Thursday, October 3, 2013

Planting Garlic



Garlic is a fairly easy crop to grow as well as a sustainable one. Grown for thousands of years and thought to  have its origins in the Steppes Garlic can be found on almost every continent. In looking over the web you'll  find many different techniques in growing it and in all types of terrain. We are going to tell you our style of growing garlic of which we have two.

a standard softneck with the outer paper removeds
Here in the Midwest of America our garlic planting usually begins with the Autumnal equinox in September and culminates near the end of October. Although some may begin planting earlier and some will plant later what matters is what works for you and in our style it works for us. Here in the Midwest garlic is a sustainable crop as it grows during the wettest months of the year and the months that have little or no weed growth. Any gardeners or farmers out there would know the less you have to water and the less you have to weed makes you happier gardener or farmer. 
Begin by breaking up your bulb of garlic into the individual cloves. We refer to the single cloves as seed because it is how we grow our garlic. Depending on what kind of bulb you have you might find yourself with an inner ring of smaller cloves surrounded by the outer ring of larger cloves. We plant only the larger cloves because they will yield us the larger bulbs. You may plant the smaller cloves if you choose. We usually save up all our inner cloves and use them for cooking. Do not peel each individual clove as this is a protector and barrier for the garlic seed. The young garlic sprout will break through this without any issue . We presoak our cloves overnight in water as we believe this helps us get a jump on germination. 

Flat ground or raised bed planting :
Handy Dan using his favorite tool to level a bed
our presoaked garlic cloves or seeds
Our worked and prepared soil is leveled and we begin by planting our garlic in 10 to 12 inch rows, planting each individual clove 6 to 8 inches apart. Often we use a smooth stick to help us create the indentation to receive the garlic clove. We make our indentation about 2 inches deep and we stick our clove in this hole root side down and pointy side up. If they were planted upside down the young sprout will route itself but there's no need to make the plant spend the additional energy when you can take care in how you place it inside the hole. Covering the young seed with earth,we then give it a healthy watering and will water regularly for one week after the sprout has shown through the surface of the soil. Here in the Midwest we are often prone to harsh winters and we will mulch in our Garlic after the sprout has shown. We do not bury the sprout with mulch and we do not recommend mulching before the Garlic has sprouted. Some people have suggested 6 inches of mulch on top which we find to be far too excessive. That system has probably led to a lot of failures in Garlic growing. 

Berm planting 
We do lots of berm planting which we do a little different than your standard flat ground or raised bed planting. A raised berm is nothing more than a mound of soil raised above the ground set in a row. We prefer this method as it seems to be easier to amend the soil, weed, and harvest. Having amended the soil of our berms , we then flatten out the top of it to knock down any peak which may have formed while we were amending. This usually leaves us with a nice smooth and rounded row . We plant our garlic 6 to 8 inches apart from one another in any direction including our rows. We stagger the seed apart from one another one might say in a checkerboard fashion. Using a small stick we gently push it in the berm forming a 2 to 3 inch hole and place the garlic seed in it. We then cover up the hole ( containing the seed -point side up , root side down ) with earth and that's how it's done. 
You will find when your garlic sprouts they are looking a lot like green onions or spring onions and they easily grow all winter long. Occasionally water but do not drown out the plants . We do not fertilize before springtime as we do not encourage bulb growth during winter. We do amend our soil before planting to help give the plant a good jump on it's fall and winter growing. Come springtime is when we begin to add in our amendments. Since we are organic or naturally growing we do not use any artificial fertilizers and instead revert to leaf mulch mixed with aged horse manure  and amended with Compost. Sometimes we may use a liquid fertilizer of fish emulsion, compost tea, or our own manure tea . This of course is sprayed at the base of the growing plants and not on them. 
 

Chesnok Garlic soaking before planting 

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