At risk of becoming known as garlic-obsessed following the garlic scape recipe incident, I just had to write a little post about this year’s crop.
I’ve grown garlic for years. And years. And every year it’s done well enough that I would always plant it again, but it never produced really nice large garlic bulbs, the kind that don’t require Sherlock Holme’s magnifying glass in order to peel and chop the little pieces especially when you are in a hurry to get the supper ready and the knife is sharp and the first thing you know you need a band-aid but they are upstairs and you are muttering swear words in the presence of a dear innocent grandchild who has just started talking really well and will memorize and repeat anything she hears…
But I digress.
I always planted the garlic in the fall along with a pretty darn nice organic fertilizer mix made from the recipe in Steve Solomon’s book Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. I buy (sometimes rather large) bags of the ingredients at the farm supply store:
4 parts seed meal (I use cottonseed)
1/2 part lime
1/2 part bonemeal
1/2 part kelp
The person making this mix gets to decide how to define “1 part” and measures everything else relative to that. So you can make a cup or a gallon or a ton. I like to have a big lidded bucket of this stuff to use with wild abandon all season and to give extra to my favorite plants, kind of like giving treats to the dog.
So in the fall you break up the seed-garlic bulbs and plant each piece separately, adding in some organic fertilizer. This happens at about the same time as you plant tulip bulbs or daffodil bulbs if you remembered to buy any.
Last fall I planted garlic varieties called “Music” and “Susanville,” 8 oz of each sort. They are both “stiff neck” varieties which means they might store longer but the stems aren’t supple enough to braid and sometimes I wonder if they would appreciate some Advil because they really are stiff and maybe it hurts I don’t know.
Anyway it’s best to plant garlic on a cold day in the rain because then you know it’s not too early in the season and it’s adequately miserable and also it’s a good way to find out whether or not your boots leak.
So you survive the planting, maybe with just a sore throat afterward or a light case of pneumonia, and then each little muddy garlic clove grows all winter and becomes a whole new tall plant by the spring.
Now, according to Steve Solomon again––whose book has lots of great information but presents it in a kind of glum and judgmental way, just so you know––anyway Steve says that you should “side dress” these plants with blood meal in February and with a complete fertilizer in April. (“Side dressing” is a gardening term and doesn’t have anything to do with any particular gender or fashion style or with being half-naked. )
I always skip that February side-dressing part because of a blood meal/dog problem (he eats it) — I never fertilized the bed again at all really, and so the bulbs in my eventual garlic harvest ranged from small to pathetically small.
This year I impulsively decided to use liquid fish-fertilizer with the growing plants. This fishy-fragrant stuff comes in a gallon container and to use it you dilute only about two tablespoons in a gallon of water so one purchase of it lasts pretty much your whole life. Of course I had my lifetime supply on hand in the greenhouse and I just dosed the garlic plants with it every two weeks through March and April.
The photo above was taken in June. Everything looks nice in June no matter what but it did seem to me that the garlic leaves were getting taller than usual. (I worried sometimes, late at night, that I was making it up or that really I was shrinking or that it was a delusion of some sort even though I am only occasionally delusional. )
But then the bulbs turned out to be consistently big and beautiful–especially in a close-up image.
Now Steve Solomon might say some scathing thing like, “Well who knew that fertilizer would make plants grow?!” And of course I did know that. But I didn’t know that fish fertilizer, so easy and workable in my world, would help these particular plants quite so much.
Anyway I’m about as happy as I ever get about vegetables except for when I am actually eating them.