At many area local schools and community gardens, our Farm Teachers are tucking in the garden and putting the raised beds to bed. It all starts at the Farm, where we are planting garlic and making sure we can protect the soil for the coming months. The weather is already changing. The wind is blowing in. The hard rain is falling. The cold temperatures that arrive in the afternoon when the sun sets far too early are lingering when the sun rises making for a cold day, often with no sun.
We need to make sure to protect and preserve that precious soil. Some beds receive a wheelbarrows worth of manure from the recent horse activity. This load of manure and shavings is great to mix into a bed and let it positively affect the balance in the soil over the winter and spring months.
The garlic, over 1,500 cloves, is planted into a well-nourished mix of compost and existing soil. We try to always add seaweed, preferably under the soil so it can decompose and add needed nutrients to the soil. Then some decomposing leaves can be applied and serve as a mulch to the garlic, planted about five inches apart from one another and nestled in for a long winter’s nap. Though the napping garlic will hopefully be able to set down some roots before the real chill of the season settles in.
Garlic will begin to show itself, sprouts and early greens come late February when the longer days help thaw the cold, cold ground. Scapes can be harvested off the stiff neck garlic in June and all garlic can be pulled in July, and dry until further use or future planting. The soft neck garlic will enjoyed being braided and hanging in a barn, food pantry or kitchen, so it can be used as needed. So many garlics for so many loaves of garlic bread next fall, or gluten free, no wheat dipping.
Thanks to the soil for helping all these plants grow during the warmer months. The farmers, students and teachers can give thanks for many things and one of them is to the soil. We can say it directly to the good, brown earth and we can also add lots of decomposed manure, seaweed, leaves and nutrients. Many students have read about a Pilgrim girl who adds muck to the garden and follows suit by adding a shovel full. And during winter, we will know of our efforts to protect the soil and have it ready for next spring.
Now we rest, celebrate the food we wrought from the ground, set to plan for the spring and say an international gracias to all who help care for this bit of earth.