Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Still Learning

I have been trying to grow garlic for more than three decades with very mixed results.  This book served as my Garlic Bible and many hours were spent reading it.  The author's experience occurred near the west coast and included in his text was the flat out statement that garlic could not be successfully grown in New York State.  He saw our climate as a total roadblock to healthy harvests.  Near harvest time in July, we experience hot days with frequent heavy rain.  This happens as the garlic is drying down.  As that unfolds the leaves begin to pull away from the stem allowing water to seep down into the bulbs.  One result is horrid rot.

They say that you cannot judge a book by its cover but perhaps the back cover will provide insight.  For many years I purchased Ron's garlic but success evaded me.  Perhaps garlic grown in NYS would be better suited to our July weather so local seed was tried.

Helen Crandall gave us this strain of garlic.  She promised to talk to the person that gave it to her to find its original source but sadly she passed before that information could be gathered.  This strain was judged to be the best that we had and we treasured both the plant's and the memories it provided. We reliably harvested nearly 100% from the cloves planted.  This year we lost 85% of this crop.

More than ten years ago we opened our garden near the woods to escape the live forever rot that filled much of our garden soil near the house.  Our first planting there included one variety that contained the infection.  We have not planted garlic or onions in that ground since then.  For some reason I felt that this ground was now safe for garlic.  I was totally wrong.  Helen's garlic was planted in the poisoned ground.  Ron was correct in stating that this disease lives on forever.

We now peel and soak our planting cloves.  That allowed us to avoid disease and recent crops have been largely trouble free.  We were considering skipping the peel and soak.  That will not happen now since I have reinfected our planting stock.  With only six harvested bulbs, we will not be able to plant the traditional forty plants.

Susquehanna White was purchased from an organic vegetable grower located near the Unatego High School.  It is possible that he has joined the great majority since the sign there is now gone.  His garlic has preformed well for us with no trace of the horrid rot.  The bulbs are rather small but they are clean and healthy.

We assigned the name White Bishop to this variety.  Charlie was a colorful individual.  We once saw him at the Saugerties garlic festival.  Many pickup trucks had been backed into a large circle where the various growers displayed their crop while waiting for potential customers to stop by.  Charlie stood on a small platform next to his truck where he verbally presented the advantages of his garlic.  His performance reminded me of a carnival barker and he outsold all of the other growers.  His garlic has proven to be reliable and always brings back mental images of his sales pitch.

In the past my frequent trips to Herkimer introduced me to a new roadside vegetable stand.  For the first year her garlic was planted in what had served a beef feeding spot.  Their deep manure served to produce large healthy garlic bulbs.  Unfortunately in later years her garlic was infected with the bulb rot.  We have worked to plant only clean cloves and her garlic now continues to produce healthy bulbs.

I know of two local growers where garlic is replanted where it has always grown and this puzzles me.  How do these people avoid the rot that has plagued me for years?  One of these growers harvests very close to July first.  I usually wait until the third week in July to harvest when the crop has started to dry down.  This successful grower also immediately clears his ground of weeds and places a deep pile of manure where next year's crop will grow.  The only thing that I can see as an explanation for his success is the earliness of his harvest or the impact on his ground of rotting manure.  The other successful grower that uses the same ground year after year has a huge supply of alpaca manure.  Perhaps the manure is responsible for this disease free garlic.  It was nothing but luck that had me harvest my garlic on four consecutive rainless days.  Had I missed those days, the rest of the crop would likely been ruined.  For some time I have know that I am not particularly bright or skilled but I am unusually lucky.

No comments: