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Garden Journal – Do You Have One? How to Make One – and Why? — 6 Comments

  1. Good morning Blythe.
    I always find it interesting very informative to read your posts. I too have found the computer very useful for keeping notes on what garlic varities I have planted and in what section of the they are. Unfortunately I quickly forget where or under what file I saved the information. After a while I do retreive it so I am now back to the scraps of paper stashed in a single drawer. I was proud of myself because it worked very well this year. I was able to identuify the locations of all my plantings. However when we harvested the garlic I had several very energetic family members help me. While I pulled the heads, they cleaned and hung the little beauties. My dhelima is now what sort did they put where.
    Instructions about segregating the varities was pretty clear out in the field however were lost transation back in the barn as the busy bees wanted to make certain there was enough hang room. Thankfully I only have 4 types and hopefully will be able to tell them apart after they have cured..
    Forgive me for my ramblings I did have a techincal question and I am certain you have the answer. Here goes
    Generally the garlic is lifted from the beds by fork and quickly moved to the barn from the suns rays.
    Last year a portion of the harvest was pulled individually by hand and left in the sun for about 2 hours to speed up the drying and curing process.
    Sitting at the dinner table the other week one of my sons pipes up that his mother in law complained that she her garlic did not go the distabce this year and that she discarded bulb after bulb that had gone mushy.The variety was Music
    My question is could that be as a result of leaving them in the sun or because they were individually pulled from the ground by the stems that seemed to reduce the amount of root mass left for proper curing.
    Any suggestions you may have would be welcomed
    Ragards

    • Hello Peter – Please forgive me for not answering sooner – I so loved your note! Ah yes, from field to the hanging shed… I definitely can relate how easy it is to get things mixed up, especially with “helpers!” Course, with me having up to 27 varieties, it was always a bit of a logistical feat! I grow far fewer varieties now, and my life is simplified accordingly – but they are hard to give up, and sometimes I miss them. When it comes to the garlic, I have been a bit fanatic about record-keeping. I don’t trust the electronics, nor my ability to keep notebooks, so I have always kept multiple back-up copies of maps and data records in both forms, in addition to ID signs in the field, and blue tape identification on garlic bundles before they get hung.

      As to your mother-in-law’s garlic crop, several things come to mind:

      – Variety: Was it just the Music that went bad? Or did she grow other varieties? One might question the seed stock. She probably knows that, in general, hardneck varieties don’t last as long as the softnecks. You don’t say when she was throwing them away, but maybe they were just “past their prime?”

      – Growing Conditions: Location of the planting, how it was watered (over watering?), soil conditions (too much nitrogen?) etc. can also lead to shorter shelf life (as well as affect the size of the bulbs).

      – Harvesting: This part was a key clue in your note. Personally, I always lift my garlic out with a shovel or fork. It is so tempting to pull them out by the stem! Don’t do it! It weakens the neck and will definitely lead to storage problems, and yes, molds. You don’t say where she lives or what kind of weather she was having at the time, but if it is 100 degrees out while you are harvesting, you definitely want to get those babies out of the sun as soon as possible. They can cook. Plus, they easily bruise. It is surprising how tender they are when they are green, even though they seem so robust. That could lead to going mushy, for sure.

      – Curing: A shady cool place with good air flow is the rule of thumb. Here in the PNW, some years have been so damp, I have cut off the stems and roots and dried my bulbs on trays with a fan blowing on them. I know people who even cut them in the field. It is amazing how much moisture those roots can soak up from the air! Most years, though, I just hang them by their stems (bulbils still intact). I cure them longer than most, depending on conditions. A good 3 weeks usually does it.

      – Storage: Proper storage is important. Cool (60 – 65 degrees), moderate humidity, in a mesh bag or basket that provides ventilation usually works for me. It’s also a good idea to freeze, dehydrate, and/or store some in vinegar to ensure some for later, just in case. Hate to run out, you know!

      Garlic should last 6 months or more under the right conditions. If it was THIS year’s harvest that has already gone mushy – uh oh – that is a problem. As you can see, something can go wrong every step of the way! Hope this is helpful in tracking down the reasons.

      Thanks again for your note, Peter.
      ~blythe

  2. That’s what I say “Wow!” I don’t think I’ve seen a more comprehensive list of ideas for a garden journal. My garden journaling is pathetic. Over the years it has consisted of a scrap paper scribbling of What Not to Do Next Year. Then I usually lose the paper by the following Spring.
    Now that I have discovered I can raise my own garlic in the Northwest -I have a much better focus. I am getting better at making notes as to which varieties I purchased and where –as well as when planted, harvested, curing time, etc. So that’s a start, right?
    My take-away today is that I need to create a document on my computer, not count on finding my hurried scrawling on a scrap of paper turning up at the right time! Thank you for your insights and ideas!

    • Don’t feel bad, Beth! I have so many notebooks in which I begin with good intentions – and assorted papers of designs and lists of plants in trying to figure out what is a good companion with what and where to plant it…and a zillion to-do lists in various stages of being crossed off…I need to pull it all together & quit reinventing the wheel! I love the computer for a lot of things – but I like to take notes when I am out in the garden. I think I need to print out things from the computer and put them in a 3-ring binder – and then do the same with pages from my garden notebooks – and then also put together a little bag of supplies & occasionally go out and just sit somewhere & play with ideas. Organize them all together & voila! right?

      One of the more useful tables I have put together is on what plants are blooming when in the garden. It has really helped me see where I need to fill in the gaps for the bees.

      And then there was the year that every month around the 21st (to correspond with the solstice/equinox), sunshine willing, I went out and mapped the shadows from the trees and buildings at morning, noon, and afternoon so I could see how the light changes over the season (Permaculture Journey – Site Analysis – Solar Sector). I thought I already knew how it worked, but there were some surprises, and it was a real eye-opener.

      Keeping notes can be really useful – I just need to do a better job with other aspects of the garden, too. Like what varieties I purchased where & also where the heck I planted them! I tuck things in here, there, & everywhere.

      Thanks for stopping in, Beth – let me know what you end up with year! Keep up the good work on the garlic!

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