by Heather Jo Flores
From ancient Egypt to modern Manhattan, garlic is one of those plants that you can find in almost every garden. It is one of the oldest cultivated crops, and all around the world people still rank garlic among their favorite foods. And it's not just food —it's medicine, too. Garlic is used as an antibiotic, antiviral, heavy metal detox, and to fight colds, high blood pressure, Alzheimers, diabetes and cancer. It even wards off vampires and evil spirits, or so they say.
Here are a few tips on how to succeed at growing garlic.
Start with Quality Seed Garlic
Sure, you can plant that nice organic garlic you got at the Co-op or the farmers market. It was delicious, right? And it will probably grow just fine. But keep in mind that plants that were grown specifically for the purpose of being seed stock have been monitored for traits such as disease resistance, drought tolerance and uniformity, among many other things. And, by purchasing seed stock from a reputable grower, you are connecting to a lineage that is building long-term food security.
As for varieties, you will never run out of options, but here are some reliable ones to start with.
Softneck varieties, with a milder flavor, good for braiding and long-term storage:
Nootka Rose, for proven reliability in temperate climates, available from Garlicana in Southern Oregon. Check out their free PDF Catalog for an education on the history and genetics of garlic. www.garlicana.com
Transylvanian (because who could resist?) from Great Northern Garlic in central Washington State. www.greatnortherngarlic.com.
Chinese Pink, because it matures extra early. From Territorial Seed Company in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. www.territorialseed.com.
Stiffneck varieties, with a stronger flavor and edible scapes, great for roasting and pickling:
Turkish Giant, famous for giant, easy to peel cloves, also from Territorial (above).
Music, bred for large size, strong flavor and disease resistance. Available through High Mowing Seeds. Their online catalog features a cool comparison feature that lists several types of garlic. www.highmowingseeds.com.
Chesnok, a red Siberian variety known for hardiness and flavor, also from High Mowing.
Where to Plant Garlic
Garlic likes full sun, but it will still do OK in a spot that gets some shade. Garlic and roses are classic garden companions, and it stands to reason that garlic will also do well among other members of the rose family.
Try planting patches of garlic around your plums, peaches, apples, raspberries, blackberries and cherries. Or just clear a sunny area in your garden that you don't mind devoting to garlic until next June (or so).
How to Plant Garlic
Here's a fun tip:
Use a small longneck bottle to make the holes in your freshly weeded and raked garden bed. A small hot-sauce bottle from a brand like Cholula works great for making the holes the perfect depth. Make each hole 6 inches apart, in a pattern that makes the best use of the space in your bed.
Now, break up the heads of your seed garlic and pull the outer papers off of each clove. Plant each clove individually, with the flat side down, pointy side up. Fill the holes with rich, organic compost.
Make sure to mulch!
Garlic is drought-resistant, to a point. A thick mulch can make a huge difference in whether your plants die of thirst or not. When you've just planted the cloves and filled the holes with compost, spread a thin layer of manure over the beds. Top that with 2 inches of straw mulch and saturate the whole area with water. Add another inch of straw and forget about it for the winter. If there is a very dry Autumn, water the patch a couple of times. But it will probably be just fine on its own as long as we get some rain by January.
Weed, fertilize, and mulch again.
Garlic is a "heavy feeder" and will do much better without a lot of competition. In the early spring, the stringy green tops of your garlic crop will be pushing out of the straw mulch, and so will a bunch of random weeds. Go through, pull out the weeds, and remove that overwintered straw mulch as you go. Now use a small rake to scratch in some organic fertilizer (anything that's recommended for roses will work just fine).
Toss the old mulch on your compost pile and spread a fresh layer on your garlic patch. This helps prevent mold and mildew from gaining ground while your bulbs mature. Water well after this weeding-fertilizing-mulching adventure and then you don't need to do much else until it's time to harvest.
Eat the Garlic Scapes!
