Not many more days until the tools and equipment are properly put up and stored for the off season. Still difficult to say… ‘winter’. The two main tasks that remain are preparing the land for winter cover crop and, of course, preparing the area devoted for garlic seed next month.
We are inputting the entire field with fall rye grass for the winter. The area we devote to the garlic patch will also benefit from the addition of harry vetch, a legume that will climb up the fall rye and hopefully establish enough to fix a little nitrogen in the soil.
Since consulting with Dr. Fred Crowe from Oregon State University we realize there are a couple of changes we can introduce to our farming practices to improve the sustainability of the farm while maintain profitability. First we improve sustainability by moving away from the previous two year rotation to a four year rotation. We will grow specific groups of crops on a different part of the field each year. This will help reduce a build up of crop specific pest and disease problems and organize crops according to their cultivation needs.
Second, to maintain profitability the volume of garlic must remain constant but over a smaller area of the field. Last year, using half the field, we planted 3200 pounds of seed in 16 – 3′ x 600′ raised beds. That same field also had two interior access roads which really weren’t necessary. This year we will eliminate the interior access roads and increase the amount of seed per bed thus reducing the area of the garlic patch by 50%. We will increase the amount of seed to 240 pounds per bed but over only 13 beds. Bottom line: 3140 pounds of garlic seed this year over half the field versus 3120 pounds next year over one quarter of the field. That equals a viable four year rotation. Also, we can achieve this increase and still maintain a healthy 6″ spacing in our planting.
In will take 3400 pounds of garlic bulbs to realize 3120 pounds of cleaned and separated seed or ‘cloves’. And yes, the bulbs will be separated into seed or individual cloves by hand.