The coming year is going to be riddled with additional gardening challenges for the Rices. First, we’re expecting a 17-year brood of cicadas. Based on everything I’ve read, this mimics an event straight out of the bible with millions of cicadas covering all surfaces, destroying every stem in their path. Ok, this may a bit of an exaggeration, but it holds enough truth that experts advise against planting anything with a stem bigger than one inch in diameter. (i.e. peppers, tomatoes and eggplants) The second challenge is our plan to move in the spring. Yay!! Exciting!! I know, you’re right BUT this means that a good chunk of my backyard garden will either have to be done in pots/bags for easy relocation, or it will have to wait until after the move. Added complication? We have no idea when said move with take place. Therefore, when shopping for garlic varieties this fall, I chose an Italian Early variety from Renee’s Garden that has a shorter maturity time and will hopefully be ready for harvesting before we relocate. [fingers crossed]
I started my planting process by amending the soil in my raised bed. I added organic bone meal and blood meal, as well as some of Charlie’s chicken manure-based compost. After the soil had a chance to rest it was time for planting. Last year was my first time growing softneck garlic and I learned two valuable lessons from the experience and the wisdom of others — 1. Only use the largest cloves for planting. 2. Ample sunlight is key for the growth of big bulbs. So, I planted 24 of the largest cloves in a spot that sees more direct sunlight throughout the winter months than last year’s planting site. My cloves were pushed roots-down into the soil about 1.5 inches, 6-8 inches apart. They were covered with amended soil and then a 4-inch layer of leaf litter “mulch” to insulate them a bit from winter’s cold.
What’s next? Well, around Valentine’s day I will apply more compost on top of the leaf litter in between each row, then sandwich it all in with another layer of soil. This will trap in nutrients and healthy microbes that have grown throughout the winter months to give my garlic a boost as we head into the “aggressively growing” phase that takes place in spring. Then I will feed regularly as their green tops gain size and bulbs start to develop. I’m hoping to harvest late-May/early-June. In the meantime, I’ll put the leftover small cloves to good use in the kitchen, alongside what remains of last year’s crop. Renee’s Garden provided the recipe for roasted garlic shown below in their planting guide; perhaps I’ll roast some to spread over crusty bread. Cheers, friends!