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Georgian Fire garlicThe late psychologist James Hillman once said that our duty is not to rise above life but grow down to it. He believed that each of us has a purpose or calling in life that reveals itself at an early age and reappears until we heed it. This certainly rings true for me. And I wonder if most farmers would find truth in it. I’m not talking about sinking in the ankle deep mud here. Rather that once we land, we put down deep roots. We dig in. We ground. We farm out of passion, whether we make any money at it or not.

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Garlic at MOFGAPeople usually say mid-October is about the right time to plant garlic in central Maine. That rule of thumb will, in most years, produce a decent crop. But why are more or fewer cloves per bulb sometimes produced, or more double cloves? Why is storage life better some years than others? Why do some harvested bulbs weigh more or less (even if they are of normal size) than others? Knowing some of garlic’s quirks helps answer these questions.

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Garlic bloat nematodeThe stem and bulb nematode, or bloat nematode as it is often called, is not a new pest. It was reported in New York and California in the ‘30s. But recently it has popped up in new places and in larger numbers. This year it has reached levels that are catching the eyes of garlic producers all over our region.

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'Phillips' garlic grown by Roberta BaileyFor me, the Common Ground Fair is a continuing conversation that winds through each day and back over 30 years or more. As a celebration of rural living, it draws together many creative minds, and I try to keep my days open enough that I have ample time to wander among them, the threads of conversations weaving into an intricate organic tapestry. There are friends to catch up with and new people to meet, questions to be answered, skills to be learned, vegetables to be marveled over, and food to be tasted – all scented with an overlay of ‘Sweet Annie’ and festooned with garlic.

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Penicillium decay on garlicGrowing great garlic is easy. Over the past dozen years, I have seen the number of gardeners putting garlic into their repertoire double many times over, and the number of farmers producing seed for sale dramatically increase, too. Almost everyone was getting away with no insect damage and little disease problem, and the word spread. Is the honeymoon period over? Maybe. Certainly it is time to become vigilant.

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Updated publication from ATTRA, available online.

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Until now, most researchers and nutritionists assumed that the best way to obtain garlic's cardiovascular benefits was to eat the raw cloves.

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