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PureHarvest December 21, 2017 09:44 AM

PH's 2018 Garlic Effort
Greetings everyone. Here is my attempt at a bigger crop for 2018.
2017 was good. Learned a lot. I got 150 lbs of bulbs from 30 lbs of cloves.
Biggest mistake was not cutting the garlic down from drying strings early enough. I should have cut the necks and roots off by week 2 or so and got them onto drying racks. Needed much more fans/air movement than I had too. I got black mold on a bunch, and it went through all the layers down to the clove. Some got mold in the neck.
This year I am going to cut the tops off the crop with a sickle-bar mower right before I harvest them, and put them right onto drying racks.

I am growing 50 lbs of Music and 100 lbs of German Extra Hardy this year. I did save back a couple pounds of my jumbo Romanian Red and planted it too.
I should have had 100 lbs of Music, but my saved bulbs degraded in storage to the point that I could not plant them. I think it was bulb mites.
I hope to harvest 750 lbs of bulbs.
I smothered the planting area (about 1/4 acre) with two 50x100 silage tarps. They went on in August and came off in early October.
After pulling them off, I had my FIL run his turbo tiller (verticle tillage, does not turn the soil, sort of just slices the surface to about 6" deep) to break the netting of dead plant material (mostly grassy weeds) and roots. I then rototilled the area with a BCS tiller.
My original plan was to plant tillage radish in early July to do the soil loosening for me, so that I could avoid tilling, but the timing did not work out.
Next year I will try to cover and smother my next area in May and June, plant tillage radish in early July, and mow/cover/smother the radish in early October. Plant first week in November. If that doesn't work, my plan B will be to rototill. I use a wire pin flag as my test. If I can push the pin flag into the ground at least 8" with little effort, then it is loose enough for roots to go that deep.
My beds are 200' long and 3' wide. There are 8 beds plus a 9th that is only about 100' long. There is 2' between beds. I am going to try and plant something in March in the 2' walkways to keep weeds from predominating. Probably crimson clover.
I put down 25 lbs of 4-1-8 chicken manure-based organic fertilizer per bed. This supplies about 75 lbs of N and 150 lbs of K. This will supply all of my K needs, but only about 1/2 of the N I want before harvest I will run soluble N through the drip bi-weekly starting in March next year (see below about PPD fish fert).
The beds are covered with Sunbelt 3' wide fabric, with 3 rows of holes burned into it that are 9" apart in the row and between rows. Pinned to the ground along the edges with 6" landscape pins every 6-10'. Wind has been a problem, where it billows the fabric up and pulls the pins out. The fabric then blows off part of the rows. So, I put sandbags down and that helps. The pins are smooth initially, and until they get rust from soil contact, they pull out too easily. The rusty surface is rough, and grabs the soil better.
I cracked the bulbs and soaked the cloves overnight in a solution of powdered fish fertilizer. It is a new product (Pure Protein Dry amino based fish fertilizer) that is 15-1-1 and water soluble. I used 2 tablespoons per gallon. They say that 1 lb of PPD is = to 5-7 gallons of liquid fish fert, or 1lb of PPD is = to 5 lbs of soy meal.
I drained that in the morning and soaked the cloves for 20 minutes in hydrogen peroxide. I bought 4 gallon containers of 25% strength (if I recall, I will have to double check that). I diluted 1 gallon of that with 3 gallons of water.
I built a dibbler out of scraps to make the planting holes in the soil.
I hand planted the cloves (wearing nitrile gloves underneath my garden grip gloves, the hydrogen peroxide will burn your skin white) the first two weekends in November.
I will put 2 rows of drip tape per bed on top of the fabric in spring. I did this last year with a wildflower planting, and the water trickled right through the fabric just fine.
Laying drip tape and then rolling the fabric over that and trying to line the tape between the rows of holes is a pain when you are doing 200' runs. Also, when you are starting with new fabric and burning holes, you have to take the fabric back up after burning, and put the tape down and then put the fabric back on. Too much work.
Pics on the next post.

PureHarvest December 21, 2017 10:19 AM

7 Attachment(s)
Tarped area

Killed area after tarping

After turbo-tilling, before rototilling

First three beds installed fabric

Holed burned


Holes from dibbler

bower December 21, 2017 07:29 PM

Nice to see your post PH, and look forward to following your progress when they are up in the spring.:) Your field looks great. 8-)

That is a bummer about losing some stock to molds and mites. Good call to trim immediately, I think. You have a high humidity environment and a large crop - all of which is very moist anyway until it cures. So I don't think you need worry about drying too fast.

The growers in this story link are trimming in the field to two inches, and then to one inch after curing. The method I followed for home garlic small scale trims longer than that 5-6 inches. A different author said that a short trim or a green trim raises the risk of molds getting in but maybe the reverse is true when the greens are supplying moisture in a humid situation. Also mite problems are linked to moist conditions which they like, so less moisture holding material is a plus for that as well.


