It’s garlic planting time here at Happy Acres. I got ours planted last week, on a rare (for 2009) dry day. For those not familiar with growing garlic, it is usually planted in the fall and harvested the next summer – normally sometime in July here in southern Indiana. Since it spends so much time in the ground, I built two 4×8 raised beds just for it alone. That lets me tailor the soil for garlic as well as improve drainage. Garlic isn’t too fussy about growing conditions but it does like deep, rich soil with lots of organic matter.
The 2009 crop did pretty well. I harvested over 15 pounds, which is a lot, but we love our garlic! There’s hardly a day goes by that we don’t use garlic for something. I save the biggest bulbs of each variety for the next crop, we give some away, and try our best to eat the rest before it dries up.
This is what it looks like right after digging. I don’t clean it much until after it has cured, which takes about 3 weeks. I hang it up in the basement, and let the dehumidifier run to help it dry out.
Some varieties did much better than others. The Music variety was our best producer, with Xian and Uzbek running close behind. Siberian did not do well for us at all. If you buy your garlic at the grocery you are usually limited to one or two varieties that are grown in California. But if you grow your own, there are literally hundreds of varieties to choose from with flavors that go from mild to tongue-numbing hot.
Garlic comes in all shapes and colors too. Purple Glazer has beautiful purple striped clove wrappers, and did well this year. It tastes great too!
This year I worked in a lot of compost and some organic fertilizer before planting, so I have high hopes for next year’s harvest. I’m also trying some new varieties. I get most of my planting stock from Filaree Farm. They have an incredible assortment of garlic varieties. I ordered in June, while the selection was still good. This year I’m trying Killarney Red, Spanish Roja, and Georgian Crystal, to name a few. All counted I have almost 20 different varieties planted this year, as I continue to determine what grows well here in our area.
I plant the garlic cloves 6 inches apart in all directions, which mean I can plant 128 in each bed, for a total of 256 garlic plants. I mark each row with a plastic label, but I also make a “map” of the planting to document it in case something happens to the labels. That’s the latent IT guy in me – always have a backup! I plant each clove, pointed end up, about 2 inches deep.
I’ll mulch the beds with a layer of aged straw after the ground freezes, which will help protect the bed over the winter as well as control some of the weed growth. That’s all there is to do until spring, when I’ll remove the mulch and add a little more compost and fertilizer.