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How to Grow Garlic

Posted by David Grau on

Originally Posted on August 31, 2013

"The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings." –Masanobu Fukuoka

We’re in the last sliver of time for getting some of the fall garden in. We can still plant carrots, spinach, radish, peas, onion, collards, chard, beets and garlic during the month of September. We haven’t planted any of that at the trial garden at Valley Oak Tool HQ. We’re just rather attached to our thriving tomato garden, and haven’t quite gotten around to doing any of that. In some of our other gardens, we managed to sow some seeds of leeks, collards, chard, and broccoli. We even started a little grass and clover pasture for the chickens (fenced off from them until it gets established).

How to Grow Garlic

garlic bulbsWe do have grand plans, however, for a fabulous garlic garden at HQ. We can plant garlic well into the late fall (or early winter) here. David and Carla will be browsing catalogues for different garlic varieties, and they’ll plant a garlic garden, likely sometime in November.

Why November? Well, their tomato plants will probably keep going, though slowly, until November (unless an early frost comes along), and they’ll want to clean up the beds and amend the soil before planting the garlic. They are also talking about intercropping some bell beans with the garlic. The bell beans will make a nice stand of green, and will fix nitrogen in the soil.

Knowing When to Pick Your Apples

Golden Russet ApplesWe asked Carl Rosato from Woodleaf Farm about how to know the right time to pick apples. Carl grows 50 varieties of apples in his orchard. He grows Sansa, Gingergold, Mutzu, Royal Empire, Elstar, Pink Lady and Granny Smith, to name a few. He told us how he knows when to pick. “First I look for a few that have dropped as an indicator, then if the color is good I try to pick an apple, and if it comes right off when I lift it upside down on the tree then it is likely ready.” He said he picks apples in the morning, and sells them the same day they are picked.

His last Chico Saturday market is today (Aug 31, 2013), and he’ll have O’Henry peaches there. He’ll be at the Berkeley markets with his delectable apples and pears for another month.

Books on Growing Garlic

Since David and Carla are planning a garlic garden, we thought we’d tell you about two garlic-related books we like.

Growing Great Garlic

Growing Great Garlic: The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers by Ron L. Engeland

Engeland is a famer who grows gourmet garlic for market and for seed at Filaree Farm in Washington State. This is a real how-to book on growing garlic. He discusses the many important aspects of growing the best garlic. He covers garlic varieties, planting information, pests, nutrient deficiencies, harvesting, curing, storing, marketing, and more. He even includes a history of garlic.

A Garlic Testament

A Garlic Testament: Seasons on a Small New Mexico Farm by Stanley Crawford

Crawford, like Engeland, is a farmer who grows garlic. The book is a more intimate travel through the interior and exterior landscape of Crawford and the workings of his farm and community. He weaves tales of his life with good information about growing garlic. He talks about tractors, borrowing money, planting, the pleasure of using a shovel, and lessons learned during customer interactions at the Farmer’s Markets.

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