I get the impression that curing roots-up also helps to speed the drying time. I do that as well at home after trimming, because it's easy to poke them through a wire grid and takes less space.

Our curing setup at the farm has been ad hoc and less than ideal, with limited space for the size of crop drying. I know there have been some losses some years due to curing problems, as it is often both cool and humid between harvest and planting time and the farm buildings are unheated. So I'm interested to learn about the alternate approach with a trim at harvest time. Maybe it would be a better option. There sure is a huge difference between space requirements for hanging or spreading out plants with greens attached, vs some good rack setup to accomodate trimmed bulbs.:)

Father'sDaughter December 21, 2017 10:53 PM

Sorry to hear you lost some, and I hope the new approach avoids that next year. If you can grow garlic without the expense of purchasing new seed stock, it's so much cheaper.

I've never tried trimming really short prior to drying, but I did learn that leaving them as is after digging them is disastrous for my climate. What seems to be my happy medium is to trim just the leaves down to about an inch from the stem then tie them into bundles for hanging with a low fan on them. They are usually fine like this until I'm ready to plant. After I select my seed stock heads, I trim both the stems and roots and hang them in a mesh bag.

PureHarvest March 2, 2018 10:29 AM

3 Attachment(s)
It's been awhile since the last update.
I took pics last night (March 1st, 2018).
Everything is looking good.
Winds in January blew a lot of the fabric off. I had to spend half a Saturday a couple weeks ago and re-cover everything.
I used pins every 4' along the edges instead of every 6-8'. Also put some in the middles.
In the future I would leave new pins out in the rains for a month to get some rough surface to the pins. When new, they are shiny/smooth, and can pull out of the soil too easy when the wind blows.
The good part was that I had a clear shot at pulling the winter annual weeds out from around the emerging shoots where the fabric doesn't block the weeds. So everything is spotless and covered again.
The fabric withstood last nights' 50 MPH wind gusts just fine as of this morning.
I am going to seed dwarf white clover and dwarf tall fescue into the walkways next week so that I don't have to mow weeds every week.

I counted, and I have about 6,000 plants. There are 8 full beds that are 200' long with 3 rows in each bed. A 9th bed is about 50' long.
So, I hope to harvest about 6,000 bulbs which should be in the ballpark of 800 lbs.

I don't want to have to peddle this quantity to multiple places (produce stands/restaurants) throughout the summer and fall. My marketing plan is to contact a major CSA in my area and see if they will add a bulb to each box they distribute. They do about 700 boxes per week for an 18 week summer season, and then do a fall CSA for 11 weeks.
I'd need to move about 4,000 bulbs (about 550 lbs), so that would only take them about 6 weeks out of the 29 that they distribute. I'm thinking 90 cents per bulb, which is roughly $6.30 per pound.
I know prices are higher everywhere you look, but that is people selling in one pound lots and/or for seed. I do not want to run a website and ship at this point to capture the 10-20 dollar a pound market. I wouldn't enjoy that nor do I have the time. Order fulfillment, packaging, and shipping is no small task. So, yes, I could make more, but it will cost more to do.
I'd rather pull it, cure it, and deliver it to one buyer and move on.
If I can get everything dialed in and rig up my small tractor to lift the bulbs, harvest should be easy. I am going to set up a 52' long trailer body from a tractor trailer with wire benches and dry and cure in it. I can put a giant greenhouse fan at the tail end that will pull air from the side doors in the front end. In effect, it would be like a wind tunnel.

Anyway, here are the pics:




pmcgrady March 2, 2018 11:03 AM

Looking Good! Looks like yours are twice the size mine.
I found that the straw I throw over the sunbelt for winter insulation
also helps keep wind from getting under the sunbelt after it’s been rained on and gets matted down.

PureHarvest March 2, 2018 11:38 AM

Yeah, I did that last year and had no issues. I might do that again this fall.
My plants look smaller this year than the pictures I had from last march's crop. Granted, last year's pics were March 7th, so there is some more time to see if they catch up. This winter was a little colder than last year too.

bower March 2, 2018 02:13 PM

They look great, PH. Off to a great start, and spring should be early in spite of the hard winter. :)

PureHarvest April 17, 2018 07:33 AM

5 Attachment(s)
April 17th update.
The wind has been brutal this spring.
Lost a few pieces of fabric to wind and it was too much of a pain to put it back on with the plants already too tall. Maybe only 100' of total 1,650', so i guess not too bad.

The plants got singed a little on the older leaves after we went into the mid-20's a couple times in March. That is why you will see some yellowing on the leaves in the pics. They were perfectly green one day, and the next after a 24 degree night they were all tinted yellow the next day. That told me it was cold not nitrogen or disease.

