Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A (Very) Late Garlic Planting


The fall weather this year has not be cooperating - I can't recall an end to the season quite as cold as this one with zero warm ups.  In fact, this morning, we woke up to a bunch of white stuff on the ground - this is the earliest snowfall we've had in a very long time.

It's late in the season - some may say the season is already over - but several tasks were still on the to do list.  The most pressing of these was getting the garlic in the ground.  I was waiting and waiting and waiting for that elusive "nice" day to get this task done - but I finally realized that it was not going to arrive.

On Sunday, it was just above freezing BUT it wasn't windy and the sun was out.  From the looks of the long-range forecast, this was as good as it was going to get so I decided to get out there and plant the garlic.  I had to do it in stages...prep the bed, come inside for a warming break, plant a couple of rows, come back in - you get the picture.

Had to get out the heavy duty, insulated gardening gloves

The fact that I waited much too long to plant the garlic hit home when the manure I planned on incorporating into the beds was half frozen.  I did my best to break it up and even brought a bucket of clumps inside to warm up for a few hours.  When various members of the family asked what's in the bucket, I nonchalantly replied "sheep poo" as if that's the most normal thing to be carrying around in a bucket, inside the house, in November.  You know you've trained your family well when the only response that generates is an understanding nod 😁

Unfortunately, my defrosting attempt was only partially successful, so I had to make due with clods of manure throughout the bed instead of a nice, even layer.

Hard-as-a-rock clump of frozen manure

The garlic cloves were sorted & ready to go ahead of time - this task is thankfully done in the comfort of my kitchen.

8 varieties of garlic, sorted and ready to plant

All of my seed stock, save for one variety, came from this years harvest.  Unfortunately, this was a very disappointing year in the garlic bed.

You may recall that I've had an ongoing battle with leek moths for the past few years.  Normally the garlic is only minimally affected, with the most damage being inflicted on the onions (whose beds are now covered with netting).  Perhaps it's the fact that their access to the tastier onions has been limited or maybe the weather conditions were simply more favourable for them, but I had an unprecedented amount of leek moth damage in the garlic bed this year.

Leek moth damage and exposing the larva that was hiding inside a garlic leaf

It was crazy - I tried to squish as many of the larva as I could but it was a losing battle.  I knew that the garlic harvest would be significantly impacted...and it was, especially when it came to the varieties near the middle of the bed, which were difficult to reach.

The size of the bulbs ranged from barely acceptable to downright pitiful.  Pitarelli suffered the most with bulbs that averaged only 1" across.  It's a shame too, as this is one of the longest storing varieties that I grow.

Pitarelli suffered the most from leek moth damage;
these "bulbs" are barely bigger than the size of a large clove

Not only were bulb sizes significantly smaller across the board, but I actually ended up losing a few bulbs, which is a first.  I have always harvested the same number of bulbs as cloves planted, often even a few more (as some of the "single" cloves are actually doubles so I end up with two bulbs instead of one).  This year, however, I only harvested 137 bulbs out of the 148 cloves planted last fall.

Garlic spaced out and ready to plant

The bottom line?  The overall garlic harvest (3.4kg/7.5 lbs) went down by more than half from last years bumper crop of 7.3kg/16 lbs.  As is always the case in the garden, there are both winners and losers each season and the garlic is firmly in the latter category this year.

Thankfully, unlike crop issues that result from uncontrollable factors such as the weather, leek moths can be controlled. Since I've only had the odd bit of leek moth damage in the garlic bed in the past, I've never felt the need to net it - that will be changing next year.  Netting is a pain all the way around, especially when it comes to weeding, but you know how it is in the garden - sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do to keep those pesky pests off your crops.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

16 comments:

  1. Oh my, I can sooo identify with you on this one! I didn't get my garlic planted until yesterday. Sunday was a sunny day here too but I thought there would be a 'nicer' day later this week so I waited (again). Then the forecast changed and now they are calling for 2-3" of snow on Thursday. So yesterday I just put on the layers of clothes and got it done. Fortunately I had prepped the beds a couple of weeks ago. And I had a bale of straw under cover I could use for mulch. I am guessing you were as glad as I was when it was all done!

