On the 1st Day of Christmas My True Love Sent to Me Some Garlic and it’s Spray-Free

Yes, Sir, that’s my Garlic
Last Wednesday I planted fifty pounds of garlic. I had put it off for weeks, daunted by the task of preparing the soil. Finally, after much discussion and many appearances on my “to-do” list, I tilled it, and Sean made it into a nice wide bed. I scratched furrows and broke bulbs into cloves and stretched my entire body over the row to get the furthest spots (much more efficient I think than going back again the other way). I’m used to edge-of-my-seat tension in most tasks in my life-you’re never quite sure if you’ll be ready for a Friday night at the Cafe-so it’s a mental challenge to get into the garden. Gardens plod. You can’t really rush through the physical demands of this kind of work and do it for hours. I always feel anxious to get it over with until I get into the groove, just like when I run. 
Garlic is easy to grow, but also hugely rewarding. For one thing, there is the cost. Garlic grown without chemicals is fetching up to $13 a pound retail in the Valley. This makes it really worthwhile to bother with the minimal hassle it is.  I’m growing it for the restaurant and for us and my friends. I’m also growing it because my Dad is enormously proud of his garlic crop, whose lineage he can trace back to the purchase of a few pounds of “seed” garlic from the famous Fish Lake Garlic Man many years ago. Mostly I’m growing it because the flavour is way better then the dry tiny grown-in-China garlic that all you can find in most grocery stores. For someone who includes garlic in almost everything but dessert,  that just means tastier food for the same effort.
Inspector Hen checking Garlic Clove Depth

 If you can find some untreated healthy looking garlic, by all means plant your own. The time to do it is right now. Break each bulb into cloves, push them into decent soil at least 6 inches apart, and mulch heavily with straw. In the spring start watching for it to emerge (I’m always impatient and push the straw aside to peek). The little green shoots poke their heads up slowly, but grow pretty quickly once the ground warms up. Sometime in July you will notice a flower head emerge from the center. It’s called a scape and I think they look like little elves with long pointed green caps. You must break this off mercilessly or you won’t end up with nice fat garlic bulbs. I have heard rumors of large scale growers that slice off the whole top of the plant with a machete, but I go through the rows and snap them one by one. I love the smell of garlic on my hands after I’m done. The only other work to attend to is harvest. When the lower leaves of the plant die off in August, pull up the plants, give the bulbs a hosing and hang them up whole to dry for a week or so. Cut off the dry stem and roots, and store your crop in a re-purposed onion bag. It’ll last at least until spring if stored in a cool dry place.  If you can’t find your own source of great garlic, come buy a pound from me at the Cafe!

Have your Chickens Prepare the Straw Mulch
Hang the Washed Bulbs to Dry
Cut off Stem and Roots