I did it. It's been a long time coming, but I actually managed to plant the garlic right on time this year. Three years ago I got it in in early fall and had an amazing crop. Well, for what I planted. The following year, we had a string of nasty weather and I kept putting it off. Until January. Needless to say, all I got was crap.
Last year, I did a little bit better and planted the garlic at the end of November, but I just used a combo of garlic seed that was starting to look suspicious and some garlic we had lying about the house. I got a couple of decent heads out of it, but it was really nothing worth reporting.
This year, though. Ah, this year. I picked up some hardneck garlic from Walt's Feed in Ballard when we went there to buy some chicken feed. It was a beautiful day on Saturday and so, I let the chickens out and then commenced stuffing the garlic into one of our raised beds. There were about three heads of garlic that I split up. The amazing thing was that each head had about 5 or so big juicy cloves. In previous years, the variety I planted had puny little cloves that didn't look like they had any hope of making it.
Roxy, the Barred Rock chicken, immediately thought I had a bag of treats and ran over to see what I had. I let her peck at one of the smaller cloves and she decided that hunting for bugs was a better bet and wandered off, with Sarah hustling her big fluffy white bottom close behind. If you've never seen a chicken running, you are totally missing out.
Anyway, this will be the first year we are growing hardneck garlic so I'm looking forward to some garlic scapes out of the deal as well. You remove (and eat!) the scapes around mid-June to help promote bulb growth. The variety of this year's crop is Killarney Red, which is somewhat rare to find and is hot and spicy and does well in wet weather. Which we'll have plenty of.
I have great hopes for 2011's garlic production. Granted, I'm not expecting a ton, but even if I get 10 heads of garlic next summer out of a few minutes of pushing some garlic cloves into the ground, I call that success. It's one of my favorite things to grow and, if you get yourself in gear, it's also the easiest and most productive. All you need is some great garlic and some patience.
So, if you haven't done it yet, get out there and plant some!