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Follow us as we blog about growing garlic this spring and summer of 2009.
Scroll down to see an update on May 25, 2009
April 6, 2009
It’s the beginning of April, and we are expecting another 5” of snow tomorrow, so we went to take some pictures to show you how our garlic is progessing. All of our garlic varieties have emerged out of the ground. They seem to be from 3” to 6” tall with 3-5 leaves.
When we planted last fall, we planted our garlic into 6-9” of Oats as a cover crop. We expected the oats to die in the winter and provide mulch for the spring. As you can see, the winter-killed oats looks like hay around the garlic. The previous garlic season we put down about 6-8” of hay down to protect the garlic over the winter. It was a miserable job putting the hay on each garlic row, so we wanted to try something different to get around the jobs we dislike. We heard some garlic growers in Wisconsin don’t even put mulch over their garlic. Sounded surprising to us, since we read that the mulch is needed to protect the garlic in the winter. Our garlic sat under about 15” of snow all winter and before the snow was gone the beautiful green garlic was already emerging out of the ground. We hope the oats works, and so far the garlic looks great! Soon it will be time to weed. Come back next week to see our next adventure: WEEDING!
This is how we prepped this field last year:
Before we planted fall 2008, we started prepping this field a year earlier. So in October of 2007, we planted Winter Rye. In the spring 2008, we lightly tilled in the rye. Then we planted spring Oats. We fertilized the field using our soil test from Midwest BioAg. We followed their plan to adjust our soil and bring it in balance and get minerals back into this field. This field was a virgin land for well over 10 years. All our fertilizer is organic and allowed by our organic certifier. After the oats grew, we lightly tilled and then planted buckwheat. After about 8 weeks, we lightly tilled the buckwheat (before going to flower)in and then we planted buckwheat again. The entire summer, we continually added horse manure from our neighbor’s farm. In early September, we planted oats. By mid-October, the oats were about 6-9”. We planted our garlic cloves into the oats about 3” deep and 4” apart. These cover crops have so many benefits. For just one garlic crop we used 5 secessions of cover crops. We did need to build this soil up, build organic matter, add nutirents, and suppress weeds.
Planting Garlic in the Spring?
We’ve been getting a lot of questions about plant garlic in the spring. I’ve tried it for many years. We’d go to the local nursery buy garlic bulbs along with our onion sets and plant them. By the time fall came, I never saw a thing in my garlic row. I finally asked the guy at the nursery what was wrong with my garlic? He nicely said, “In Wisconsin, garlic needs to be planted in the fall.” “Then why do you sell it in the spring” I ask. “Just because the customer asks for it.” Couldn’t he of said that as we checked out and paid good money for garlic that would not grow anyway! Now that we have experience under our belt, I would recommend to plant you garlic in the fall in Wisconsin. Garlic grows different regionally, so maybe somewhere garlic can be planted successfully in the spring. I would recommend – don’t plant in the spring unless you would like to try transplanting some. If you are persistent and really want your own garlic this summer, we are offering garlic transplants where we leave soil all around the plant and roots and then plant it into your garden. We tried this last year just to see if it would work and my garlic grew just as nice as the garlic field, but I had a few losses. If you’re interested, contact us. Otherwise, just buy your garlic late this summer enjoy eating some and plant the rest. You’ll have a great crop the next summer. P.S. Buy garlic by September. By early October of every year, all the garlic seed is picked over and then sold out!
Our spring garlic field with weed pressure. Taken May 1, 2009
We just harvested our first spring garlic today. We sautéed it with our fresh picked asparagus and Olive Oil. MMMM…… Spring garlic is garlic harvested in the spring (just like the pic above) before it turns into a bulb. It looks like a cross between a green onion and leek, but the mild to medium garlic flavor is wonderful. We slice it just like a green onion and add it to everything we can! It really is a spring time treat.
