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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
Posted: Jun-18-2004 at 7:48am
It took me until the last few years to be sure of harvesting garlic about the right time. The best source for how to tell when is Ron Engeland’s Growing Great Garlic. But like Steve Solomon’s Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, Ron’s book needs many readings to absorb all the information. It is formatted into seasons so you can read sections as your plants develop. The best short description is in the 2004 catalog from Ron’s Filaree Farm in Okanogan from which he draws his knowledge.
"As harvest approaches plants begin to dry from the lowest leaf up and from the leaf tips downward, one leaf at a time. We harvest when top 4 leaves are still 50% green."
This method works for both hard neck and soft neck garlic and is sure different from the “when plants fall over” or “60% brown” advice. The reason becomes obvious when you consider that each leaf layer is a wrapper on your storage bulb. You want to have 2-3 good wrappers left after drying and cleaning.
I have 12 varieties this year and they range from 7 to 12+ leaves per plant and all have already dried two or more leaves at the bottom of the plant. In most cases the lowest leaf has decayed so that the only thing visible is some brown skin at the soil line.
We can discuss harvesting, drying, and storage later but you should also cut the scapes off your hard necks now so the plant "redirects the energy downward into the bulb."
Posted: Jun-18-2004 at 9:00am
Gary, sounds like we're on the same page. I've already pulled a couple of plants that were looking ready.
The scapes I use to "decorate" the fruit trees - I tie them to the branches. The deer hate the smell. Friends who see it act like I've gone off the deep end, but it works!
I've stopped watering the garlic section of the garden. Is this the right thing to do? I read somewhere that this was called "field curing" or something like that. I figure that with the dry, hot weather we're getting, the plants will be ready to pull in about a week. Any later and I'm afraid they'll split. (Hint, hint: don't wait too long for the harvest, drying and storage information! I need all the help I can get!)
Which brings me to another question. When Steve Solomon speaks of "midsummer" does he mean the modern version (mid-July) or the traditional version (June 21)?
Chris Sunset 4 USDA 8a
Posted: Jun-18-2004 at 9:23am
yes gary more information on growing, harvesting and drying would be very much welcomed. i only have four garlic this year as it is my first year and i didn't want to get too over my head, but keep the info coming it is much awaited. my leaves are all still green though. i want to plant for winter though. any good suggestions from TSC? thanks, jenn.
Posted: Jun-18-2004 at 9:00pm
Jenn, I really like Music from TSC. It stores well and makes HUGE cloves. Nice and spicey, too.
Chris Sunset 4 USDA 8a
Posted: Jun-19-2004 at 12:40pm
Hi, Gary, I have not grown garlic before and I dont know the diffrence between hard neck and ?soft neck? What is(are) scapes? the leaves? My garlic has about 18 inches of stem with the sword like leaves coming off the stem about every 2 to 3 inches. Is that what you cut off to redirect the energy to the bulb? I pulled one up the other day--mainly to see if a head was forming, as the last time I grew garlic several years ago, it did not form a head. This one looks good!
Yes, I know that if I weren't so lazy I might be able to find the answer somewhere, but here I am asking you. which is infinately easier.
Carol J. Miller.
Posted: Jun-19-2004 at 1:55pm
I too follow Ron’s guidance published in his Fliaree Farm Catalog. As Gary noted "Harvest when the top 4 leaves are still 50% green" much better than than "Harvest when approximately forty percent of the leaves are still green." However a note of caution do not leave newly harvested garlic in the sun. Again from the catalog: "Bundle in groups of five to ten plants and hang inside, out of direct sunlight and with good air circulation. Don’t leave freshly dug bulbs in direct sunlight for more than a few minutes or they may sunburn (literally cook). The plants and bulb's cure completely in 2 to 3 weeks in dry climates, but may need fans and heat sources in wet climates. When completely cured the neck may be cut about one-half inch above the bulb without any moisture being apparent. Trim the roots and necks to approximately one-half inch length and store in netted onion bags.”
I cut the scapes off last week and tried them in a stir fry. Powerful stuff! I can see why the deer stay away.
La vita e troppo breve per beve il vino cottivo.
Posted: Jun-19-2004 at 2:16pm
A "Thank You" to John who got ahead of me on answering your questions and especially pay attention to his 'sunburn' advice if this weather continues. [If you back up one link to the 's Forum', you'll see that Lisa had me under a deadline to put up about 1,000 words this morning on "Watering your Garden".]
