As many of you are probably aware, our populations of beneficial insects are in trouble. Bees and butterflies are what come to the forefront of my mind when thinking of beneficial insects, although they are far from the only ones. There are a variety of insects, including beetles, spiders, caterpillars, and more that offer wonderful contributions to our world.
So why are they in trouble?
Well, there are a lot of theories out there. The probability is that it is a combination of factors. Two of these factors, habitat and pesticides, are addressed in the Bee Better Certification. The Xerxes Society, via grant from the USDA, has partnered with Oregon Tilth to provide the Bee Better Certified program. You can read more about it here.
While this program is for farmers and ranchers, there are lessons to be learned for the rest of us. It is of vital importance for us to be conscientious about our use of pesticides and what we plant. There are a lot of plants out there that do very well for different insects. Even if you don’t want to put a lot of research into it, planting something that flowers is a great first step.
How Can You Help?
If you are not a farmer, the best thing to do at this time of year is start looking at your property and thinking about what you could plant next year to help the native and/or beneficial species of insects. You can view our seed starting basics articles here to help get you started. In some cases, you can even buy insects such as ladybugs and lacewings and have them mailed to you. These two particular insects can actually serve as natural “pesticides”, as they eat bad bugs – think aphids.
What will you do to help your local pollinators?
Types of Garlic
There are two types of garlic: hardneck and softneck. The plants form in different ways and have different harvest potentials. It is generally said that softneck varieties do well in warmer climates, where as hardneck varieties do well in northern, harsher climates. We plant hardneck garlic as we live in the north and get two harvests per season.
What is hardneck garlic?
Hardneck garlic has a hard central stem at maturity. While I could go into all the details, this site does an excellent job of it. Check it out!
Why we like hardnecks
We have exclusively grown hardneck varieties on our homestead for several years now. We started with about 100 cloves, and replant the best every fall. This has given us a garlic that is well adapted to our micro-climate that we can trust will do well, even if we neglect it a bit. *clears throat*
The hardneck variety is better suited to a northern climate because of it’s hardiness. While we are technically in USDA zone 5a, our frost pocket puts us more in the range of 4b, but that hasn’t stopped it from thriving!
This last fall we planted over 200 cloves (because we love garlic that much), and it seems to have done very well despite the fact that we have been a bit neglectful this year. How much did we harvest? I’m not entirely sure yet. You see, the garlic has to be cured, or dried before we relieve it of its stem, but it looks like we had a successful year.
We harvested the garlic scapes about a month or so ago, and then dried them in the dehydrator. We also still have some pickled scapes from last year to use. So maybe 200 will be a bit much, but I’m sure we will get good use out of it.
Step 1: Planting. The harvest of garlic begins with planting it in the fall. We plant our cloves from the best heads of garlic about every four inches between and about an inch deep (as deep as they are big). These are planted in early fall, so that the heads have some time to establish roots. Additional covering of mulch, such as straw, for insulation may also help. This is something we have yet to experiment with, as we have not found it to be necessary.
Step 2: Weeding and fertilizing. The garlic comes up in early spring, and *should* be weeded and fertilized regularly. As I said, we didn’t do very well with that this year, but we still had a good harvest. If we had been better about weeding and fertilizing, it would have been better.
As you can see above, the ducklings, goslings, and turkeys loved the gift of greenery! They had consumed almost everything green in their pasture area, which you can see in the picture. We have since, extended their pasture so that they have fresh grazing again.
Step 3: Harvesting and Drying. Once the leaves have died back a bit, but you still have one or two green leaves, they should be harvested. The roots should be trimmed (as seen in the picture above). Rub any dirt off, and hang to dry for a couple weeks. You don’t have to have them cleaned to what ours are at, but I was concerned about the possibility of mold and such because the soil was so wet and I was harvesting a bit late.
After it has had time to dry, we will choose our best bulbs for fall planting. After we have that, we will choose the bulbs that are maybe a little smaller and make garlic powder. We will store the rest in a cool, dry, dark place and will store almost all winter, and maybe a little longer for fresh use year round! Actually, I haven’t bought garlic from a store in years!
Question of the Week:
Would you like to learn how to make Garlic Powder???
Honey extraction! That’s right…we are extracting honey for the second time this year! We will be doing that this weekend, so you can expect a post about that, and maybe some other exciting happenings around the homestead in the coming week. Until next time! 🙂
We also have plans to catch you up on some other interesting and different happenings with our bees this next week also. Stay tuned!