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Garlic: questions, notions, lessons

 
pollinator
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Location: Mason Cty, WA
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This is my second year of growing garlic. This year I am growing it in raised beds in 60 composted manure/20 sand/20 peat instead of at the base of hugels, in amended fields, and on topsoiled char/ash piles made from branches and trunks (with soil intact).

Because it should be planted in 8 inch spaced rows, I skipped every other row to interplant the garlic with something else in spring. What do you think of this idea? Because of our heavy rains, I covered the skipped rows with cardboard to keep the rain from leaching all the nutrients out of that immediate area. (Cardboard is my panacea this year.)

A new concern I encountered this year is building up disease loads. Garlicana, in Oregon, plants garlic on four year rotations. As I understood it the issues are fungal pathogens and mites. They also pretreat with JetAg or OxiDate, which are both fungicides. They pretreat bulbs with a 10% bleach solution for 10 minutes, then hydrogen peroxide, but that doesn't stop dry bulb mites. This is incredible care considering that they have only an acre under cultivation.

Finally, when I mentioned that char is a part of my bed amendments, I was told that because char is loved by fungi, it can also be a vector for garlic pathogens. Yow! I wonder what sort of compost tea drench could contain fungi of sufficient types and quantity to crowd out garlic pathogens. (Compost tea may be my panacea for next year.)

They are a commercial operation, but are these methods overkill for the home grower? Is anybody else taking such care in their garlic planting?

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pollinator
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I planted a row of garlic this autumn in the garden of some friends of ours. Hardneck, giant and delicious. I only planted about 180 cloves in a raised mound using a nine-inch spacing. I think somewhere on the order of 900 cloves total were planted this year, and that's down by at least a quarter from last year. They were swimming in it, and it was all they could do to give it away. It's amazingly strong. One clove the size of the middle joint of my thumb will easily replace four store-bought cloves.

I find the observations about char to be interesting, but I don't think that properly inoculated biochar, with a fungal slurry from an appropriately aggressive culinary species that isn't a problem for garlic, would be an issue. I think the problem would be bacterially-dominant biochar and soil absent any fungi appropriate to out-compete those dangerous to garlic.

No method that you can scale down to your level is overkill if it works. Every problem you avoid using less time and resources than you'd use to fix the problem should it occur, within reason, results in more time for you to work with, should the worst occur.

Please keep us updated. I love to see and hear about how people grow, and what innovations they bring to it. Good luck!

-CK
 
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I plant garlic on a 4" spacing, my soil is very fungal rich and bacteria rich and I have had one bulb with any issues in the past 3 years.
All the rest of my garlic was unaffected, that one bulb was a victim of root rot it turned out.

I have read a lot about garlic but I've never seen any of the problems the articles brought up.
My personal experience is that as long as I plant my garlic in patches, nothing really bothers it.
The one area where I used to plant according to recommended spacing and amendment types, failed to produce bulbs but instead the garlic multiplied so that the plants were more like spring onions than garlic.
All the areas I close planted produced large flavor filled bulbs.
I've planted in the spring, in the fall and once in mid summer as a trial.

I only know one commercial grower of garlic, they have trialed my closer planting method and said that it was more a problem of harvesting than anything else that caused them to return to the 8" spacing.
They do have great soil, because they rotate planting areas and they deep mulch most of their crops (their wheat is the only crop they don't mulch, but once harvested, the mulch goes on 12" deep until their next planting time.

Redhawk
 
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Fredy Perlman wrote:
Because it should be planted in 8 inch spaced rows, I skipped every other row to interplant the garlic with something else in spring. What do you think of this idea?



I think this is a great idea. Since garlics grow tall and narrow, that leaves all sorts of options of things that stay short and low to interplant in the early spring. Lettuces and spinach come to mind, and they'll be ready and done either just before or about the same time the garlic is mature, so the entire bed becomes available for a summer warm season planting. Other things to consider that don't take long to grow and could be interplanted with the garlic is scallions, chives, radishes, parsley, cilantro. These will tolerate frosts as will the spinach. In my experience, some lettuce varieties are better than others at resisting frost damage.

A new concern I encountered this year is building up disease loads. Garlicana, in Oregon, plants garlic on four year rotations. As I understood it the issues are fungal pathogens and mites.  



Yes, rotating and not planting any alliums in that bed for four years is a good idea. That will break the lifecycle of pathogens and worms.

Finally, when I mentioned that char is a part of my bed amendments, I was told that because char is loved by fungi, it can also be a vector for garlic pathogens. Yow! I wonder what sort of compost tea drench could contain fungi of sufficient types and quantity to crowd out garlic pathogens. (Compost tea may be my panacea for next year.)



Compost tea will do wonders in the disease fighting area. Mushroom slurries help too. If you desire, a mychorrizal inoculant certainly won't harm anything. I believe that biodiversity is what's more important than identifying single types of fungi/bacteria to fight disease pathogens. The more kinds of good fungi and bacteria growing, the more difficult it is for disease to set up shop.

They are a commercial operation, but are these methods overkill for the home grower?  



Only the poison fungicides used by the commercial operation is overkill and unecessary. Healthy soil, with abundant bacteria, fungi, and minerals, is all that is needed to prevent insect and disease infestations. Kelp and unrefined sea salt, such as Sea-90, are easy ways to get mineral abundance into a soil, which support the soil fungi and bacteria, as well as any crop being grown.

Is anybody else taking such care in their garlic planting?



