Jim felt the energy of spring begin to flow through his veins this week as the rain and snow ceased and the temperature crept above freezing. So, he put the website work aside for a few days and went out to recover the volunteer garlic from the weeds.
CSA shareholders may have noticed an absence of garlic in their shares last year. Two things happened. We planted it too late and it got lost in the weeds, so we decided not to spend the time searching for the tiny bulbs. What we did harvest we either ate or saved for this year’s seed.
Last fall we resolved to learn our lesson and made sure we got a couple of beds of garlic in before the rains set in (garlic is typically planted in the fall and overwinters with a couple leaf shoots emerging). Then as the winter proceeded we noticed the garlic we had left in the field was emerging out of the dead and dormant weeds. We must have missed a lot of it because it formed neat rows.
Jim had noticed that most of the late planted bulbs had not begun to divide into cloves. If they had, each clove would have produced a plant, meaning the “volunteer” plants would be woefully over crowded. But these single clove bulbs were perfectly spaced.
So this week Jim saw an opportunity. Although the soil was still a little too moist, he felt he could gently weed the garlic and perhaps salvage a bumper crop out of last year’s mistake.
Now, over the years, Diane has taken on the role of alerting Jim to nasty weeds that we need to control. The first time was when she noticed that Jim was tilling ground with Johnson grass in it and producing more weeds every time he tilled. It turns out he was chopping the roots into pieces and each piece was sprouting a new weed. Now we use harrows and rakes to pull long strands of Johnson grass roots out of the soil.
Last year, Diane began warning Jim about what she called “dinner plate” grass. This grass grows in a sunburst radial pattern laying flat along the ground and putting down small root around the edge of the circle (like strawberry vines). Diane was finding sunbursts as large as dinner plates.
When Jim abandoned the garlic, there were dinner plates in the bed, by the time the rains came they were turkey platters. This week Jim dug out turkey platters. The grass blades and stems had died back, but the roots seemed quite healthy. All this is to say that Jim is ready to take Diane seriously about dinner plate grass.
So excavating the garlic from the dinner plate grass turned into a four day job, but despite dire predictions of ice storms the weather held out until Jim was able to finish weeding and raking in some organic soil amendments. Northwest garden guru Steve Solomon says fertilize the garlic when the spring crocuses emerge (our daffodils emerged this week).
Over the years, we have learned that seizing the day on those brief occasions when the rain stops and the sun emerges can yield substantial benefits as the season progresses. If all goes well, garlic will be back on the menu here at Hunters’ Greens, BIG TIME