Garlic Season

Some selected garlic we grew this year, in background, supplemented with organic elephant garlic purchased at Territorial Seed.
After a full growing season that started almost a full month earlier than normal, we're doing our fall garlic planting a full month later than last year.

While we waited for nightly frosts to start in the North Country, intern Jackson Pittman has kept remaining vegetables insulated with hay, mulch, and compost. The work has paid off, as our broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, sage, and parsley have continued producing. And because Jackson pulled our green tomatoes before the first frost hit, we've been ripening the fruits inside for the last month and enjoying fresh red tomatoes every day.

Below photos from today's planting is last year's blog post outlining exactly how to plant garlic in the fall. 

Intern Jackson Pittman, standing, and aritst-in-residence Lily Chiu plant garlic cloves in Better Farm's raised beds.

Prep Your Soil!
Garlic is extremely hardy and will grow in many different kinds of soil—though it prefers soil with lots of organic matter in it (big bonus for those of you employing mulch-gardening methods!) and good drainage. Garlic loves compost, compost manure, worm dirt, and even ground-up fish bones.

When to Plant
Now! In most climates, fall is the best time to plant. Roots should have time to develop, but tops shouldn't break through the surface before winter. The idea is to get some root growth and then the frost/beginning freeze triggers the bulb formation.

Preparing Your Cloves for Planting
Your garlic will come to you as a fully formed bulb. It's up to you to "crack" that bulb so you can plant individual cloves. Be sure to separate your garlic cloves as close to planting time as possible. Doing this at the last minute will prevent the root nodules from drying out and will allow the plant to root more quickly.

When you crack the bulb, each clove should break away cleanly. Root nodules grow from the edge of the "footprint" on the bottom of the clove. Be careful not to damage this footprint!

Set aside the very small cloves to eat soon, to make into pickles, to dry, or to plant tightly together for eating in the spring, like green onions. Each larger clove will produce a good sized bulb by the end of the growing season. The smallest cloves require just as much space, care and attention in the garden and produce significantly smaller bulbs.

Plant your garlic pointed-side up, about two inches below the soil's surface. Cloves should be spaced between four and eight inches apart. The closer you plant them, the smaller the bulbs will be. After you've planted, you may want to cover your garlic with about four inches of mulch to retain moisture, moderate the soil temperature, and inhibit weeds throughout the winter and early spring. By the time the weather warms up, the mulch will have settled to about two inches and will be perfect for spring and summer growth of your garlic plants.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.