Farm update: A blanket for the garlic


The Jetta was covered with frost again this morning. Dave left it out by the gravel driveway overnight. My car, on the other hand, snoozed in the relatively warm garage.

It’s interesting how sounds change with the seasons. Gravel returns a sharper, deeper crunch under my tires, and the wind finds new cracks around the car windows as the temperature drops.

It was just after 6 a.m. and 31o when I started my daily commute from the farm into St. Paul, Minn. The first thousand feet dipped from the house to the road, passing our fenced-in garden on the west. It was still pitch dark, and although I knew they were there, I couldn’t make out the young fruit trees, the now-shriveled raspberry canes, or the row of immature gooseberries and elderberries. It was still a good 40 minutes till daylight, but as I slowly rolled by the garden fence, my headlights easily found the pale yellow straw mounded on one of the long raised beds.

It’s cold and only going to get colder as we move into November, December and bone-chilling January. That straw blanket will protect the 300 cloves of garlic snuggled three inches into the soil.

It still seems a miracle to me that we plant garlic in late fall, that it hibernates all winter and then shoots up through the thick straw mulch in early spring. The thin green leaves are always strong and fast growing. And when you break one, it smells like the head of garlic developing underground.

I’m not sure if Dave and I will ever grow enough garlic to make it a second revenue stream behind our grass-fed beef, but it is a tempting idea because garlic is so perfect with – practically everything. This year’s bulbs hang in bunches waiting for our next meal of steaks with chimichuri sauce or slowly braised roast.

Several other raised beds run parallel to the garlic patch. Dave tilled them just before our most recent rains. They wait for spring planting – bare and dark, open to the cold fall showers and the snows I hope we’ll get this winter. We really need the moisture.

I hope you’re planting ideas for the winter and next spring.