The Blessed Bulb

As we wind down the summer of 2007-with its droughts and floods- we begin to plan both our Fall gardens, and the gardens of 2008. Now is the time to plant fall crops in our locale, and our gardens are obliging by making room with the passing of the corn, melons, and cucumbers. Into those beds will go Kale, Spinach, and Carrots. The spinach for a touch of freshness as the days shorten, and the kale and carrots to keep us in vitamins deep into winter. I do so enjoy messing with the heads of our Thanksgiving guests by picking vegetables for the feast!

Back to the 2008 planning. Our #2 bed first gave us 45# of potatoes, and is about ready to finish with carrots (crop#2), cilantro (#2), beets (#2) and lettuce (#2) and the final 1/3 is currently planted with a rye/vetch mix. As the carrots and cilantro come out we now have the final phase of this bed on hand. Garlic!

Garlic is great-there is nothing easier to save “seed” from, it stores incredibly, is freaky good for you and makes most of the meals we enjoy much, much better. We love garlic. It is also very easy to grow, and you can put a sick amount of garlic into 100 sq feet as most varieties will take a 3″ spacing in beds. That is about 16 cloves per sq ft. Quick math gets you up wards of 1600 cloves in one my 100 sq ft raised beds. Damn! Mia, being significantly more level headed than I in such things put the kibosh on 1600 heads of garlic, so we compromised and purchased a total of 53 heads from 5 varieties. After splitting off the cloves it should be about 4-500 heads for next year! We eat about 50-60 a year and plan to sell/give the rest to local restaurants and friends. At $1/head that is about as lucrative as you can get in a bed.In our research we had become quite smitten with a cultivar named Music: Mia loved both the story of returning to the homeland and the simple, beautiful name. I am partial to large cloved garlic, but we doubted that our small vendor would have this rare garlic. However Gaia provides! The 5-6 cloves are almost ridiculously large (below), and have a firm feel and pungent odor that hints of a pleasant flavor without being too hot.

We also scored more traditional varieties: Chesnok Red, Chrysalis Purple , and a few soft-neck varieties for Mia to braid into wreaths. These will all be stored for another 3-4 weeks and then planted with my latest tool and covered with a 3″ layer of straw to sleep soundly until spring. The straw prevents Mom Nature from heaving the bulbs from the earth over winter, and then doubles as weed suppression come spring!

Garlic is not only one of the easiest and most lucrative crops for the home market grower, it also lends itself perfectly to sharing the bed with a fall lettuce crop. As the garlic is done in late July, its harvest will till the soil and Aug wk 1 is just about prime time for fall greens planting here as the nights cool again and the rains return.

Formerly I had thought of gardening in annual terms focused on the August Harvest, but as I begin to implement Coleman’s Four Season Harvest, I am coming to think of it as more of a constant flow of produce broken breifly by the “catalogue season” of January/Febuary where the soil rests. This year we will have fresh picked produce from April through (hopefully!) December through simple crop selections (radishes, kale, etc) and some simple season extenders like cold frames. Not bad for Zone 4/5! On top of that each of my 7 beds saw at least 2 crops-and all of them saw 3 if you count the cover crops I overwinter on 5 of the seven (Garlic and Kale are left alone).

Happy Planting!


3 Responses

  1. someone gave us one head of music last fall. Only five or six cloves. We planted it, of course, instead of eating it. A beautiful plant growing.

    Of course, we tend to eat a lot of green garlic as it will grow any time. Most of our fall gardening is waiting on rain. Although we have a nice third growing (not in same bed, but sowed over time) of summer crops now maturing.

  2. Thanks for the reminder to get my butt in gear. I always forget to plant the garlic…

  3. The Music has found its way into both a rice and potatoe dish thus far. It is incredibly mild and subtle. Magnifying flaovrs without overpowering them. Beo likes.

    E4-glad I could be of service. Given your currently severly limited status, I understand that your mind is on other things!

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