Thursday, October 20, 2011

Planting Garlic

Cool weather is here in New England.  Time to plant daffodils and garlic.  I mention the daffodil, because, if you're familiar with the life cycle of the daffodil, that will help you understand the timing for the different elements of garlic culture.  Since the garlic is planted in the fall and not harvested till mid-July, you need to plan to put it where you can work around it in your garden bed in the spring. 
So let's begin with the garden plan.  Like most things in the vegetable garden, garlic likes full sun and rich, friable, well drained soil.  Having a plan on paper is a good way of keeping track from year to year of the locations of various plantings.  Rotation of crops is one of the cornerstones of organic growing and effective rotation requires a blueprint for the future based on an accurate record of the past.

The next step is to lay out the bed.  Our beds are four feet wide, and allow for four rows, spaced twelve inches apart. 

But before laying out your rows, it's a good idea to soften the soil by double-digging it or by using a broadfork.  This is to break up the compaction of the subsoil. 

A good broadfork can be purchased at Johnny's Selected Seeds,
 but we had this one fabricated by a local blacksmith.  Our soil is very rocky.  Even this tough fork has been back to the shop for repairs!
Once you have softened your soil and raked it out smooth, draw shallow trenches in the soil 12 inches apart. Poke 2 inch deep holes every 4 inches.

Next, tuck a clove into each hole, basal end down.  One half pound of garlic cloves should plant 100 row feet.
Here you see the "basal plate" of the clove, which goes downward when planted.  The roots will grow from this base, while the leaves will shoot up from the pointy end of the clove.
Use a rake to fill the holes, and then add 5 - 6 inches of straw mulch. 
We've added a chicken wire cage as protection from marauding deer.

Here at Full Circle Farm, we grow two types of stiffneck garlic, "Red Chec," and "German Extra Hardy."  Stiffneck garlic varieties are generally considered to be more flavorful than softneck varieties, and are thus more popular with
home growers and gourmet restaurants. 
I hope you are inspired to plant even a small patch of garlic.  Its health benefits are widely recognized.  And you can never have too much.  Because its flavor is superior to grocery store garlic, it is always a welcome gift for friends and family.  When we harvest more than we need for the year for ourselves and friends, our local food co-op is always happy to purchase whatever we can supply.

And you can save out part of your harvest for next year's "seed!"

 For more information on garlic varieties and production, see the book
"Growing Great Garlic" by Ron Engeland

1 comment:

DMK said...

It's not food unless it contains garlic!