Garlic

Garlic "tipis" drying in Midge and Bruce Short's side room. Marion Owen photo

Before corporate seed companies arrived on the scene, seeds were traded between neighbors, over the fence. In many cases, a plot of land and a cache of viral seeds--grown, harvested and planted in the same region generation after generation--was more valuable than having money in the bank.

While money in the bank is a good thing, so are regionalized seeds, plants, and bulbs. They’ve developed traits that enable them to flourish in local conditions where plant materials that are grown, harvested and shipped from thousands of miles away, struggle to adjust. Here in Kodiak, there is a handful of growers working hard to develop regionalized onions, turnips, carrots and garlic. It’s no easy task, requiring years of patience and methodical growing methods.

For Midge and Bruce Short of Anton Larson Bay, patience has paid off. Determined to develop local stock for local growers, they’re working with a variety of plants and have now produced an honest-to-goodness Kodiak garlic. So this week, I’d like to share their passion for garlic and share how you can grow the same garlic, starting with planting it this fall. 

Midge and Bruce began their quest for the perfect garlic some ten years ago. They selected several hardneck varieties known for their cold hardiness: Siberian, Killarny Red, Music, German Red, and Spanish Roja.

“We saved the best producers,” said Midge. “Labeled them. Replanted them. Did the same many years over.”

The number of garlic bulbs they planted increased by leaps and bounds. “It wasn't long before we began to get muddled with who was who.” She admits that labeling became a thing of the past, but success followed nonetheless.

“All we would do each year was to select the most vigorous plants and replant them. Each year we noticed the garlic improved in size and vigor. It began to resemble elephant garlic. Which it wasn't. It just grew so big. It was becoming regionally adapted.”

The Short’s regionally adapted Kodiak Garlic is now available at Sutliff True Value. You’ll discover that to grow and maintain a garlic patch of your own is a journey unto itself. Just ask Midge.

“One of my rule of thumbs for growing great garlic is to handle it very, very gently every step of the way,” she says. For example, to prepare garlic for planting in the fall, begin by teasing the garlic cloves apart. Do this very gently and take your time. “Any individual clove that slips, falls and lands on the ground with a thud,” Midge says, “becomes destined for eating.”

With mid to late September as the best time to plant your garlic, here’s a step you won’t read about in how-to sources, but one the Shorts consider critical to success garlic growing: The night before planting, gently place the individual cloves in a small bucket filled with a rich tea of comfrey and compost. Let them steep overnight.

Meanwhile, your garden beds should be prepared with “copious amounts of organic matter dug into them, including a very healthy portion of compost.” To plant the garlic cloves, a depth of about 3 to 4 inches deep is ideal, spacing the cloves no closer than eight inches apart. “It’s easy to plant the wrong way up,” she says, “so make sure you plant the cloves pointy end up and then cover lightly with soil.”

At this point, the question is, do you provide a winter cover for your garlic or not? Types of covers include perforated plastic, tight weave fabric, spruce boughs. Midge and Bruce prefer au naturel. “Our garlic has been raised outside without any protection. It does just fine with whatever winter dishes out.”

Garden Calendar 

Saturday, October 1: Community Potluck and silent auction

Head over to the Women's Bay Fire Hall to help celebrate and support Kodiak producers, growers, farmers marketers, gardeners and gatherers on Saturday, October 1. This is a great way to connect with local gardeners and growers. Set-up and visiting starting around 3-ish. Eating around 4 to 4:30-ish or when the pig is roasted! Bring a friend and an edible to share. Your potluck item does not need to be a harvested item.

Donations to the silent auction will be gladly accepted. Proceeds will go towards support of the Kodiak Soil and Water Conservation District. Good Food! Good Friends! Silent Auction! For more information, contact Blythe Brown, Programs Coordinator and Acting District Manager, Kodiak Soil and Water Conservation District at 907-486-5574 (office).

Stuff to Do:

+ Begin the process of cleaning out hanging baskets and containers.

+ Take cuttings and/or bring indoor plants back inside. Watch for hitchhiker bugs.

+ Dig potatoes. Rinse but don’t scrub.

+ Rake leaves: Bag them up for compost making this fall and during next summer.

+ Cut back raspberry canes that produced this season.

To connect with local gardeners and growers, visit the Kodiak Growers Facebook page and local farmers’ markets. To contact Marion, send her an email (mygarden@alaska.net), or head over to Facebook, Instagram at marion_owen_photography.com or her blog at https://marionowen.wordpress.com. Or pick up the phone (907-486-5079).

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