Fall Gardening: Growing Garlic

Garlic blossom
Garlic is a crop that once you put a little effort into planning and planting, doesn’t require much care.  We truly appreciate that after having the long, intensive heat we have had this summer.  Garlic does well planted in the fall.  It gives the bulb’s time to sprout roots and begin to develop before the colder temperatures of winter arrive.

Why start in the fall?

Most farmers plant their garlic in October before the ground freezes.  When you plant in the fall, it tends to produce healthier garlic and have a larger germination.  Garlic that is planted in the fall usually results in it being able to harvest well before the garlic planted in the spring.  Here is a brief run-down of how to plant garlic and let me tell you, it is easy!
Allium sativum 004

Select the Proper Seeds

As tempting as it may be, it is best not to use garlic you find at the store (although I have planted organic).  You do not know what it has been treated with or really where it even came from.  Consider purchasing your seed from your farmer’s market or many online stores offer a variety of organic seed.  There are two main categories of garlic, hard-neck and soft-neck.  Hard-neck tend to do better in the colder climates as they can handle the bitter winters.  Soft-neck varieties do better in warmer climates and tend to store longer.

Prep Your Garlic

To prep your garlic you want to break each head into individual cloves.  Do your best to keep the papery film on them as they will fare better when planted if they have it in tack.

How and Where to Plant?

Although garlic can tolerate some shade, it is a sun-loving crop.  Try to plant your garlic in containers or an area of your garden that gets as much sun as possible.  You will want to use well-drained soil that is rich in organic compost or manure.  Raised beds and containers work great for garlic.  I plant my garlic in my raised beds about 3″ apart.  In traditional gardening methods it is recommended every 4-8″.  When you are planting your garlic cloves, be sure to plant with the pointed end upwards.  It will grow either way but will take longer and be deformed if the sprouts have to make its way around the bulbs.

Protect Your Garlic

Now that your garlic is in the ground, mulch it.  You can use anything from mulched leaves to hay or straw.  (Keep in mind that hay can cause issues with weeds come spring.)  When mulching for winter, it is best to give about 4″ of mulch over your garden space.  This will provide a little blanket but also act as a moisture barrier as well as help control weeds as well.

Garlic is so easy to grow!  As I plant this week, why not join me and plant some too!  You will be happy you did come the warmth of next summer!

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