Monday, October 12, 2015
First Frost & Garlic To Ground
When we ventured out yesterday morning, it was soon obvious that the garden had been lightly touched by frost for the first time this season. Cold pours downhill following the low ground to a final fall to the river. Ground hugging pumpkin leaves were burned brown while the parts of the same plant that had climbed the side of the compost bin were still green. Heliotropes near the house remain in flower while those nearer the frost river have been blackened. We usually have a September frost and this late first appearance gave us an extra two weeks.
The carefully weeded bed that runs to the stone path now contains 270 garlic cloves. They are covered with a ground leaf mulch that followed contact with the nylon string trimmer and a coarse wire screen. This fine covering will delay early weed emergence giving the garlic a head start. By harvest time the leaf mulch will have decomposed becoming part of the soil. A similar approach last year brought the garlic to harvest with a single weeding. Adjacent beds require attention that will follow now that the Fall planted crop is in the ground.
A carefully spaced planting grid was defined using the pieces of wire fence that usually surround the garden. A second section of fence was used with the long spacing set across these pieces. Squares 2 inches by 2 inches then covered the planting bed. In a row, push a hole then skip two squares to the next hole quickly defined ten planting holes per row. For row spacing, the procedure was from a hole skip three squares before making the next hole. My purpose in writing this here is so that I will be able to read the plan next year rather than needing to figure it out by trial and error as was done yet again this year. Dimples visible at the bottom of the photo attest to my first misplaced attempt. This is rather close spacing but I can work a weeding hand between the rows. My plants might produce even larger bulbs if the spacing was more generous.
We are still soaking and peeling our cloves before planting. These sixty cloves are free of the evil brown rot. Nearly all of them should grow to maturity. This garlic was given to us last year by our good friend Helen. She lives in the village house that belonged to her grandmother. Adjacent to the Susquehanna River and tended for generations, her rich soil produced an impressive crop. It is possible that we gave her the seed cloves that she planted but none of us can remember for certain. The twenty cloves planted here last season all grew large bulbs that appear different from anything else that we plant. The name Helen's has been assigned to this garlic. It is the best that we have and it was the first to be planted.
Two rows of Purple Stripe were planted next. It is different in appearance than the porcelain types that we widely plant. Purple Stripe is a shorter more compact plant with more leaves than the others. This visual difference helps keep the varieties separate at harvest time. Purple Stripe does produce a larger number of cloves per bulb but many are small and doubles are common. These remain available for cooking since we only plant the best.
The brown rot seen here is why we peel our planting cloves. This small amount of rot is undetectable when popping cloves but if planted a diseased plant would appear for only a short time. We try to keep our soil clean by planting only clean cloves. Since we are still seeing rot we need to continue soaking and peeling.
White Bishop is the next variety planted. Here again we assigned the name to this variety. Anyone that has attended the Saugerties Garlic Festival has encountered local grower Charlie Bishop. He sells his garlic there with a continuous carnival barker's banter that never fails to draw a spending crowd. He is a frequent source of seed for us as that gives us a chance to talk with him, gleaning the latest tips on growing garlic in the harsh climate of upstate New York.
Two more rows of Purple Stripe separate the White Bishop from the Richfield Springs. Here again we assigned the name that identifies the original source of the seed. This garlic was horribly diseased when purchased but we are making progress in cleaning the stock. Nearly half of the cloves were diseased this year but none showed the huge blue fungal masses so common last year.
Three rows of Susquehanna White were planted next. Two rows of Lambs Quarters finished our planting. All of our stock is from local growers.
This may be our last season growing garlic. We have placed our names on the waiting list for an apartment. Finding suitable senior housing has proven to be a real challenge. Income limits exclude us from a huge number of area apartments. It seems that most developers prefer a subsidized but guaranteed profit over a free market risk. That reality leaves those who have been financially responsible for their entire working lives lost between facilities that cost more than five thousand dollars per month and subsidized housing where our income excludes us. So we wait. When one of the present tenants dies or is forced to go to a home, we might have a chance at an apartment. In the meantime the garlic is planted and we hope to still be here at harvest time.