    I also had issues with smaller bulbs this year and with losing a lot over winter. I wound up with 13 pounds, but then I also planted more than you did too - 200 or so. It's always something with gardening, isn't it? One thing does well, another does poorly. But hope springs eternal with gardeners!

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    1. We do love our garlic! I'm sure many people would balk at the thought of that many bulbs. Not us though!

      Sounds like snow is finding you a lot earlier than usual too :( Thanks for making me feel better - it's nice to hear that I'm not the only one with timing issues this year :) And YES - I'm so glad that I got it done when I did although I wasn't as on-the-ball as you were with having the straw handy to put on - that will have to be done this week.

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  2. It did make me chuckle to hear that telling your family there was sheep poo in the bucket didn't get a response, they're obviously used to your ways. Snow already? We've had the odd cold day but it's been quite mild so far, I've heard that we're in for a harsh winter though, I do hope that's wrong. Fingers crossed that your garlic does better for you this year, I think the easiest thing would be to grow everything under netting, though it wouldn't thwart every pest, would it? There's always slugs to contend with.

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    1. We need your mild spell on this side of the Atlantic so that I can finish up my outdoor tasks :) I haven't heard anything yet about how our winter is going to be this year - after what you've said, I'm almost afraid to find out!

      Netting is a saviour - from cabbage whites to leek moths to leaf miners - there's an army of critters that our veg are saved from. As you say, though, slugs are another matter entirely.

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  3. Sorry about the leek moths, but your harvest still seems impressive to someone who doesn't grow garlic. And I'm impressed that you were out there in the cold, planting away. I had big plans the other day for garden work, and ended up cutting my task list down to the bare essentials because it was just too cold. I don't like these early winters at all, but Mother Nature doesn't care. ;-)

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    1. You and me both Beth - our winters are already long enough without them starting a month early with no warm spells to break it up! My "to-do" list has similarly been pared down to the bare necessities - unfortunately that includes cleaning/disinfecting the seeding pots/supplies, which has to be done in the garage. Washing things in freezing temps, even in the shelter of the garage, is NOT going to be fun!

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  4. Oh, I did smile when I read about the sheep poo in the bucket ...your family know you so well :)

    Such a shame about the garlic, it's so good to use in cooking.

    Here in the UK we still have it reasonably mild (at the moment) but things can change overnight.

    All the best Jan

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    1. It is funny about the sheep poo - at the time, I didn't think anything of it, but looking back I realized how funny it was :) Lucky you still having mild temperatures - I keep checking the weather network to see if perhaps we will have a little bit of a break from the freezing temps, but so far no luck.

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  5. Unfortunately no barrier thwarts the nasty garlic rust that has ruined more than one crop of garlic in my garden so it's no garlic again this year. Oh well, that just means less work for me. Sheep poo in the house! I haven't tried that one yet but I doubt that it would cause much of a stir if I did.

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    1. Oh, that's too bad about the garlic -but your right, less work (or more time to put up more barriers!)

      When it comes to things like poo, I think may non-gardeners would find us an eccentric bunch ;)

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  6. Manure indoors? I guess it wasn't too smelly? I'm surprised that you didn't get the hair drier out :-D

    You seem to use a lot of garlic.

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    1. We do LOVE our garlic.

      Ha! The manure is composted so zero smell :) I didn't even think of using a hair dryer...hopefully I'll stay on top of things in the future and this won't be an issue again!

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  7. You have trained your family well! Good work! Too bad about the garlic harvest, though.

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    1. Thanks Jason. Fingers crossed for a better harvest next year :)

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  8. Did you manage to get your garlic planted this year, Margaret? Last year I waited too long and then we had an extended winter here in the UK so my garlic didn't get planted until March! I wasn't expecting much but let it grow on a bit longer in the summer and had a pretty good harvest. No snow here yet, or frost, so I'm still able to get some work done - just as well, really! :D

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    1. I did manage to get it planted! Lucky that you were able to get a harvest from a spring planting - our ground is often still frozen in mid-April, so I'm not sure how well that would work here. Hope you have been able to get a lot done before the winter chill set in :)

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