Planting Garlic in Our Fall Front Yard Garden


front yard fall garden

The Small Home, Big Decisions series follows Jennifer and her husband, Tyler, as they build a self-reliant homestead on a piece of country property in northeastern Kansas. The series will delve into questions that arise during their building process and the decisions they make along the way. The posts are a work in progress, written as their home-building adventure unfolds.

Tyler and I have kept a garden on a nice plot gifted to us by a farmer that I used to work for, and the plot was about 2 miles from our old house on nice river bottom soil. Now that we’ve moved outside of town and farther from that plot, we’ve decided to give that land back to the farmer and his son, and we’re going to do what we can on our own property. We wrote in the last post about starting our garden by raising American Guinea Hogs on the area that will be planted and cultivated next season. The only piece that was missing: Where do we plant our garlic before winter?

Garlic is best planted in fall — we always try to plant it by Halloween as part of our vampire-protection plan — and overwintered under thick mulch. We’ve saved and planted our softneck, purple-tinged garlic for several years now, and we were loathe to lose this well-adapted landrace variety that had been performing exceptionally well and producing steady, reliable harvests of nice-sized, pungent bulbs.  We didn’t want to keep driving to the old garden plot solely to tend the garlic, although we would have if necessary — I wouldn’t know what to do if I had to start buying garlic at the store! A homesteader-gardener’s nightmare!

If we were to plant the garlic where the garden is going to be, we’d have to break up pasture— mostly  brome grass — fertilize, and work around the mobile pig pen and run. A good friend recommended planting the garlic where the construction process had already opened up the soil, and where we were hoping to keep herbs and flowers (as opposed to prairie grasses, as with most of the property). Instead of planting a showy pollinator flower garden, we opted to fill in the space in our “front yard” with two beds of garlic and, on a whim, a bed of winter-hardy arugula, kale and spinach. Even if the greens don’t come up in time to enjoy in winter, they’ll be ready to cut super-early in spring. We’ll surround the greens with straw and cover them with salvaged windows to help hold the warmth while still allowing sunshine to reach the plants.

In about two hours, I’d used a broadfork to loosen three small beds’ worth of soil, then tackled breaking up the clumps and mixing in organic compost with a hoe to make a nice, fertile seedbed. I broke the best garlic bulbs from last year into cloves, and planted the fattest cloves about an inch or so deep in two of the beds, and then I covered the bulbs with soil and a thick layer of straw. In the third bed, I created shallow furrows with the edge of the hoe, then “drizzled” arugula, kale and spinach seed into the furrows. I allowed each crop to have about a third of the bed. Because the beds are right in front of the entrance to the house, we opted to spread nice cedar mulch around the beds to keep the area looking tidy and smelling wonderful (so wonderful). Lastly, we set up the garden guards: our metal donkey and our smiling gnome. (See the plot right after we planted in the photo above.)

8/18/2020 9:21:38 AM

I started growing garlic about 13 years ago with bulbs that I bought fro a local garden center that has just recently closed after 80 years. I started with two bulbs and have selcted from the best bulbs that I harvest for planting stock. The third week in November for 13 years I have planted my garlic using only the biggets cloves on the outside of the best looking bulbs. I now plant six dozen cloves every November. I plant the garlic where my compost pile was and cover with four inches or more of grass clippings. In late winter when I see leaves start to break the surface I apply a light dusting of blood meal to give it a bit of extra nitrogen. I dug up my garlic in early July and braided it with bailing twine and then hung them up in my garage to dry and cure. My bulbs are now at least twice the size of the ones that I started with and I have plenty of garlic to give to my family and friends.

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