Scapes are the flower stalk on 'hard neck' garlics. If you have 'softneck (braidable)' varieties, you won't see them under normal circumstances but you flower folks or leek growers will recognize the tall stiff stalk if it is not cut as John describes.
More tomorrow on my varieties and choices for the Maritime PNW (plus some watering info for your 2005 crop).
In the meantime, you can go to Filaree Farm to order garlic for your 2005 crop at:
Filaree Farm Garlic
Or, better yet for those who want more info, call them at (509) 422-6940 and leave your address for a 2004 catalog of your own. Some of the varieties I (or John) will mention may not be available so close to this fall's planting but you can put them on your list for your 2006 crop. It has taken me 4+ years of trials to get to my choices for my 2004 harvest but that is for another post.
Talk to you later,
Posted: Jun-20-2004 at 4:18am
First, let’s see if I can get a table in here of my 2004 garlic crop.
Chesnok Red......Ophio............Purple Stripe...6
E. red Italian........Sativum.........Artichoke.........10
Asian Tempest....Hard neck.....Asiatic..............4
Creole Red..........Hard neck.....Creole...............10
Direct from the Filaree catalog:
“All strains of modern garlic fall into one of two distinct subspecies - ophioscorodon (or hardneck) which produces a flower stalk (scape) like the wild garlic , and sativum (or softneck) which usually doesn’t produce a flower stalk. “Ophio” garlics want to produce small aerial cloves (called bulbils) on a flower stalk in most climates and tend not to produce large bulbs below ground unless the flower stalk is removed.
“Softneck garlics have partially lost the ability to produce flower stalks (though they may still bolt when stressed). They are basically non-bolting garlics that produce large bulbs instead of sending energy into flower production. There are, however, several sub-groups of sativum garlics that produce weak flower stalks (often without any bulbils) in most temperate, cold winter climates. These are the Creole and Asiatic/Turban groups.”
The Creole and Asiatic/Turban groups are subspecies of the Silverskin and Artichoke varieties. You can see from the attempted table that I have covered the variety range with my choices. I have also tried to even out the quantities by the storage life throughout the year by growing a spread of “keeping qualities” and I try to use them up in their storage sequence. I count storage from July 1st so I try to use a 6 month bulb by Christmas. Storage life is dependent on good harvest timing, curing, cleaning, etc., and temps/humidity conditions. I use an unheated bedroom when I can.
What I don’t show in the table is how many rows of each of the 12 garlics I have this year. I have two rows each of Asian Tempest, Killarney Red, Chesnok Red, Red Toch, Armenian, and St. Helen.
Each row of ten plants runs south to north across the 4 foot wide bed and I have put 18 rows into my fourteen foot long bed this year. My spacing is 5” in the row and 9” between the rows which agrees with a sketch at the end of the Filaree Catalog though they use a 2 foot wide row. It also agrees with other research that I have found – from the UK, for example, where the summer sun is lower in the sky than ours is.
You may be able to grow on smaller spacing closer to the equator where the sun is higher in the sky. Remember that in the end of March here, a 3’ tall plant throws a 3’ shadow at solar noon.
To digress on the sun further, today is Fathers Day and the summer solstice. In Olympia, the sun will be 45 degrees or more above the horizon from 10 AM until 3:30 PM PDT. At Solar Noon, 1:13 PM PDT, the sun will be 66+ degrees above the horizon. The complete sun data for Olympia is:
20 June 2004...........Pacific Daylight Time
Begin civil twilight...4:36 a.m.
Sun transit............1:13 p.m.
End civil twilight.....9:50 p.m.
So I will be 6 minutes short of a 16 hour day and a little less than 7 hours from the end of twilight to the begining of the next one. The day will be a little longer and the sun lower north of Olympia
. The altitude angle is determined by your Latitude so you can adjust by yours from Olympia
's N 47 degrees.
Back to the garlic questions. Some of the varieties are new to me this year while some have stood the test of time in my garden. You do need to give garlic a few years to acclimate to your conditions before you decide that it is a ‘keeper’ or not. The Filaree catalog gives a description of each and most times gives you background on where they got the plants.
The number of choices (100+) from Filaree can be overwhelming but when I see descriptions like:
NOOTKA ROSE. Well colored strain; a northwest heirloom from the San Juan Islands off the Washington coast. From Steve Bensel of Nootka Rose Farm in Waldron, WA.
