It is about this time of the year we prepare for next year’s harvest. We begin with selecting seed for planting next month from the racks of cured garlic harvested in July.
Plant next month you say?!
Yes, we plant garlic comparatively early. Growers in our region typically plant around the first freeze in mid October.
We did that once. Won’t do it again.
The first time we planted garlic was on one such mid October morning when the old bat assisting us, and I’m being kind there, mentioned that if you wait until after nine in the morning the sun will have risen enough above the hills to the east.
“Enough for what?” I asked.
As the mid-morning frost reluctantly steamed its’ way out of the frigid freshly-rotovated planting rows she poked her stubbly little wing into the soil and blankly remarked “enough to prevent frost bite.”
F*ck that we thought.
Then we remembered a story told to us from a friend who has a friend who has a client whose friend knows this garlic grower who lives up on Upper Bench Road not far from the Fairview Road right there by the Blind Creek Vineyard who plants garlic insanely early and their garlic is like some of the best garlic ever but nobody knows about it cause they only grow it for themselves and don’t share it except for that one time years back before salmon left the river they shared like a bulb or two with my friend’s friend’s client’s friend because he or she fixed the hydraulics on the garlic dudes old Massey although it could have been the Kubota but them things run like a deer so it must have been the Massey. Ya. The Massey.
farmersdotter was inspired. She researched and armed herself with enough early garlic planting information to drive a spike through the old Chiropteran autumnal methodology and we’ve never looked back.
So, selecting seed. We select premium specimens from the drying racks…
then place them in totes …
where they wait to be processed by hand into individual seed or more commonly cloves.
Cracking garlic into seed began a couple of days ago. We will set the seed in the ground September 21. So all in all it takes a little over a month to process all the seed we will need. We see no harm nor degradation to seed that has been cracked and well stored for that amount of time prior to planting.
We select 4000 pounds of premium whole bulb garlic for our seed bank. Cracking each bulb by hand is labour intensive but it allows for a quick inspection of each clove for seed suitability.
Suitable seeds are large cloves with a good-sized basal plate (neural tube) that will generate a healthy volume of roots. They are firm and wrapped with a smooth healthy layer of paper. They should exhibit a desirable symmetry.
However, not all cloves in any one bulb may be suitable as seed. Some cloves are too small with an insignificant basal plate that will develop a week root system. Some will be ‘doubles’ with two or more cloves that can not be cleanly separated and if planted would run a high risk of producing an inferior bulb with two or more ‘scapes‘. Some cloves may simply appear unhealthy. These will usually have a mottled or wrinkled paper covering and an inferior basal plate.
Save these for the kitchen.
We separate garlic bulbs into seed by cracking. A method effective with well cured garlic. Simply tap the hard scape core down onto a hard surface. This force will crack or pop the root basal plate releasing each clove. Simply strip away excess paper and discard the hard scape core.
By the time the last bulb is cracked and we have accounted for the unsuitable seed we will have about 3400 pounds of select seed to plant into the warm soil of the equinox.