By Celeste Baumgartner
CAMDEN, Ohio – “The Garlic Man.” That’s how people at the Oxford Farmers Market refer to Craig Harkrider, of Stoney Hedgerow Farm. The name is accurate. In late fall, Harkrider plants about 5,200 garlic cloves, then sells the harvest at the market.
Stoney Hedge Row is a family farm made up of Craig and his wife Sharon, and their kids, Nathanael and Anna. And they know their garlic – they plant hard-necked garlic, which has a hard center stem. It does better than soft-necked in their part of Ohio.
Like tulips and daffodils, garlic is a bulb and is planted in late fall, Harkrider said. He broadcasts a broad-spectrum organic fertilizer on the soil in preparation – 18 pounds for each 20- by 4-foot bed and works it in with a garden-weasel type of tool.
“Then we break apart the bulbs,” he explained. “I use a marking tool which marks a grid on the bed. We plant the garlic on about a 7-inch by 7-inch square grid and drop a clove in each cross-point. We push the base of the bulb end into the ground. It’s very scientific, poking it down until your second knuckle hits the top of the soil.”
As they plant, they level out the soil. Next, they mulch to a depth of 6-8 inches with chopped leaves, which act as insulation for the winter but also provide excellent weed control. In late February the garlic begins to pop up through those leaves.
Harkrider applies a top dressing of a foliar fertilizer in late April to early May, which helps to give the bulbs a little more size. In late May, hard-necked garlic starts sending up a stem, called a scape, from the leaf whorl. When that gets up about 10-18-inches tall and coils, Harkrider trims it off.
“I market that scape because it is a delicious, green garlic vegetable, like a green onion in some ways, Harkrider said. “Since we have several varieties, we have about a three-week window at market when we have garlic scapes. It is a short-season thing but people look forward to them.”
Harkrider will harvest the garlic around the Fourth of July. If the “family crew” is available, two people will be digging and pulling. When the soil is ideal, they can just pull the garlic. If it’s more firm, they use forks to loosen it.
They wash the garlic and spread it out on greenhouse benches to dry. It takes about three weeks to cure. Harkrider trims the roots and the tops. He grows six varieties of hard-necked garlic and has a pattern for cutting the tops.
“I do a short, medium and long length of the stem, and a flat or angled cut,” he said. “So I have short stems, flat and angled, also medium, and long stems, flat and angled. That way I can tell them all apart. I can take a tub full of all the varieties mixed, dump it on the ground, and I know exactly what I’ve got.”
Harkrider will have garlic at market about three weeks after harvest. They keep the largest individual bulbs as seed stock for next year’s crop.
“We have been selling at the Oxford Farmers Market since 2014 and we have a following. People are asking me in February when the garlic is going to be here.”
The family markets their garlic using the “no guess garlic grader.” It is a wedge-shaped implement; you slide the garlic in, and where it stops, indicating size, that’s the price.
“Craig brings a variety of things to the market; garlic is his specialty,” said Larry Slocum, market manager. “But what he really brings is, he will sell you five bulbs of garlic and he’ll give you a $15 tutorial for free. People love him for it. He just loves talking about garlic.”