Saturday, October 23, 2010

How Does Your Garlic Grow?

Fall is the season to put garlic in the ground. This year we planted about 500 cloves of garlic, half hardneck and half softneck, plus a test bed of some new (to us) overwintering alliums called potato onions. These are, of course, for harvest during the 2011 season.

The hardneck garlic.
A hot and colorful variety called music.

The softneck garlic.
Mellower than the hardneck and braidable,
this variety is called New York white.

We've been growing out the softneck garlic for three years now, giving some heads to CSA members and replanting the rest. We hope to harvest enough in 2011 to make a few garlic braids because who doesn't love edible art? About 100 of the hardnecks are from heads we grew this season. We wanted to try the variety out before we made a big investment in it. After tasting it we're convinced it's worth some of our money, land, time, and muscle to grow more. It's hot and mega garlicky and we've decided to make it our main variety for the CSA.     

Those things in the bag are potato onions.
Each one will grow into a cluster of small to medium onions
that will keep for several months.

The potato onions are something altogether new to us. We love things that can be planted in the fall because fall planting means less spring insanity. Spring is crunch time for us. We are so busy with bed prep and seed planting and CSA payment collecting and tomato transplanting and chick rearing and lamb purchasing and (I could keep going here...) that we have been known to forget to breath. So, we're crossing our fingers that the potato onions do well and allow us to eliminate something from the spring to do list. There is one sure thing about farm life. We will never run out of new things to try.

Our favorite new things this year are our tractor and manure spreader. They don't look so new but they're new to us and truly life changing. My husband was able to create an acre of new growing space by plowing in his spare time and spreading manure without using a wheelbarrow is, to put it simply, revolutionary. The only thing missing is the callouses.
The Tractor. A 1948 Ford 8N.
Michigan girls love their Fords!

A current sampling of our soil inputs.
This is composted horse manure from
the local animal shelter.

The Spreader. Full of composted manure and ready to roll.
Compost is the lifeblood of a small farm. We are always on the lookout for organic materials to add to our fields. Our plan this year is to create a few windrows of hay and fish guts before the snow falls. We'll see how the skunks like that!

Look at that compost fly!
Once the compost is down the bed must be readied for planting. We rake to make sure that the manure is spread evenly and there are no large chunks in the growing area.

Smoothing the bed.
Keeping things straight.

After all of that prep, it is finally time to get down to some planting.



We lay the cloves out in a grid pattern, six inches apart in every direction, then poke them under the soil and compost so that the growing tip is about an inch below the surface.

Still Planting.
The final step is to tuck the garlic in for the long winter. It's not unlikely that this garlic will be covered in two or three feet of snow come January, but it needs the insulation of hay during the early winter. The hay will also help keep weeds down, hold in moisture, and give the worms a nice place to live next spring.


  1. We are trying garlic this year for the first time! Our soil stays really wet and I don't know that it won't rot away over the winter.. Not nearly as much as you though!

  2. Hope it grows well for you! We had a few low spots where we grew garlic last year and we lost what was growing in the areas that were wet in the spring. The softneck seemed to rot a little more than the hardneck, but softneck is not quite as hardy as hard so that may have been the problem too. We planted in higher ground this year :)

  3. I'm so excited to follow your garlic progress over the winter and spring!