We have been quiet on here as we completed harvesting, drying, and cleaning the garlic. We are pleased to open our online garlic shop exclusively for culinary garlic orders. Why no seed garlic this year? Read on, dear friends, and you'll soon know why.
During growth checks after cutting the scapes we pulled up a couple suspicious looking bulbs. They were slimy near the root and generally did not look right (photos below). We feared the worst but we hoped that it was only due to a really wet spring and early summer. We don't do raised beds because we have such sandy soil, never thinking we'd get enough rain to counterbalance the sand they grow in. We sent the samples off to the good folks at the U of MN to get them tested for various diseases.
The worst we feared proved true. Our crop was infected with the dreaded garlic bloat nematode. If you google this beast you will read about dread and doom and the ruin of entire crops. Luckily for us, it was concentrated mostly in the newest seed of Music and Chesnok. Our own seed that we replanted from last year (including our Music and Chesnok) turned out great. I suspect that much of our garlic is not infected with the bloat, however, we cannot replant any of our garlic as we had hoped, and we cannot sell it as seed garlic for others to plant. We have to start totally fresh by buying new uninfected seed garlic. We also have to abandon the site of this year’s crop for at least four years. We plan to never plant there again since we have plenty of space for a different site and for the four year crop rotation that is recommended as standard.
The most common way to get the garlic bloat nematode is through introducing infected seed. We had bought new seed last year from a grower who had not tested for it. We thought it would be fine. The garlic looked good. We were wrong. Lesson learned- ALWAYS buy from a grower who has tested negative for bloat nematode.
So, we are starting over. We are back to square one with no progress in any way toward a healthy thriving crop. We have to till up new soil and buy new seed. We also have additional work now of planting preventative cover crop over in the infected fields to slowly get rid of it. Luckily, mustard is the recommended cover crop and it’s well-liked by bees so we may sprinkle in some wildflowers to take an empty infected field and turn it into something beautiful.
When we first learned that our field was infected we felt utterly gutted. Two years of hard work straight down the drain. There were definitely moments of wanting to give up. But I've received too much from it - I never once regretted the time I spent out at the garlic. I do not have a green thumb- far from it- but I thrive on purposeful work and I love learning. It feels like such a big small project. I'm not ready to let it go yet.
The good news for you is we have a lot of seemingly unaffected seed that can be used for culinary garlic! There are a lot of beautiful big bulbs that will be wonderful for cooking. Head on over to the 'buy garlic' page and cook yourself something yummy!!
(my personal favorite so far has been the German Red pressed into guacamole - such a savory garlic taste with just a bit of heat- perfection!)
Some garlic looked like this- Ack!:
And then others looked like this- Beautiful!: