Stinking Roses

Garlic. The Stinking Rose. This is an easy crop to grow, although it doesn’t like containers. If you want big fat gorgeous heads of garlicyou have to have it in the ground in the autumn, before it freezes. We’ve gotten ours in as late as mid-November. Dig some 3-4 inch deep trenches. Put in some compost. Throw in a little wood ash if you have it (protects bulbs from rot and allium worms). Cover with soil. Do not stomp it down. Cover with mulch of some sort (straw, burlap, old towels..) to keep them from heaving out of the ground with frost. Say a li’l prayer to the Allium Goddess. Thaw out yer hands. Toreally show that Goddessthe respect she deserves, plant a diversity of kinds. At the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming (GCUOF), we planted about 30 varieties (some of the bags are shown below) with telling names: Northern Siberian, Mennonite, Persian (aka Shaharazhad), Cuban, Purple Glazer, Fish Lake, Sicilian, Puslinch, Russian). At the amazing"Simpler Times Farm" just down Hwy 6,south of Morriston, you can find almost 50 varieties. Farmer's Markets around the country will have a range of varieties, too. And neighbours, and Seed Banks. Why bother?

It isdefinitely more work than simply, you know, opening a bag of already-split-clovesin a white plastic mesh bag from a rack in Home Depot or Canadian-Tire....Almost all the garlic one buys in any grocery storefor consumption AND for planting, from Ontario to Mainland China to Costa Rica, is one variety: “Music.” It also almost always comes in a horrid little disposable white plastic sleeve. Plastic coming and going! And it is almost always grown in vast fields requiring irrigation, fertilizer and pesticides, just like any other monocrop. This practice depletes the soil both in terms of soilstructure and health, and its physical well-being: it dries up and blows into the air and sea. Seed garlic from neighbours, local vendors and seed banks is invariably cheaper than any store-bought garlic. It lasts longer....Here's what FOODLAND ONTARIO says on their site: “Different varieties are grown, but there are no significant differences among them.” WTF? That is total horseshit! Discerning farmers and cooks candescribe differences in tastes (heat, edge, colours, softness).

Stinking roses gallery Art of Soil Collective

But even if chefs & foodies couldn’t, it’s nutters advice to folks who wantto grow some of their own foodsuccessfully enough to get to eat some of that food, ideally over the whole of the year. Different varieties of garlic -- of every plant -- have been grown & bred over millenia with an artful + scientific eye to: slightly different conditions of soil, size, weather, seasonality, humidity, pest resistance, beauty, storagecapacity, crunchiness. This massive,natural diversity –where it still exists -- is crucial to the on-going vitality of crops, and thus to our eating and nutrition. seed garlic attests to the wild proliferative nature of nature. But it is never just about ushumans: about our eating and nutrition. Other elements in an ecosystem, even a small one like a backyard garden plot, need to eat and be nourished by what they eat. Countless other beings come to exist in relationships with the plants we plant; with the microbiology in the water, soil and air, and thus with insects, shrubs, trees, birds, small mammals, amphibians and rodents who also live in and around our backyards. Surely those relationships amongst all the elements are also stronger and weaker depending on a myriad offactors, factors.

A living backyard is a collective, and it is probably too porous, complex and fluid tobe mapped out. Why do we think we have to map them all out, to sense this deep truth and to be guided by it in our planting decisions? Can we not allow ourselves to imagine – to know in our guts -- that the health and vitality of the whole willbe, in principle, negatively or positively impacted, even a little, by the variety and diversity of garlic we grow? We do know that, and we know it in our guts. That’s a teaching of the Stinking Rose(s)! Action Jackson!! Planting as many different varieties of one crop (tomatoes, peaches, bananas, garlic) no matter how big or small our little patch is, is what each and every one of us can do to pushback against the double-vulnerability built into industrial, globalized Big Agriculture: ecological gutting of the soil & market-chain vulnerabilities (which mean food shortages for all and often famine for many).

Keywords: biodiversity, garlic, backyard gardening, urban agriculture, ecology

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