Once again, it’s time to plant garlic here in Southern Indiana. I generally wait until late October or early November to plant ours, which gives the garlic plenty of time to get established before really cold weather gets here. If it ever does get here, that is. Last winter was so mild that the ground never really froze solid here for more than a few days at a time. So who knows what weather will be like this winter. At any rate, based on my experiences it is time to get the garlic in the ground.
I wait until just before planting to break apart the heads of garlic into individual cloves, also known as ‘cracking’ or ‘popping’ the garlic. Waiting until just before planting helps keep the garlic from drying out. And that’s important, because you want to keep the garlic in the best possible condition before planting. After all, it’s a living thing! Though some gardeners like to do some form of soaking, peeling or treating the cloves before planting, I don’t do anything special. I do pick the biggest cloves that are solid, firm and free of bad spots. Big cloves make big bulbs, and that means more garlic at harvest time.
Later on I’ll plant some of the smaller cloves of garlic in another area, to be harvested as green (immature) garlic. If you have the room in your garden, you can grow green garlic by planting some cloves closer together than usual (2 or 3 inches apart) and then harvesting in spring while the plants are still green. Space is always at a premium here so I usually plant some more in containers for the greenhouse. Green garlic is a special treat in spring, and it provides a taste of things to come while you’re waiting for the rest of the garlic to mature.
To prevent diseases and pest problems, I choose an area that hasn’t been planted in garlic or other members of the allium family for several years. A few days ago I prepared the planting beds by working in a healthy amount of compost and some complete organic fertilizer (Espoma Garden-tone 3-4-4). Garlic appreciates a well-drained and fertile soil, so it pays to spend a little time on soil preparation before planting. This year I am growing about half of the garlic in the main garden area, while the rest is in one of the beds nearer the house and greenhouse. Together these beds give me almost 70 square feet of growing space for the garlic. That’s a lot of garlic, but then we love our garlic!
Usually I plant all the garlic six inches apart in all directions, in a grid pattern. I plant the cloves about 3 inches deep, pointed end up, using a trowel to dig the planting holes. Last year I experimented with a wider spacing, and I planted the garlic in one bed eight inches apart in all directions. I stuck with my usual six inch spacing for the garlic in the other bed. I didn’t see a significant yield difference between the two different spacings, but the wider spacing was a bit easier for me to keep weeded. So I will repeat the experiment this year.
I’ll come back in a few weeks, before the ground freezes, and mulch the garlic with a layer of straw. The mulch will help keep down weeds, conserve moisture and keep soil temperatures from fluctuating so much this winter, which could cause the garlic to get heaved up out of the soil. And that’s all there is to do until spring when I’ll weed as needed and give the garlic a little side dressing of a high-nitrogen fertilizer like blood meal. The garlic should be ready to dig starting about July next year.
If you haven’t got your garlic planted yet, there is still time to get it in if the ground isn’t frozen. Garlic is easy to grow if you have the space, and there’s nothing quite like home grown garlic in the kitchen. And if you grow your own there should be plenty to enjoy fresh, dehydated, ground or pickled – it’s all good!
For more information on growing and preserving garlic, check out these related posts:
- Dehydrating Garlic
- Easy Refrigerator Pickled Garlic
- Growing Green Garlic
- How To Have Fresh Garlic All Year Long