Sunday, September 23, 2012
How to plant garlic—today!
Want to grow your own garlic? Right now is the time to plant for next year.
All you'll need to get started is some garlic heads, because it's the cloves that go into the ground. I planted mine this past week.
I've known people (my uncle Dominic, for instance) who could grow anything, anywhere, no matter what the condition of the soil. I'm not one of those people. I add compost and organic fertilizer to my soil, both at the beginning and end of the season. On September 17th, my mother's birthday as it happens, I amended the soil where next year's garlic would be planted.
Loosening the soil is a must before starting out. I'm planting in raised beds here, but I've heard that people grow garlic in pots, too. I don't see any reason why that wouldn't work, and so if that's your preference (or best available option), I say go with it.
Punch a series of small holes in the soil about six inches apart with whatever tool you like (I just use my fingers or a stick) and you're ready to go.
This garlic came from a farm about an hour from my home. I chose it for two reasons: I've cooked with it before and like it a lot; and I know for a fact that it's been grown successfully in my area. Garlic can grow year round in mild climates, but I don't live in a mild climate, I live in Maine. In places where winters are cold, the idea is to plant early enough in the Fall that roots can establish before the ground freezes. I know plenty of people who grow whatever garlic they can get their hands on, and so I'm probably just being overly cautious on picking a garlic for planting. Do whatever you think is best and I'm sure things will turn out fine.
This garlic is also pricey ($11 a pound). However, four big heads amounted to more than 40 garlic cloves that were suitable for planting. By suitable I mean that they were large. You know those little cloves that you find near the center of many garlic heads, especially the ones most supermarkets carry? Don't plant those. Try and plant only the larger cloves, like those that are around the outer portion of the head.
Anyway, all you need to do is break apart your garlic heads. And don't bother peeling the skin off of the cloves, because it isn't necessary.
There are two critical things to make certain of when planting garlic: The cloves must go into the ground pointed side up, flat side down; and they must be buried at least two inches deep.
Leaving six inches between cloves is plenty of space for garlic to grow nicely, though I left a little more than that.
After covering the cloves with soil, I laid down a few inches of mulch as protection from the cold (no, you don't need to water). This probably isn't critical in moderate climates, but winters in Maine can be severe. Come April or May I'll remove the mulch as the garlic sprouts appear.
And I'm hoping that late next summer I'll harvest garlic that looks just like this.
Maybe you will too.