Friday, October 7, 2011

Got My Garlic

My garlic came on Wednesday. Seed Savers Exchange has gotten fancy with the garlic packaging! When I ordered in 2009, the garlic came in little paper lunch bags, but this time they're in these nice mesh bags with card stock tags on them. I can keep these bags to put my harvested garlic in later.

To recap on my garlic growing adventures so far: In 2009 I ordered a garlic sampler of ten varieties from SSE, and had a great crop of most of them. I saved the best ones to replant in 2010, but then went through one of the most brutal winters on record followed by the worst summer or record and hardly got anything.

This time around I considered ordering garlic from a different source, like a local source from Gourmet Garlic Gardens, but it looks like they had crop failures too, so I went back to SSE. They weren't offering a garlic sampler this time, so I chose my varieties carefully to hedge my bets this time around.

So far I'm glad I did go with SSE. Not only do they have the fancy mesh bags, but the garlic looks great. In 2009 a couple of my bulbs were rotten, but this year they're all nice, firm, and seem bigger than they were last time. Buying local is nice when you can do it, but it looks like Iowa had a good year for garlic this time around, so maybe it was better to have some shipped in.

Of course I have to get elephant garlic. It's not real garlic, but it's close enough, and does well here. I got one bulb for $4.50 and it's HUGE. It's the size of a large apple. I've never seen elephant garlic this big before.

Besides elephant garlic I got four other varieties of true garlic. I chose two I had grown before that did well, one hardneck and one softneck, and then two varieties I haven't grown before, a hardneck and softneck, that I've heard do well in this climate.

Broadleaf Czech - SSE wasn't offering Chet's Italian Red this year, which was my best garlic in 2009-10, but they did have this variety, which was my second best. Got two bulbs of that.

German Extra Hardy - This was my best hardneck in 2009-10, though softnecks tend to do better here. I got this one in case we have another hard winter that might harm the softnecks. I got a pound of these for $15, which turned out to be six bulbs. I don't remember why I only got a pound of this one and not the other ones. Maybe this was the only variety they were offering in 1 pound increments. Oh well, having more hardneck garlic to plant is good because each bulb has fewer cloves.

Lorz Italian - Technically I grew this softneck in 2010-11, but that was such a bad garlic year that I'm giving it another chance. It almost made it! I got a couple of tiny bulbs that weren't really worth bothering with, but it didn't completely die like most of the other varieties did. Maybe with a little more TLC this time around I'll get a good crop. I got 2 bulbs for $7.50

Siberian - I'm a little unsure of the wisdom of growing a hardneck garlic named "Siberian" in Texas, but I read that it's one of the few marbled purple stripes that do well in Texas. Well, OK then. I ordered two bulbs of this one, but they sent me three. Cool!

We're having rainy weather this weekend. Yes, you read that right! I was afraid we were going to end up with 100 degree weather in October, but some more cold fronts finally made it down. I've already planted some fall crops in the garden, which are getting well-watered now, but I'll have to wait on planting the garlic until it's not too muddy to dig. In 2009 I planted some garlic as late as Halloween, so I have time.

This time around I am going to mulch the garlic as DEEPLY as I can. That insulation should help with both extreme cold and extreme heat. It will also help hold water in for what is probably going to be a dry winter. I've heard various predictions on how much longer this La Nina drought will last, ranging from just through the winter and then breaking in the spring, to "drought conditions will persist until 2020." I hope the former is closer to the truth, but I know how hard it is to predict the weather with any accuracy for more than a few days into the future, let alone months or years. At the very least, there seems to be consensus that this winter is going to be dry, which makes cold spells even harder on plants.

The safe thing to do is prepare for the worst, which means giving my garlic as much help to survive a potentially dry and cold winter as I can with lots of soil fertility, compost, and mulch.

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