Saturday, November 2, 2013

Garlic Planting

Many people asked me, over the last few weeks, if everything was wrapped up for the season at the farm and were then surprised to hear that we were getting ready to plant garlic and shallots. Yes, in Minnesota we plant garlic and shallots in October, when the soils cool down, with enough time to start rooting, but not sprout.

To get ready for planting we started by "popping" the cloves. Taking the bulbs and separating all the cloves to plant individually.

Bags filled with garlic cloves.
This year we also planted 'Walking Onions' (aka Egyptian Onions) in the kitchen garden--I've been waiting to have those! After popping the garlic I prepared the garlic bed map and was ready to plant.

Cart with garlic, shallots, map and tools.
The dibbler helps us ensure good spacing, more efficiently.
John tilled the bed, which had been resting for about a month (they followed beans this year) and I raked it. We have heavy soils so we used a raised bed to allow for good drainage. Next I used the fancy-schmancy dibbler John made to mark out spacing--6"x6". This makes planting go a lot faster.

Marking spacing with the dibbler.
View a short video of me using the dibbler. After the spacing is marked I laid out the garlic and shallot cloves, then went back and started planting. Garlic is planted 4-6" deep and shallots are planted with the tops even, or just under, the surface of the soil. View a short video of me planting garlic.

Garlic laid out for planting.
Dutch Yellow Shallots ready to plant.
 All of our garlic is organic certified, as we are transitioning to organic. Red Russian garlic, Dutch Yellow shallots and French Gray shallots were planted again; we liked all of these. We also planted some new varieties to trial--German Red and German Extra Hardy, and Inchelium Red (soft neck garlic). In our region we grow hard-neck garlic--these produce those lovely scapes that we all cherish for a few weeks in spring (yum!)--but I wanted to grow a small amount of soft-neck, just to experiment (these are the braiding kind).  We purchase seed from The Maine Potato Lady (great source for garlic, onions and potatoes), and we also got some from Territorial Seeds this year too.

 The last step in the process is to cover with a thick layer of mulch. Mulch provides protection from the elements over winter, and helps to suppress weeds. The pigs helped us with the mulching! Using bales from their pen we are able to add a little fertilizer--perfect since it sits out, breaking down all winter and spring (the minimum requirement is 120 days, and it will be about 240). Also, in anticipation of garlic planting, we threw several bales in there over the last week for them to forage through and clean out the small-grain and weed seeds. We purchased some really seedy straw last spring, hopefully this will reduce the amount of barley growing in the garlic bed, plus we got to nurture the pigs foraging instincts!

 I am already looking forward to next year's garlic and shallot crop!