If you planted stiffneck varieties, you're in for a treat. The flower stalks, called "garlic scapes," are delicious when pan-fried or flame-grilled. The stalks will shoot straight up, crowned by a point head-bud, which will plump out and then curl around the stalk in a spiral pattern. Snap that off and fry it up! Removing the scapes also helps the heads grow bigger.
If you want to try and save the seedlets from the later-mature flower stalk, don't cut the scape. Wait until the hard little seedlets are completely dry, and then harvest and replant them. Either way, once scapes have curled, it's time to cut off any irrigation and let the garlic dry down a bit before harvesting.
With softneck garlic, it is best to remove the straw mulch a couple of weeks before harvest, to help avoid mold. Plants that have mold on them will not store well, and they will infect the storage area with mold spores. If you spot moldy patches early, you can remove them with a clean knife. Keep the patch weeded and don't overwater. When the heads seem to be starting to beef up (and the tops seem to be dying back a little) then rake all of the mulch off the area and cut the water.
It's time to harvest when all of the tops are at least 60 percent brown. The night before, give the whole patch a good watering to soften up the ground for digging. Harvest gently, with a D-handled digging fork, working slowly and attentively to avoid slicing into the heads. Don't yank on the tops and don't cut them off. Garlic is delicate when first harvested! And don't dig up the whole patch at once. Dig up a few heads and see if they are mature. Have the bulbs rounded out, or are they still elongated? There is no sense it waiting nine months for your crop and then harvesting it a week too early. Be patient!
Curing and Storage
After harvesting, your bulbs need to cure for optimum flavor and storability. Leave the tops on and either braid them together or gather them into bunches for curing. Hang in a cool, dark, dry space for at least a month. This will cause the bulbs to harden and tighten. Now you can hang up the braids in the kitchen, and/or cut off the tops and store the heads, sell them, eat them, pickle them or give them to the neighborhood kids for Halloween!
#growinggarlic #permaculturewomen #foodnotlawns #freepermaculture
Water is the most essential element to life on earth. Take a moment and really let that sink in. Do your everyday practices demonstrate a reverence for this finite resource? The permaculture design process can help you protect and care for the water in your life and community. It can also ease the irrigation burden in your food-producing systems.
When you’ve managed water well, whether in your home, garden, or community, other elements in the system will come alive. Now that’s powerful.
Water: The Most Revered Element on Earth?For many of us, clean water comes directly from a tap in an instant. Because of this, it’s easy to forget how finite this resource is, and how our practices regarding water may be unsustainable.
Upon further inspection, one realizes there is not a single organism on earth that can live without it. Good thing we’re living on the Blue Planet, right?
Well, the truth may shock you. It turns out that only .5% (!) of all water on earth is freshwater, available to us. Much of the rest is locked in ice or deep in the earth’s crust. In other words, our most precious and important resource is amazingly finite.
For this reason, most native peoples have traditionally honored this element’s sacredness. When your life is closely entwined with — and dependent on — access to clean water, you protect it, rejoice, and give thanks for its presence.
Modern civilization on the other hand, has become disconnected to water’s sacredness due in large part to the convenience of modern systems.
Less than 200 years ago, modern indoor plumbing hit the scene. This highly engineered system brings water efficiently to each household. However, it also sends away water that was used only once faster than it came.
When people become intrigued by permaculture design, they usually expect to learn how to apply permaculture principles to a landscape. In truth, when we cultivate a relationship with water, our actions can benefit much more than a single landscape. While our gardens may be more resilient and robust with permaculture design, so, too, can our local watershed and ecology.
Permaculture design allows us to think about our place within the system as a whole. In this article we’ll check out ways to become better stewards of water in all areas of life.
Looking in the Mirror: Personal Water UsePart of the permaculture design process is looking to see where resources are being lost or wasted.
The average American uses 1200 gallons of water per day. In the U.S. alone, vast underground aquifers that have taken more than 2 million years to develop, are depleting faster than they can be replenished. This is largely because of consumer habits and a lack of reverence for water.
