Saturday, October 15, 2011


 Garlic is an incredibly easy thing to grow.  I was always intimidated by garlic - it seemed like a mystery and it wasn't something that we grew in our family garden when I was a least that I remember.  Our top billing crops were the basics - tomatoes, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, beans, peas, and more.  We would occasionally grow something as an experiment - like okra, but I don't remember garlic.

A few years ago, I thought learning about garlic was a necessity.  We were using it in cooking and I was curious if it was that much different from growing an onion.  I found Mary Jane's Farm an awesome magazine about farm life.  She also carries products that support an organic farm life, including delicious, hardy, easy to grow garlic.

Her advice gave me confidence to order a few garlic bulbs and to try it as a new crop in our garden.

Fall is garlic planting time.  For us, we try to plant in October to give it time to establish before winter.

The first step is to take bulbs and break them down into individual cloves, keeping the paper-like peeling on the clove.

I try to separate the cloves at least 24 hours before planting, though I have seen recommendations for one week between separating and planting.  We store the cloves in a box or an enamel pan on a paper towel until we are ready to plant.

We dig a trench along the edge of our raised beds.  This location has been great to keep the garlic undisturbed and to leave the center of the bed open for spring crops.  Each clove is planted pointed end up/root end down, around six inches apart and about one to two inches deep.

Some people will recommend mulching the beds before you have the first freeze - some years we have, some years we haven't mulched.  If we do mulch, we make sure to take off any material that hasn't broken down when the ground starts to warm up to give the garlic shoots some sun.

Harvest is usually in early July or the end of June.  We pull up the bulbs when the bottom couple of leaves begin to turn yellow.  We dry the bulbs on old window screens extended over yard furniture. It's not very sophisticated, but it works!

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