When we tell people that we've planted 10,000 garlic plants, and that it is largely a manual process, we find that most people gasp in awe. We'd like to convince those contemplating garlic as a cash crop that it can be done with relatively low investment, and you shouldn't let the numbers scare you off.
While it is essential to have a tractor and related equipment to cultivate the soil, the planting, weeding and harvesting are manual processes. In the various sections of this page, we have tried to provide some insight into the various tasks.
We use a tractor with a rototiller that we have modifed to prepare the beds. We start first by cultivating the planned growing area without worrying about rows and beds in the same manner that you would prepare a field for a new pasture or hay crop. In the picture on the right you will see that we use a Machio rototiller with the factory supplied flanges and this wroks well for the first stage of soil preparation.
Before we rototill, we spread manure evenly over the planned area and rototill it in with several passes. When we have complete this, it is time to plan your beds.
Since we grow on the west coast where rain is abundant, we have elected to use raise beds of approxinately 8 inches in height to ensure that the plants have adequate drainage during the wet season. If you are growing in a dryer area we recommend a lower rasied bed. In our first years we had about a 50% bed area to 50% path area thinking that this would give us lots of room to work, weed etc. But the big problem is that you end up with 50% garlic and 50% weeds. If you are growing organically this can be a problem.
We modified our rototiller so that our beds are about 40 - 50 inches wide. This is adequate for a row of 5 bulbs spaced approxiately 8 inches apart. We have kept the path size down to the width of the tractor tire. Since we do a lot of walking up and down the rows during the season, we find that trampling of weeds tends to work fairly well and limits the amount of time spent battling the invading weeds.