Are you wondering what you can do to better care for this wasted resource in your personal life? From eating organic food to eschewing packaged foods, these 10 tips can help.
In the western world especially, we must find ways to respect and conserve this vital resource, as if our lives depended on it, because they do!
Closing the Loop in the Home Water Cycle
The typical pathway for water in a municipal system is this: Clean water is pumped into the home. It’s used only once before it is whisked away again to the municipal treatment plant for cleaning. This is a very energy intensive cycle to filtrate, pump, and collect waste water that so quickly enters and leaves the home.
An ecological home water cycle, on the other hand, seeks to retain and recycle water onsite whenever possible. For example, greywater — the used water from sinks, showers, and washing machines — can potentially be used in the landscape.
While this might seem unsanitary, in fact, soil organisms are pretty efficient at filtering and sanitizing. Utilizing greywater onsite is quite possibly the next frontier — after recycling and composting — for reducing household waste.
Seeking out ways to utilize greywater helps us to be more mindful of both water use and water cleanliness. When I know water is headed for my garden rather than to the municipal treatment plant, I’m more mindful of what I add to the water.
If you would like to explore ways to take advantage of greywater to connect the inside of your home with your landscape, or other sustainable water topics, check out the wealth of information and ideas at GreywaterAction.org.
Take advantage of these water opportunities so you can conserve water, reduce pollution and the strain on sewer systems, add fertility to the garden, and create a dynamic, living water cycle within the home that is integrated with the landscape.
Let’s look outside and see how you can design a landscape that respects and cares for water.
What’s Your Local Watershed Got To Do With It?It is essential to know where a landscape is situated within its local watershed in order to apply permaculture design to the site. A single landscape is just one part of a larger system, and our goal is to support regenerative ecosystems as a whole.
Understanding how water moves throughout a watershed helps you to visualize where water is being wasted in the landscape. Armed with this knowledge, you can find appropriate ways to manage it.
Try this exercise:
Look at the water that comes in and out of a landscape.
Where does it come from?
Is the source clean or polluted?
When it leaves a site, where does it go?
When you think about your landscape as part of a whole watershed, you can look for ways to conserve water and maintain water purity.
Conserving Water in the Productive Landscape
Observe where water is being lost or wasted in a garden. Armed with this knowledge, you can look for smart ways to make the system more robust and interconnected. Sometimes the solution is as straightforward as building soil, mulching appropriately, or routing a downspout so that it discharges in the garden as passive irrigation.
Other times, the solution is more involved. For example, earthworks are man-made structures that change the topography of the land in order to direct and manage water. On some sites, the goal will be to redirect excess water, while on other sites earthworks encourage infiltration.
The permaculture design process can help you assess a landscape for its particular qualities and find ways to manage water appropriately.
The water that falls or collects on a site is a precious resource. In a permaculture design, the aim is to use water as many times as possible before it passes out of the system and to send only clean water into your local watershed.
Seek Out Native and Local Water Wisdom
Dr. Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu was working as a consultant for the World Bank in Washington, D.C. One day, she overheard her boss complaining about an irrigation project that had cost millions of dollars to build. The solution in the Republic of Niger was falling far short of its intended goals to bring irrigation to crops. Of course, irrigation is essential for agriculture in this region that is 75% parched desert.
Meanwhile, a traditional irrigation method in the region, called tassa, demonstrated glowing results. Plots of land growing millet using the tassamethod were 98% more productive than plots of land not using the method. That’s an incredible increase in productivity using a hand-dug technique! Watch Dr. Ezeanya-Esiobu’s TED Talk here.
These results are encouraging, but not surprising. After all, native techniques tend to be low-tech, low-cost, and work with the land to produce a lasting and water-wise solution.
You might find yourself aghast at the wastefulness and over-engineering of the World Bank solution and its disconnect with the local ecology and people. It’s easy to judge that which is removed from our own experience. As such, when we circle back to our own bioregion of the world, we must be vigilant about solutions that are disconnected from the qualities and needs of a landscape or community.
