Getting Started

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.

Cultivating and Preparing the Beds

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.

Bed Leveler

We are still working on the modification of the "raised bed" rototiller so that we can prepare the bed in one pass.  But at this time we still have to do a little digging out of the row and as a result need to "re-level" the bed prior to planting.  At the right you will see our bed leveler - Acme patent 452665 (this is a joke!).  As crude as it is, we can level the surface of a bed that will hold a 1000 plants in about 5 minutes, so it really isn't as much works as it sounds.

Planting Hole Tool

I borrowed the design of this tool from Fred Flinstone.  Again you may laugh, but the point I am trying to make is that you shouldn't let the numbers scare you.  Once a bed is preapred and levelled, I can walk down the bed and stamp out 5 holes every 3 seconds.  So to prepare the holes for planting the seed cloves, I can do a bed of 1000 in about 10 minutes.  And I'll bet you that you couldn't even attach an implement to your tractor in that amount of time!  Note that this clever design not only spaces the plants 8 inches apart but has gauges to ensure that each success row is exactly 6 inches apart.  ie We plant on an 8" by 6" grid, but you could change this if you so desire.

Beds Prepared and Planted

The image on the right shows what your rows might look like if you followed our guidelines.  One important consideration if you are planting more than one variety of garlic.  We recommend that you get stakes and waterproof marking pens and mark your rows prior to the start of planting.  You will be surprised how fast you forget what you planted and where, and this can be a minor disaster if you are planning to sell a number of varieties and want to keep them separate.


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