Today’s pleasant spring weather found me well prepared to seize a window of time and give my garlic at the school garden a boost. Fortunately I had made time a few days ago to visit my adult version of a candy store – Concentrates, Inc. in Milwaukie, OR (close by to Bob’s Red Mill, which makes a convenient stop for a coffee or pastry). Concentrates serves both agriculturalists and pastoralists, shall we say, so there are sections of goody sacks for both crops and for animals. In some cases the contents of the goods for plants were animals (as in blood meal, bone meal, and feather meal). Anyway, it’s plenty of fun to cruise the aisles and heft 50 lb. sacks of fertility onto one’s cart, the very weight of the amendments practically guaranteeing a good season to come. Though I was really there stocking up on some pumice and coco fiber for potting soil, I also threw in some feather meal and soluble fish powder for good measure, thinking of my garlic.
Garlic wants nitrogen, and I like to give it both a short-term flush and a longer-term dose at the same time. Soluble fish powder, as its name suggest, dissolves easily in water, so it’s mobile in the soil and immediately available to plants. I have approximately two 60′ rows of garlic, and today I put down about 2 lbs of the fish powder in between the rows and stirred it into the soil with a three prong cultivator (what I call the chicken foot). The next couple of rains will wash that down to the garlic roots and provide a first flush of nutrient for lush growth.
In between those same two rows I also put down a couple pounds of feather meal. This provides longer-term nitrogen. Not being water soluble, it will require bacterial digestion. So as the weather warms up the little guys will feast on the feather meal and then as they sit back and burp, the nutrients will eventually become available to the garlic. Now it may be true that here in the Pacific NW garlic will put on its greatest growth in the warmer months of April and May, but I believe that nitrogen at the ready in the soil now makes that possible. I’ve tried adding blood or feather meal in May in the past, and it always seemed like too little, too late.
I’ll plan to put down one more feeding of fish powder in April, and aside from a little light cultivation, which I also did today and will do from month to month, that’s pretty much it. When the 4th of July comes round, I expect to be hoisting big, fat heads of garlic, and if that’s true it’s only so because I gave them the goodies at the right time. Be good to your garlic – to all your crops, really- and it’ll be good to you.