Yes. I use kelp, sea salt, rock dusts, molasses, and fish hydrolysate to get minerals into my soil and feed the soil biota. I also use compost and mulch heavily. I noticed in your picture the soil is bare. I highly recommend covering it with a mulch. It can be wood chips, hay, straw, grass clippings, etc. This prevents erosion, prevents a crust from forming (surface soil crust prevents water infiltration and a soils ability to breathe) and provides shelter for all kinds of tiny critters and bugs that are a members of the soil food web.

 
Fredy Perlman
pollinator
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I should have mentioned that this year I'm planting the garlic with shallots. In each bed are three rows, 16" apart, two are garlic and one is shallots.

Chris, the garlic last year was planted in beds amended with a 6" layer of forest leaf mulch, which is normally myceliated by the time I rake it up and put it in my beds. I used it as the base layer for my topsoil...and was still pulling up pieces of leaves impaled on roots when I harvested the garlic a year later. On top of the garlic was 3" of myceliated rotted alder chips. My alder woodpile grows Gymnopilus luteofolius, "Laughing Jims". This year I'm only doing the alder chip mulch on top, but there is definitely fungal activity in my beds.

If I ever build Redhawk-grade soil I will feel fine planting garlic in the same place every year. Do you do that, Bryant? It seems one needs 4x the arable surface area they actually use to rotate the garlic that much. That's really the biggest concern I have, since garlic is my largest winter crop, and I really want to focus on trees instead of annuals. (The annuals are just to give me something to do until the trees catch on.)

James, do you start parsley indoors in January? I haven't heard of Italian (which I prefer) growing out here, but curly does well. What's your favorite lettuce? I'm eating a lot more salad now and would love to grow all my own greens.

I mulched the garlic with the rotted alder chips yesterday, the mulch keeps the row covers in place so you can fold them into long tents, shedding water better. When it really starts raining they won't hold their shape without mulch footings.
 
James Freyr
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Fredy Perlman wrote:

James, do you start parsley indoors in January? I haven't heard of Italian (which I prefer) growing out here, but curly does well. What's your favorite lettuce? I'm eating a lot more salad now and would love to grow all my own greens.

I mulched the garlic with the rotted alder chips yesterday, the mulch keeps the row covers in place so you can fold them into long tents, shedding water better. When it really starts raining they won't hold their shape without mulch footings.



I'm in zone 7 in Tennessee, so while I have stared parsley indoors, it's not til march, but I often just direct sow parsley around the end of first of April. The earliest thing that I have started from seed indoors is pepper plants, between feb. 15-28. Peppers are slow to germinate, and I need to put a heating pad under the cell tray on low, and they start off slow. I do this so I can have some 4-5 inch tall pepper plants to transplant come mid-end of April. April 15 is the almanac last frost date for this area, but if memory serves me correct, that's happened twice in the last ten years, and all the recent last frosts have come two-three weeks early.

The lettuce that my wife and I love the most is called Gulley's favorite. In my experience, it'll take a frost, but not a freeze of 28 degrees or colder. I often do cover my early spring crops with a low tunnel which helps with frosts. It's an heirloom lettuce, and we get it from seed savers exchange and can be found here: https://www.seedsavers.org/gulleys-favorite-organic-lettuce

Here's a picture of a head I grew several years ago.

Head-of-Gulley-s-Favorite-lettuce.jpg
Gulley's Favorite lettuce
Gulley's Favorite lettuce
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Freddy,

I plant my garlic in a rotation,(6 beds 40' x 3', so every six years the garlic revisits a bed) the year after the garlic comes out the peppers or tomatoes get to grow in that spot.
I grow my garlic, onions (including shallots) together which usually takes up one 40 foot long by 3 foot wide garden bed.
Next year I will be adding two more of these beds so we have a total of 8. We use a lot of onions and garlic which is why I plant one full bed every year.
 
Fredy Perlman
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James, that's a beautiful head (with mane!) of lettuce! Thanks for the link, I'll give that a try.

And Redhawk, wow, six years is a long rotation. I plant a couple pounds of garlic and shallots, it'll probably shake out to 8-10 3'x6' beds. Sounds like I'd need 60 such beds!!

At the risk of embarking on another thread...Rotations are something I haven't thought about, and now that I am it seems like a calendar would be a good idea. I may be overcomplicating this by not accounting that some crops can be planted on shorter rotations. Like:

Bed 1 Year 1
Garlic

Bed 1 Year 2
Peppers/tomatoes

Bed 1 Year 3
Brassicas

Bed 1 Year 4
Peppers/tomatoes

Bed 1 Year 5
Potatoes

Bed 1 Year 6
Garlic

But times whatever number of beds one has...that would require a spreadsheet. Then you could color code it...red for 6 year rotations, orange for 5, yellow for 4, purple for 3, blue for 2, green for 1! It would make a great visual aid.

Maybe it would be easier if crops were listed by suggested rotations:

Garlic = 6y
Brassicas = 4y
Potatoes = 2y
Tomatoes = 2y
Oca/yacon/ulluco/mashua = (I'm thinking 4 years)

Ok, I'm going to check for threads on this topic before carrying any further afield.

EDIT: There is no such thread on permies! I'll start one with my meagre bits.
 
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Intensive market grower here.  I plant my garlic about 4 inches apart in 3 foot wide beds (with 2 feet in between the beds)and rotate each year. I also immediately mulch the garlic with hay as soon as it's planted to control the spring weeds and for moisture control.  We have been at this property for 6 years and the garlic beds have never been in the same spot as any of the years before (although I think it would be fine on a 4 year rotation).  
 
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