Garlic Field Preparation

Oat Cover Crop "Living Mulch"

It’s the middle of October and we’re busy! Lots of garlic to plant now. However, field preparation began two months ago in mid August. That’s when we planted Garlic Field 3 with oats that serve as a “living” mulch. Here’s Garlic Field 3, the field that we’re planting our garlic crop. It has a foot tall stand of oats.

Just below is the same field after our preparation.  It is now ready for the sowing of the garlic cloves. How did we make all of those long, narrow, shallow trenches? Hints: we didn’t use a plow to “plow-down” the oats and not a tiller to “incorporate” the oats into the soil. Instead as you can see, most of the oats remain standing.

Field Preparation Complete

The oats will “frost kill” and lay down later this fall for weather protection this winter and then weed suppression next spring. Furrowing opens a shallow trench and loosens the soil below. This year we used “mini-ripper” to make the furrows.  Also, we used a “row marker” to make the rows parallel so as to make cultivation for “weed control” easier next spring. 

Shown below are photos of the furrowing.

Equipment Set-Up

 Equipment is Ferguson tractor with mini-ripper and row marker attachments.

Front Mounted Row Marker


Mini-Ripper on Hitch Platform


Trench Row Close-Up


Row Marker In Use

As you can see, the series of parallel trenches made by a mini-ripper in cultivated land is something that resembles the tracks of a small plow. Now on to the garlic planting!

Here are the field notes: On October 8th and 9th, Garlic Field 3 (~ 1 acre, 300 feet field length) furrowed with 32 rows at 42 inch spacing using Ferguson tractor with mini-ripper attachment and row marker.  Garlic field planting capacity is 19,200 cloves (300 feet x 32 rows/ 6 inch clove spacing) or about 400 pounds of garlic seed bulbs (19,200 cloves/ 5 cloves per bulb/ 10 bulbs per pound). Fertilizer then applied directly in trenches: #400 of raw aragonite (40#/1000 feet), 250# (26#/1000 feet) of Fertrell Super K and #200 (21#/1000 feet) of Fertrell Gold Special Starter using gallon-sized plastic water can with long spout (walk and pour method). Improvements needed are addition of a “coulter” mounted in front of mini-ripper to prevent oat entanglements on the shank. Also, we need an easier, less labor intensive method for applying fertilizer (something to ponder in the off-season).


About wooleylot

Garlic Farmer
This entry was posted in Farm News, Field Notes, Soil Conservation, Soil Nutrition. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Garlic Field Preparation

  1. Hi Wooleylot,

    Those oats would have well and truly been frosted by now?
    When you planted the field out with oats you planted out in rows with tractor mounted assistance? However you did it it sure looks like you achieved good coverage and growth.

    I have a tiny plot 25m * 15m that I am looking to plant out to garlic using this method, just have to get the rotary hoe running again otherwise I’ll be wielding the mattock more than I really have time for.

    • wooleylot says:

      Yes, they are all brown and winter killed. We hired-out a 5′ hydraulically-driven, pull-behind rotary tiller for oat plantings in Field 3. Here is the field history: Field 3 (~1 acre) was first seeded with the mustard on June 4th after the incorporation soil amendments. This quick cover grew 3-5 ft tall in 6 weeks and was in full bloom when incorporated wtih the rotary tiller on July 14th. On July 13th, we mowed the mustard using tractor (Farmall cub) with a 5′ Woods belly mower. On August 11th, 150# of oat seeds were broadcasted using a Earthway handheld, hand-cranked (manual) seeder to introduce seed onto the soil surface and then incorporated using a rotary tiller (shallow till). When roto-tilling, we need to hire out because neither of our tractors have hydraulic remote. For fall planting of winter rye, we modified the method: Cover planting using tractor (Ferguson) and 1 row, C spring Cultivator (3-point attachment) in Fields 1 and 2. First, we cultivated (at deep setting) to loosen soil and uproot weeds. Then we broadcast the winter rye seeds using the handheld seeder and then incorporated using the cultivator (shallow setting) with a timber plank drag chained to back of cultivator. This method worked fine, and we didn’t need to hire out the tractor with remotes and the hydraulically-driven, pull-behind rotary tiller. This upcoming year, we plan to replace the timber drag with old metal bed springs that we recently found.

  2. nick says:

    what kind of a ripper did you use to make the trenches?

  3. Shawn says:

    I planted the same way with the oats and ripper bar last fall but I’m not sure how I feel about it yet.

    When the ripper went through the planted oats the depth was not real uniform because some soil would hold too tight from the oat roots resulting in the depth not being uniform and the trench would also fill back in come although the soil was loose. I ended up following this by punching holes into the trench to out the cloves into, did you also do this or did you just lay the cloves in the trench? I also found it was tricky to cover the holes back up since the soil would get caught in the oats. Any thoughts or suggestions on this? Thanks!

    • wooleylot says:

      We had those type of problems too. Since the oats trials, we now plant a cover of white musturd, and mow it in bloom and till it into the soil a few weeks before planting garlic. We use a three rows per bed and do blind tine weeding in the spring. The oats would need some special equipment to make it easy enough to plant into, which isn’t practical for the small farm operation.

      • Shawn says:

        Thanks! My thoughts were to go back to doing the same although I use buckwheat and then mulch after planting.

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