Friday, 14 October 2016

Garlic Planting How-To

Time for my annual garlic planting post! I get crazy excited about growing organic garlic in fall and heirloom tomatoes in spring, my two great passions. 

In our mild west coast climate, garlic is planted between mid September and late October. In colder areas, try to plant 5 weeks before your first frost. 

I have planted in September, October and early November, with no real discernible difference in size, quality, or harvest time. The ones planted in mid November last year, however, were harvested about 2 weeks later than the rest.   

Western Rose, the prettiest garlic that I have ever seen. 

This year, I planted in October, over a period of several warm and sunny days. Got them all in before the fall rains and big storms set in.

If you are still cleaning and prepping your beds, worry not, you still have several weeks to plant.

But... please note! Never muck about in wet garden beds as you will compact your soil, garlic prefers to grow in nice, loose soil and will not thrive in hard compacted mud. 

Amend your garlic bed soil

What to do before planting? 

Amend, amend, amend. Your soil needs to be both really friable (loose) and rich in nutrients. 

The garlic cloves are going to live in there for 9 months, yep 9 whole months!!! Therefore, they need lots of nutrients to go from clove to good sized bulb. 

What do I add? A few weeks ahead of time, I top dress the bed with an inch or two of manure, ideally chicken, but any manure or compost will do. This year I was running late and just got the beds amended about a week before planting. It works just fine either way. If you are using 'hot' manure, plant your bed first and then top dress. 

If the bed is very depleted of nutrients, add a sprinkle of bone meal and blood meal for nitrogen and phosphorous. Nitrogen will make the tops grow tall and strong to take up nutrients, while phosphorous will make the bulbs size up well. 

Make sure your bed is well draining. If you do not have raised beds, build flat, wide, raised mounds to plant into. 

I plant my garlic  cloves 7 inches apart using this trusty hacker! 

Planting garlic

Crack open the bulbs to separate the cloves. Do this at planting time only, not ahead of time. 

Plant the cloves with the pointy end up, cap at the bottom. 

Plant each clove 6 to 8 inches apart. I plant mine 7 inches apart in a cross hatch pattern. You can plant them closer together, in pots for example, but the closer they are, the smaller the bulbs. Smaller, homegrown, organic garlic will always trump store bought, bleached bulbs though! Plant away!    

Push each clove into the nice, loose soil.

If your clove does not easily go in, gently aerate the bed with a garden fork. Do not turn the soil, just lift a bit to loosen.  

The tip of the garlic should be just one to two inches below soil level. 

Cover the cloves and leave till spring. That's it : )

Some say to mulch with straw or leaves, but I never do. Mulch may promote fungal issues like botrytis or rust if not removed on time, or if we have an unusually wet spring (like we had this year).

That is all you need to know about planting garlic. Really! Easy peasy. 

Start with great soil and great organic bulbs, for a great garlic harvest! 

Happy growing! 

Moving Thyme

Sadly, the Nitty Gritty Potager blog is no more... but the good news is that I can now be found at my new blog called the Olde Thyme F...