On to weeding:
We have two garlic fields. On the main field we planted the garlic into an oats cover crop (see picture below). We have another field that we are growing spring garlic (see picture above). In spring garlic field, we planted the garlic into prepped soil, but did not add any mulch. We knew we would be harvesting this field before June, so we were not worried about the weeds as much as our other larger field. The spring garlic field is full of weeds (as you can see), and we have had to rototill the field in mid-April and again May 2. Now the field planted in oats, we have not had to do any weeding, so the oats are doing a great job of suppressing weeds. Last year this time, we were on our hands and knees weeding for days! We will start weeding this field within the next two weeks.
Our garlic is about 8-12” depending on the variety. Music and German Extra Hardy are the tallest with the thickest leaves.
Hopefully, this weekend we will be able to foliar spray the garlic with fish emulsion and some kelp. The leave quickly take in the organic fertilizer through its leaves and produces bigger and healthier bulbs. It is a stinky job…
Garlic planted in oats cover crop which is doing a great job of suppressing weeds.
Taken May 1, 2009
Foliar Feeding May 2009
We should have started foliar feeding about the end of March, but we were not able to get to it until mid May. Many recommend foliar feeding garlic once of week with fish emulsion or a similar liquid organic fertilizer. We try to stick to this schedule, but it really does depend on our schedules and weather. Foliar feeding should be done early in the morning or late evening to prevent any burning from the sun and scheduled around the rain. The foliar feeding allows the garlic to take up the nutrients right away. It makes for healthier plants which is vital in an organic system. Healthy plants can fight off insects and diseases easier. It also helps increase garlic size!
Last year, we used a backpack sprayer. It worked well, but to become more efficient, we decided to get a sprayer to go on the back of our 8N Ford. Now, it takes a total of 1 hour with fill up, spray, and clean out. We then go around to use on other areas that need to be foliar fed.
In fact, we choose to do garlic weeding in the evening, because mosquitoes don’t bother us in the garlic field. Then when we walk to the house, we will break off some garlic leaves and rub the juices on us to keep from getting bit until we made it to the house. Yes, garlic does keep the mosquitoes away!
Yes, everyone’s favorite job. We are always trying to make this job easier with everything we grow– woodchips or straw mulch, cover crops, cultivating, plastic mulch, and just plain pulling by hand! With a half acre of garlic, we had to find a mechanical method, so we rigged up a cultivator set up to weed the garlic with the 8N Ford. Now, every 5 days we pull the cultivator through the garlic to reduce weeds. It works well, but there are some weeds right next to the garlic and that will need to done by hand. In prior years, we used our rototiller and it worked well. We went down a few rows to see how long it would take to rototill each row. It would of taken about 10 hours to do the field. The cultivator takes about 1 hour which is a huge time saving.
With the winter killed oats cover crop, some of the weeds were suppressed and we started weeding the second week of May. We could of started it earlier to get the weeds when they are small which is the key to weeding, but we wanted the mulch left by the oats to do their job. Once we weeded with the cultivator, the mulch was pushed around the field. Mulch is always good for water retention, but we have been getting some good consistent rain this spring. Some of the weeds were getting big, so it had to be done and will be done every 5 days until harvest!
Garlic Scapes are growing! Belarus is our only variety that has scapes growing. Belarus is also the first garlic to emerge after planting, so we are not surprised to see the scapes on these and not the other varieties yet. The garlic scapes grow on hard neck garlic and it is a hard stem that grows from the center of the garlic leaves. The scapes need to be snapped off, so the garlic will put its energy into developing a larger bulb. We have experimented with keeping them on, and we did notice our bulbs were smaller on the bulbs we left the scapes on. Some say that by keeping them on it increases storage life of the garlic. We did not notice any difference. Other growers do differ on this, so this is our experience.
Garlic scapes are a delicacy that needs to be enjoyed for the short time we get to eat them. They are wonderful in pesto, roasted with olive oil, and a variety of other recipes. Google garlic scapes recipes for more ideas. The pesto is easier to make than using garlic bulbs, since you don’t have to peel them. Also, we make enough pesto to freeze to enjoy all year long.
Our garlic 4.6.09.
We sustainably manage our soil to ensure that we have the proper balance of nutrients and minerals to produce the healthiest vegetables, garlic, berries, and herbs.