I spent most of the day yesterday planting garlic. If all goes as expected, we’ll be harvesting it in about eight months.
I sometimes tell folks who are nervous about trying to start gardening that they should consider beginning with garlic. It’s easy to grow and there’s not much that can go wrong.
You’ll need a seedbed to plant in. Raised beds work well.
You can plant the garlic that is available in grocery stores, but your best bet is to buy a few bulbs from a farmer at the farmers market who has good quality heirloom garlic. If you’re going to plant a lot, then find a good source for quality seed. In our part of the world I recommend Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
Mid-October is the best time to plant garlic. Traditionally it is planted on or around Columbus Day.
Break the bulb into cloves and plant the clove about two inches deep with the pointy end up. All you have to do is stick the clove into the dirt. Plant the cloves 6-8 inches apart. Cover the ground with straw about 2 inches think, then just wait.
You’ll probably have a little weeding to do, but the straw should act as a weed-suppressing mulch (but beware that if there’s still a lot of seed in the straw you may end with a lot of little wheat seedlings competing with your garlic).
By mid-June the garlic will be ready to harvest. The bulb grows underground, like an onion. Use a digging fork to dig it up. If the ground is wet you may be able to just pull it up.
Fresh garlic is an amazing treat which most Americans these days have never had. Treat yourself to some of that and prepare the rest for storage.
To prepare garlic for storage, first hang it (or lay it somewhere that air can circulate through it) until it’s cured. We use box fans to dry ours out faster but that’s not necessary. Once the leaves have all turned entirely brown the garlic should be sufficiently cured for storage. At that point I cut off the leaves and roots and store the bulbs somewhere cool and dark. Our basement works fine but a kitchen pantry would also do.
Save some of the bulbs for planting the next year and you’ll never have to buy seed again. It’s an easy, sustainable and self-perpetuating crop.
And best of all, it will be the best garlic you’ve ever had.