Tag Archives: Harvest

Things We Get Asked About: Growing Garlic

Here are the top five questions we get asked about growing garlic.

1/ Which variety do you grow?

Russian Red.

Seed Garlic
Seed Garlic

True identification is virtually impossible as there are hundreds of cultivars with no universally accepted horticultural mapping.

Suffice it to say there is hard-neck garlic which produces a flower stalk or scape, and soft-neck garlic which does not.

Hard-neck garlic is generally accepted to include rocambole and purple stripe garlic. Russian Red is a rocambole producing four to eight cloves per bulb and in our humble opinion produces the best flavour and long term storage qualities.

Soft-neck varieties include artichoke, silverskin, and Creole which are most often found in the supermarkets and originate from China, California, and other places of exotic and murky reputations. #WentThere #NoGoingBack

2/ How deep do you plant?

We like to have about 5 to 7 centimeters of soil above the top of the clove when we plant.

Sixteen Centimetre Spacing
Sixteen Centimetre Spacing

We mulch with certified organic alfalfa straw which mitigates frost heaves and more importantly helps retain precious spring and summer irrigation. We’re told it also helps reduce weeds. On the weed issue, we’re undecided because considering the effort we exert extracting weeds each season, we wonder what horrors would appear if we decided to ixnay the ulchmay. #Shudder #WeBeFarming #Heroic

3/ How far apart do you plant.

Sixteen centimeters. One octave. Or thereabouts.

4/ When do you plant/harvest?

We plant on the third Monday of September. Maybe a little early, however planting this early helps establish root development and the sooner we’re done the better.

We harvest on the third Monday of July come rain or shine because it’s time to get it out of the ground and into the stores. #CashFlow

5/ Scapes? What are they?

A garlic scape is simply the flower stem. It appears early June and we remove the scape by snapping the little bugger between our fingers as soon as, or a little before, it completes one curl.

Removing Scapes
Removing Scapes

The idea is to divert the energy back down into the bulb producing a larger and more robust product for your table and our bank account.

We retain the scape to produce our Original Garlic Scape Salt. Yes, it is original. It was invented by farmersdotter back in another time when forest fires were a thing of awe and mystery and washing was done by hand. #FrontierLife


A Day in the Life

We have been harvesting our Russian Red garlic for a week now and anticipate pulling it all off by this Wednesday. Today we have a half crew finishing the last half of the garlic field.

The garlic will continue to hang on racks in the drying shed until at least the beginning of August at which time the crew will return to trim the roots and stalks. Shortly there after the garlic will go to market in 25 pound onion sacks.

The area for planting garlic this fall is under cover with Caliente 199 mustard from Rupp Seeds This mustard adds good bio mass and provides protection against a host of pest and disease.
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We Love This Place.

Sunday. The weekend. Labour Day weekend to boot. This means two things; the waning of summer and the Community Harvest Dance.

Although several summer like days remain for the Similkameen Valley there is something in the air, especially the early morning air that foreshadows Autumn. No longer is there a need to burst forth at 5am to complete the daily tasks before lunchtime when the heat becomes oppressive. Instead we wait for the sun to crest the hill around 7:30am and slip on a second layer of clothing, perhaps an old shirt, before we step outside to begin the day.

Sun on Hills

Sun on Hills

Won’t be long and it will be 9:00am before the sun reluctantly peeks above the hills. By then an old sweater will count as a third layer over the old shirt.  By then come 3pm the evening chill will have set in. By then we will be planting garlic for the second year completing our first full cycle at farmersdotter organics. By then it will truly be Autumn but for now it is time to dance!

There is something special about a Community Harvest Dance, especially for farmersdotter and I as this is our first year in the community of Cawston, BC.

Chopaka North To Cawston - Credit: Murray Henry

Chopaka North To Cawston – Credit: Murray Henry

It marks the end of the season and a time to plan and dream for next season. We had totally forgotten about the harvest dance yet yesterday, thankfully we were able to acquire tickets at the Penticton Farmers Market from a neighbour and fellow vendor who was going from booth to booth in search of forgetful folks like us. Giving us one last opportunity in our busy lives to do something social. Something special. Even though the season isn’t really complete it has been good. farmersdotter and I remarked last night how blessed we are. We love this place we find ourselves.


No Rest for the Weary

We are very fortunate and blessed. This past harvest, our very first, has been truly pleasurable because of the hard working crew we have at farmersdotter organics. It’s been 6 working days and all the Russian Red garlic has been pulled off the field and is hanging safely in the shed to dry. Natasha, Erik, Mo, Roxanne, Joe, Pierre and Jeremy pretty much have been here throughout the harvest. They were here at 5:00am every morning and stayed each day until the job was done. Although, Erik and Jeremy have been known to fall victim to a silent alarm clock! Missing from the photo are Madhavi and Olivia both of whom will come back this fall to help plant their second crop here. On the ground by the crew is the last of the freshly harvested garlic ready to be moved to the drying shed.

All Done Pullin'

All Done Pullin’

The garlic orders must be filled as soon as possible. Our retailers have been waiting since last winter when their stock of fresh garlic ran out so there is no rest for the weary. After the the last garlic was hung to dry the crew had time left in the day so they decided to begin cleaning straight away. The garlic they are preparing was the first harvested early last week.

No Rest Today

No Rest Today

Every bulb is handled and inspected at least three times before it reaches market. First at harvest, again when cleaned and finally when placed in 25lb sacks for shipping.

25lbs to a Sack

25lbs to a Sack

Bon apetite!


Go Deep

Must admit to being a little anxious. This past Tuesday we began harvesting the Russian Red hardneck garlic. The crew worked long, hard days in very warm temperatures. Consequently we plan our day to begin at 5:00am in the cool of the morning. We are 75% complete with the Russian Red harvest. We will be at it again tomorrow finishing up Tuesday. We decided to take the weekend off in part to soothe sore muscles but mostly to avoid the high heat.  The forecast high today calls for 38 celcius. Our fields are usually 3 to 4 degrees warmer than the forecast.

Regardless, the harvest albeit a few days late is looking excellent. The average bulb size is about 2-1/2 inches with a large portion approaching 3 inches. I have my eye on some of those for my seed this fall.

As a Rule

As a Rule

Smaller bulbs average 1-1/2 to 2 inches. When purchasing garlic consider smaller bulbs if you require a small amount. The garlic flavour in Russian Red is intense regardless of bulb size so no worries there either.

Our garlic is hanging in the drying shed which is open on three sides to allow for excellent ventilation. You must go deep to get through the 30′ aisle to the other open side.

Go Deep

Go Deep

The drying shed can accommodate about 16,000 pounds all under one roof.

Drying Racks

Drying Racks

After the garlic has hung for a few more days we can begin trimming and cleaning the bulbs in preparation to send them to market.

We sincerely hope you have an opportunity to support small organic growers when choosing fresh produce. It ensures our livelihood and the supply of sustainable produce. We can’t say enough about retailers who support small local farmers. farmersdotter organics garlic is available at Community Natural Foods and Sunnyside Market in Calgary. Whole Foods Markets on the lower mainland plus Bob’s Fruit Stand in North Vancouver and Hofstede’s Country Barn in Chilliwack. In the Okanagan our products are available at Parsons Fruit Stand, Keremeos, Harker’s Organics Cawston, and Fresh Green Grocer in Kelowna.


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