We've taken a big step from our previous year's planting of 2500 garlic plants. This year we've expanded to 12,000 based on the acceptance of our product in the market and our success in our first year of production.
Our preparation for planting included re-fencing our fields and cultivating pasture land that had not been fertilized or cared for, for the last 15 years. We began by roto-tilling our plot with our tractor and roto-tiller. Here is what we learned from our first year:
- As we are located in the Fraser valley region of British Columbia, we elect to use raised beds to provide better drainage for our plots. In our first year we made our plots approximately 6 feet (2 meters) wide, planting our garlic on a 6 inch grid. We alternated our plots with a 6 foot pathway thinking that this would be handy for getting at the rows for weeding, scape pruning and harvesting. This was a mistake for several reasons.
- You will find it hard on your back to manage the rows without stepping into the plots
- There is no point in creating a six foot pathway as it lowers the utilization of your field to 50% and is a haven for weed growth. If you have to weed, make your paths narrow to minimize the time weeding non-productive areas.
- Building up the raised beds was a bit of a problem. The first year I did it by brute force using my tractor and bucket, and vowed to find a better way in the next year. This year I made some modifications to my Mashio roto-tiller so that I could roto-till the fields and create the raised beds in one operation. This was a reasonable success, but I still had to do some manual digging out of the pathways as there was too much loose dirt as my flanges did not extend low enough to do this in one operation. I will make yet another improvement next year.
- We found out the hard way that fertilizing makes a huge difference. We fertilize with a well composted mushroom manure, and last year in a small area that we did not fertilize, our bulbs were so small that we could not sell them commercially. The size difference was 2-2.5" where we fertilized and less than .75" where we did not fertilize. On an area of about 20,000 square feet (.5 acre), we added 8 loads (80 cubic yards) of mushroom manure.