Remember the over-engineered municipal water system that sends filtered water all the way to your home to be used only once before being disposed of as waste? Learn to discover where resources are being lost and seek out specific strategies that match the needs of a site. Why invent the wheel when there may be an appropriate, low-tech solution right under your nose?
Design with water in mind, and you’ll observe a powerful, integrated system (whether in your home, garden, or community) come to life.
Would you like to learn more?
Read more of my writing about creating regenerative food-producing systems on my website, TenthAcreFarm.com.
I'm also on the faculty for the Women’s Permaculture Guild Online Permaculture Design Course. In this one-of-a-kind, self-paced course, you’ll learn from 40 of the world’s sought-after permaculture teachers and designers. If you’ve enjoyed this article, then you’ll enjoy the module I teach about water, as well as the module I co-teach about earthworks.
#permaculturedesign #greywater #designwithwater #waterconservation #permaculturewomen
by Heather Jo Flores
Take a moment to ponder your relationship with the wild plants in your garden. Chickweed, thistle, pigweed, plantain. Cleavers, lemon balm, nettle. These not only provide forage for insects, birds, and animals, they also provide food for you.
Most of the common vegetables we enjoy in our salads, such as lettuce, carrots, parsley and mustard, were once considered weeds.
So why not let their wild kin act as volunteer herbs and vegetables?
Edible weeds taste great in a variety of recipes, and are known to be more nutritious than domesticated plants. You probably already know about a few of these, and perhaps you've even tried dandelion greens or purslane in your salad.
Here I offer a rundown of my favorite weeds to eat and ways I like to prepare them, organized by season.
Fresh Eating. You can make a delicious salad with the very early leaves of just about any of the plants listed in this article, but my favorites are dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), chickweed (Stellaria media), sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Chop them all together with lettuce, sunflower seeds and a light vinaigrette.
Weedy Smoothies. When the weeds are still young but starting to taste bitter when eaten raw, try putting them in smoothies. I love a smoothie with avocado, kiwi, peeled cucumber, hemp seeds, lamb's quarter (Chenopodium album), sheep sorrel and purslane.
Baked Weeds. Use weeds like spinach to make lasagna, enchiladas or spanikopita. Try it with lamb's quarter, pigweed (Amaranthus palmeri), burdock (Articum lappa) and/or chickweed (Stellaria media).
Yum-Yum. Collect the large, bitter leaves of late-season dandelion, burdock and broad-leaf plantain (Plantago major). Add some long branches of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and pigweed. Hang them in bundles in a warm, dry space for a couple of weeks, to let them dehydrate. When dry, shuck the leaves off the stems and crumble them together with sea salt, powdered cumin and dried seaweed. Use this to sprinkle in soups, salads, salsa and everything else, to boost nutrition and aid digestion.
Weed Pesto. Collect the earliest shoots of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), cleavers (Galium aparine) and miner's lettuce. Put them in a blender with olive oil, garlic, asiago and a handful of seeds from the milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Spread on fresh bread or tortillas.
Proper identification. Some plants are quite poisonous, and I have included the botanical names in this article in hopes that you will be careful to correctly identify any plant you eat. With any new food, it is wise to always try just a little bit first, then wait a day or two to see if your have an allergic reaction. Chances are, everything will be fine, but better safe than sorry!
#foodforest #edible weeds
This resource is brought to you by
Food Not Lawns,
Permaculture Women's Guild, and Heather Jo Flores.
Subscribe to the #freepermaculture blog via email and get fresh articles every week! This does not add you to other lists, but you can opt into those below.
You're good to go!
Writers! Let's Crosspollinate!
We'd love to feature your article here and/or swap guest posts with you.
Join the #freepermaculture public discussion group
FREE Permaculture Coloring Book!
Watch this video to learn about our online Permaculture Design Course with advanced certificate in Social Systems Design.
FREE Introduction to Permaculture class
Enjoy the first module of our double-certificate design course, absolutely free.
Pay-what-you-want online course: