by David Hinks
While it is probably about three weeks before I will harvest my garlic, it is already available from producers at local Farmers’ Markets. If you buy it you should be aware that it has probably just been recently pulled and has not been properly cured. While it is great for short term it will not store well.
Is the garlic sick? Why does it need to be cured? Curing is simply a term used for the process used to preserve a product. In the case of garlic as well as onions it simply means to allow them to air dry in a warm place for two or three weeks. This allows the skin to dry and harden thus protecting the inner flesh from outer contaminants. Thus garlic needs to be ‘cured’ if you want to store it for an extended period. Shake off the loose earth (do not wash them as introducing moisture at harvest can invite rots and moulds) and dry in a sheltered but well-ventilated place – for example tie bunches together and hang in a garage or garden shed for two or three weeks, then trim off the roots and snip off tops to about 2 cm unless you want to braid it.
My garlic will be ready to harvest by early August this year when most of the leaves have withered and died. They should not be left in the ground much longer as they can split their skins and then will not store well.
Garlic does not store well in the refrigerator – it is too damp and the garlic will rot. It is best stored at just above freezing to about 5 C with relative humidity levels of 50 to 60 per cent.
Stand by for the Garlic Festivals in Carp and Perth August 10 and 11 where garlic will be the main event. If you plan to plant garlic this fall buy from a local producer – you know that what you are buying was produced locally and is suited for local conditions. Garlic that is sold in supermarkets may have been shipped in from southern producers and may not be hardy in the Canadian climate – many of the imported varieties are easy to braid whereas the hardy stiff-necked varieties are not.
When we established the planting beds in Augusta Park there was some discussion about the proper way to prepare the site. There were basically two options considered.
The first option was the traditional approach that is described in many older gardening books particularly those originating from Great Britain. This would involve stripping off the sod and then double-digging the new garden. Double-digging means to loosen the soil to twice the depth of a shovel blade. This approach certainly deals with compacted soil and allows for getting rid of all the weed roots which in the case of perennial weeds such as dandelions can go down for a foot or more. But it is very time consuming and is a huge amount of work.
The second option was a variant of what is often called lasagne gardening. The idea is to smother the grass with a layer of newsprint (at least ten sheets) and then pile a depth of soil on top of this deep enough to plant our seedlings. This approach had much appeal as we had limited time and resources and a strong desire to get the project in place this spring. This approach has been endorsed by many gardening experts. While my niggling Protestant work ethic was saying that anything this easy was wrong, I was convinced to give it a try.
The grass was cut short, the growing boxes were put in place, newspapers were spread and many hands made short work of filling the boxes with about six inches of ‘triple-mix’. But how have they done? I will let the results speak for themselves.
The bush beans that were planted May 19 have now been picked and steamed for two meals. The variety is Oceanis which is a French filet bean which is harvested at a thin ¼ inch size. The verdict is that this is an excellent bean even from my son and grandson who normally eschew anything green on their plates.
Last week we tried a new approach to deal with the white-tail deer that had been feasting on many of the plants including tomatoes and zucchini in the raised Neighbourhood Tomato growing boxes next to the Mills Community Support office on Industrial Drive in Almonte.
We tried a commercial deterrent whose ingredients include putrescent egg solids and garlic. It comes in concentrated form and I have to stifle my gag reflex when I am diluting it and mixing it up. I sprinkled it on the ground surrounding the raised beds rather than directly on the plants. The recommended application is once a week for two weeks and then monthly thereafter.
This Sunday I went back to check on its effectiveness. As the following photo shows there does not appear to be any fresh damage on the tomatoes and there is fresh sucker growth from where the leaves join the main stem. It will be time for another application of the product when a few days of clear weather are forecast.
An abundance of rain and sufficient heat has produced remarkable results as shown in the following photo. What a difference a year makes. These gardens were a near total failure last year in the extended drought conditions.
Come and see the Augusta Park and Community Garden Wednesdays in July. There is musical entertainment this week with an open ‘mic’ at 6 followed by Jennifer Novon and Brendan Gawn in concert. This Wednesday there will be a Barbeque starting at 6 with the Almonte Civitan Club flipping the burgers.