Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Spook-tacular Time to Garden

The leaves are starting to fall, there’s a chill in the air and pumpkins are showing up on doorsteps everywhere. That can mean only one thing: vampires! Sorry, got a little sidetracked there. What it actually means is it’s time for gardening!

I know what you’re thinking. Gardening in the fall? Isn’t it the wrong time of year for that? If we were starting tomatoes or peppers, that would be absolutely correct. But this is just the right time to start on one crop.

It’s garlic! Gosh, we love garlic. It goes into most any recipe you might be cooking, tastes great as garlic toast, and is believed to aid in digestion (and repel vampires). There’s almost nothing we make that isn’t made better by the flavorful kick of garlic. And if you grow your own, you can fine-tune that kick to just the way you like it.

You see, there are far more varieties of garlic than what you find at your local grocery store. We’ve been fortunate that Greg’s Dad has experimented with many different varieties of garlic (providing us with wonderful samples), so we’ve been able to home in on one that we really enjoy – Georgian Crystal. It’s got some fire to it but not too much, and it breaks into really good-sized cloves.

This is a hardneck variety, so named because of a long stalk which it sends out in the spring. The alternative is softneck, which you’ve probably seen in the grocery store. There are pros and cons to each type, which are detailed nicely on this cool publication from Iowa State University Extension. For us, we know a hardneck will do well in Iowa and we love the flavor of Georgian Crystal, so we’ll use that for our first go-round. We bought ours online from, a Wisconsin garlic farm.

Starting garlic is pretty easy, since most of the first part of its life is over the winter. After you break each bulb into cloves, plant the cloves pointed end up about an inch deep in loose, well-draining soil. Typical recommendations are to space them about 3 to 5 inches apart from one another. Then you cover the entire garlic bed with an insulating material, like straw or shredded leaves. Cover them with four to six loose inches, and then you can pretty much leave them alone until spring! Here’s what our garlic box looked like just after planting.

This is our first time planting garlic, so hopefully it all goes according to plan and by this time next year we’ll be enjoying homegrown garlic from our own backyard. And if we’re able to keep those pesky vampires away, well that’s just a bonus.

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