ST. HELENS. Baked it has a subtle, nutty flavor. Hot raw. Heirloom from Western WA
I feel comfortable in adding them to my garden. New gardeners for the 2005 crop may want to try one of their variety packs which they will chose for your climate. That is how I started working up to 12 choices some many years ago.
PS -- I did forget to mention that the scapes are now on sale at the Olympia
Farmers' Market for $3.50/lb or a dozen for $1.50, so follow the cooking advice above unless the stalks are getting woody.
Posted: Jun-20-2004 at 11:31pm
, thanks for posting this info. I had no idea when I joined this forum that it was such a goldmine.
Posted: Jun-21-2004 at 5:31am
We missed the watering question above. Filaree details as follows:
"In the spring when plants are growing green leaves, water like any garden green. Nitrogen is appreciated at this stage of growth. When days lengthen and the temperature climbs (Mid-May in Okanogan) garlic is finished growing green leaves and is ready to become a bulbing plant. Small weak plants at the stage will produce small bulbs no matter what you do.
"Taper of the water a bit. As harvest approaches don't keep the topsoil too wet for any length of time or bulbs may mold or stain."
So this time of year, I reduce the water on the garlic to about half of what most the other crops are getting. Some years that may include using a sheet of plastic to hold off rain. This year I am watering that bed when the dry soil is down below bulb depth (about a fore finger poke). I do have one advantage over most my T-Tape drip system puts down only a quart per hour on an 8"x12" pattern. This easily abosrbed by the sandy loam and is only about 0.65" in a one hour watering (2 1/2 days need this week).
I conform to Solomon on fertilizer with a Ciscoe modification. For the late winter feedings (Feb and Mar 1st), I use a fish emulsion like Hi-crop plus some Maxicrop kelp powder (about 1 gal. to 15 row feet). This year Black Lake Organic went to a Down-to-Earth product which already has the kelp in it. It is a 3-2-2 mix so we are not high loading here. About April 1st I put down an organic fertilzer like Solomon's mix. I guess you'd call the liquid a foliar feeding but a lot of it will be washed into the soil. If the weather warms in Feb/early Mar, then the plant has fert to help it grow.
I've heard Ciscoe recommend a feeding of fish fert on the first day of April, May, and June and this year I used the emulsion for that. For that (?) or other reasons like the bed prep last year, my plants are larger than ever. Only Burgundy is below 30" tall (it may not get a 3rd year in my bed) and on some varieties, the tips stretch to 48" inches off the soil. At the soil line, the stems of Armenian, Nootka Rose, Red Toch, and Music are nearing 1" in diameter. It looks like I will have a lot of 2+ inch blubs.
Garlic is one crop that I think really rewards the use of an organic fertilizer. Most chemical ferts would have disolved and washed through the soil layer in last October's 10" rainfall. If conditions are warm enough for growth then some organic (Ex: cottonseed meal) will breakdown and feed the plant. If not then it will sit in the soil until it does warm.
Engeland talks of using a two-year green manure cycle to give the soil lots of fertility. I am using 12-months now with crimson clover overwinter and (2)buckwheats through summer. (Do cut the buckwheat before it seeds or you'll spend the last months before harvest on weed patrol.)
Why is the fertility base important? A related question is why hasn't my garlic come up yet? Just like their storage times, different garlics break dormancy and grow on their own cycles. I remember one year in the mid-90's when after a wet, warm fall, I was convinced that my cloves had rotted. Vunderbar, the year's first cold spell came around New Year's and emergence followed in a week.
My 12 varieties this year were all sown on Oct. 20th. The emergence ranged from Creole Red on Nov. 30th (< 6 weeks) to Asian Tempest on Jan 31st (15 weeks). Armenian & Music emerged on Jan. 20th. Armenian was the first of all to reach the five leaf stage in five weeks on Feb. 27th. Music did not get to five leaves until 10+ days later. Last Thursday, Music had 11 leaves and Armenian 9 and both had 2 leaves browned.
You could match your ferts to the growth cycles with just a few varieties but with 180 plants inside a 55 sq. ft. box, I like the versatility of rich soils. I don't know if I will ever get to Engeland's two-year green manure cycle (for one thing, I don't think I can grow alfalfa here), but I will continue to try to imitate it.
Posted: Jun-24-2004 at 12:16pm
Another technique of Engeland's that I will try to emulate from now on is his to desire to get an irrigation onto his newly planted field in the fall. I am begining to believe that some of the outstanding sizes of plants I'm getting this year is related to our 10" of October 2003 record rainfall.
