Thursday, February 4, 2016

End of Season Review - Garlic & Shallots


Garlic

The winter of 2014/2015 was particularly frigid – a few records were broken and we had several days where it went down to -40C/F.  But the garlic was a champ – every single clove I planted the previous fall survived.

2015 Garlic Harvest

In addition to Persian Star and Porcelain, which I have been growing since 2012, I also grew several new varieties that I had picked up at the Stratford Garlic Festival in the fall of 2014:  Duganski, Sweet Candy, Music, Pitarelli and Portugal 1.

Duganski


Music


Persian Star


Pitarelli


Porcelain


Portugal 1


Sweet Candy

The garlic harvest in the summer of 2014 was particularly dismal when it came to bulb size, so I was happy to see that we didn’t have too many runty looking bulbs this time round.  Also, the skins were nice and tight – the prior year I harvested the garlic a bit too early and the skins felt rather loose on the bulbs (although they still ended up storing just fine).




The garlic was given the same amount of space as the year before & I grew roughly the same number of bulbs but the total harvest was up by 766 grams (1.69 lbs), which is always a good thing as we LOVE our garlic around here.

There was, however, one very interesting fact about the size of the heads I harvested:  Every single head from one of the new varieties was smaller than the “mother” head from which the cloves originated.

As I didn’t have a large quantity of planting stock when it came to the newly purchased varieties - many of them were single bulbs - I sowed all of the cloves, regardless of size.  Bulb size does relate to the size of the clove that was planted, so I can see that this may have been a factor for some of the bulbs….but definitely not all of them.

The garlic obviously suffered from lack of water, just like everything else, but I also think that it may not have been receiving sufficient nutrients.  I had prepped the bed as I normally do (compost, chicken pellets, etc) and applied a foliar spray once or twice in the spring, but that was about it.

The garlic scapes, on the other hand, saw a big jump, going from 304 grams (0.67 lbs) in 2014 to 854 grams (1.88 lbs) in 2015.

First harvest of scapes in  June

One change that would have contributed to that increase was that I dropped the one soft neck variety I had previously grown.  Otherwise, I'm not really sure why the harvest was that much larger as I always harvest them at roughly the same stage (just as they are about to make their first curl).


Overall Impressions and Plan for Next Year

Not a great garlic year - the harvest totals were up but the fact that all of the bulbs were smaller than those that I started out with has me a bit worried.

The garlic for the 2016 crop was planted this past October and I upped the soil amendments in the bed quite a bit.  Firstly, I planted them in a hilltop bed that received a good quantity of compost in the spring and in which beans were grown this past season (hopefully adding lots of nitrogen to the soil).  In addition, I doubled the amount of composted manure & chicken pellets that I normally use.  I also added soybean & kelp meal.  In the spring, I plan to fertilize a couple of times with a liquid kelp fertilizer.

When I planted the bulbs in the fall, I decided to keep the 5” spacing unchanged.  I would rather test the fertilization methods first before I start increasing the spacing, which would ultimately lead to fewer bulbs overall.


Shallots

I grew two varieties of shallots this past year - Golden shallots & seed grown Camelot shallots.

In the fall of 2014, I tried a little experiment with the Camelot shallots - I wondered what would happen if I planted the bulbs (that had been grown from seed) in the fall, just like I do the Golden shallots.  Well, the answer is that they survived the winter just fine and they even divided as regular shallots do - but then they all bolted.

Overwintered Camelot Shallots & Garlic Scapes

So obviously, seed grown shallots cannot be propagated in the same manner as typical shallots.  And since they are a hybrid, saving seed wouldn't be an option either.





The Camelot shallots grown from seed performed very well, in spite of the irrigation issues this season.  I harvested more or less the same as the 2014 quantity of 33 bulbs weighing 2.7 kg (6.04 lbs).

Camelot Shallots

Camelot shallots are huge - much larger than typical shallots.  You can see that the Golden shallots below are substantially smaller, even though they would be considered quite large for that type:

Golden Shallots

The average size of the Golden Shallots last year was 16 grams (.56 oz) while this year it went up to 86 grams (3 oz) - quite the improvement.  However, they didn't divide anywhere near as much as in the prior year, which I'm thinking may account for their larger size.  Most divided into 2 or 3 bulbs with some forming only one large bulb.  The previous year, the rate of division was usually 4+ bulbs per clump.


Overall Impressions & Plan for Next Year

I'm quite satisfied with the shallot harvest this past year & it should take us through until next summer just fine.  It would have been nice had the Golden shallots divided properly, but I don't mind the fewer, larger bulbs that much.

I've already determined that I don't need two full beds of onions, so the shallots will be taking up space in the onion bed this coming season instead of in the garlic bed...which means more garlic for us - YAY!  This also means I won't have to net the garlic bed.  When onion fly first made an appearance in my garden, the garlic was not affected but since I grew the shallots in the same bed & they did sustain onion maggot damage, it had to be netted.

