbils. I am certain that bulbils could be eaten just like garlic cloves except that they are covered with a tough skin that seems impossible to remove.

In the past I have planted bulbils in strategic places, as companion plants, in attempts to ward of critters . When left in the ground they act just like lilies, coming up in the spring dying off in the fall and coming back bigger the following spring. If they were dug up in the fall they would have produced a round or a single clove of garlic. If that clove is then replanted it will produce multiple cloves the following year. Depending on the variety it may take 2-5 years to produce an average size garlic bulb. Given this information you may see why I think growing green garlic is the best use for bulbils.

Green garlic is said to have the same health benefits as garlic cloves. From the plants I have growing I have chopped it and mixed it with butter to make garlic bread, I have added it to salads and chopped some to put it an omelet. Occasionally, I break off a sprig or two and just eat it. Growing your own green garlic is a great way to assure that you always have fresh, locally grown garlic on hand.

 

A Year In Growing Garlic (Part III)

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 :).

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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.

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He also set out the stakes and twine, that we would use to mark the rows, as well as our lattice planting grids.

img_1948 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.