The last agricultural event of the 2017 Homecoming Organic Farm Season is planting Garlic. Don has mowed the Sorghum cover crop planted in the garlic plot. When the sorgham was disked to break up the stalks with the tractor. Several Volunteers were on hand to help.
The first step is to break apart the seed bulbs. Trays of various garlic varieties are transferred to the Hoop House. It is a pleasure to work in a warm environment. Outside the tropical atmosphere in the hoop house, it is cold and windy. The weather has delayed planting. The soil has finally dried enough to plant.
Separating garlic cloves takes strong hand muscles. The cloves are snug. We use a thumb nail to slit through several thin parchment-like layers to get an opening between cloves. Using thumb again, we pop the bulb open and peel off the cloves. They collect in a bucket until Don says, “This is enough seed for now, let’s plant.”
Don has made four furrows with a forked chisel plow. The rows are 200 feet long. Don uses little red plastic flags from Home Depot to mark where one variety ends and the next one starts. We are instructed to plunge cloves into loose soil six inches apart. This gives the clove room to spread out roots and not interfere with the next one. We start with German Red. I’ve tasted a small clove. It is hot and zesty. We are on our hands and knees brushing aside broken stalk of sorghum, which acts to add carbon to the soil). We will plant many varieties. Elizabeth wants us to try to have garlic varieties from many parts of the world. We’ve planted Slovak, Israeli, music, soft neck, and many more. This connects us to a wider range than local. Garlic has evolved into many varieties depending on the soil conditions it grows in. this is unique to garlic.
Once all the garlic is in the ground, mulching begins. The compost is close by. Partly rotted leaves are forked into wheel barrows and spread on the beds with an isle in between. There is no irrigation because there is no well close by. The garlic is on its own. Unfortunately, the westerly winds have open passage because there is nothing in its way. “The problem is that by next spring, the wind has blown all the compost away.” Says Don.
Shortly after planting, the cloves begin to grow roots and shoots. Once the ground freezes, each clove stops growing until late winter. Walking the garlic rows in spring and seeing little green shoots is the promise of another farm season in 2018. For now, the garlic bulbs we’ve taken home are beginning to turn on their biological clocks. By January, the power of garlic begins to wane. It’s tie to make hummus, and stews with garlic and stir fries as well. The slow cooker bubbles with garlic cloves as well. Garlic is one of the most nutritious foods with plenty of amino acids. Last year Don and crew planted over 20,000 cloves. It turned out to be too much to handle. This season, about half that many. That’s fine with me, I love working with garlic in the garlic seasoning hut.
Tom Stock November 21, 2017
He has published two books; THE NISSEQUOGUE RIVER: A JOURNEY and HIDDEN AGENDA; A POETRY JOURNEY.He has also published many essays and poems in such journals as the Long Island Forum and The Long Islander.
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