Today was the first garlic harvest in my yard. There are 2 varieties, in different conditions, so others will follow
Last fall I decided to experiment. Previous years the weeds were hard to handle, and I'm growing more in containers, which are easier for me to keep clean and manage. I was a bit behind, and planted later than I planned. I bought big, cheap plastic tubs with handles, for easy (semi easy) moving. I drilled lots of holes in the bottoms for drainage, using an electric drill Then I filled with an organic potting soil. I usually fill about half to 3/4 full with used potting soil, then top with fresh potting soil, to avoid weeds.
In Oct, 2011, I planted Inchelium Red, a garlic variety that originated on the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state. Since garlic is originally a western import, before that it likely came from elsewhere, but I thought it would be well adapted here.
By saving your own garlic from previous years, it's said that the strain gradually evolves to adapt to local conditions. I don't know if that's true. I've been growing Inchelium Red for about 6 years, saving a few heads each year for the next year's crop. I think the cloves are larger than they were for me the first year. Might be normal variation, I don't know. Also, other varieties that did not do as well, I did not keep.
They overwintered here without protection. It was a mild winter with a few freezes. On some occasions, the top soil was frozen solid. Spring was early.
My main concerns were whether the cloves would survive freezing, and whether they would overheat due to the dark plastic color. They did fine.
This pic from April 2012. The garlic plants were growing vigorously by then. I also had another variety in the wooden tub behind this blue tub - those are "German white", and I had been seduced into buying them at the local garden store due to the gigantic cloves. They are not quite as far along, probably a few weeks behind the Inchelium Red.
The presence of the store label there on the tub shows I'm getting lazy in my old age - in the past I would have removed it to look better. The tubs are kind of ugly anyway. I've seen others who used rectangular heavy duty plastic bins. I thought those were unattractive too. but they are green and blend better with the yard than these blue ones.
Here they are today - the tops are drying off. Since some are already falling over, I pulled them out today. I would let them dry more first, but I think this is OK. Plus, if it rains, the papery shells can decompose, and I prefer keeping them "wrapped"
Above pic - they look sad, but they are really just drying off and maturing. Time to harvest. So I pulled out about half of them, below. If there wasn't time to pull them out, I could put the tubs in the garage to keep them dry until there is time.
I will let them dry in the shade, so they are well cured and can keep through the fall and winter. The roots will crinkle up and dry out, and I cut them off. Then store in cardboard boxes in a single layer, in the basement which is cool and dry The largest ones will be kept for next year. If the others did as well, I'll have enough from the 2 tubs for 6 months or more supply, much better tasting than store-bought garlic.
I plan to add more, later, about garlic culture, history, lore, and evolution, in the comments. Developers are working on ways to produce garlic seeds, which will help make more genetic diversity, develop new varieties, and allow for growth in more varied climates.
Oh, before I forget, here is alink to a USDA PDF on garlic from seeds. Interesting - this is the first time I've ever seen that garlic can be grown from seeds. The link seems to be cached. It worked for me but may go away soon or not appear in all browsers.
Also a tread from seed savers forum, here.
Write4U, excellent information! I too would refuse to build pyramids if not given my garlic ration! One of my favorite meals is pasta with olive oil, raw crushed garlic, and some parmesan. I can eat 2 or 3 cloves that way. I only do that if I'm not around other people who can breathe my fumes
Congratulations! My friend grew garlic a couple of years ago and it was wonderful... so easy to peel. I may need to try it next year.
Write4U, that's a great list! I didn't know garlic repelled ticks - they must not be gourmands. I wonder if that applies to mosquitoes as well?
History of garlic here, from Kew gardens.
-There is no modern wild garlic. There are other wild plants called "garlic", but they are other species.
-Garlic thought to have been used in cooking since neolithic times.
-Garlic originates in Central Asia
-Egyptians used garlic in 3,000 BC
-Used medicinally in India and China
-Garlic is one of the oldest known horticultural crops
-"Garlic grows wild only in Central Asia (centered in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) today" - this contradicts the statement above about no wild garlic.
