Hardneck garlic is clearly the best choice for Northern locations (longer day light in the summer), and compared to softneck cultivars, hardneck garlic develops a much more intense flavor when cooked or baked.
The challange of growing mild garlic cultivars is the problem of molding, early spoiling.
|In this newsletter you will learn how I grow garlic in my biodynamic garden in Kenosha, Wisconsin.|
|Description of the cultivar Swiss Rose -
This mild hardneck variety usually forms 2-6 large cloves with attractive pink stripes. Bulbs with 2-3 cloves are rare as most bulbs have 4 large cloves. Tallest garlic variety of my collection, develops top seed but the top seed is too small for reseeding, therefore I advise to pull the seed spikes in late June to provide more energy to the bulb.
|Great for farmer's market as most bulbs are large and easily yield $2 - $3, I sell all large bulbs and save the smaller bulbs for seed. In October I split the bulbs to select the cloves to plant and, as most bulbs have 4 cloves, usually I find at least 3 good sized cloves to plant, while all smaller cloves end up in a Zip-Lock bag in the freezer.
Be aware that mild garlic cultivars like sweet onions don't store well! It is imperative to harvest on a dry day and immediately store the bulbs in a ventilated shed to prevent rotting. The bulbs will keep well into October - November, but you can certainly plant sooner.
While I recommend to freeze in August the garlic that you are planning to use in your kitchen. If you freeze the cloves in August - at the peak of the quality - you will seal in more garlic juices bound to dry out in time. I have garlic frozen for several years that is still excellent for cooking. Frozen cloves stay lose in the bag and don't freezer-burn. Defrost in hot water, peels very easy, cut cloves in half and toss in your pan/pot, garlic juices will leak out and flavor your dishes.
I recommend to plant the cloves with at least 6" spacing to allow enough space for the bulb growth.
My choice of kitchen garden 4-year rotation is dictated by my diet needs: potato - onion - tomato - garlic. I want to keep the nightshades potato - tomato two years apart.
Garlic is planted in October - early Nov. as soon as I'm able to remove the tomato vines. If your plot is available sooner, you can plant garlic as soon as early September. I make this claim because I've noticed that cloves missed in the ground will resprout at the end of August.
|Garlic cloves are very hardy (actually require frost) and are likely to survive the winter, except if the season is crazy with a lot of frost and thaw. Frost and thaw pull up the clove and may kill it. Planting early has the benefit of growing a stronger root system before winter sets in. The stronger root system anchors the cloves and prevent lifting.
Biodynamic gardeners are mostly concerned with the health of the soil. I use leaves as mulch around my tomato vines. As garlic follows the tomato crop in my garden rotation, I pull the tomato vines and then cover the leaves mulch with a layer of compost about 1 - 2" thick.
I mark the 6" spacing in the compost. Push the garden tool through the leaves mulch and push the garlic clove into the soil. It is essential to puncture the layer of leaves, and in pushing the seed clove down, make sure it goes through the layer of leaves into the soil. No need to push it deeper than the top of the soil level under the mulch layers.
|You can see the tips of the cloves just below the layer of compost.|
|A bulb planted the year before, missed at time of harvest, pulled in November to show how the cloves naturally resprout in August.|
|While I'm planting I listen to the radio ... or think about other stuff ... and sometimes miss a row. To prevent mistakes I plant 8 cloves and push the compost over the markings before I continue with the next 8 cloves.
If the planting is done correctly, the clove must be "root-down / point-up". The clove must be in the soil under the leaves layer - with the clove tip at soil level. About 1-2" of compost on top. I guess that the snow in the winter will compact the compost and the garlic bulb will develop just below the leaves layer.
|As I mentioned above in the cultivar description, the Swiss Rose cultivar develops very small top seed - I recommend to pull the scapes once fully grown out in June. The scapes are a delicacy! Great raw in a salad or pan cooked. A waste of time to use as seed - too small - therefore you should NOT let the seed develop fully. Pull it early and enjoy it in the kitchen.|
|Fully developped garlic seed opens the scape.|
|Harvesting should occur when about 2/3 of the leaves are dried out. Be aware that each leave represents a layer of the bulb wrapping. You want 2 - 3 leaves to still be green when you harvest. If you wait until all leaves are dry, the wrapping around the bulb may have rotten .... and spoilage to this mild garlic cultivar may occur as early as the end of July.|
|Share your seed
Once you are satisfied with the quality of your plants and keep saving seeds for several years, the time comes to start sharing seeds.
Become a member of Seed Savers Exchange. www.seedsavers.org/membership
By becoming a member ($35 per year membership fee) you can order seed from 700 plus sources. Unfortunately there are only 35 seed savers in Wisconsin and 33 in Illinois ... but none in Kenosha and Racine Counties.
We need to change that and have more local gardeners listed in Seed Savers Year Books to make seed available to other local gardeners.
This page lists all cultivars that I save - some are available to all (HAS), most are reserved to "listed" SSE members - click here to review the list of cultivars.
Please call Seed Savers, become a "non-listed" member (support this no-profit organization) and eventually join me in offering seed as a listed member. Call (563) 382-5990
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Looking forward to meet you at the Kenosha HarborMarket this Saturday, or some day.
Your friend will be under the white tent,