Hard to believe it's garlic time already. Wasn't it just summer, like, last week? But no, we have to accept that we're deep into October and it's time to start planning for next year. We have the good fortune to call Roman from Valley Fall Farm in Johnsonburg our bee mentor and source for obscure and interesting varieties of garlic and shallots. Allium hipsters! Did you even know we existed? Because, for the record, we grew French Gray shallots way before they were cool.
Roman gave an enlightening (and delicious) talk at a recent Transition Newton event on the health benefits of honey and garlic. But you know what? We mostly think they're tasty--really tasty--which is why we're cultivating both in as large quantities as possible. Every year it seems like we're planting a ton of garlic, but when harvest time rolls around in July it seems like such a pittance. Which is why we're tripling next year's crop. We've got German White, German Hardy, Georgian Fire, and Mark's inevitable favorite, Korean Mad Dog Red--about 175 cloves all told. Along with 75 shallots. Didn't somebody say it was time for a break after the insanity of late-summer harvesting and putting up? Apparently not yet.
What are we doing differently this time? The weeds got the better of us this year, so we're putting down black plastic for a weed barrier. We're also mounding the beds, putting in irrigation and composting the heck out of the soil (Roman grows his garlic in what he calls "black muck"). Instead of growing shallots from seed in the spring, we're planting whole shallots in the fall, the same as garlic, which means they can get an early start putting their energy into forming bulbs that will split into more bulbs next year, resulting in bigger shallots and more of them.
Stinking roses indeed. Give me a bunch of garlic over a bunch of roses any day.