I managed to finish the garlic planting just before the snow started flying. Hard to believe, but one week ago it was sunny and warm as I neared the end of 3 days of planting. The garlic we (and our members) are enjoying now was planted at the end of the 2013 growing season, with garlic scapes harvested in the spring and the bulbs hung in the barn to dry in the heat of the summer. Now that process begins anew for next year's garlic harvest.
I've been building my garlic stock since 2009, expanding year by year. Garlic propagation naturally lends itself to seed saving, allowing me to select for the garlic that grows best in this ecosystem. Seed saving helps preserve genetic diversity, contributes to the stabilization of our food supply, and keeps agriculture localized and smaller scale.
The first job is clove popping. Each bulb is opened up and the cloves are taken out. The small cloves are set aside for cooking and the big ones go out for planting. It's a tedious and boring job. Definitely my least favorite part of growing garlic.
Each clove can grow into a new bulb of garlic. Oh, the miracles of asexual reproduction.
Here is the late fall scene in field two: garlic is going in in the first three beds while the chickens are busy cleaning up the squash beds for me.
When I have the time, I like to use a broadfork to loosen the soil in the beds, especially for root crops and others (like garlic) that have an edible part growing in the soil. The broadfork aerates the soil and breaks through compaction without inverting the layers (which is bad for soil microorganisms).
After the broadfork I need to rake again so that the bed is flat enough for the next tool.
I made this dibbler tool 2 years ago to speed up garlic planting. It has slightly sharpened dowels spaced evenly along the bottom bar at the just the right planting distance. The horizontal stick in the middle lets me line up the distance to the next row, so I end up with a nice grid of holes as I stomp down the bed.
One clove down, two thousand nine hundred ninety nine to go...
After a bunch of cloves are dropped in, I use the back of the rake to cover the holes and firm the surface. In a more typical November, I would wait until the ground got a bit colder and then mulch with straw before the heavy snows of December or January. Plans are a bit different this year thanks to early snowy insanity, but it look like there's a thaw around the corner, so hopefully the garlic can get put to bed properly before the winter. We look forward to the happy green shoots of garlic scapes popping up out of the straw in spring 2015!