It was the star of the garden so we knew we had to plant again. Our lives seem to be quite a bit busier this fall, and there was a bout of chicken pox at the farm that was keeping us from going with the kids, so we finally got our garlic in last week. We're so lucky with the weather this fall. Everything could be snow-covered by now, but we got everything in like it was a warm October day.
This year we decided to make a bit of a raised bed for the garlic. A bed that we'll be able to access from both sides and not compact down into the soil. This will hopefully help with getting larger bulbs that don't have to grow against hard packed soil.
We did run into a bit of a problem last year. The music variety we planted seemed to lose bulbs throughout the growing season. And when we harvested what was left, some of the bulbs had yellow around them. Just after we posted about our "success" and showed off some pictures, we got an email from a garlic farmer who said he thinks we have a nematode problem.
Nematodes are becoming a big issue for garlic growers in Ontario. It's a microscopic worm-like bug that splashes onto the leaves of the plant while it's raining, and then makes its way down to the bulb, where it feasts. The other problem with nematodes is that if they don't eat too much of the bulb, at the end of the season they go dormant, and come alive the next spring. So even healthy-looking garlic can hold them.
The quick spread of nematodes is a product of propagating plants asexually. When you're not starting fresh with seed, and just using a piece of a parent plant, you're bringing all of its issues along with it, especially with farmers who share bulbs. True seed on the other hand produces a new generation, hopefully with improved traits and leaves behind all of the baggage like nematodes.
In recent years, the sharing and, in essence, globalization of garlic has suddenly globalized its issues. True seed projects seem to be the best hope for finding new resistance and building stock of nematode-seed.
Whether or not we have nematodes, we're not going to worry too much right now. The garlic is still fine to eat, and as that same farmer pointed out, we're not using mechanical planting machines and other industrial means to plant it, so our problems are compounded less. Maybe we'll start growing for seed using the varieties of garlic we now have and not bring any more outside bulbs in.