Saturday, November 3, 2012

Garlic Planting

After spending last weekend getting the kitchen garden cleaned up and ready for Winter, I was finally ready to get the garlic planted today. Last year I planted on October 10th, so I am a few weeks later this year. Fortunately, garlic is very flexible and forgiving. If you plant anytime in October to mid-November, your crop should be just fine. I planted three varieties today. The first variety, pictured above is, "Russian Red". I purchased two bulbs at the Fedco Booth at the Common Ground Fair in Maine. It survived the trip home just fine and has been chilling in the refrigerator ever since. This is how Fedco describes this variety in their catalog:

Russian Red Garlic Organic - Named for its mottled burgundy skin, said to have been brought to the Pacific Northwest by Russian immigrants in the early 1900s. Forms a ring of 5-8 large plump cloves around a central stalk. Keeps well for over six months. 50-60 cloves/lb. MOFGA-certified. Maine Grown. Hardneck.

The Fedco catalog lists ""Russian Red" as a Rocambole-type, hard-neck garlic. It should produce 6-12 large tan, brown, or reddish cloves which are easily peeled. It has a slightly shorter shelf life due to loosely attached skins. It will store until February and, if cured well, can store months longer. The scapes will form tight coils. I noticed, as I broke the bulb into individual cloves, how big the cloves were.

The second variety that I planted was "Chesnook Red". I grew this variety for the first time last year. I saved the biggest bulb that I harvested this past July, and I am using those cloves as my planting stock.

Chesnook Red  Organic - Large bulbs with purple stripes, hard tight heads, and easy to peal cloves. An excellent garlic for baking with a nice creamy texture. Pleasant medium pungency, long lasting flavor. Late Season. Hardneck.

I built a long raised bed for the cloves. I added a tablespoon or so of bone meal to the bottom of each hole before I placed the clove. Since our Winter weather is generally mild, I only needed to plant the cloves 1 inch deep, pointed end facing up. I planted 10 cloves of "Chesnook Red" and 15 cloves of  "Russian Red".

Here's the finished bed with all of the cloves settled in for Winter.

When I was done I then covered the whole bed with hoops and a blanket of Remay. I have learned from experience that in the Spring, when the garlic first send up its delicate green shoots, that the finches can not resist pulling on the shoots. The last thing I want to find is a my whole garlic crop lying on top of the soil one morning. I will leave this protective tunnel on until the plants are 2-3 inches high and then it will be safe to remove it.

Once I finished that raised bed, I needed to move to a new space to plant my last variety. As I walked around the house I found this little guy basking in the sunshine. My sister had seen him previously and thinks that it is a young gopher snake. Some great organic pest control!

My final variety that I planted this year was "Tzan". My mom picked up three large bulbs of this variety while on a trip to a nursery on Bainbridge Island, WA. Like "Russian Red" it has extremely large, fat cloves.

Tzan (Turban artichoke hardneck variety)- It is said to be a really hot Turban from Shandong Province that was collected by J. Swenson. Fat, round, easy to peel cloves with beautiful tannish skin that has purple stripes makes it easy on the eyes as well. Averages about 7 cloves per bulb.

I wasn't at all familiar with the term Turban garlic. After some poking around the Internet I found this useful description:

Turbans usually have 5-7 very large fat cloves that form something of a circle around a center that may or may not have a scape. There are few or no tiny interior cloves. Turban garlic's bulb wrappers are usually very colorful with lots of purple splotches and stripes. Some cultivars are very white but vividly striped with red/purple vertical lines. Most of the Turbans I have grown have had stalks (called scapes) that form an upside-down U before straightening up. All cultivars of a given variety of garlic generally have the same scape pattern before they straighten up; all Rocambole scapes form a double loop while Purple Stripe garlics form 3/4 of a loop. Asiatics have a smaller seedhead (properly called an umbel) while Turbans have a larger umbel that resembles a turban. The umbel is covered with a membrane called a spathe and the pointed end of the spathe is called a beak. Turban garlics usually have a beak in the range of 6 to 9 inches or so and have the second-longest beaks of all garlic varieties. Not all have scapes but most usually do. Turbans have 30 to 100 small rice-size bulbils in their bulbil capsule. Some cultivars are instantly hot to the taste while others may be remarkably mild for up to half a minute before you get a very hot taste that spreads from the back of the mouth forward. They can be very pungent and have a musky aftertaste. Not all Turbans are hot although some are but there are also some rich garlicky ones that don't overpower with pungency. - From The Gourmet Garlic Gardens web-site

Well, that explains why the cloves were so fat- they are suppose to be that way!

I built a large, rectangular raised bed against the west end of the house. I was able to fit in 20 "Tzan" cloves. I have them safely planted now and only need to buy a few more metal hoops so that I can get the bed covered in remay for the Winter. Finally, the garlic is planted!

1 comment:

Steve Lau said...

It looks like we both grow a common plant eh. Garlic seems to be the easiest plant to grow because all you have to do is plant the cloves and leaves them alone. It only takes about an hour to plant 1000 cloves by hand, and I make sure every corner of the garden gets filled up with them because you can never get too much garlic.

Here's the latest blog post on mine.