Garlic Harvest 2015

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I harvested my garlic this week. 10 days from November. I’m really lucky there isn’t snow on the ground.

Let’s talk about what an awful gardener I’ve been this year. Wait, let’s not. I think it’s obvious. The good news is that the garlic is still totally fine! The bad news is that I need to eat it all fresh – or figure out what else I can do with it soon (pickling, freezing, etc). The thing is, when you don’t harvest it at the time you’re supposed to (let’s say, August, in my case), the garlic will think that it should start to get ready for the winter. So once the weather starts to get a bit chillier, like it has been here, each clove will start to get green sprouts (similar to what happens when I plant garlic in the fall for harvesting the next year). As well, all those layers of skin that help the garlic cure, have pretty much just fallen off – some skins on my garlic are still intact, but most have come off.

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Also, harvesting it at this point is more difficult. The stalks are all dried out, so you really need to dig deep and pull the bulbs by hand. No big deal, just a little extra effort. I say no big deal, but I was actually cursing quite a bit.

So the moral of the story is: harvest your garlic on time if you want to actually be able to cure it properly for long term storage. Otherwise, be prepared to have a lot of garlic that you can only use in the short term.

And as always, the best part of the garlic harvest (besides eating it) is the wonderful smell of fresh pungent garlic filling the air of my home. I love it.

Sometimes I’m not an awful gardener! Here is proof (last year’s garlic harvest)!

The Garden October 2014

I keep hearing myself and others say that they can’t believe it’s October already. September was a really long month, but it flew by in a flash. Work was extremely busy so I was putting in long days and I’ve been trying to keep up with the garden, writing blog posts, ensuring the house is in a livable condition and all of the other life things. I love to cook but I found myself just throwing together easy and quick stand-bys all month. Oh and I also decided somewhere along the line that I could knit a sweater as well as a few holiday gifts. Idiot.

I don’t want the season to end, but I will say that sometimes caring for the garden when the season is coming to a close after a long and stressful day at work can be a bit of a burden. Do I really want to water my garden after working an 11 hour day? Not really. But on the other hand, after I’m outside for even a minute, I can see myself becoming calm and relaxed. I once read an interview with Scott Weiland (former Stone Temple Pilots singer – I just totally dated myself) who talked about how gardening and knitting helped him overcome drug addiction. So needless to say, gardening and knitting are unbelievably therapeutic and both myself and Scott Weiland are living proof.

October is a weird month for me – most of the vegetables have been harvested and preserved and many of the perennials are expiring. This time of year always puts me into a state of mourning – mourning the loss of this year’s garden that I worked so hard on and preparing for the dark and cold season ahead. It sounds so depressing – and it is, to an extent. But I also feel relief because I can just let go, but also feel excitement towards planning for the next season – I believe this is what keeps us gardeners going during those dreadful months.

So how about enough of the depressing talk and instead you look at some photos of the garden right now.

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Most of the raised beds and pots are cleared but a few things remain – I’ve left the carrots in for now because they don’t mind frost, same with the kale and other brassicas (better picture of those below). You may or may not notice that my neighbor’s tree has bent over into my yard quite a bit – this is a result of the heavy snowfall we had a few weeks ago (heavy snow + full leaves + my hops using the tree as a trellis = very heavy branches). It may or may not straighten itself out over time but I don’t mind too much because it isn’t a safety hazard and I tend to refrain from complaining about my neighbors when it comes to property lines because I know that a few of my plants cross the lines quite frequently (I’m looking at you hops!). I try my best to prevent this and not be a terrible neighbor – I would never intentionally plant something that I knew would spread to my neighbor’s yard and I always make a point to talk to my neighbors about my trespassing plants. Luckily my gardening neighbor always has the same response “Oh, I don’t care!”, but I guess I have a fear of angering people.

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The garlic was planted last weekend! I went with old faithful Russian Red again. I planted it in the ground between two raised beds where I planted lettuces this year. When I did some re-arranging of raised beds a couple of years ago, I intentionally left a wider walking path between the beds so that I could have some room to plant in ground – this has turned out to be the perfect solution for perennial herbs and garlic.

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I’m so glad I got too lazy to rip out the brassica bed after the cabbage looper mass murder. I haven’t seen another caterpillar since and the plants have come back fairly strong, growing new healthy leaves with two of the plants producing heads. I know I said that I hadn’t had any success with broccoli and cauliflower in the past and that this was a failed experiment and I wouldn’t try again, but I’m happy to say that I was completely wrong. Sometimes there is light at the end of the tunnel full of caterpillar carcasses.

I have a feeling that the next time you see the full garden, it will be covered in a blanket of white. Sigh. What does your garden look like right now? Are you still harvesting?

One more thing: I know a lot of people follow blogs on Facebook, so I recently created a page for my blog where I will post status updates, links to new blog posts, as well as anything else I feel like subjecting my followers to, so please like Carrots & Raspberries on Facebook!

Harvesting Garlic

Garlic, delicious garlic. It is amazing to think that only a few years ago I didn’t even know what garlic was, except something that you used to keep the vampires away. My first memory of good, fresh, potent garlic was when I was about 19 years old and we lived within walking distance to a farmer’s market. They had these beautiful huge purple heads of garlic and they smelled amazing. The taste was like nothing I’d ever had before. I was hooked.

And I’m a bit embarrassed to say this but I didn’t know you could grow garlic in Calgary until about 6 years ago. Silly me.

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The great thing about garlic is you really don’t need a lot of room to grow it – you can literally just stick it in wherever you have little blank spot. It needs full sun and well drained soil, but I have grown it in a part-sun location before (the bulbs were not as big as in previous years, but it works if you literally have no other option). Plant it in the late autumn, water it and leave it. Little green spikes will start to appear in the early spring and you pretty much don’t need to do anything to it until the scapes appear late June/early July. The scapes are the shoot that a flower will eventually appear on and go to seed, but I always cut my scapes off in order for the plant to focus its energy on producing bigger bulbs. The scapes are edible and have a milder garlic taste – I make mine into pesto or pickle them.

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The bulbs will be ready near the end of the summer in Calgary. You’ll be tempted to pull them out all summer just to see how they look but you must resist! You’ll know the bulbs are ready to come out when a few of the leaves start to turn yellow and dry out.

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Be very gentle when harvesting the garlic. The more aggressive you are, the more likely you will damage your garlic or peel off the skins. The idea is to loosen the soil around the plants with a pitch fork or a shovel and then gentle pull them out one-by-one with your hand. Lightly brush the soil off of the roots and bulbs, being careful not to pull off the skins. Do not clean the bulbs with water.

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Next you’ll want to cure your garlic in a dark and dry location (if you want to eat a bulb right away, go ahead! Curing it just makes it keep longer). I use my basement and then keep them stored there until I am ready to use them. I have a very expensive and highly technical set up that consists of two screws in the ceiling with a piece of string tied between them and clothespins as the garlic attaching devices. Make sure to keep the drying garlic high in an area that is not accessible to pets because some pets (mainly a white cat called Bear) enjoy eating garlic leaves, breaking out in hives, and getting dragged to the vet. Your garlic will be completely dry in about 4-8 weeks and you can give them a brushing off to get rid of any remaining dirt and remove and discard the dried leaves.

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This year’s garlic was Red Russian, which is a hardneck variety, ordered from West Coast Seeds. I’ve grown a few different types before but Red Russian seems to give me the biggest and healthiest bulbs, so it is my go-to variety. This reminds me, I need to go order my bulbs for planting this fall!