We spent the last half of October getting the garlic in the ground. Usually, the weather cools off, which encourages the garlic to grow its root system (which can extend up to 8 feet under the ground!), rather then sent shoots above. So, there is time to make shredded leaf mulch (the best mulch for garlic) as the leaves fall.
This year has been unusually warm. Saturday morning, I took Luke for his early morning relief walk in the back field and saw that much of the garlic had sprouted in neat rows down the two beds we had created for them.
Panic! Frost was coming yet again, so we spent the weekend gathering and shredding leaves, then putting the mulch over the tender garlic shoots.
We finished covering the beds before the frost came on Sunday night. As you can see from the photo, we had been covering the beds with odd bits of straw and the cowpea residue we had cut into the cover crop to make the garlic beds.
Each variety is marked with two wooden stakes (in case one stake gets lost over the winter). We put trenches down each outer side of the beds so that water drains off the beds. This is critical because in winter, the ground will be too frozen to absorb any moisture. If we have wood chips, we put them in the trenches to prevent erosion.
This year’s 17 varieties are a mix of 1) varieties we want to continue to grow, 2) varieties we are still trialing to see if they will grow well in Southeastern Pennsylvania and 3) new varieties from The Experimental Farm Network, via USDA, which are beginning their 3 year trial to see if they should be grown in Southeastern Pennsylvania. They are:
German Extra Hardy
Chef Chet’s Italian Red
and numbered varieties from USDA from the following countries:
Even with stakes, we can’t remember where all the varieties are planted, so each year, I make up a map that lists all the varieties and where they are planted. In the past, I’ve made several copies of the map and put them in various locations around the house so I have at least one map that didn’t get lost over the holidays when I’m ready to harvest in late June/early July. This year, I also scanned the map and put a copy in the Farm folder on the computer, which is backed up to the cloud. Losing the map is not an option!
If you’d like to talk garlic, drop us a line! There’s time now that the garlic is planted and mulch!