I managed to finish mulching the garlic bed yesterday before the rains came. We needed a bit of rain, since we are actually running behind the averages so far this spring. Before mulching I weeded around the garlic, a job I did mostly on my hands and knees. The worst weeds in the main garden this spring are purple deadnettle and chickweed, and both are worse than usual no doubt due to our mild winter weather. I mulch the garlic primarily to keep down weeds, though it also helps conserve soil moisture.
I also fertilized the garlic before I spread the straw. My strategy is to amend the bed before I plant the garlic in the fall, and then top dress with a bit more fertilizer in spring. My bed is 4 feet by 40 feet, and for this second application I used 3 pounds of Happy Frog All-Purpose fertilizer (5-5-5) for primary nutrients and 1 pound of kelp meal (1-0-2) to supply trace minerals. I plan on watering the bed tomorrow with a liquid fish and seaweed fertilizer to give it a quick boost now. The general wisdom is to avoid fertilizing garlic too late in spring since the nitrogen can promote vegetative growth and delay bulb formation. Since I usually start harvesting the early garlic in late June, my own cutoff for fertilizing is pretty much May 1st.
Overall the garlic is looking great, though I lost 9 plants out of the 172 bulbs I planted. That’s more than I normally lose, but it still leaves plenty of garlic for us to eat. I have found that a big stem on the garlic plant generally predicts there will be a big bulb growing underground. Last year the biggest bulbs were produced by two artichoke types called Red Toch (aka Tochliavri) and Simonetti. Both of these are looking big already, so I am hoping this leads to a repeat of last year’s performance. That’s Simonetti in the above photo, which has consistently done well for me since I first planted it back in 2011. I got my original bulbs from WeGrowGarlic, but I’m not sure if this one is even available commercially anymore.
At one end of the garlic bed I planted a few shallots last fall. It’s my first time growing them in many years, so it’s a fairly small test planting to see how they perform. I have two cultivars planted here, Conservor and Dutch Yellow. I set out 16 and they all survived, so I am pretty happy with those results to say the least. I also have more shallots planted in the kitchen garden area.
My next chore in the main garden will be to mulch the brassica bed. You can see it is right next to the garlic in the above photo. I also need to take up my planting string I use to keep me straight when planting. I weeded it yesterday, and if I can get it mulched soon enough I should stay ahead of the weeds. I plan on putting down newspaper between the plants and then covering with straw.
Another task on my to-do list is to mulch around the peas. I’ve already started on that, and the above photo shows Corne De Belier peas mulched on one side only. The peas are looking good and should be starting to bloom soon. I’m growing all edible podded types, though I guess some could double as shelling peas. Pre-sprouting the seeds indoors really helped me get a good stand. I also hope to get out some early bush snap beans (Derby) and I may try pre-sprouting them too, depending on the soil temperature at that point. It has been running about 65°F, which is not exactly optimum bean germination conditions. They would prefer it to be at least 70°F if not 75°F. I will take another reading when I get the bed ready and take it from there.
I hope you have enjoyed a look at what’s going on here in late April. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!