If y’all couldn’t tell by my incessant postings about hunting and pumpkins, fall has arrived, and that means it’s time to batten down the hatches in preparation for winter. Once you’re done winterizing the camper, stacking those last bits of wood and trimming your figs however, there is still one last garden chore left to do: plant your garlic.
Planting? In the fall? Yeah it sounds weird, I know, but bear with me. Garlic is a long-season crop, with an odd growing pattern. If you plant it in the fall, it gives it a jump on producing a larger bulb. When you plant them in the fall, the roots can begin growing. As the ground freezes, they’ll go dormant, but when spring comes they’ll start growing again. Here’s how to ensure a good fall planting.
Placement and Planting
Garlic likes sun–an average of six hours a day–and loose dirt. Weed the bed, spread some slow-release fertilizer, and a couple inches of compost. Dig your holes about five-inches deep and five-inches apart, planting one clove per hole. Put the flat side of the clove down, with the point sticking skyward. Cover the clove back over, and lightly tamp the soil in place.
Next up, mulch the bed with a thin layer of straw or shredded leaves–roughly four inches deep. This will keep the weeds from growing before the freeze. Afterward, pile on another two inches of mulch as an insulator. While the freezing temps won’t damage the garlic, freezing and thawing can push the cloves out of the ground.
Once the soil warms up, the green shoots of garlic will push right through the mulch–no removal needed. When the soil starts to feel dry an inch below the surface, water the bed. If the garlic yellows, use a little fertilizer.
About eight months after planting, you’ll notice the lower leaves of your garlic sprouts start to brown. When three or four are fully black, it’s time to harvest! If you’d like to double check to be sure, dig one bulb up, and see if the cloves fill the skins out. If they do, you’re all ready! If they do not, wait a little longer, as unripe garlic won’t keep well, but check them again soon. Leaving garlic in the ground too long will cause the cloves to burst from their skins, making them susceptible to disease.
To harvest, loosen the soil with a garden fork, then gently work the bulb out. Be sure not to yank on the stem. Shake and brush off the dirt, then bundle stems together in sets of three or four, and hang four weeks to cure. After its cured, hang it in a dark, cool and dry place (between 32F and 40F) to store. Softneck varieties will keep like this for six to eight months, while hardnecks will dry out in around three.
Whether you’re adding it to bread, pasta or just trying to keep the vampires away, garlic makes a great addition to your homestead. Enjoy!
A humble homesteader based in an undisclosed location, Lars Drecker splits his time between tending his little slice of self-sustaining heaven, and bothering his neighbors to do his work for him. This is mainly the fault of a debilitating predilection for fishing, hunting, camping and all other things outdoors. When not engaged in any of the above activities, you can normally find him broken down on the side of the road, in some piece of junk he just “fixed-up.”