Plants are definitely behind last year's crop at the same date.
Just did the first fertigation last week (calcium nitrate at 10 lbs/acre rate).
Last year I did the first fertigation in March.

March 27th:



April 15th:




I still need to seed the walkways so I have grass instead of weeds. Hopefully on Thursday evening. I am going with a heat tolerant Kentucky Bluegrass because it is low-growing and creeps unlike tall fescue. Will mix in some dwarf white clover as well.

bower April 17, 2018 08:04 AM

They are looking great, PH! In spite of the tough weather.
I've seen the yellow tips due to a spring or summer frost on my garlic here... it had no noticeable impact on the harvest.

PureHarvest May 4, 2018 08:03 AM

3 Attachment(s)
An early May update.

Things are moving along. No really big complaints other than that this year's plants are noticeably behind last years crop when I compare the pics in my files.
The extended and cold spring and cloudiness is too blame I presume.
I have fertigated twice this spring and will do my 3rd tomorrow. I am applying the equivalent of 4 pounds of actual N per acre via calcium nitrate through the drip tape. Last fall, I applied the equivalent of 75 lbs. of N via a chicken manure based granular organic fertilizer (4-1-8).

I seeded the walkways about 2 weeks ago with Kentucky Bluegrass and Dwarf White clover. None of it is up yet, which I am not surprised because Bluegrass can take 2 weeks to germinate. The weeds are not bad at all in the walkways or the holes in the fabric where the garlic stems are growing out of.
I probably have spent a grand total of 2 hours going back to last winter policing/pulling weeds that have come up in the holes with the plants. For me and my situation, I cant see doing garlic any other way. I just don't have the time to weed, and I wouldn't want to if I did. What a labor saver!
I think often of the Youtube video I saw a couple of years ago, where the lady was down on the ground with a trowel hand weeding her garlic beds (and she had at least a 1/4 acre). It was hard to watch. Apparently she just takes that as the way it is to grow garlic. I remember thinking how crazy she was. Sometimes we get locked into a way of thinking and trap ourselves. I use that video all the time to question what I "know" is the right way to produce something.

Anyway, here are a few pics from 5-1-18:




bower May 4, 2018 09:30 AM

Just beautiful, PH. I totally hear you on the weed control. :yes: Even when you space the garlic to do it with a wheel hoe, there is still a ton of hand weeding left to do. Bottom line, when a farmer decides not to use herbicides and pesticides we also need other technologies to save labor instead.

PureHarvest May 29, 2018 11:12 AM

Been awhile since an update.
Pulled scapes a week ago. My 5 year old, 12 year old and I got the whole field done in an hour and 15 minutes. They were a great help.

Plants are stating to look crappy, that is the top growth has stopped and leaf tips and lower leaves are starting to yellow.

I've spent about 4 hours over the last 10 days or so pulling weed seedlings that are coming up around the plants where the hole in the fabric exposes a little soil.
I have 5 of 8 beds done. Trying to find time between everything else and the rain to get it done. Although, I'm thinking that it might not matter at this point as top growth has stopped, and the roots of the garlic are much farther below ground than the weed seedlings. I'm just worried the weeds will double in size every week till harvest and that could affect bulb sizing when their roots eventually get down to where the garlic roots are.

I pulled a plant yesterday and cloves have started to separate.

Looking at pics from last year, leaves were more yellow/brown this time last year even though they looked bigger/better than this year's crop.

I probably harvested a week or two too early last year. I'm thinking end of June this year I will be harvesting.

My dad is going to help me build racks, which is where I will be drying/curing the bulbs.
I am putting them in a 52' long trailer (that a tractor trailer pulls) that I used to use for chicken processing. It has side doors on both sides up towards the front. I will install an old 36" cone greenhouse fan at the tail end and pull air from one end and out the other.
Basically making a wind tunnel.
I am going to cut the tops off the plants before digging with the sickle bar mower attachment on my BCS. I hope to then use the cultivator bar on the Farmall A that my dad bought at auction last fall for $700. It might not get under and lift the bulbs, but I am hoping it at least loosens the soil between the rows without hitting the bulbs. The shanks are 2.5" wide and I have 9" between the rows, so I think I'll be safe.
I'll get pics of the plants soon.

zipcode May 29, 2018 03:25 PM

I've seen in some video in France, they leave the tops on when drying , and I think that's the recommended way.

Ah, here it is, great looking garlic (we have it here, one variety is Edenrose but I never tried it): [url][/url]

PureHarvest May 29, 2018 03:35 PM

Ill check that out.
After last year with mold around the necks, I want the tops out of the way and air moving around the bulbs and necks. It seemed like moisture was trapped in the neck because the top/leaves were still attached and bunched together. I feel like in my climate (humid) it too risky to have all that foliage still attached to the neck/bulb.
I know 2 farms who do the pre-cut method around here with good drying/curing results.

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