Tuesday, September 30, 2014
For us, garlic will be planted in just over two weeks from now. This ground grew potatoes recently and their harvest is finally complete. One variety, Canela, was still sporting green growing leaves. We needed this ground for garlic so the potatoes are now in the basement. Eighteen feet long and five feet wide are the dimensions of this planting bed. We plant rows that are eight inches apart with six inches between each clove in the row. 270 garlic cloves will soon be planted here.
Last year we mulched one half of the planting with dried fluffy grass clippings. A generous snow cover packed the clippings into a thin dense mat. Several plants needed a hand to push their way clear of the mulch. This year we have thirty gallons of screened leaf litter on hand. Old leaves were gathered before the new crop fell. Our prepared leaves may be insufficient to cover the entire planting but more can be added when the snow melts.
This view shows pumpkins hanging on the protective fence and runaway squash in the foreground. The ground ready for garlic is in the background. Fresh bark mulch is at the same level as the freshly tilled planting bed. We plant to the edge of the bed and the mulch will hold the soil in place. Several years ago this ground was prepared for garlic cultivation. Apparently the garden soil near the house had been contaminated for garlic by several futile attempts to grow infected seed. We are presently rotating squash, potatoes and garlic on this new ground.
A shallow gully lies between this flat land and the bedrock ridge. Wooded, wild and quiet, it is a favorite place to walk. No signs of human habitation can be seen from there and the only unnatural sounds heard there are from airplanes. Four distinct and separate flat fields fill the plant-able area of our former farm. Each is a glacial deposit that differs from the others in both elevation and soil composition. This spot grew the largest weeds and that led us to plant here. Its soil consists of grainy clay with few stones. Just the lack of stones makes this ground special here. Aged compost is worked in before planting and respectable crops grow here.
Purple stripe is the varietal name assigned to this garlic by its local grower. It has shorter plants than our other types and each bulb contains about eight cloves. The tag tells the story. Fifty cloves were planted but only twenty-five plants were harvested. Daphne's garlic treatment was only given to half of the planting and I lost track of the results for treated versus untreated but both included dead plants. These bulbs all felt sound at final cleaning. Every seed clove will get the vodka treatment this year. Last year was our first time with that method and I was unwilling to commit the entire seed lot to the unknown. Its results were so impressive that this year we are going all in.
This variety is similar in appearance to several of our others. Its local grower knew nothing of its origin but I suspect it is descended from Extra Hardy German White. The tall stems with widely separated leaves identifies it as a porcelain type garlic. Bulb size is not impressive but with only four cloves per bulb they are monsters.
For the past several years, I have purchased this garlic at a roadside stand within sight of Lake Canadargo. Last year her crop turned out to be a disaster. Most of it went into the trash but sixty clean, solid cloves were found. All were given the naked clove vodka dip and all produced a plant for harvest. Final cleaning revealed five bulbs that contained soft brown cloves. Considering the mess we started with, the results were fantastic. More diseased cloves are expected when we pop the bulbs in preparation for planting but considering their condition last year I think that we are in good shape. So much improvement in one year gives us hope. Obtaining healthy seed garlic has proven impossible so we will dance with the Devil we know. Right now the weather for Columbus day looks a little chilly, but plant naked garlic we will.