Planting Garlic

Did that last post make your mouth water? Are you craving some creamy roasted garlic spread on tender slices of Italian style bread? Perhaps a side of simple pasta with a browned butter sauce topped with grated Mizithra cheese?

I can tell you from experience that roasting garlic grown a few yards from your kitchen adds an additional layer of satisfaction.

Garlic is planted in the fall and overwinters in the ground. Since the time to plant in Central Illinois is late September/early October, get your order for seed garlic in now. We order from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, IA. This company is a non-profit charged with preserving seed that otherwise may be lost over time.

Bed Preparation

Prepare your garlic bed now. Choose a different location each year for garlic, using good crop rotation principles to reduce disease and improve soil health. Here at Five Feline Farm, garlic will be planted where spring lettuce was grown. The excess lettuce has been allowed to sit on the soil. About a week or so before planting, the bed will be turned with a broadfork. (More to come on this technique in a future post.)  Garlic is a heavy feeder so adding in compost and Epsom salt will increase your harvest.

When it is time to plant, carefully remove the outer papery layers until the individual cloves can be separated. Don’t remove the papery layer from the individual cloves. Plant each clove about 3 inches deep and 6-8 inches apart with the pointed end upright. 

When the weather turns cold, mulch heavily with clean straw. In the spring when the days have warmed to 60 degrees and the night temperatures stay above 40 degrees, you can pull back the straw and keep the bed evenly watered until ready to harvest. You may leave the straw to help keep down weeds but there is a risk that it will stay wet and develop mold. Like most things in gardening, there is a trade off: do more weeding or accept the risks of mold. Decide for yourself how you want to manage your garlic bed.

Our next post will contain ideas about how to use this delicious fruit of your labor. While you are waiting on that post to arrive, check out our Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter feed. Plus, if you haven’t already signed up for our email list, please do. Each post will automatically show up in your email plus an occasional bonus for subscribers only.

Planning for the New Year

January 1, 2014. You wouldn’t think there is much to do on a hobby farm on January 1, but there is always some task underway here at Five Feline Farm.

This is the time of year we start planning the garden and any new plots that will be developed. Not only does this give us a jump start on the planting season, it chases away the doldrums of winter.

2014 will bring an expanded variety of flowers and vegetables in the main gardens. Tomatoes, peppers, onions, radishes, beans, kale, spinach and lettuce will be rounded out with amaranth, barley, oats, wheat, and buckwheat. Most of these seeds will be heirlooms and are already on order from Sustainable Seeds.

Some of the new plots under development will feature Native American corn varieties. Dent corns, Hopi Blue, black popcorn and a glass gem corn are among the possibilities.

Another new garden area will be planted as Three Sisters. For those of you unfamiliar with this native way of planting, let us explain. Corn anchors the planting providing a “pole” for climbing beans. Squash vines encircle the base blocking weeds and preserving soil moisture. This companion planting helps each of the crops thrive and adds to a healthy diet of the gardener.

Along with planning for the gardens comes planning for equipment.

This past summer we added a new and larger greenhouse to the Farm. Final tweaks are needed to make this a fully functioning space for tender plants. Even in the cold days of winter, we are getting to 80 plus degrees during the day but not holding any of this heat overnight. An insulating wrap around the base should help. In addition, we need to run an electrical line and outlet for the new heater. Between these two steps and tightening up some joints, the greenhouse will be up and running.

And who doesn’t want to just sit in a warm greenhouse enjoying the sunshine on a cold January day? As soon as we get a sunny day, we’ll pull out the lawn chairs and soak up some Vitamin D. Perk to having your own greenhouse.

The next major piece of equipment needed for the Farm is a towable tiller. As the planting beds expand throughout the property, a standard walk behind tiller will not be up to the task.

So the plans continue. Every step will be an improvement in this plot of land we call home.

What plans are you making for 2014? Drop us a line in the comments section and let us know what you will be doing this year.

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