Market Garden Update: In Full Swing

I finally received the garlic shipment and now I’m ready for the business gal to do her thing. The thinking cap goes on and I’ve concluded that the first thing to do is take inventory. Since I’m brand new to all this I kept the purchase order simple by choosing only two varieties: Polish Hardneck and Georgian Crystal. Both have large cloves but the Polish is especially large; rivals Elephant garlic if you ask me. I immediately began to separate the cloves and count each one…

I ended up with a bit over 100 cloves of the Polish and 200 cloves of the Georgian Crystal. Awesome. The next thing to do is to punch the numbers and see what the potential income will be. I’ll start by talking to a few farmers at the downtown farmer’s market to see what the average price per head is. And more importantly if their product compares to mine (because I don’t recall seeing this type of garlic ever at this market) which I’m sure would change my pricing. I think I should also poke my nose around the local co-op and maybe ask questions about what they expect out of their suppliers and what they would pay for a product like mine. If all else fails, I suppose I could throw out a line to some local restaurants or call the city about selling on the roadside. Hmm… lots to do. In the mean time, I gotta get these into the ground since they take at least 9 months to reach full size.

I pulled back some of the bark (mulch) to expose the beautiful compost/soil underneath. This site has it right… the bark really does make the earth underneath moist and perfect for planting. (Another good explanation is here.) The bark will also serve as covering for winter; win win. When I get around to it, I’ll dust it all with manure. The idea is to never have to disturb the earth again after this. Layering supports the earth’s natural ability to break the materials down and provide exactly what plants need. All the products you would buy at a home improvement store are necessary because we disturb the earth. When you stop, the earth can do its thing. I’m beginning to be a believer… but I have to get back to you on it. By next year, I’ll know for sure if I’m going to do it this way again. Here’s the layering order:

Manure –> 1 inch (or less), composted
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Wood Chips –> 3-4 inches, somewhat composted, no bark
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Compost –> 3-4 inches
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Newspaper –> wet, prevents weeds
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Original Soil –> no tilling (though I did it anyway)

After layering, I started watering and waited a month before planting. The recommended wait is at least 3 days. I noticed after only a week that I didn’t have to water as much so I cut it back to every other day, then every two days and now I’m at every three days. Even though I started out with very hard soil and bone-dry compost, it is now moist and beautiful! I didn’t do this method in the garden boxes and though I’ve mulched in spots, the soil still dries out completely and needs daily watering. (Hmm…) With this method, you plant directly into the compost which is something I never did before. I thought it was too “hot” but the layering solves that problem. For most plants, keep the wood chips pulled away until they are around 2-4 inches in growth, then you can cover the whole thing back over with the wood chips. Well, I really hope it works but it almost seems too good to be true.

Since garlic needs to be spaced at least 6″ apart, I used a yardstick rather than guessing at it. I could have spaced them so I gained more rows too, but I want to keep things easy for now, and I planned for 3 rows to be laid out in this 4ft-wide space and so that’s how it will stay. I’ll get more ambitious next year!

The dibbler gave me perfect 4″ deep holes, so I was happy with that. But making the rows didn’t go so well. Next year, I’ll use string to help me make the rows straighter. (Oh my! The view from my kitchen will be less than perfect. The Martha in me is screaming out about this one.)

About halfway down the line the dibbler just kept on going downward. So I dug a hole and discovered the escape route of my enemies! The good news is that it crosses the planting rows and goes out the other side. (Wouldn’t it be awful if it was going the other way – directly under the entire row? All that work would be for nothing!) So the hubby gets involved at this point and grabs the gopher gassers:

We decided it would be okay to use them since the gopher path ends up way outside of the market garden area on one side, and only crosses the corner of the garden on the other side. If the tunnels stayed in the area, then we’d do something other than gas, so we don’t risk contaminating the crops. At any rate, I decided to not plant over this area. So the stick is lit…

…and quickly gets placed into the hole going one direction… and another is placed into the hole going the other direction. The hubby made sure to have a pile of moist soil nearby…

…to close up the holes and trap in the gas. Then we waited to see where the other ends would turn up.

Voila! About a minute later we spot a faint cloud of smoke about 25 feet away. It was time to smoke that side out and plug ‘er up! But we didn’t spot the other end at all. Maybe the tunnel was too long and the smoke couldn’t reach the exit..? Who knows? So we bought a couple of solar-powered noise makers that put out a rhythmic sonic pulse every 30 seconds, and put them where we think will run them completely out the other end. I’ll let you know if it works.

After that detour, the planting continued. I intended for the section on the right to be filled with garlic. But because of gophers and the fact that I didn’t know how much garlic to order, I have two rows planted – one on each side of the pathway. Well, that just means I can grow something else this year, right? Garlic and onions! Yeah, that’s the ticket! So the business gal is very happy. I know that next year I need at least 4 times as much Polish Hardneck or twice as much Georgian Crystal to fill 3 rows in an 80 x 4ft section. Music to my ears. The action plan for adding new crops to next year’s lineup is in full swing, the projected income for this year’s crop is on paper, wheels in the head are going round and round. All is good.