One thing I have come to look forward to in October is planting garlic. Just as everything is winding down in the garden, it is time to plant bulbs (garlic bulbs, that is!)
I am half Sicilian and garlic is one thing I’ve literally never gone without. Despite keeping gardens for several years, I never really thought to grow it myself. But why not? My ancestors did!
I got the nudge from my friend, Alyson Morgan last October and I realized how incredibly easy it was and wondered why I had never grown it myself.
And so, I’d like to teach you all how to plant this incredibly beautiful, powerful, and delicious vegetable that many of us use in every meal.
You truly don’t need much except for a place to plant them. In this tutorial, I’ll be planting in my raised garden beds.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
Full garlic bulbs (the bigger the better) and preferably organic*
Some kind of mulch for insulation (I used pine needles from my yard)
*Sometimes you can find great ones at farmers markets or local co-ops and health food stores. (If you decide you’d like to try planting garlic, you can always plant enough to never have to buy garlic again – you’ll just keep planting from your own harvests!)
LET’S GET STARTED
You’ll want to pick a bed that’s going to get 6-8 hours of sunlight through the winter. I’m still not 100% sure about the light in my chosen bed through the winter since we are in a new space. I’ll have to watch how the light shifts once leaves drop from trees.
Perhaps it won’t be the best spot, but the thing I love (and also loathe at times) about gardening is the learning curve and the troubleshooting.
Where we rented for four years and gardened, we were really lucky with abundance and didn’t really have to troubleshoot much at all! This first year in our new home has taught me a lot about gardening. Such that I don’t know a lot and that’s okay – I’m proud of the lessons.
Anyway, choose a bed that will get good light and has well draining, fertile soil. You should weed your bed and rake in some compost if you can first as well.
Now that you’ve chosen your area and your bed is all set, you’re ready to plant your garlic!
Start by breaking open your bulbs and removing the outer layer of skin. Choose only the best and largest of cloves from within to plant and be sure to keep the layer of skin on the cloves you choose to plant. Use the remaining, smaller cloves for use in your kitchen.
Next, take your trowel and create a row 2-3” deep to plant your garlic. Space cloves about 2-4” apart.
This is important: make sure you place the clove root side down (where the sprouts will shoot up) .
Repeat for as many rows and with as much garlic as you’d like. Next, lightly cover back up with soil and add a layer of mulch to help prevent weeds. When the frost arrives (and as the weather gets noticeably colder), go ahead and add another layer of mulch for extra insulation.
At this point, you can go ahead and give your garden bed a good water. And that’s it! (Really!)
Be sure to check your hardiness zone guidelines for optimal planting times. In zones 5-8, garlic should be planted October through mid-November.
You’ll harvest your garlic sometime mid-summer, and will be able to tell by when the leaves start dying down.
If you planted hardneck garlic, you’ll have lovely scapes to harvest about a month before the garlic heads themselves. Scapes are especially great for making pesto, though there are many delicious recipes out there that include them. Make sure you cut or pull the scapes before the flowers bloom (after they’ve curled) OR cut the flowers off right away and harvest your scapes so that the growing energy goes all to the garlic below.
If you planted softneck garlic, you won’t have scapes – you’ll just have to look for the dying back of the leaves. July is typically a good month to take notice to then harvest.
Hang your garlic in a dry place out of direct sun for at least six weeks to cure. Basements are good or any place well ventilated and that stays between 70-80 degrees F.
I hope you’ve been inspired just as I was to plant garlic. It really is one of the easiest things to grow!
You can find me talking about more gardening, slow living, herbalism, sustainability, mothering, and now most recently, homeschooling on Instagram over at Whimsy & While ! Come say hello!