Choosing Heads for Fall Garlic Planting

| 9/6/2012 9:15:07 AM

Today is going to be a garlic kind of day. Walt and I have been preparing the garlic beds for autumn planting, clearing out the weeds, adding worm compost and worm juice, and I hope to start actually putting cloves into the soil sometime tomorrow. Autumn planting is the only way to grow really large heads around here, and garlic adores a heavy feeding of worm compost and worm juice! 

Garlic drying in greenhouse 

This year's garlic heads are dry and slumbering cozily in paper bags in the study, and I have separated out the largest, choicest heads for replanting. After planting only the largest, most robust garlic for the past 11 years, our garlic is quite well adapted to our particular garden, and last year's almost total crop failure, due to flooding, caused much heartache. I ended up planting what we would normally have been eating, and we ran out of garlic before the new garlic was ready to eat this summer, which was very frustrating. However, because we made sacrifices last year (and dug very deep trenches around all our garlic beds), this year's crop is spectacular. To paraphrase an old saying: "Never eat your seed garlic."

Walt and I eat what to most people must seem like ungodly amounts of garlic, but I have grown so accustomed to garlic that I can barely detect a reasonable amount of garlic when it is cooked into a dish — if I am to recognize it as food with garlic in it, it has to contain a really large amount of garlic, for instance a whole head in a pot of soup.

This year's garlic gourmandizing has been aided and abetted by a nifty keen new gadget that Walt just had to have when he spotted it in a super-discount store in Chicago last fall: it's called a Leifheit Gourmet Cutter, and since we bought it, we've used it a minimum of once every day. This morning Walt cooked our eggs over a bed of sliced garlic — YUM! I'm not much of a gadget person, but I do appreciate being able to cut paper thin slices of garlic without garnishing them with pieces of my own skin!

Next time, musings on filet gloves.

Ellen Sandbeck
10/25/2012 7:06:12 PM

Sharon, sorry I didn't answer more promptly. There is no automatic notification about comments. Yes, you break the garlic head apart into separate cloves, and then make sure that you plant the cloves right-side-up (the roots come out of the flat, hardened scar-like area; the leaves come out of the pointy tip. I've never noticed that leaving the skins on or taking them off makes any difference at all. The walnut tree could certainly be a problem, because the phytochemicals in its leaves suppress the growth of almost all other plants. Garlic definitely needs lots of sun. In my experience, fall-planted garlic does much, much better than spring-planted garlic. One thing I have learned to be very picky about is removing the mulch in the spring, before the garlic starts to sprout, because if the soil is kept too cool by a mulch in the spring, the garlic will tend to rot out-- light-colored mulches are much worse in this way than darker ones. I hope this helps! Happy garlicking!

10/9/2012 6:20:58 PM

I'm over in eastern WA, so I'm relatively close to you, Sharon. For fall garlic, plant 2-4 inches deep, wait until the actual soil starts to freeze, then cover with 6-8 inches of mulch, leaves or straw seem to work best for me. It's important to mulch the garlic in our northern states to KEEP the soil frozen. The freeze-thaw that happens without the mulch will turn your seed garlic into mush and spring garlic is itty-bitty. (For me anyway.)

10/3/2012 6:54:33 PM

Oh, I forgot to aay, or ask - maybe I am not planting properly? Do I take a full head of garlic and break apart the cloves and plant the cloves w/the extra skins on or do I need to remove the skins? I have been leaving the skins on. Thanks so much for any and all advice.

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