Rocambole Garlic is harder to grow this far north but is large, full of flavour and one of the easiest to peel. We hope to have hundreds of bulbils this fall from our small number of plants and the plan is to add them to our product list in two years. A great kitchen garlic!
Here are our guinea fowl patrolling the garlic beds looking out for bugs and slugs. The purple stripe beds are in the foreground (lighter shade leaves) while the porcelains are the darker plants in the distance.
The green house is our nursery for bulbils and some bedding plants.
We don’t use any chemicals at all but these birds are the best answer to pests we’ve ever had.
Here is a short bed of porcelains that weren’t weeded for 2 weeks. The weeds exploded almost over night. By weeding a few hours every day from March 15 to early May we finally got all the beds under control and weeding is a much less time-consuming chore.
Next year we will expand our use of plain paper rolls on the beds as this really reduced our weed problem.
Most of the weeds are removed with a narrow dutch hoe, hence the need for consistent spacing in the beds. Garlic is very fragile and leaves come off with just a touch of a hoe and the stems bruise very easily so care must be taken when hoeing.
You need to hand-weed around the stems but if you have soft soil, the roots will usually come out easily. Clay beds are much harder to work in and more plants regrow quickly since the roots aren’t pulled out as easily.
Our purple stripe (which many call Russian garlic) has almost stopped growing leaves. The stems are thick with many over 1″ in diameter. These plants have drooping leaves and stand about 2 feet tall. If you straighten out the leaves the tallest are about 45 inches overall.
If you plant them too close they will elongate in a race to get more sun. This takes energy away from bigger bulbs! The largest bulbs will always come from properly spaced plants given lots of food and no competition from weeds.
Here are about 1,000 bulbils at 2 weeks. This is a mix of purple and porcelain bulbils from our best bulbs harvested the previous summer. It takes us 3 years to get them up to market size (3 plantings) but it ensures us clean seed stock that is acclimatizing to our west coast soil and weather. We will plant bulbils every year and we will be selling them starting in early July. Keep checking back for more info and prices.
By early February our purples were over a foot high with six leaves showing. Fully extended some were nearly 16 inches long. The Porcelains in the distance were planted 2 weeks later and are lagging behind a bit in size. We expect the Purples to be ready for harvest by early June. Last year we had some for sale at the Berry Festival in early July. I suspect we will be selling this year’s crop at the Festival in Abbotsford again.
We planted the purples in mid October and to date we have had over 750 mill (over 31 inches) of rain! The constant pounding will actually flatten these beds considerably. But, drainage has been good with only half a dozen plants ever standing in water. Naturally, they are already smaller than their neighbours and will amount to little by harvest time. Growing garlic in Zone 8, particularly the lower mainland of B.C or up the Fraser Valley requires some planning.
We put a half-inch layer of fresh compost from Net Zero (they lease space on John’s farm) shortly after planting. These are the porcelain beds on a frosty December morning. The warm compost created a steam cloud on the frozen soil. The compost is weed free and lasts several months before the wind and rain wash it away of break it down.
We add another layer in late March to early April as the last feeding before the plants start forming scapes in May. We use compost as a mulch and a food source and it does help hold some weeds down.
Compost mulch also improves the tilth or composition of the soil and helps break down clay patches. This soil is like chocolate cake to work in. It crumbles easily, the worm feed on the compost and stay inside the raised beds adding their natural fertilizer to the soil.
Compost (or any similar mulch) makes weeding and harvesting much easier as well.
In our wet Zone 8 climate it is vital to plant your garlic in raised beds. Garlic is sensitive to having their roots in water so your soil must drain well. Sandy soil is fine but is lacks organics and without compost or other natural fertilizers the garlic size will suffer.
Our soil is black loam with some clay in patches. Field drainage is crucial and raised beds keep our plants out of sitting water. Even a few days of saturated soil will reduce your garlic harvest.
Here are two short test beds where we used different grades of craft paper as weed blocks. Both beds have compost as a mulch cover. You can see the finished product on the left side of the brown paper bed.
The white paper lasted longer and we had only a fraction of the weeds seen in all the other beds, The brown craft paper broke down a little faster than the white and the weeds came through a little more but both attempts worked well.
We simple planted through the compost and paper in our regular planting pattern of about 8 inches of space in all directions.