The 2021 garlic harvest is complete. Roughly 10,000 bulbs are now hanging in the rafters behind the Tin House, or stacked in the greenhouse to cure. This year’s haul was 25% bigger than in 2020, thanks to the addition of two new varieties—Inchelium Red softneck and German Red rocambole—and thanks to our seed garlic side hustle. We’ve been planting from our own saved seed for 12+ years, but since 2019, we’ve also been working to expand the supply so we can also sell to other Long Island growers. It’s a nice star to aim for, but in practical terms this means scrambling for additional storage space, rafters being in short supply. Lucky for us, Peter’s 2019 season at Featherbed Lane Farm in upstate NY taught him a thing or two about garlic storage. Using nothing but 2x4s, he assembled a tower of garlic in the middle of the greenhouse that allows for plenty of airflow, a critical element in the curing process. It is a sight to behold, and I feel rich whenever I look at it, which is often—you get a pretty good view from the lunch table in the Tin House.
The past few weeks have been consistently humid if not downright wet—not what you’d want for garlic harvest. But at least we cleared the fields before Tropical Storm Elsa rolled through. During the worst of the rain, I got a text from my friend, Liz Ellis Victorine, who shared her concern for the fields. I reassured her I was not particularly worried—we’ve learned to expect extreme weather, and to plan accordingly. That is why carrots, arugula, and other direct-seeded crops only go in the high field where erosion is least problematic. And why our tomato stakes are anchored two feet in the ground. Our best defense against extreme weather, however, is to keep the fields covered as much as possible. We plant cover crops wherever we don’t have cash crops growing, and in many cases we interseed cover crops with the cash crops. At the moment, Upper Crooked Field provides a visual comparative of this strategy in action. On the eastern side of the field, which has a barely perceptible slope, the sweet potatoes are coming along nicely, but they’re still 4-5 weeks away from a full leaf canopy, i.e. the field is still mostly bare. Elsa’s rain created rivulets between the rows and left the beds looking like a rocky beach—you can literally see the erosion. On the steeper downhill side, however, the potatoes are mulched with leaves and interseeded with oats, which act as a buffer and a sponge, respectively. Apart from the bright green foliage, you’d never know we had so much rain.