Sunday I was able to get my garlic and French grey shallots planted. Dan helped prepare the bed Saturday, pulling the remaining broccoli/cauliflower plants for the hens and weeding. We expanded this bed a bit, and added some scrap lumber to enclose the sides, making it a raised bed. We also, in a nod to hugelkultur, buried some old branches and woody waste we had laying about.
Hugelkultur is a form of composting that uses buried wood waste as a way of building raised beds that both drain well, yet retain water. The wood, as it decays, both allows for drainage, yet absorbs water making it available to plants. I don’t know that we used enough wood to make this work, but we what we had available that was already beginning to decompose. Perhaps this will give this bed the edge over the summer when watering will be solely placed in the hands of Mother Nature.
Once the wood was buried and sides set in place we added more compost, organic bone meal and some Plant Tone fertilizer. I smoothed the bed surface, and Dan and I used a piece of rebar to make a 6″ square grid. It was getting dark and cold, so the planting waited until the next day.
That evening, I prepped the garlic and shallots. I had set aside the biggest, most beautiful heads garlic I harvested to save them for fall planting. I broke the heads open and selected the biggest, plumpest cloves, making sure the cloves were undamaged and showed no signs of fungal disease or rot. You need to be careful when breaking the cloves apart not to damage the basal plate of the clove, which is where the new root growth will emerge. Once the garlic was done, I sorted through my shallots to select undamaged medium sized bulbs. With shallots, or so I have read, (cultivation information is not easy to find) the medium bulbs are preferred as they will grow into smaller divisions of large cloves. Large cloves will grow into larger divisions of small cloves. We shall see what happens.
I planted 50-ish cloves of garlic, and the remainder of the bed with shallots. The garlic I set fairly deep at 3 +/- inches, making the holes with an old dibble, and the shallots, which are prone to rot, just below the surface. I then added a layer of straw from Henbogle Coop, complete with some hen dressing, which will break down over the winter months. I’ll leave the mulch on until early spring, then rake it aside before the ground thaws. One the bed dries out a bit and the shallots emerge, I’ll mulch again, probably with chopped leaves, for moisture and weed control.
Dan’s mom has agreed to harvest the garlic and shallots for me over the summer while Dan and I are on our road trip. I hope I have a good crop with enough to share.