It’s the beginning of March and the garlic is already coming up, before the last frost. We try to cover them with hay to keep the ground from warming up causing the greens to pop up, but with the winds we get here it never stays on for long. Then when a snow storm comes, it freezes the greens.
The good news is garlic is resilient when it comes to re-growing the green tops. We’ve had good consistent garlic growth for 3 years in a row regardless of how many times the tops freeze.
While reviewing the rows I noticed other greens that looked to be onions. Sometimes we come across a surprise veggie that was still growing all the way through the winter! In this case the onions didn’t look like much but after peeling off the outer layers we had a couple decent onions to eat a year after we originally planted them!
Last year we harvested in August but it was a hot year this year so the garlic seemed to ripen faster. We had more garlic than we needed last year so we planted half as much this year. It also made hanging it in the hay loft easier. There was so much garlic last year we ran out of room!
We also have the curing process nailed down by hanging the garlic, leaves and all, in the hay loft where it stays warm enough to dry the skins hard enough to preserve the inside juicy garlic.
You can see how we pull the garlic out of the ground on the farm’s You Tube Channel:
We still have a lot of garlic left from harvest so decided to come up with a culinary gift our customers couldn’t refuse! The Garlic Braid!
Garlic Braids are usually made during harvest, not after the garlic is cured. Once the garlic is harvested but before it’s hung to dry/cure, the greens on top of the garlic are braided together while they are soft. We can add as many heads of garlic as we want into the braid but fewer is better. No more than 6 from what we understand. Garlic needs lots of air circulation to keep it dry stored successfully. Too many heads on a braid will reduce air circulation and increase chances of rot. Garlic should be stored in a paper bag at room temperature to stay dry.
Since we had already cured the garlic, the greens had already dried and were too brittle to braid. I did some online research and found it is possible to braid hard neck garlic if you save enough of the neck when you cut the dried greens off.
So we tried this method which started with a series of strings in the center and then folding the necks around the string in a stacking manner. The end result is a nice looking ornamental piece for the holiday that you can also use for cooking!
It’s August and you know what that means! Garlic is ready to harvest! With 4 rows of garlic this year it took 3 of us a couple days to pull it all.
The size of the garlic is larger than last year and MUCH larger than the year before. It seems like 3rd time is a charm for us. The third year we grow something we seem to have all the issues resolved. A tip I received from a garlic farmer for this year was to put a pinch of bone meal in each hole that you drop a clove into. It definitely increased the size of the bulb!
Next step is to cure the garlic or letting it dry. While we hung the garlic in the room we grow the transplants the last 2 years, this year there are too many large garlic to do that. The smell would be overwhelming! We decided to dry it in the hay loft of the barn. Lots of space with a lot of heat and very dry to reduce chances of mold.
We are 1 week into the curing process and it needs to dry for 2 weeks before we can sell it. We are very much looking forward to not only eating it ourselves but also to get great customer feedback!
Since we ran out of good carrots for our customers it is time to pull up the garlic and use the bed to plant more carrots.
How do you know when garlic is ready to pull? When the leaves start to die off. At that point we carefully dig them up, shake off the dirt and take the outer papery skin off so it looks clean. This is the 3rd year of growing garlic. They are getting bigger every year which is a great sign.
We bring the garlic inside and hang it in the window that gets hot afternoon sunshine. This dries the outside of the garlic to cure it. The papery outside turns fine and easy to peel. The garlic itself maintains its moisture.
We plant the garlic in October or November. It’s one of the first plants to come up in the spring.
This is what the bed looks like in prep. Holes a couple inches apart and 4 inches deep. A single garlic clove is planted with the root section facing down. You can see all the paper from breaking apart the garlic into individual cloves.
You may have noticed in earlier pictures that there are a couple rows in the plot that were already covered and weren’t processed in the spring. Those two rows contain garlic that was planted in October last year. The idea is garlic is considered a cold weather plant and the growth is focused on roots, so it can do a lot of growing over winter.
To protect it from a harsh winter we stuffed the fabric with hay to give it some extra insulation. As the weather warmed up some of the green leaves started to surface. We pulled most of the hay out so the black fabric, holding the heat of the sun, could warm up the soil. This caused the plants to pop. You can see how big this plant is in April. Of course early growth means it’s the only greenery the birds see in early spring. As you can see they have been taking nibbles of the tops. We know it’s birds because our fencing is deer and rabbit proof.
As the temperature warms we have to continue to watch the garlic to make sure it does not flower. Flowering takes away energy for making the bulbs so we cut the flowers or scapes when they appear to keep them building bigger bulbs.
Since they are a cold weather plant they will start dying off in August which is considered harvesting time. We can’t wait to see how they turn out as it’s our first garlic crop in the new plot.
In order to stay relevant it’s necessary to try growing something you know people routinely buy. Garlic is one of those plants for us. We love garlic ourselves and had thought about growing before. The issue is garlic is planted in October which is right at the end of harvest and our energy has been spent.
Well, last fall I managed to get motivated and went to a garlic growing class. We purchased 4 varieties of garlic and planted. In the spring scapes started growing from the garlic plants. Scapes are basically the beginning of flowering. Then comes the task of cutting off the scapes as they continue to pop up. Flowering uses a lot of energy that could be going to the bulb, or the part of the garlic you eat. At some point though, you have to give up and let the plant flower and the leaves dry. That’s when the bulbs are ready to pull.
It was a dirty job but an exciting one. Most crops you watch the food grow and harvest when it’s ready, but you can’t see the garlic until you pull it up. It’s like Christmas! The bulbs weren’t very large but boy were they strong! We sold a small amount but kept most to ourselves. Its our first try so we will improve for next year. We will definitely grow more.