Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Goblins, Ghouls and Garlic

Since it's that time of year where vampires take center stage, I thought garlic would be a pertinent subject. And it just so happens that we planted 2.5 rows of it this this week. What serendipity!

Garlic has got to be one of the easiest crops in the history of putting things in the ground and watching them grow. You take a clove, bury it about three or four inches down, and leave it over the winter... and voila! By spring, you have an entire head of garlic that you pull out, cure, and can store for what seems like an unending period of time.

I'm simplifying things a teensy bit, of course. But garlic is actually very easy, requires fairly little maintenance once the planting is done*, and if it is cured correctly, it won't go bad for a long, long time. Compared with pretty much any other crop, garlic is just about scraping the bottom of the "I need constant supervision" chain.

Of course, you do have to plant the garlic first. And that can be quite a process.

First, you start with a head of garlic.

Every head of garlic comes with many cloves. Each clove, if planted, can produce another head of garlic. You want a head that is plump, with fairly large, well-formed cloves.

Since you're planting the cloves separately, you have take them apart.

Multiply this by 50 pounds of garlic.**

Once the cloves have all been torn asunder and any rotten ones removed, it is time to plant. In the past, Susan has done this by using the very labor intensive method of digging four trenches in each bed, laying the cloves out, and covering them with dirt. Brian, however, stepped in to save the day.

This device is called a dibbler. Seriously. Brian made it out of scraps in the garage, based on the devise he used last year to plant garlic.

The dibbler is 30 inches across, so it fits our beds perfectly. The pointy bits protruding from the bottom poke holes in the dirt, into which individual garlic cloves fit quite snugly.

One person "dibbles," going ahead of the rest of the crew and dibbling the row with hundreds of tiny holes. Everyone else follows, poking the cloves in and brushing dirt over the top. What could be easier?

Garlic also likes to be mulched, so I guess I know what we'll be doing with the forty bales of hay that arrived this evening.

*If you're growing hard-necked garlic, you do need to watch for scapes, the curly green tendrils that grow in the spring. If you let scapes grow, the garlic will be ruined, but cutting them back sends all that energy back into the bulbs, and THEN you can eat the scapes. What could be better?

**To put this number in perspective: our 50 lbs. of garlic yielded two and a half rows. Our rows are 90 feet long, so that's approximately 225 feet. To put this yet further into perspective, the farm we visited on Tuesday ordered 150 lbs. of garlic. Radical Roots, an organic farm in the valley, also ordered 150. Waterpenny Farm, which I will talk about in a later post, ordered 220 lbs.

1 comment:

  1. I always learn something new reading your blog: apparently the green chivey things in our garden that we cut and put in salad are called Scapes! We planted the garlic last season (2010) and have been enjoying the leaves ever since!