Today I got all the 2015 garlic planted, with the exception of what I will grow for green garlic which I will plant a little later. I’ve planted the main crop at slightly different times over the years, ranging from mid October to early November. An article about growing garlic appeared in our local newspaper last year, and one of the growers said they plant their crop starting the third week in October and continuing through the second week in November, so there is still plenty of time for local gardeners to get theirs planted. Planting in early November worked well for me last year.
I’m growing the garlic where the sweet potatoes grew earlier. That bed/row is available now, and the soil is fairly loose after digging the sweet potatoes. As you can see in the above photo, weeds were already sprouting up though. That’s the bed of turnips growing to the left, still loaded with turnips and greens. I amended the bed by spreading about four bushels of compost, plus a mix of five pounds of fertilizer (a blend of Espoma Garden-tone and Tomato-tone) and a bit of kelp and azomite dust. The below photo shows what it looked like after tilling the amendments in and raking the soil smooth. I got that done yesterday, but I decided to wait until today to plant.
Speaking of planting, another thing I’ve experimented with over the years is the planting density. I’ve currently settled on planting my garlic in a six inch by eight inch grid pattern. This gives each plant 48 square inches of growing space. Based on research I have done it appears that closer spacing in general usually results in smaller bulbs but might give a greater overall yield, while giving the plants more room can result in larger bulbs. Every gardener really needs to experiment and see what works best in their garden. This spacing seems to work well for me in our garden.
I select the planting stock carefully, avoiding bulbs with any signs of rot or disease. I try and pick the largest cloves from the largest bulbs, though sometimes the large cloves of some cultivars result in ‘doubles’. The experts say there does appear to be a positive correlation between the size of the clove planted and the resulting bulb size, but it is only one factor of many. Fertilizing, irrigation, weeding and mulching are all important too. Mother Earth News has an informative article that discusses bulb selection and other planting and growing issues. And I also learned a lot by reading The Complete Book of Garlic by Ted Jordan Meredith.
I wait until just before planting to crack the bulbs open and pop the cloves apart. Then it’s off to the garden ASAP to get it planted. Two years ago I made a garlic planting jig to speed up the planting. I glued dowels into a piece of pegboard in the six inch by eight inch pattern. When I press it down into the loose soil, it leaves holes behind as a guide to planting the garlic. It really helps me speed up the planting process, and the uniform spacing makes it easier for me to weed. I got the idea originally from Ali (Henbogle), who got her idea from Laura (Modern Victory Garden). I miss hearing from both these garden bloggers and hope they are doing well. I’ve made other planting jigs in the past using dowels, so the idea wasn’t totally new to me.
I plant the garlic in four rows running down the length of the bed. I plant the individual cloves pointed side up about two to three inches deep. That is deep enough for our typical winters, but those in colder areas may want to plant theirs a little deeper. I use a trowel to widen the hole made by the dowel, then I push in the garlic cloves and cover with soil. The process goes pretty quickly using the jig, much quicker than when I had to mark out the spacing by hand. I planted 196 cloves of garlic this year in a little over an hour. As I plant I mark the varieties with a label. And I also have a map in computer form (a simple Word document) with the planting order listed, since the labels have a tendency to heave up out of the ground over the winter.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about how I plant garlic here. I’ll come back in a few weeks or so and mulch the bed with some straw. I want to get the green garlic planted in a couple of weeks, before the weather turns too cold. You can really plant green garlic throughout the winter and spring, as long as you can get it in the ground or into a container. For more information on growing garlic, check out these related posts: