Like me, most of you are probably wrapping up your summer gardening for the year. But, you don’t have to give up gardening entirely for the fall and winter! Here’s how to plant and harvest a great garlic crop….by planting now!
I have to admit. I did plant garlic in the late spring when I put in my other summer plants and seeds. I had some garlic cloves that had sprouted, and I planted them. They did produce, but the cloves were on the small side. This year, I’m planting garlic in the fall….and I’m sharing tips for a great harvest with you!
You’ll want to start with a healthy head of garlic. You can buy garlic to plant at either a plant nursery or at a grocery store. The important thing is to be sure the garlic bulb you buy is organic. If you buy a nonorganic bulb that has been sprayed (which of course, you won’t know by looking), the cloves won’t sprout. So, go organic! That will help you avoid disappointment at harvest time. 🙂
We’ve planted in a raised garden bed for several years, and the harvest is winding down in ours. We still have some tomato plants producing. But, the squares in the right quadrant are finished with their production and cleared out.
Make sure your soil is not packed down too hard. You want to have soil that is fairly loose, so that the roots don’t have to fight too hard to move as they grow. You can add some extra soil (we prefer organic soil without added chemicals, purchased at a nursery or home improvement store) if necessary. You definitely want to have soil that drains well and doesn’t pool water; that is not good for garlic!
You’ll also want to have some mulch set aside, to add after planting.
Now, you’ll need to separate all the cloves from the garlic head you have. Pull them apart gently, and set them aside in a bowl or container. You want the skins around each one to be intact and not torn, to protect the garlic once it’s planted. And, you’ll want to get these cloves in the ground within 24 hours after you separate them, to keep them from drying out before they’re planted.
Dig holes in the soil that are about 4″ apart from each other, and at least 2″ deep. Place one clove in each hole, with the pointed end pointing up. That means, in my 12″ x 12″ square, I’ll have about 9-12 garlic cloves planted.
Now, you’ll gently brush the soil back over the garlic clove. Press the soil down gently. And get that mulch out that you set aside earlier. You’ll want to add about 4″ of mulch over the garlic planting area, to protect it during the cold snaps and freezes.
You’ll notice that I have chicken wire stapled across my raised garden bed. This is to protect the garden from digging rodents (or cats!). I don’t know how likely they would be to try to dig up some stinky garlic…but you never know!
Caring for the Garlic as It Grows
Now what do you do? Garlic doesn’t need to much from you in the winter! I did a good watering after planting. I’ll check the soil about every 2 weeks during the first part of the fall to make sure it’s not too dry. If it is, I’ll water just a little. If you get snows and winter rains in your part of the country, your garlic should be just fine on its own. The mulch will also help, keeping moisture from evaporating.
You’re going to leave your garlic in the ground all fall and winter. In the spring, when you’re past the freeze dangers, you can clear away some of the mulch to allow the garlic and the soil to warm up a little. In the late spring, I generally apply an organic fertilizer to help it along. (I’ve heard that mixtures with kelp are well-liked by garlic.)
Would you believe, you’re not going to be harvesting this garlic until midsummer? It is true! Once July arrives, examine the garlic shoots (scapes). If they are brown, fallen over, and just have a little green on them, it’s time. Using a pitchfork, gently loosen the soil around the bulbs, being careful not to tear the papery skin on the bulbs. Then, you can lift them out.
Set them aside to dry for a couple of weeks, leaving the stems on so you can braid them together and hang them up.
And, voila! The easiest gardening you’ll ever do.