2017 cloves before being planted & medium red clover growing in the field we planted into
Garlic is one of our favorite things to grow and eat. It can go into so many recipes: soups, stews, sauces, dressings, marinades, stir fry, curry, omelettes, and more. Many Thai dishes my mom has showed us how to make include garlic, and they are so delicious and full of flavor, like Som Tum or Yum Nurr.
If you're sick eating it raw can work wonders, since it contains allicin which has strong anti-bacterial and medicinal properties. Research the benefits of eating garlic, and you will find lots of information that could be helpful to you. It is also very easy to grow yourself, and it doesn't take up much space.
Clove - extreme close up!!
Most of our garlic was planted the last week of October, but we still had some left that went in the ground mid-November. To plant this year's garlic we first selected a patch of field that had not been tilled for a very long time and was currently a large bed of medium red clover. Plus it already had a good balance of soil microbes. First we measured and calculated how much space we would need, mowed the area, dug rows of small holes with a narrow shovel, planted the garlic, back-filled with dirt, then mulched it all with straw.
Sarah mowing to prepare the planting area
No-till farming doesn't always mean no dig, sometimes you have to create holes and move or remove dirt to plant into the ground. It's part of the planting process. We do minimize soil disturbance as much as possible however, respecting the balance of the soil food web. We are always working to build the soil, not disrupt and disturb it by tilling or overworking. Areas that are dug to plant into bounce back and recover quickly because it is not just bare tilled soil surrounding the planting area. Where we dig is very minimal, compared to the large area left undisturbed around it.
Since there is already a natural system in place, even "light tillage" can affect the soil because it chops up the soil food web in that entire surrounding area. There is a lot going on in those top few inches of soil and disturbing it will take time to rebuild if you choose to till.
Sam digging holes to plant the garlic into
It's definitely not your traditional sight when you think of planting garlic. Most would imagine a field of exposed brown dirt to start with. Previous plantings using methods and locations similar to the ones that we are doing this year have resulted in really great quality garlic for us.
This area we are planting our 2018 garlic will be semi-experimental, because we have no record of garlic having been grown in this specific location before using these methods. We are always doing different things using fundamental permaculture no-till principles and end up with lots of great results. Until the garlic is mature and harvested though, we won't be able to provide a fully detailed assessment. We have to try things to find out what works and what doesn't. The methods used for this planting will allow us a measuring point to go from, we will assess after the harvest the pros and cons to continue adjusting and refining. Last year we dug trenches to plant in and back filled with compost (instead of individual holes like this year). We ended up with nice sized heads of healthy garlic that had amazing flavor.
July 20, 2016 - garlic harvest - grown permaculture no-till style
In our style of farming we work to minimize and eventually eliminate tractor use, we only plan to use tractors for mowing or moving large items that cannot be done by hand with human power. This will greatly reduce our fossil fuel consumption, as well as soil compaction, moving towards a more sustainable future. We do almost everything by hand. It results in a little more work, but if you are efficient with your time and methods, it doesn't take much more effort than doing it with machinery. Working by hand does take a level of diligence and commitment to completing the task, but is very rewarding all the same. Once you have established permaculture beds, it becomes much more natural and easy to maintain.
April 16, 2017 - growing from the garlic harvested in 2016 pictured above - permaculture no-till
There is so much information out there. We are continuously learning, studying, and implementing the in-depth research and knowledge of those breaking down the exact science behind why no-till is so important. Teaming with Microbes, by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis does a great job explaining the balance and relationships within the soil. If you are an organic gardener/ farmer it is a must read.
Through understanding and using those growing methods in our own production of vegetables and fruit, we utilize natural systems to maintain the health and balance of the soil food web. Always putting the never-ending pieces together for the bigger picture of a more sustainable future.
May 16, 2017 - Garlic growing with permanent clover cover crop