It is time to plant your garlic (hard-neck garlic in this region)!
Hopefully, you’ve saved some of those delicious garlic cloves we sold at the farm stand in the middle of the summer. Now until early December is the right time to plant your garlic cloves into the garden. We usually plant out late October into November. This year, with an early fall, we plan to get these in before Halloween.
First, split your garlic bulb (head) into the individual cloves.
Then, sort your cloves by size and variety. The general rule of thumb is that the larger cloves produce larger bulbs!
Prepare your soil by enriching your planting area with a thick layer of compost (4-6 inches). You can add organic manure and/or worm castings as well. Many growers now also use seaweed as an additional source of food for the garlic. Garlic will want full sun and usually does not need to be watered.
Additionally, you will want to have a good amount of chopped leaves or straw available as a mulch. Wood chips work just as well.
Using a hand trowel, create a 4-6 inch hole (do not dig- simply move the soil to the side at once. Place one garlic clove point tip facing up into the earth. Cover with compost, topping it with 3 inches of finely chopped leaf mulch.
Repeat this with as many garlic as you have available, being sure to space each individual clove, 5 inches or more. For home gardens, some folks are known to plant their garlic around the perimeter of their beds to ward off critters and perhaps, evil spirits.
In late winter/early spring you should see the tips of the garlic breaking ground. Do not fret for they are very cold hardy. As the weather warms, they will enjoy lots of green growth into June.
June is when you will see the scapes (central stem with a curly point) shooting into the sky. This portion should be harvested to be enjoyed grilled or chopped into any dish. Cutting the scape allows the energy of the plant shift from flowering toward producing a large bulb underground.
Garlic bulbs should be harvested in early July, usually soon after the 4th. Set garlic bulbs to ‘cure’ in a dry and shady place, where they are well ventilated. Garlic is ready to eat immediately, but must be cured for 6 weeks if you want to use it for seed come the next fall.
We use 5 inch spacing, planting 8 cloves across a 50 inch bed, that is 100 ft in length. This allows us to plant approx. 2000 garlic in one bed! We hope to plant two bed for about 4000 garlic.
This year, all the garlic we plant will be from seed we saved this summer. Thanks to all the farmers who made it happen.
Find more varieties at your local farmer’s market. All organic growers will be selling garlic that is great for eating and great for seed. Inquire with them about their varieties. Popular varieties include Music, German White, Roja, and Chesnok, though there are loads more.
Here is a great resource for heirloom/heritage type garlic of all kinds, shapes, and sizes, found at Seed Savers Exchange.