Friday, November 8, 2013

Planting Garlic

After much procrastinating I finally got around to planting the garlic I harvested earlier this year. In any climate zone, garlic should be planted after the first frost when the ground has cooled. If you do not have a first frost, or any frost for that matter, I guess you can plant whenever. The recommendation is to plant in the spring in those climates.


 All of this garlic came from six bulbs originally. On the left are my hard neck varieties and on the right are the soft neck varieties. I am going to have so much garlic at the next harvest!

This is one of the hard neck varieties. If you look at the one on the right you will see a twist in the center stalk. I found the easiest way to get the stalk out was to twist it until it broke. The stalk is very tough. I didn't get a good picture of it but the twist went up the stalk and reminded me of braided twine. I bet you could use them for cordage. I may try to make some and post about it later. 

I missed some hard-neck scapes when I cut them back earlier this year. A bulbil will form if you let the scapes mature. You can grow new garlic plants from these if you want. I opted to plant the actual bulbs. If you want to use the bulbils, you must "chill" them before you plant to pull it out of its dormant state. This is according to my Father and the internet. In fact my dad thinks I am crazy for planting the actual bulbs. Most people will put them in the freezer over night to "chill" them. I have never tried this, so don't yell at the idiot blogging on the interwebz if it doesn't work. 

Here are the viable cloves. Some of the cloves went bad as they were curing. This only happened to a few cloves, so I had a pretty good harvest of usable cloves. Not to mention a bunch of dry tinder to start fires with. It took me about an hour to separate the cloves from the bulbs. Do not peel the cloves, just separate the cloves from the bulbs. The cloves will be perfectly fine planted with the skin on.

This is the bed I grew garlic in last year. Since I had less soft-neck cloves than hard-neck, I decided to use this as the soft-neck bed and build another bed for the hard-neck. I had to fight the oregano in the bed next to this, it decided to expand its borders. So did the creeping charlie I let run wild in the garden area. You can see mint creeping its way in from the bottom right. Nature abhors a vacuum. 

I mulched the bed with a layer of straw then a layer of pine needles. Once the garlic starts to come up I plan on putting a layer of shredded leaves on to prepare the bed for the winter.

This is the beginning of the new bed. I have a ton of these cedar fence post laying around. My local big box store had them on clearance, so I bought them all. They make good borders. I chose a location in the back left corner of the property that gets good sun and doesn't have a water problem.

I put down a couple layers of cardboard I salvaged from work. They seriously just put it in a trash dumpster and send it off to the local dump. I try to get as much as I can. I always seem to have a use for more cardboard.

Whenever I establish a new bed I typically make my own soil mix depending on what I plan on planting. In this case I used a 60 / 40 compost to peat moss mixture. The bed I put in last year for the garlic had the same mix, and the garlic did very well. It was also very easy to harvest because the peat moss makes a loose soil.

I wanted an even distribution so I gridded out the bed and then planted. I am planting a little closer than I did last year. Most instructions say to plant the cloves 4-6 inches apart. I think you can bring that down to 3 inches and still get large bulbs. But, I have not tried this before, so maybe wait until my experiment is over before you plant your garlic this close. I will let you know how it goes in next years harvest post.

Here is the planted bed before I covered the cloves. I have about 4 inches of soil in the bed. You want to plant the clove root side down at least an inch, two is better. This is probably about as shallow as you would want to plant in. If I had more soil, I would have gone another inch at least. I am not worried. The cardboard will get wet and disintegrate over the winter and the roots will be able to access the subsoil.

Here is the finished product. I mulched it with a layer of straw followed by pine needles. I will cover this with a layer of shredded leaves once the garlic gets a couple inches tall. You can probably still get away with planting garlic this year if you are in my climate zone. I planted at the end of October. If you plan on planting and have not done so, do it asap. If you are reading this in the winter sometime, you can grow garlic indoors if you have deep enough pots for proper bulb development.

I will have plenty of garlic next year so if you are anywhere near me, and want some heirloom garlic, just drop me a line next fall.

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