Our garlic harvest started this morning. In case you are not a regular reader I have posted the links for the series I did last October about planting the garlic.
I’ll admit I had concerns about the garlic throughout the winter but my husband continually reassured me that the garlic would be fine. The garlic sprouted before the freeze ever came and then winter brought continual freeze and thaw cycles. The young leaves on the garlic were frost bit. In spring the garlic was already growing up through the straw mulch so there was no need to pull the straw away. We did give it a small dose of fertilizer.
The month of June was very dry and required much watering along with weeding of the garlic.
While watering the plants I began noticing that some of the plants seemed substantially bigger than in past years. The last watering was done during the last week of June since it is recommended to stop watering two weeks before harvesting.
Like with last falls planting we saw no need to do marathon harvest. We decided to harvest one variety at a time.
The rains that finally arrived last week, and brought our ground moisture levels much closer to normal, were such a blessing. We were able to take a break from watering crops and actually took much of the weekend off. The moisture also softened up the ground so digging would be easier. On Friday I decided that we would begin digging the Red Toch garlic on Monday morning.
Kara (my daughter who recently graduated from college and needed some summer work)and I began this project around 9:00 A.M.
This is my tool of choice for digging garlic. The long narrow blade is perfect for loosening the soil close to the individual plants and digging deep enough to loosen the roots. The handle is also at a comfortable height for me.
We worked as a team, while I loosened the soil around the plants, Kara picked them up and shook up the extra soil.
I was immediately amazed at the size of the bulbs. We both used phrases like “Wow “or “Look at that!” or “WOW!” several times. “Some of these are the size of small apples” I told her. Truthfully I believe that at least 90% of the bulbs we dug today were as big or bigger than the original seed garlic that I purchased 4 years ago.
We stacked the garlic in trays to carry to todays outdoor drying station.
We placed them on tarps and layered them so the bulb parts were exposed to the air, the purpose being to allow the rest of the soil that is stuck to them to dry so it can be brushed off. Todays cloudy skies also proved to be a blessing, because while I wanted the bulbs exposed to air I did not want them baking in the hot sun.
Guess who showed up to help. Kara, who was not fond of all the worms and spiders she was seeing, was happy to see this girl.
I don’t have an exact count, but there are somewhere between 800 and 900 hundred garlic plants that we dug this morning. It took us about two hours to get this much done. Once the soil dries and can be brushed from the bulbs they will be moved to indoor drying shelves for the next two to four weeks where the bulbs will continue to dry or cure.
While I am super excited about this bountiful harvest, I am assessing the growing season to determine what factors contributed. The first thing we did differently was change the location of the garlic bed. This plot, which in previous years had served as our main garden, was tilled last summer and then seeded with clover as a cover crop. Throughout the summer as the clover would grow up we would mow it down before it could go to seed. Just days before we planted garlic last fall the clover was tilled under. The soil in this plot was much more of a loam than a clay compared to our previous garlic beds. The drainage in this area was also very good. The straw mulch aided in keeping the weeds down. For this particular variety the warmer winter temperatures were probably beneficial as Red Toch is a soft neck garlic, and soft neck garlic are normally grown in the south or in warmer climates. I am certain that the early fertilizer as well as the watering and weeding throughout the month of June aided in the growth, but I also remember the simple prayer that we said after we planted our garlic last fall. “Lord please bless our efforts.”
Yes, I am sure that each of these factors has played a roll in producing such a extraordinary crop, and even though the entire crop is not yet harvested, our prayer today is, “Thank You, Lord”.