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PureHarvest April 24, 2017 03:32 PM

PH's 2017 Garlic Trials
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So I wanted to share my first garlic attempt with you guys. Maybe I can help someone else out through my mistakes or hopeful successes.
I planted 30 pounds total of cloves back on Halloween weekend in 2016.
Music and Romanian Red.

Beds are 36" wide. Garlic is spaced 9" apart in all directions.
Music (Large bulbs) planted a 140' bed. Romanian Red (Large bulbs) planted 105' bed. And Romanian Red (Jumbo bulbs) planted an 80' bed.
The 3rd bed (jumbo Romanian) looks unbelievably great, green, and robust.
They were planted 1 week after the other two rows in the first weekend of November. Everything else is the same (supplier, fert, soil, methods).

I think weeding is for the birds and was concerned with wheat and weeds sprouting in straw (plus it keeping the soil too cool in early spring), so i am using 3 mil landscape fabric with two runs of drip tape underneath.
Used a long handle propane torch to burn the holes (attaches to small campstove bottle). First I cut out holes with a hole saw on a drill into a 3' wide piece of plywood. Lay the board onto the fabric and then your spacing is set up for the holes and it keeps the torch from melting too big of a hole. So far since planting last fall, I've spent about 10 TOTAL minutes weeding, just because I wanted to clean up a handful of holes where a couple of henbit or chickweed poked out with the garlic stalk. They would have been fine if I left them because they die of this time of the year (the cool season weeds) anyway.

Pre-plant fertilizer was an organic based chicken manure with sulfate of potash. The formula was 8-4-4. I foliar fed with some Dr. Earth Organic stuff I got on clearance from HD for $2.33/hose end bottle. Normally is like $20. Looks like really good stuff but too expensive for large areas. But I used it twice as an early quick shot in mid and late march. I have put nitrogen through the drip once a week starting in late-march (calcium nitrate, equivalent of 10 lbs of actual N per acre per feeding). Plan on doing the last feed this week.
April has been very dry here. Unusually so. I've had to run the drip 3-4 times in April.
Waiting for scape season and then harvest.
Have seen some tip burn. Not sure if that was from the cold spell in early march after they emerged from a MILD winter, or N deficiency, or 100 other factors. It is just the tips which sounds normalish. If the entire leaf would turn color or wilt, I'd worry, but it's just tips.

March 25th 2017





April 10th 2017



PureHarvest April 24, 2017 03:47 PM

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Forgot, this is the hole/planting dibbler I made out of 100% scrap wood I had.
The stakes are surveying stakes I cut down to the size I needed. They are already factory pointed at one end...perfect for this application.
Set them 9" apart in all directions. Can make 6 holes the first time, but then you press one row of 3 into the previous row to keep your pattern, so in effect, you make 3 new holes with each pressing. If that makes sense. Very easy to use. Took about 10 minutes to press out the 140' bed.
I played with a single stake before I screwed them to the frame to figure out how deep I needed them to go to get the right final depth, knowing some soil would back-fill the hole as they are pulled out.
These beds were not rototilled. They were 3 years ago when I laid black plastic and planted tomatoes. I never took the plastic off after the season, and it grew up in weeds for 2 years. I pulled of all the dead growth by hand, and removed the tattered remaining plastic and raked the beds back into a linear shape. I could push a pin flag down at least 8" until hitting a hardpan, so we went ahead with planting. So far things look good.


October 29th 2016


PureHarvest April 24, 2017 04:21 PM

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I should note that I originally planted into soil and mulched with straw before I discovered the fabric with holes method. We cleared the straw in early Feb when the tips were just poking through and were able to carefully lay the drip tape and fabric over the beds/plants and pin it down. We then put the straw against the edge of the fabric to keep the weeds away from the edge of the beds and sort of seal off the edge of the fabric. it is working perfectly. No weeds along the edge to pull!
These shots were February 6th 2017.
This fall, we will prep the beds, fertilize, lay the drip tape, roll out the fabric, pin it down, and dibble the holes and plant the cloves. Done till the next summer. I don't know how you can get the labor (mostly in weeding) any lower than this method. I know people are doing this on black plastic, but you need a tractor and plastic layer attachment. Plus you have to pull up the plastic every year and throw it away. Wasteful. Then you have to keep buying plastic. I expect to get at least 5-7 years out of my fabric. A 3'x300' roll of fabric cost me $50.


