Saturday, June 17, 2006

Garden Journal 6/17/06: Growing and Harvesting Hardneck Garlic

Freshly dug garlic

Realization Of The Day:
2006 is not My Year Of Garlic.

This morning, in the hopes that today's forecasted rain really was going to show up, I dug up the plot of garlic that I planted back in November (click here), using my trusty Korean style hand plow (also called an EZ-Digger) of course.

I'm sure that at some point I must have had a lousier harvest than this, but at the moment I cannot recall it. Well, except for the year I never got around to planting any garlic at all—which was the beginning of my garlic downslide. I honestly cannot remember if that was last year or the year before. This is why I now have a garden blog.

More below. . .
Anyway, for 10 years I had been saving some of my garlic harvest each year to plant the next fall. So if you skip a year that means no more wonderful homegrown supply. Bummer. I could even plant half frozen, half rotted, itty bitty cloves and end up with large, perfect heads of garlic.

Since I misplaced the address of my original mail order source, and I simply could not bring myself to shell out $15 a pound for some of the gourmet varieties of garlic from one of the other suppliers I located (though I really, really, really wanted to), I ended up buying a bag of nice looking, great tasting, organic garlic at the natural foods store and planting that.

There are basically two types of garlic--soft-necked and hard-necked (or Rocambole). I used to grow Rocambole, which produces larger cloves and is easier to peel. Most garlic for sale in the store is the soft-necked type. Since my garlic did two peculiar things this year: 1) keeled over last month and never got back up (click here) and 2) forgot to send up the flower stalks that need to be cut off (forcing the plant to spend all of its energy making larger cloves), I'm pretty sure I planted the soft-necked stuff.

Not only did I get a really meager harvest considering that I planted an entire 4' x 8' bed, but many of the bulbs did not mature and split into cloves.

A few months ago I was thrilled to find what I had long heard was the definitive book on growing garlic at the local library (32 miles away). It sat around here for about six weeks completely untouched. (And no, I'm sorry but I can't even remember the title.)

Incredibly Valuable Advice of the Day:
If you are planning to start a garden and/or relocate to the country, try as hard as you can to do all of your reading and research before you actually pick up a shovel or make the move. There will be no time for such things once you've dug in.

So it could have been much worse. Obviously some homegrown garlic is much, much better than no homegrown garlic. And pretty much any garlic tastes delicious. At least I have a few months to figure out what I'm going to plant this fall.

Garlic bed post harvest

Realization #2:
Available planting space!

On the other hand, my Spring Green Garlic Planting Experiment appears to be a definite success. This was also storebought organic garlic, but I think it is going to make wonderful green garlic. I'll let you know soon--some of it looks ready to pick. Click here to read about my discovery of spring green garlic back in April.

—The weather forecast was right! We've had over an inch of much needed rain this afternoon, and it's still coming down. The pastures were already starting to burn up. I think I actually heard the freshly cut hayfield singing with joy. And of course everything in the garden just perked right up and is growing so fast you can practically see it.

—Thanks for all of your deer deterring comments and suggestions. I am definitely going to put some of them to use--especially after last night. Just as we were sitting down to dinner, I happened to look out the window and saw a deer heading straight toward the garden. I yelled to Joe to grab my little gun so we could fire off a warning shot (neither of us was in the mood to process a deer at the moment, especially since we already had dinner ready).

Turns out the gun was unloaded, and while he loaded it, I watched as the deer leisurely strolled our way, easily cleared the hayfield fence, and was nearly to the garden fence when I said, "If you don't get that thing loaded soon, you're going to have to shoot the deer because it's going to be too close to miss."

It took three shots before it bounded from our view. Then later we spotted a totally different deer on its way to what has obviously become the new Favorite Deer Dining Spot for miles around. (In between these appearances, we saw a large skunk skulking around the corner of the hayfield adjacdent to the farmyard. Joe yelled at it and tossed rocks its way. It didn't even flinch.) So he yells at this second deer, and it just keeps heading toward what little chard I have left.

"Nothing is scared of us!" I cried, and he burst out laughing as we both growled out the secret danger call to the dogs. By the time they showed up, barking like mad but not having a clue at what, the deer had slowly walked away.



  1. This is a really great Blog, I love it!

  2. Well, the garlic you got looks beautiful. I appreciated the reading-ahead-of-time advice and will take it to heart. =) Good luck keeping the deer away!

  3. Hi Farmgirl,

    I had no idea of the all the subtleties of garlic growing. Wish I had some of your fresh stuff... the garlic I've beeen getting has a lot of brown rotting areas so I suspect it's been sitting around for quite some time!


  4. Very interesting. I grew garlic one year, then forgot to dig it up when it was time to harvest it! I don't remember seeing the garlic scapes on mine so it must have been soft-neck garlic too. Great post!

  5. so much garlic to eat

    how do you store it so it doesn't go all sprouty and bitter??


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