I will not be making any other changes, either with methods or variety.  Both types of shallots play a role in the kitchen - if I need a larger one, I reach for the Camelot; if only a tablespoon or two is required, I go for the Golden shallots.

The Golden shallots are already in the ground, having been planted at the same time as the garlic in late October.  Camelot will be grown from seed....in fact, I will be doing that this week.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

14 comments:

  1. I often wondered if size of clove related to outcomes....good thing you keep such terrific notes. I always learn something!

    I'm hoping my garlic will turn out this year. I planted normal time, but we were warm all the way through December and ALL my garlic was growing robustly, topping 6 inches tall. That's not good. You should of seen me out there constantly stuffing more straw on it , trying to get it to quit growing. Well, I guess we'll see. These strange weather patterns really can throw stuff outta whack.
    Have a good weekend

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    1. Ha ha....not often we make an effort to STOP things from growing! The same thing happened here where I had shoots a few inches tall and got into a bit of a panic. One of the Daves indicated that this had happened to him in the past and the garlic was fine the following year. But even if it does pull through I'm also worried that the bulbs may not store well afterwards. I haven't purchased garlic in a couple of years and the thought of having to do that does not sit well...much like your onion fiasco.

      Have a great weekend too, Sue!

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  2. I think I've only grown garlic once, it's not something we use very much of. I've never had scapes, how do you use them?

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    1. Scapes are so yummy! I use them to make scape pesto (used like basil pesto) as well as scape dressing for salads. The great thing is that the scapes can be frozen as is, and I usually freeze some in a bag and am able to make "fresh" dressing or pesto during the winter.

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  3. Your records are impressive! I use garlic out of the jar but wondered how you mince the fresh. I had one of those hand mincers but it seemed most of it got stuck in the holes. Is there an easier way. Maybe I should grow some if there is! Never had scapes or shallots. Nancy

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    1. I use a garlic press occasionally, but most of the time, I just chop it by hand. It's not that finicky if you use a medium or large knife, cut it up into a few pieces and then go back and forth over those pieces with the knife. Here's a step-by-step video that's pretty good:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOTVQIBQDOI
      All told, peeling and chopping a clove of garlic should only take you about 15 seconds or so and you have total control over how finely you want to chop it up.

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  4. Though you say the bulbs were smaller, it's still a pretty impressive harvest! Do you dry the garlic in the bulbs to use them later or do you chop them and put them in jars? We have quite a few bulbs that have dried, and I'm thinking some of them might be too dry now to use. We love garlic, too! One of my favorite ways to eat it is to roast the entire bulb, drizzled in olive oil, and then spread the cloves on bread like butter. Yum!

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    1. Depending on the variety of garlic, most should keep for several months and be just fine. I hang mine in the garage for a few weeks to "cure" (or dry out) and then I trim them and put them in mesh bags which hang in the basement. So far, all of them have lasted for over 10 months that way. And roasted garlic is a favourite around here too - only thing is, if we made it too often, I'd need to add another bed!

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  5. I would like to be able to devote space to growing more Alliums, but the trouble is we use LOADS of them and I would never be able to produce a big enough quantity to satisfy our needs. Since Garlic and Onions are cheap in the shops here I don't usually grow any. I have had Shallots once or twice, but the results were mediocre. We like the long-shaped Shallots, the ones sometimes called "Banana shallots". Nice baked in their skins with some butter and Thyme placed in a slit cut into the flesh!

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    1. Garlic and onions have to be one of the most used, most versatile veg we grow. I've devoted 3 beds to them and could easily fill up another one with garlic (as per my comment above!). I've not tried banana shallots - that preparation sounds delicious! You've piqued my interest...

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  6. Our garlic bulbs were small too. The shallots did well and have stored better than the onions.

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    1. I also find that shallots, specifically Golden shallots, store very well - any that are left are still rock hard when I harvest my next batch the following season.

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  7. It's always interesting to read your observations about your crops, since you do such a detailed analysis! I think you are probably on track with your garlic needing more nutrients. I have been tweaking mine for several years now and the garlic harvests have been getting bigger, as well as the bulb sizes. I gave mine a top dressing of dried, pelleted chicken manure in April, and watered with fish emulsion/seaweed in early May. I will likely do that again this year.

    My garlic almost always shows green after planting and before the cold weather comes. This year we had a mild December and it shot up several inches. Some of the tips of the leaves got zapped by the snow and cold temps in January, but it always come through it all just fine.

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    1. That is very helpful, Dave - I have both pelleted chicken manure and fish/kelp meal fertilizer, so I think I'll follow your lead and try that out this spring. Thanks!


      And it's definitely reassuring to hear that our garlic should be ok after it's early emergence. I haven't purchased garlic since we started growing our own - even when the harvests were not the best, I would prefer to use less in order to stretch it out rather than go back to purchasing it from the grocery store.

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