Certainly compared to the 0.6" my garden got in 2002, there must have been some benefit to all that dormancy breaking damp soil around the planted cloves last fall.
And one of my softnecks, St. Helens, now has most of the plants falling over. They still have 7 leaves left so I will hold off harvesting them.
I did pull one of the Asian Tempests today to give to a friend (who turned out to be on vacation) at a breakfast meeting. Though not a 'True' #1 because the bulb diameter is a little oval, I do think that a 2.2" mean diameter with only seven cloves makes a great looking harvest. The first person to see it laying on the table at the meeting thought I had a palm frond laying there because the 30" plant still had 6 good leaves.
Posted: Jul-07-2004 at 7:05pm
I have now got 1/4th of my varieties in my basement curing. At about 60F, it is cooler than I'd like but I do have a low volume fan on the plants 24/7. My leaf counts yesterday say that only Killarney Red may be still in the ground next week. I'll report on my impressions of all 12 after I have them all hanging.
One thing that we haven't discussed earlier is how to clean the heads when you harvest. Engeland recommended a simple old toothbrush. It took me some time trials but I now agree he was right. The temptation on freshly dug plants is to hose them off with water but that can invite disease. And remember not to leave them in the sunshine.
I have now learned that if you have reduced your watering by 50%, used a spading fork to lift the plant somewhat, and tapped the head gently a few times against the palm of your other hand you can easily brush most of the dirt off with his old toothbrush. If you brush, bristles first, down the bulb head of the plant, you’ll be able to clean most of the soil off of even the roots. It works even better cleaning the dry plants after curing but you will have to develop left/right hand motions or use up a lot of toothbrushes.
A lasso of a 5-foot piece of garden twine cinched near the bulb heads is all I use to tie up 10 plants. I punch a hole in the point of my marker tag and thread it on the lasso. Then I half hitch them to overhead strips in the basement that were put up by the first owner of our house 50 years ago. (Simple fish leader wrapped about ten times around four screw eyes mounted in a square pattern.) As the plants cure, the leaf tops dry out and the heads may start to tip your lasso so watch them.
Above I said, “Used a spading fork to lift the plant somewhat” and that is right. It never stops amazing me how deep the bulbs end up after sowing the cloves an inch deep. If you do not loosen the soil 5-6 inches below the surface, you may just pull the tops of the plants.
Posted: Jul-08-2004 at 6:38am
While looking up a pop up greenhouse review by Chris Smith today, I found this garlic info from Seeds of Change. Perhaps the photos will help you interpret my disjointed prose a little.
Posted: Jul-14-2004 at 9:26am
for the info I have been lax in my irrigation of my garlic bed. I worried about wet feet in the fall and stopped watering when the scapes started to emerge.
Stll, my garlic has been harvested and is curing, have enough 2”+ heads to supply for next years crop. The theory being the largest heads have the largest cloves which in turn produce the largest heads. If 2” is the standard I’m about 60 percent there. I am growing German Porcelain, Romanian Red, Music, Bavarian Purple all are hard neck ophioscorodon porcelain varieties. Another reason why I grow porcelain varieties, even the small heads have big cloves, just not very many of them. They also seem to store well and have very good flavor.
Without changing the subject to much, my shallots are also in, and the question is what should I use for my seed stock, large or small shallots? I think, I read somewhere that if you plant a large shallot you will get many small shallots in return, if you plant a small shallot you will get a few large shallots. Is this true?
Posted: Jul-14-2004 at 10:56am
Do you cut off the roots after drying? If so, what do you use to do it? I'd like to braid the softnecks, and the roots are so long as to be unsightly.
Chris Sunset 4 USDA 8a
Posted: Jul-14-2004 at 12:21pm
Yes, you cut the roots off as short as you can, let's say leaving 1/4 of an inch. On hard necks, you cut the stem to 1/2 inch or a little more. I use an old pair of scissors on the roots and pruners on the stems.
In humid storage conditions, even very short roots will begin to swell and start breaking the bulb dormancy.
I have no knowledge of sowing sizes on the shallots. I have always tried to plant the largest I had.
I seem to remember that Ron Engeland sows from 2-2.5 inch bulbs. I think he has found more consistant perfomance at that size rather than 3" heads. My copy of his book is under some paint tarps so I can't verify my memory right now. I will have to by Sept. because I've got consistant 3 inchers hanging in the basement in Kilarney Red, Music, Armenian, and Red Toch varieties.
I'll report on my results later.