Tuesday, September 10, 2019

What to do with all that garlic!

Storing your garlic, simple ideas.

Your garlic has been hanging to dry now for over a month. They are ready to have the stems removed and any loose dirt brushed off and placed in appropriate containers for long term storage over the winter. Here are some ideas of how to keep your garlic over the winter. Keep them in containers that are breathable, such as paper bags, mesh bags or airy baskets, and keep them cool and dry. They store very much like onions and potatoes. Root cellars, if you live in a house with one are ideal, garages, as long as they are kept above freezing, closets that are not in direct heat source, the coolest corner in an apartment. You can also peel the cloves and freeze them whole, my personal favourite! It's so easy to just grab a handful and chop while they are thawing. Not great for any raw dishes, but perfectly suitable for anything cooked. Garlic can be pickled, dehydrated, and even blended with olive oil and frozen into small serving size portions.

Garlic hanging in a net bag in the kitchen pantry.

Preparing your garlic and garden for planting, quick tips.

If you are not storing all your garlic, then there is only one other thing to do and that is to plant it! This is when you carefully select the medium to large bulbs, or the best of the smaller ones and clean off any remaining dirt. What you are looking for are root decay, questionable clove separation, mold, and discoloration on the bulbs, brown spots on the cloves and insect damage.
Some of the main diseases and insects to watch out for are:
1  Fusarium

The garden space for your garlic should be prepared soon. Turn in any cover crops and add lots of compost, manure, if you can get it. I like at least 2 inches of compost worked into the soil. Let it sit for a week or so to allow the microbes to do their thing.
Quarter acre of buckwheat and faba beans ready to be turned in.
 Click on this OMAFRA site for more info on how to plant.  Basically, you break the garlic apart into cloves, and plant them with the pointy tip upward. The tip of the garlic should be two inches below the ground.  Plant 4 to 6 inches between cloves and 8 to 12 inches between rows.  Cover the garlic up and mulch with loose straw about 2 inches thick.  

So a little bit of what has been happening on my farm as an example of something you can do on your own scale of growing and available resources.

While the garlic was curing, the field from where it was harvested this summer was planted to buckwheat right after. I left the buckwheat to flower to allow the migrating monarchs and local bees/wasps to feed from the nectar. I don't suggest that you leave the flowers to get ahead of you since they will form seeds and replant either this fall or next spring and become a weed problem. I do this because I won't need this patch for another 4 years. Last week I broadcast cereal rye into the buckwheat and I am hoping it will germinate under the leafy canopy. Once it does, I will flail mow the tops of the buckwheat down to about 12 inches high from the ground. The rye should take off and produce some nice little plants of about 3-4 inches high until winter, then it will stop growing and wait until spring to resume its growth again. This rye will be a spring time cover crop until mid-june when I plant a 3 year perennial crop.

Meanwhile the patch for this year's garlic planting is also growing buckwheat along with faba beans added to the mix for nitrogen fixing. This crop will be worked into the soil the next week and manure spread on the surface and worked in again and shaped into raised beds. I plan on planting during the second week of October. As a side note, I am going to experiment with a no-till section in the garden for some of the trial garlic. I will write a blog entry about that at a later time.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

1 week until harvest!

Its almost harvest time! About 2 - 3 weeks ago, mainly in my area of Hastings county, the scapes were removed from the garlic plants. We do this to allow the nutrient uptake to be utilize in bulb growth rather than forming bulbil sets. Hopefully everyone's garlic is growing well despite the erratic weather we have been getting all across Canada. Despite drought, or floods, or a late spring, garlic will be ready roughly at the same time each year, give or take 5-7 days. But when garlic is ready to harvest there is no dallying! Follow me on Instagram or Facebook to find out when I start to dig!
Porcelains are usually harvested first then followed by rocamboles and purple stripes. To determine the right time to harvest, the bottom 3 to 4 leaves twill turn yellow-brown and the rest of the leaves are still green. Each leaf represents a wrapper around the bulb, so about 5-6 green leaves are the wrappers you want to leave on the bulb for protection for long term storage. If you are planting them in October, then it doesn't matter how many leaf wrappers are on the bulb since they are not going to be kept for a long time.

A bulb just dug from the ground with dirt and leaves still attached.

Once you have the garlic out of the ground, remove as much of the dirt as possible and peel away any loose coverings. Then, bundle them up into bunches from 5 to 20 depending on size of bulbs and tie with string and hang them to cure somewhere dry but with a good airflow. The curing time is around 4 weeks. 

Outer leaves that are dirty are pulled off.

