Thursday, August 12, 2010

Garlic!


Can't really say enough about this wonderful crop - it should be a part of every homesteader's garden (and probably you backyard gardeners!) - here's why it works on our farm:

1. You plant in the fall. So when you have more time, and the regular garden is starting to fade and you are already dreaming of Spring, you get to farm! We usually plant in October, perhaps later than the catalogs recommend, but around here we still get pretty warm Septembers and I don't want the cloves sending up shoots above ground.

Plant cloves like a bulb; you should get 6-10 from each seed head. 3 inches down usually does it - but we cover with a good layer of straw for insulation and weed suppression. If you don't, I would plant a little deeper.

2. It is pretty tolerant and not a fussy crop. It will tolerate mediocre soil, although adding nice mulch insures bigger bulbs...and it can be planted pretty close so it doesn't take a lot of room for the yield. Just allow enough room for each clove to expand to a 4" diameter bulb.

3. Two crops in one. We plant a hardneck variety that "flowers" around June. The flower is the scape; a curly stem that looks much like a pig's tail and is about the same diameter. You pick scapes when they have just made it around in one loop. Removing them is a must, or the final bulb is much smaller. The scapes make an excellent item for the market, as well as the main ingredient in scape pesto which we freeze for the winter.

The garlic is typically harvested about a month later, when the leaves start to yellow. We save the biggest bulbs for seed for the following year, it always sells well as a market item, we use it in CSA shares, for our cooking, and even the smaller bulbs get put to use. Garlic is part of practically every cuisine on the planet, and has been a part of mankind's spice rack and medicine cabinet for centuries.

4. Good for everyone. What the humans don't consume, the farm critters do. We chop smaller cloves up for the poultry once or twice a summer. On a day when we are feeding some other scraps, we mix in the garlic and they love it. Good for their systems!

We also use garlic as part of our organic plan for parasite control for the ruminants. In the Spring, and again in the Fall, we feed each animal a clove or two for three straight days to rid their systems of any heavy worm load. The Fall application is followed with as many pumpkins as they want since the seeds are also part of the worm reduction, and they love pumpkins...We have tested at zero in our latest fecal samples!

5. Sustainability. Since we save our seed for the next year, it becomes part of the cycle of the farm that requires minimal new input. (We only have had to buy new seed once since the original investment - we wanted much more than I had been able to save). Also, being a member of the allium family, the plant has antiseptic properties that help to cleanse the soil it grows in, so we move the garlic bed often as part of the rotational use of the accessible land.

6. Lore. There are as many non-food uses for garlic as there are standard recipes. My favorite : rub the doors and windowsills of new buildings to ward off witches, ghosts, and ill fortune. Who knew?

Find a corner of your garden and try some this year - even flower gardens can use the spikey, green foliage as a contrast (and it is a cousin to the Lily...).

8 comments:

Michelle said...

THANK-YOU for finally explaining (and showing) what scapes are! I see them referred to but never knew. I might just have to try garlic for the first time this fall! (I buy the big jars of fresh minced garlic; it's so EASY. Hey, I make our bread and granola, and can and dehydrate and freeze. I can do ONE thing the easy way, right? ;-)

Susan said...

It's the perfect food - I thought I knew everything about garlic. But I didn't. Thanks for a great post.

melanie said...

Michelle - you are more than entitled to easy garlic - you do plenty! But really, jars of fresh, minced are not that common around here...but I bet if they had been when I first started cooking for myself, I would be hooked. I use garlic all the time...

Michelle said...

Both Costco and the local warehouse grocery store, Winco, carry the jars. I use garlic all the time, too. Rick eats it in self-defense!

Mama Pea said...

Wow, your garlic bulbs grow 4" across? You know how to grow garlic!

I put a couple/few minced cloves on every pizza I make for us. Don't know if we can credit the garlic, but we're both really healthy . . . and haven't seen a vampire lurking around in one heckuva long time.

Excellent post! Thanks.

kristi said...

Very informative post! I was going to try my hand at onions and garlic this Fall. Do you recommend a center spacing between them? I was going to plant mine in raised beds.

melanie said...

Raised beds are great - and we go with that 4" spacing all around, so you can get quite a few in a bed...

Karin said...

Thank you so much for that post! I never knew how easy it could be to grow garlic. Now I want to try it. Those silly tulips never did so well, anyway.