Sunday, May 15, 2016

Why isn't my garlic keeping!

Questions Questions Questions.
Each year our Canadian weather presents a variety of  conditions for growing garlic. And growers have little control over them. They do not have control over El Ninos, cold fronts, winter vortexes. Nor do they have control over heat waves, surprise midsummer cool temperatures, hail and high humidity. Mother Nature is always throwing farmers unpredictable weather patterns, it's too early, it's too late, too much rain or not enough at the right times. Spring drought, summer drought and even fall can suffer from a lack of moisture. Maybe there's some semblance of normal weather at sporadic moments throughout the season, but not enough of it! Certain weather conditions brings on diseases that find their way into the fields and gardens. A cool wet spring might bring on more fusarium or botrytis; a lack of good air flow might acerbate white mold; penicillin, a common storage fungal disease may be present due to high humidity while curing. Oh, lets not forget leek moths, nematodes, cut worms and deer. What all this means is that garlic is subjected to all kinds of natural abuse. Bad weather encourages invasive diseases that are difficult to control especially organically.

Its up to each buyer to be aware of potential diseases and take appropriate action to minimize the devastating consequences. Ensure good air flow around the garlic by removing most of the mulch.  Remove debris from the fields as soon as garlic is harvested, all roots and leaves should be composted, buried or even burned to discourage the spread of diseases. Always rogue out disease plants and bury or burn them right away. I prefer burying the debris in holes I have around the farm and covering them with dirt and i don't use any of it as compost. Clean off as much dirt off the roots and trim some of the leaves from the garlic prior to hanging to dry, this speeds up the drying time. Good air flow in the drying area is also very very important to reduce black spots from developing on the bulbs. Store garlic in a cool and low humidity place. 

Stored garlic should be gone through once a week to remove any that have gone soft.  Open the bulb up and check the cloves.  some cloves may still be fine to use and use them quickly, or if you have many find a suitable way to preserve them.  Freezing, dehydrating and pickling are some options.  Garlic should keep upto 10 months or longer, but not guaranteed depending on the season it was grown in.  Garlic is a crop like any other, subject to weather conditions and diseases and insects.