Old habits are hard to break. Although, I no longer market to stores and don’t really need as much garlic as I’ve been growing, we still planted the same sized patch. Gotta keep those vampires at bay.
It took me a long time to figure out where to put it. Last spring the garlic suffered in the late cold snaps we had in May. This surprised me, because garlic is one of the hardiest crops we grow. But tender new growth turned a paler green after the frost, and hurt their further development. So, along the fence in the frost pocket by the cave did not seem like a good place for them, even though that was the plan. Besides, in my haste to plant greens, two rows of mustard were already in these.
I started looking around. The rocky field above the asparagus patch also had mustard already in it. The beds next to it were free, but then the garlic would be in the way in the spring because it’s not harvested until June. I needed fertile soil, with no grass.
As we picked up the last of the squash, I found it. The new orchard has good soil, is up on the hill and just got cleaned up. The young fruit trees are looking good and need to be kept grass-free for a few more years. Grass really stunts a young orchard. The trees are hindered by a root exude from the grass, and the young feeder roots of the trees can’t compete with the tough thatch the grass makes in the top soil. Successful orchardists recommend keeping grass out of the orchard until the trees are bearing age.
Our watermelon and squash patch did just that in the orchard’s first summer, and the trees appreciated it. I knew the only way I’d tend those trees was to plant vegetables around them. We mulched the vines and trees but it still got pretty weedy, but we did keep the grass out. The land is fertile, and 15 manure spreaders of biodynamic compost later, it was really fertile.
We’d been intermittently shucking garlic for a few weeks. The rainy weather had delayed many fall jobs and planting the garlic was one of them. Two baskets were done and we were working on a third Sunday morning, and with the help of our new neighbors we were making headway. As the fourth basket was being filled, Jack walked into the barn, and I started getting itchy. It’s this feeling that comes over me from time to time, like I really need to be on my tractor.
Shucking the garlic is simply breaking apart the bulbs and sorting out the diseased, broken or small ones. It takes longer to do than the actual planting of them. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer. Judy and Victoria said they’d stay and watch the kids while shucking. Phil, Jack and I loaded up the truck and headed up the hill.
We stopped at the turnip patch. As it was Sunday, I had them pull six bags of roots and greens for our Monday delivery while I prepared the beds. The spader was already on the tractor, and in an hour, ten beds were formed in between the apple trees. I was wondering how to make the furrows.
The ground was wet and I didn’t really want to drive over it again with the rebreaker, which is how I usually make the rows. A hoe seemed like too much work though, and didn’t pull well through the damp dirt. I’d thought maybe we’d just push the cloves into the ground, maybe using a string to get the rows straight. With three of us working, I just went down the middle of the bed, as best I could with no string, and they followed on either side of me, trying to plant six inches away from the edge of the bed, and a root away from my row.
I tied a gallon pail around my waist, filled it up with cloves, and soon had the pail empty and the row planted. we push them about an inch deep and five inches apart. The rich dark brown soil smelled earthy, and the colors on the trees were vibrant. This Sunday was no day of rest, we enjoyed the afternoon walking and bending, planting and covering. Before we knew it we were in need of more seed.
I ran off and found Mary, who had a nice big bowl ready to plant. Back at the barn, I found a basket half filled with cloves, and I also grabbed some whole bulbs. When I returned to the orchard, the boys were picking lima beans. We quickly got back in gear, as darkness was coming an hour earlier with the return of suntime, and it was already late.
The cloves ran out about little before dark, so we shucked enough to finish the last row of the last bed. It was a bit dark by the time we were done, and the last row may be a little crooked. Mary’s potatoes and greens never tasted so good, as we had skipped lunch in our planting frenzy.
It rained again that night, and it’s a great feeling to lay in bed, listening to the rain on the tin roof, and know the seed is in the ground. The next chore is to mulch the whole area. Garlic will come up through a thick hay mulch, and we won’t have to weed it until next April. It over winters and starts growing again in early spring. In late May the plants send up seed stalks, which I cut off for two reasons. I like the plants to put their reproductive energy into bulbs, and our customers eat the curly seed heads. We’ve been planting a big patch of our own garlic stalk for 20 years now, and it looks like it’s one of those hard to break habits.