Sunday, October 11, 2020

Plant that Garlic!

“Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime…Please, treat your garlic with respect…Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screwtop jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”
-Anthony Bourdain

Bag O' Garlic
My seed garlic for the 2021 year that I grew in 2020

Now that your urban farm / garden is planned out and your utilities are marked, we need to get rocking by ordering and planting garlic!!

Right now (October) is the time to be planting your garlic for the 2021 season.  The 2020 season just finished (actually still ongoing for me at the moment), it's not even winter yet, but we need to get the garlic in the ground ASAP!  Garlic loves the cooler weather, needs it to grow properly, and is extremely hardy.  Garlic also just so happens to be the easiest thing to grow!  Garlic can be planted in the very early spring if you don't want to plant it just yet.  If your ground is currently grass then it's certainly preferable for it to be tilled / broadforked before planting the garlic.  Right now, time is of the essence and we don't have time for that at the moment.  If you're feeling adventurous though just plant it right in with the grass, it'll grow, but you can't mow the surrounding grass once it starts growing.  You can also wait to plant the garlic until after you've tilled / broadforked or until the early spring, but it's preferable to plant that garlic before winter!

Now that you have a very rough plan of how your urban farm is going to be arranged, buy your garlic, and plant your cloves.  Ideally this is done a few weeks before the weather starts getting really cold and the ground subsequently gets very tough and hard to dig in.  By the time winter sets in the garlic will hopefully have grown an inch or two (if we're lucky) and is well on it's way!  Then as there are warmer days in the winter, it'll slowly grow and once spring rolls around it'll jet off and will grow very very fast and it will be ready to harvest by the end of June or early July.

Where to buy Seed Garlic Cloves from?!

If you've read my "Seeds, Where It All Begins" post (if you haven't, go read it) then you know that I don't really have a good go-to suggestion for where to buy Seed Garlic from and I have no idea where I bought my seed garlic from originally (doh).  The first place to check for seed garlic are your local farms and/or your local farmers market.  At my farmers market in town there's almost always a garlic stand there this time of year.  If you can't find anything locally from a farm that you want to support or if you're feeling lazy then I would check out Filaree Farm.  Keep in mind that's a very loose suggestion as I don't know anything about them nor have I ever bought anything from them.  But from a glance it appears they do a good job and still have garlic in stock so there you go!  Since we're a bit late to the game this year, a lot of places are going to be sold out of seed garlic already so if you're searching for a different place to buy from you'll likely see a lot of "Sold Out" notices on websites.

Very Important:  Garlic Only Needs to be Bought Once.  Once your garlic has been planted and it has grown and been harvested, you save the largest cloves to re-plant next year.  If all goes well, it's a minimal, one time investment for enough garlic to literally last you a lifetime as you slowly amass quite a lot of garlic. I started with planting about 100 cloves my first year and now I'm planting around 400 cloves a year (it still isn't enough, I use garlic in everything).

There are two different types of garlic Hardneck and Softneck.  I grow both types and I have a good assortment of each.  Hardneck garlic is supposed to be more cold hardy (and store better) and is better suited for colder climates.  Softneck isn't as hardy but is supposed to be better suited for warmer climates where it doesn't get cold.  No matter where you live, I'd suggest doing the shotgun approach and buy a little bit of each type and see what grows well in your area and find out for yourself what works well where you live.  That's much better than taking somebody elses word for it.  Honestly I haven't noticed any difference between the two where I live other than hardneck garlic get a scape on it when it's growing, the cloves seem to be bigger, and the stalk stays...hard... thus hardneck.  Softneck garlic doesn't get a scape, seems to have smaller but more plentiful cloves, and the stalk gets...soft... thus softneck.  They both taste fantastic and that's really all I care about, the scapes are pretty delicious too though.

Once you've received your garlic and you're ready to plant, mark the area in your yard where you are going to plant your garlic with sprinkler flags.

Sprinkler Flag
Mark where that garlic is going!

At this point we're running late and slacking so we haven't tilled or broadforked the land at all (unless you're a true go-getter and you've already done this on your own) and the ground is likely extremely tough.  Garlic will grow regardless, we just don't want to plant the cloves too deep but we do need to get them in the ground, a drill auger is great for this.  Be sure your utilities are marked so you don't hit any utility lines!

Drill Auger
Drill auger for planting garlic

Drill holes in the ground with the auger about an inch or two deep, drop the clove in the hole with the pointy end up, and cover the clove.  You want the cloves to be spaced about 2 or 3 inches apart (heads of garlic are going to grow after all.  They can be spaced farther apart but your space is likely limited, we need to maximize that space.

Garlic Head
Pointy = Top.  Dull = Bottom

Garlic Clove
Plant one clove to one hole, pointy end up.

Garlic Cloves in Ground
Garlic cloves spaced out and planted, they just need to be covered in dirt and watered!

Repeat until your rows of garlic are completely planted!

Be sure the area you planted the garlic in is marked with flags!  You will not remember the exact area you planted in, trust me.  You're going to be really upset if you till up the newly planted garlic!

When the weather is warm you should certainly water the garlic.  Avoid over watering so the cloves don't rot (don't water everyday unless it's hot out and the ground has dried up).  During the winter you shouldn't need to water it (the ground is going to be frozen after all).  Once spring rolls around and it starts warming up, start watering it again on warm days but wait until the soil is dry then water again.  The easy test for watering is:  If the ground is still moist, don't water.  If the ground is dry, then water.  Having said that, garlic is very forgiving and it will likely be just fine no matter what you do!

Now that the garlic has been planted before winter, we can get back to basics and go on to tilling / broadforking the rest of the yard.  If you have time in your area before winter sets in you can certainly till / broadfork before planting the garlic (definitely preferable).  But we were out of time for that in Colorado!

Hip Hip Hooray for your new up and coming Garlic Patch!!!  Give yourself another pat on the back for a job well done!

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