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Growing Great Garlic

If you are searching for a low-maintenance cash crop, consider growing garlic. Brian Fox planted 35 pounds of garlic in his garden 11 years ago. He now plants 700 pounds in October using 15 tons of hay mulch at Salem Mountain Farms in northeastern Pennsylvania. He harvests about 4,000 pounds in the summer. “I can’t imagine stopping,” he said. “It’s certainly a satisfying thing to grow. It’s one of those things we see in the spring before actual leaves start growing on trees.”

He is not super busy when garlic needs attention. He hand-pulls the garlic after his busy planting season in June and early July.

“It’s a natural fit with the things we do on the farm,” he said. “We isolate it from everything else.”

A five- to seven-year rotation prevents fungus or disease buildup. Garlic thrives in loose soil with a pH around 6.5. He grows German White, a hardneck variety also referred to as German Extra-Hardy and German Red. He said it grows well in heavier soil and thrives well in the Northeast.

Producers should ask local farmers about which varieties they have had the most success growing in their climate.

Hardneck varieties thrive in cold areas and keep longer than softneck. Softneck varieties, which are smaller on average, fare well in a wide range of climates, even enduring irregular weather. They grow better where winters are moderate.

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Growing Beans: A How-To Guide

Staple and comfort food icon, the bean has been playing an essential role in the survival of people and animals since ancient times. Evidence has been unearthed that old-world legumes (len­tils, peas, broad beans, chick peas and soybeans) have been used as food for more than 10,000 years in eastern Asia. Caches of lentils have been found in Egyptian tombs, signifying the reverence paid to this plant. Jason Ladock in “His­tory of Legumes: Man’s Use of Legumes” on healthguidance.org writes that today “Legumes are second only to the cereal grasses as sources of human food and ani­mal forage.”

Lima bean vine.

Why are legumes so popular? Le­gumes, members of the bean or Fabaceae plant family have many significant at­tributes. An important source of protein and fiber, beans also are high in iron, potassium and magnesium. They are easy to grow, and when dry, many beans can be stored for long periods of time without losing viability if they are kept in a cool, dry, dark environment. Besides the food nutrient benefits, the USDA Soil Quality Institute reports that beans have an ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, with the help of symbiotic Rhizobia bacteria living in their roots, and supply up to 90 percent of their own nitrogen.

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