Once dried, remove the stems from the bulb with garden pruners and you may trim up the roots as well if you want to. Be sure the roots are free from dirt, no one likes to have dry soil fall onto their counter top while prepping diner! 

The roots are trimmed and top leaves are trimmed off for convenience. 

I usually keep the loose bulbs in an open airy baskets , mesh bags or horticulture lugs. Fans can be used to displace moist air around the containers if necessary for another week or so before long term storage. Store in a room or cupboard between 15ยบC and 18°C and with a moderate humidity. When these two criteria, temperature and humidity fluctuate, then problems may arise such as mold or shoot initiation. 

Once the garlic is out of the ground, wether its form a back yard garden or from a commercial field , its important to rehabilitate the area. I always plant buckwheat right after the harvest to conserve what moisture is still left in the soil and to quickly cover the ground to prevent wind or rain erosion and continue to feed the microbial life within. I only make one pass with the tiller per bed and that is to lightly cover the buckwheat seeds and to knock down larger weed plants.
pic of tilled beds.

Protecting the soil by immediatetly sowing a catch crop.

The topic of cover cropping and land preparation for next years garlic crop will be in a later blog.
Stay on Track with Railway Creek Farm.

Accepting orders after September 1st.

I am offering everyone who places an order over $100 of garlic a random sample of one of my new garlic strains that are transitioning from 4 years of trial to full commercial sales in 2020. You will recieve 2 to 3 bulbs and I hope that you will grow it out in your plot for the harvest year 2020. I would like feed back on how well it grew in your location,  the average bulb size,  as well as your interpretation of flavour and heat rating. I will follow up later in 2020 with each of to see what the results are. I am looking for input to decide what kinds of garlic I should keep and what kinds I should discontinue from growing. I am keen on growing what you, the customer likes the most. This offer will last until I run of of sample bulbs. 3 bulbs per $100 order before shipping costs. 

Please remember, I only ship in Canada and I take PayPal (or e-transfer payments as a last resort). You don't need a PayPal account to pay, just a credit card.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

4 more weeks of growing!

For anyone with garlic, hardneck garlic that is, there are scapes to remove. Here at Railway Creek Farm, I am about half way done 'scaping' Usually the porcelains are done earlier then the rocamboles and purple stripes. The latter two are a bit challenging to remove since the plants are shorter than porcelains and there is quite some back bending involved. However, they should be removed to encourage the growth of larger bulbs. 

Now what to do with all these scapes you ask. My favourite two ways of preparing them are, just throw them in everything I cook that would normally take garlic cloves and garlic scape pesto.  Just remember to remove the pointy tip with scissor just above the light green bulge. That part can be a little tough to chew even when cooked.

I am encouraging you to take some time and have a look at the list of garlic on the website that are available to purchase.

I am offering anyone who orders over $100 of garlic a sample of one of my new garlic varieties that are transitioning from 4 years of trial to full commercial sales in 2020. I would like some feed back on how well it grew in your location if you are planting, what the average bulb size as well as your description of flavour and heat. I will follow up later in 2020 with each of to see what you think. I am looking for input to decide what kinds of garlic I should keep and what kinds I should discontinue from growing. I am keen on growing what you, the customer likes the most. This offer will last until I run of of sample bulbs. 

Please remember, I only ship in Canada and I take PayPale or etransfer payments. You don't need a PayPal account to pay, just a credit card.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

6 more weeks until harvest!

It's mid June now and it's still raining more often than not! The garlic field at Railway Creek Farm is looking great despite all the moisture! I hope your garlic patches are also doing well. By now the plants should be all leafed out and in the more southern parts of Ontario, scapes are forming. The scapes are not showing at all here North of 7. 

With all this rain we are having, not only do we have May flowers finally blooming in June, but the weeds have taken advantage of the few sunny days and exploded into seed already.

Leek moth has not shown itself in the garlic field yet. Maybe the cold winter did most of them in, and maybe the late spring took care of the rest. I'm not making any assumptions, I am still going to be vigilant in my daily walkabout in among the plants, carefully monitoring for them. If I see one, I will squish it.

I just want to remind you all if you want more daily posts of my activities in the garlic patch, or would like to know more about cover cropping/no-till, and other on-farm behind the scenes events, I urge you to check out the Instagram account. Click HERE. For Facebook, click HERE. There you will discover what life is like on a small acreage farm run by a middle age woman.

If you have comments and questions, you can post them on those social media places or send me an email. I encourage feedback and reading your stories about your garlic growing adventures.

Hop on this garlic train with me.