Garlic is perhaps one of the easiest crops to grow with a little bit of prior planting. Here's how we grow it in central Ohio.
Garlic is my favorite crop to grow because its timeline is opposite of most of the rest of the crops that we grow. It is planted in October, overwinters in the ground, sprouts up in early spring and gets harvested in early July. Garlic levels out some of the workload in the spring by not needing too much of our time. Then when the busy planting season is winding down in early summer, it's time to harvest and cure the garlic. PlantingTo plant, begin by separating each bulb into cloves. Each clove will grow into a completely formed bulb. Cloves are planted about 4 inches deep and about 4-5 inches apart in a row. Each row is about 10 inches apart so that we can get the wheel hoe between the rows for weed control.Remove the scapes when they appear. Scapes are the flowering part of hardneck garlic varieties. Softneck garlic doesn't produce scapes.
Harvest Around July 4thIt's time to harvest the crop when about half of the green leaves have turned brown and are withering. For us, that's usually in early July. Waiting too late to harvest will mean the bulbs have grown too large and the protective paper covering will split, resulting in poor storage ability of the cured garlic. Harvesting too soon will mean smaller overall bulbs.To harvest, dig each row with a D-handle garden fork. Be careful not to pierce the bulbs with the tines of the fork. With the soil loosened, pull each bulb and shake as much soil off as possible. Leave the stems on the bulbs while curing. The bulbs absorb moisture from the green stems which also plumps up the bulbs. Cure in a dry, shady location with plenty of air flow. In about 3 weeks the stems will be dried and ready to cut from the bulb. We use pruning shears to clip the stems and heavy duty scissors to trim the roots. The bulbs are now ready to store long term. If cured and stored properly, hardneck garlic will store for about 4 months.
Brining a chicken or turkey before cooking adds flavor and keeps the meat tender and juicy. There are 2 main types of brine techniques: wet brine and dry brine (or rub). Here's my favorite recipe for a wet brine suitable for poultry. Fresh herbs and aromatics are best, but you can substitute dried herbs and bottled lemon juice for convenience. The hardest part for me is remembering to plan ahead and actually put the chicken into a brine! That's why I like that I can mix this all together and dunk a whole frozen chicken straight from the freezer. Then pop it into the refrigerator and forget about it for at least 24 hours.
1 whole chicken, fresh or frozen2 quarts tap water1/2 cup kosher salt3 lemons4-6 6-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a stockpot or similar container large enough to hold your chicken, add the water and salt. Stir thoroughly until the salt is dissolved. Squeeze the lemons into the brine solution, add rosemary and pepper, stir well to combine.Unwrap and rinse the chicken well. Submerge the whole chicken into the brine solution. Allow a frozen chicken to soak in the brine for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. If using a fresh chicken, allow to soak for at least 2hours and up to 24 hours. Rinse the chicken well prior to cooking.
We’ve made it! It’s December 21, the winter solstice. Although I am not a big fan of the shorter day length and winter in general, the dynamics of how our big Earth is put together never ceases to amaze me. Our days will be noticeably longer a month from now and that makes me hopeful for spring.
How does this relate to chicken-keeping? When the days begin to shorten in the fall, it triggers laying hens to go into a molt. During their molt, they stop laying eggs and spend their energy replacing their feathers. They will then take a break from laying until the longer day length triggers them to begin again as we head toward spring.
Many chicken owners believe it’s the colder weather that causes a hen to stop laying. In fact, it’s all about the day length. Commercial egg producers leave the lights on in the poultry houses around the clock in order to keep the hens laying for maximum production. I personally feel that the hens have worked hard producing all year long, so I am happy to let them take a break.
If you keep chickens, tell me about your experiences when dealing with hens that stop laying in the winter. Have you ever tried to extend the day length to trigger them to lay?