PureHarvest April 24, 2017 04:43 PM

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I tarped a 50' x 200' foot area to pre-prep for this fall's planting. The silage tarps are heavy 7 mil (If i recall). They have been on since late March. The idea is to smother all growth without needing to till/buy a tractor. Then weed seeds will be forced to germinate and die (stale seedbed method). In a couple weeks, I will uncover and have a nice bare seeds bed to plant a buckwheat cover crop into. I will mow this down in about 45-60 days right as flowers are finishing/before seeds set. I will cover again to smother any stubble/weeds/mowed material to speed decomposition. I will uncover late June/early July and plant tillage radishes. The hope is that the long and massive tap roots will loosen the soil deeply so that I don't have to spray/till ahead of garlic planting. I will mow and cover the radishes in late September. Uncover at the end of October and see if I can direct plant. If not, I will do one pass with the BCS tiller and prep my beds.
The goal is to optimize soil health by not destroying the soil food web and structure by rototilling. It seems to have worked with the beds that were covered with plastic for 2 years, but this is only gonna be one season of covering.
I might need to do this 2 growing seasons ahead of fall planting for it to work with out tillage.


dmforcier April 24, 2017 04:45 PM

So how are you planning to harvest? Pull the fabric over the tops of the plants so you can get at the bulbs?

PureHarvest April 24, 2017 04:52 PM

I'm thinking one person on each side of the bed and pulling up as we go. if you think about it, we are going to be going with the direction of the leaves, plus many will be brown/brittle.
Also considered cutting the tops off with a sickle bar mower then simply pulling the cover off.
However, I am concerned a topless bulb wont have the surface area to then dry down properly, possibly affecting the storage quality.
I'll gladly spend a little time coaxing the cover off the bed versus the time spent weeding or dealing with straw.
I saw a You tube video of a woman weeding what looked like a half acre of garlic by hand, down on her hands and knees. It made me sick to watch. And they had straw down too.

Ricky Shaw April 24, 2017 06:27 PM

Always got something going on and always interesting.

guruofgardens April 24, 2017 08:00 PM

So how ARE you going to harvest? By hand? Whew.

I wouldn't cut off the tops before drying them. You have quite a large harvest - are you selling the heads?

PhilaGardener April 24, 2017 08:21 PM

Nice looking operation!

PureHarvest April 24, 2017 08:55 PM

Thanks everyone.
Our soil is sandy.
While I don't relish a Saturday with a digging fork, it would be doable.
It's only 3 beds.
My father in law wants to weld an undercutting bar to cut the roots and slightly lift the bulbs. We'll see if he can get that done in time.
I plan on saving most of the bulbs for this fall's planting.
I have a few other connections between stores, farm stands, and wholesalers.
We'll see how harvesting and cleaning/processing goes.
If I can organize the labor there, I'd like to grow 1/2-1 acre at some point. Waiting on hearing back from a major buyer first and getting through this first harvest to think about that step.

Father'sDaughter April 24, 2017 11:38 PM

I would love to have the land to plant that much garlic!

Harvesting garlic is definitely something you don't want to do by pulling -- until they cure the bulbs can be subject to bruising, and the roots will be holding on tight tight.

Keep us posted!

PureHarvest April 25, 2017 07:18 AM

I hear ya on the pulling. Was trying to explain to my FIL that the undercutter just needed to cut the roots. I didn't need it to pull the bulbs up out of the ground.
Gonna approach these things like eggs.

pmcgrady April 25, 2017 08:28 AM

And I thought the 1000 cloves I planted was a lot. I spent half of Sunday weeding mine, I like your methods better. Nice Job!

BigVanVader April 25, 2017 08:51 AM

Very cool, I cant find sillage tarps around here. I'm also curious which sandbags your using. It looks like your following the Curtis Stone method? I watch his stuff too. I covered my whole backyard in weed barrier and black plastic this year. Weeds be dammed!!!!

PureHarvest April 25, 2017 12:54 PM

Big V, YES! Curtis is the best.
Got the tarps and sandbags from

I had been playing with fabrics and smother ideas for awhile and when I stumbled onto his videos, I thought to myself, "I knew i wasn't crazy". This is exactly what I envisioned and he is doing it. It was cool to get the intel on the long tube torch and board method for making the holes.

His videos were/are a great reminder that you gotta let go of the rules of any trade and do your own thing if it works for your context and you aren't hurting others in the process.
Also agree with him that you have to use your time for things that pay you. Weeding doesn't pay me. Mowing doesn't pay me. Freeing up time to be continually planting, harvesting, and selling pays me.

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