-The wild garlic also produces seeds. Modern cultivated garlic requires human intervention and expertise to produce seeds instead of baby bulbs (bulbils) on the top of the scape (flower head)
-"No sexual reproduction, that is, production of true garlic seed, was underway in cultivated garlic before the 1980's. Therefore, relatively small numbers of garlic clones, perhaps numbering only a few thousand, have been in the hands of growers around the world through most of history."
I've been avoiding Wikipedia in this discussion, but here it is.
-3rd idea about growing wild - domesticated garlic was naturalized in the areas where it grows wild today.
-China is the world's biggest producer of garlic, 1.5 million tonnes annually.
And on producing true seed from garlic, here's what some, very unusual, growers do.
-The scape is allowed to develop, of course. The scape is the "flower head"
-The tiny bulbils are removed as soon as possible. I've read several accounts of this procedure. Most involve using tweezers. The rationale is that the flower head actually does make flowers, but it makes more bulbils. The bulbils divert all of the energy from the flowers, and also squeeze them out. Without the bulbils, the flowers are able to form, similar to onion flowers.
-Assuming you get this far, allow the flower to form and bloom. Some are sterile - no male pollen. If your garlic variety can't make pollen, then it needs a different male variety to provide pollen. That would result in all-hybrid seeds.
-Bees and other insects, which love onion-family flowers, will do the pollinating. Then the seeds are left to develop, in about 6 weeks to 2 months.
The first generation seeds are only about 10 to 30% viable, but if raised to plants that are also used for seed, the next generation reaches 100% viability.
Since I have 4 garlic plants that I neglected to de-scape, I'm going to give it a try. That assumes I have time when the flowers start to form. If seeds do form, they too need a special treatment, described in the link. I have chives and garlic chives which have made zillions of seeds, and other Alliums (onion/garlic family) as well. So the main challenge will be to get the garlic to bloom.
These are wonderful pictures of your garlic! You have a "green thumb".
I came across an excellent bug spray using garlic:
Place 3 full cloves of garlic in food processor. Add 1 tlbspn chili (powdered or fresh) a squirt of dish soap, a squirt of veg or olive oil. Cover with water and whizz away. Once all ingredients are liquified, strain through a panty hose to extract juice. Add about 7 cups of water to the extract and put in a spray bottle and spray all around the yard. All the ingredients help to deter bugs and insects organically and cheaply and the smell ain't too bad either - I LOVE garlic!
It has also helped to keep the neighbors cat out of my yard too!
I sprayed this all over my yard because of locusts, grasshoppers and caterpillars, after spraying my neighbor cursed me as his garden got annihilated and mine only a little. Not a totally guaranteed repellent but certainly a good enough natural one. Left over juice can be stored in the fridge.
Thanks for the pics and info. I have had no luck with onions or garlic here but will keep on trying. I have garlic in the ground now but have not checked on it in a little while.
A few years ago I bought a bottle of concentrated garlic at a local hydroponic shop, as I read it could be used to deter mosquitoes. I never used it, and spent the morning rummaging around the yard looking for it (I was inspired to find it after reading Sentient's posts). If I remember correctly, my plan was to mix some of the concentrate in a sprayer with water, and spray around the yard. I'm going to keep looking! Our mosquitoes are terrible here. I live in Florida, and so the species that remains dormant except after floods are out in numbers. Poor dog walks with a cloud around him. Thanks for the recipe... if I can't find my bottle I will give this a try.
Even after spraying around the yard, I still seem to have mosquitoes so I am thinking not so good for getting rid of them. Getting rid of any standing water in the yard helps to prevent them as they breed in the water. I have a few decorative rocks which pool water in crevices etc around these areas I spray around either eucalyptus or tea tree oil mixed with water and also on me. This stops them from biting me at least but I cannot seem to get rid of them completely. They are only in one corner of the yard so I am not bothered too much by them, at least they don't hang around where we sit. I also spray my dog with this as it helps with the fleas too. I understand the problem in Florida though, tis very humid and swampy, perfect environment for them.
Eucalyptus is also good for colds and tea tree is an antiseptic so they come in handy around the house anyway.