Thursday, January 7, 2016

Garlic Mulching

Why we mulch our garlic

We protect our  plants from winter's harsh weather with a layer of straw mulch.

Insulate the ground!
The idea of mulching is to insulate the ground once the soil has been exposed to a slow decrease in temperatures  below 0C and to keep it frozen until spring. The mulch will  help in moderating fluctuations in  temperatures by keeping the plants safe from sudden cold snaps or thaws in January, which will often result in the garlic bulbs heaving from the ground.  Often cracks develop right along the row of garlic and expose the cloves and their roots. 
Straw is one of the best mediums to use as its easy to find locally and usually doesn't have many seeds of its own to germinate.Straw will hopefully suppress weeds already present in the soil from germinating in the following spring. I say hopefully because no matter how much mulch I put on the garlic, weeds  find their way to the light and  germinate . Leaves are fine to use too as long as they are shredded.  by chopping the leaves into smaller pieces it will result in less compaction. Compaction is when the leaves form a barrier over the soil and not allow rain thru or clove tips to emerge. 
Timing is critical for mulching in order to safeguard a spring crop like garlic from the vagaries of winter.  I wait until the ground is frozen before I mulch and usually I time it  around the end of November or the beginning of December.  Remember,  the idea is to keep the ground frozen once it is frozen.  This winter has been a little different for us in Central Hastings County.  Winter didn't come until after the end of December. The ground just wasn't freezing up on time.  I did begin with some mulching on November 29th  since the ground was actually frozen for  few days, but promptly thawed again. I covered 9 beds then. Sometime during the  Holidays, we received our first 14 inches  or so of snow over a few days!  Well that is good enough for me to safely continue with mulching. I waited a week or more to allow the ground to freeze under the snow.   I mulch right on top of the snow and use the snow as extra insulation, it has two layers of insulation, one of snow and one of straw. So now the ground should be somewhat frozen and well protected for the rest of the winter.
Over the next week i will keep on chipping away at the frozen straw bale and finish the mulching soon.  
Come spring time, I will remove only some of the straw, usually around end of April or the beginning of May.  I try  to remove part of the thicker clumps and leave an even covering over the garlic.  The garlic will push through fine.  However, walk each bed and check if any leave tips are not able to push thru and i help them out by removing the mulch.  As spring moves into summer, i find that i will have to begin serious weeding.   by the end of June i will have made one pass and possibly even two.  the straw breaks down, blows away or just simply disappears.  Maybe the nesting birds in the fence lines are using straw to build nests.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Fungal Disease to watch for.

Fusarium Basal Plate Rot of Onion and Garlic

Michael Celetti, Plant Pathologist – Horticulture Program Lead, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Guelph
The pathogen, Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cepae, is not new to Ontario. It is a persistent soil-borne organism that can also contaminate onion sets and transplants or cloves of garlic used for seed. In fact it is most likely introduced into non-contaminated fields on infested garlic cloves or onion sets. The disease tends to occur more frequently in garlic than in onions and is more often a problem on Spanish onions varieties than on yellow cooking onion varieties.
Figure 1. Orange to salmon coloured spore masses develop around the rotted basal plate of onions infected with F. oxysporum f.sp. cepae.
Symptoms of this disease are often seen as early senescence of the infected plants. The tips of leaves of infected plants turn yellow then brown as symptoms progresses downward towards the bulb. Occasionally a reddish discolouration may appear on bulb sheathes of severely infected garlic plants early in the season. During very hot and dry conditions infected plants wilt and bulbs appear watery and brown. Often the roots rot off of the basal plate (Figure 1). Severely infected plants are easily removed from the soil when pulled, leaving the rotted basal plate and roots behind. On onions, a white mould is sometimes observed growing on the basal plate and frequently orange to salmon coloured spore masses appear around the rotted basal plate (Figure 1). Bulbs that appear to be free of symptoms at harvest but are infected can decay in storage, however, there is no evidence that the disease spreads from bulb to bulb during storage.
Figure 2. Symptoms of Fusarium basal plate rot (left) in garlic look very similar to damage caused by bulb and stem nematode (right).
The pathogen infects when soils become very warm. Interestingly, even in heavily contaminated fields the disease rarely occurs when soil temperatures are below 15oC. However as the soil temperatures warms up and approach 25-28oC together with hot conditions like what was experienced in many regions of Ontario during 2012, the spores of the pathogen in soil germinate, infect developing bulbs and the disease becomes more prevalent and severe. Because this disease thrives under high soil temperatures this diseases usually shows up in mid to late summer.
The pathogen can infect onion or garlic bulbs directly at any stage of plant growth (even healthy plants!); however, a higher incidence of infected plants tends to occur when roots, bulbs or the basal plate are wounded by insects, nematodes or other pathogens. In garlic, the disease looks a lot like and is often associated with bulb and stem nematode injury (Figure 2) where as in onions it is sometimes associated with onion maggot damage.
The disease is managed effectively by crop rotation with non-host crops for 4 years and through planting vigorously growing onion and garlic varieties that are resistant to this disease.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Still time to order your planting and eating garlic!

We are having the most wonderful autumn ever!  Here in Central Hasting County, Ontario, we have had night temperatures no lower than +5 degrees Celsius!  We are still harvesting our fall raspberries, tomatoes and pole beans!  I have greens growing in the cold frames and the grass is still green and growing as ever!

With a fall like this we will be able to plant garlic well into the month of October.   So get those orders in soon before the ground freezes up and there are no more garlic.  


Monday, August 31, 2015

Order Now!

The time has finally come! Time to order your seed and eating garlic.

For those of you who live near Verona, you can come out the 9th annual Verona Lions Garlic Festival this Saturday between 9 am and 2 pm for all things garlicky including the large selection from Railway Creek farm.

Please check the website Railway Creek Farms – Garlic to view the list of what is available and the prices. Please order only what is available and follow all instructions on how to order.

The garlic grew well giving some large bulbs but most of the bulbs are in the medium size. It was a successful harvest with just myself, my mum (who is 80) and 3 high school helpers spending over 245 hours pulling, peeling off the dirty leaves, bundling and hanging the garlic. From Mid august I have been working the vegetable gardens and continuing with the cleaning and packaging of the garlic on my own. I also do all the paper work as well as the marketing. So when you purchase garlic from Railway Creek Farm, you are supporting a very small family farm operation and the livelihood of a family.

I would like to thank you in advance for your interest and continued support of all things small. Elly