Friday, August 3, 2012

A New Season

I just placed my last garlic set order for this coming growing season. Wow. By farm standards, it's not all that much, but by my experience, it is a lot. It is easy to argue that if one is going to jump in, one may as well get all wet, but I have a measured perspective on capital investment. I don't have any, so I need to increase my stock over three years from a much smaller quantity. This is only possible thanks to the support of the Peconic Land Trust, the organization that administers the farm preservation program that I am about to join.

I've done my level best to buy only the highest quality, Certified Organic, retail garlic sets (seed) over the lower cost, wholesale-oriented "farmers" garlic sets. There are several nasty diseases floating around out there right now, including White Rot or Sclerotium cepivorum, Bloat Nematode or Ditylenchus dipsaci, and a new one this year affecting many Midwestern farmers -Phytoplasma. These diseases are everywhere garlic is grown, but Nematode is hitting the Northeast hard and White Rot has been endemic to California growers for decades.

I've added Elephant Garlic or Allium ampeloprasum to my field this year, but only 20 pounds worth. That adds up to about 280 heads -too little to make any significant sales next year, but enough to increase my yield to over 1000 the following season. This is a small-scale farm magic number for me as it allows me to save 300 for the coming season and bring 700 or so to market.

And how about this: I've decided to jump in and grow 300 Crocus sativus! In a few years that can add up to a lot of Saffron. Even if I can't find the time to harvest the stigmas next year, they will make for a beautiful field companion in autumn.

My experience this year has led to some revisions in my garlic planting list, although some I am giving a second chance because they did poorly only as a consequence of poor seed. This autumn I will be planting:

Softneck or A. sativum sativum
Artichoke 'Inchellium Red' and 'Red Toch'
Silverskin 'Nootka Rose'

Hardnecks, or A. sativum ophioscorodon
Rocambole 'Spanish Roja' and 'Italian Purple'
Porcelain 'Georgian Crystal', 'Music', and 'German Extra-Hardy'
Purple Stripe 'Chesnok Red'
Marbled Purple Stripe 'Siberian'

The Confusion-Creating Weakly-Bolting Hardnecks, or A. sativum ophioscorodon

Creole 'Aglio Rosso' and 'Burgundy'
Asiatic 'Japanese' and 'Asian Tempest'
Turban 'Tuscan' and 'Thai Purple'

In addition to these there will be the aforementioned Elephant Garlic Allium ampeloprasum (not a garlic, but looks like one) and French Grey Shallots Allium oschaninii. I am also testing garlic cultivars that one cannot yet purchase in quantity, and a few Allium vineale.

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If I do not respond to your comment right away, it is only because I am busy pulling out buckthorn, creeping charlie, and garlic mustard...