originally published July 2018
Garlic is one of our favorite things to plant - and eat!
Last fall we installed five varieties to trial to determine what variety will serve us best in years to come. We have picked two favorites from the bunch so far - but a little about the growing before we get to the picking.
Garlic is an overwintered crop, which means it's installed in the fall and harvested the following year in early summer. We set in four rows in September, laid drip tape and gave everything a hearty mulching over winter.
First thing in the spring, we threw hoops and row cover over top the full bed, as the rest of the bed not planted in garlic would soon be full off scallions and sweet & pearl onions. It is essential to cover alliums crops in our area for one particular reason - alium leaf miners.
ALM are a nasty pest that is best controlled with coverage. The pests emerge in spring and start their search for their favorites plants - leeks, onions, shallots & garlic. Their young can wreak havoc on the stems, leaves and edible bulbs - rendering them inedible and unsellable.
To fully protect our crops without chemical input, we kept our row covers on well through May and the first week of June, lifting only to weed beds and check development. Thanks to our local extension service, we were able to properly judge the flight and life-cycle and avoid any damage.
Right around the time that the beds were uncovered, the bulbs send up flowering stems that we cut - found in CSA shares and at market called scapes - to encourage the plants to focus on growing their bulbs rather than flowering. Then the watch started for garlic maturity; the tell tale drying of leaves progressing from top to bottom told us to pull a few and check for well-filled bulbs.
Happily we have spotted a top-performer and have already had a good seed-garlic harvest of the Music variety. Music is a porcelain-type known for its exceptional yield and storage power; this variety is sweet when cook and hot when the large cloves are eaten raw. We will be curing and holding on to every bulb we planted in the hopes of replanting each clove in the fall. Perpetuating our own seed garlic has been a goal from day one and we're thrilled to be off to a solid start on next season already.
Our second runner-up is finding its way into CSA shares this week as a fresh bulb. Chesnock Red is a hardneck garlic with a sweet flavor when cooked and excellent holding power. We will be working at curing some of this one for future shares and markets, in addition to offering it fresh.
Thanks for following along with our garlic growing - it's an investment we're happy to share at last!