Closing out the season

Shoving garlic bulbs into the earth is usually the last planting chore of the season, and it coincides with my last blog post of the season. Thanks for reading, and thanks for the thoughts and tips you shared.

The outstanding weather of the past few days allowed me to get 450 cloves of garlic planted and to document the process with photos. This is my method for growing garlic; please feel free to add any advice about methods that work for you.

I began by tilling a couple of beds that had previously held melon and cucumber plants, using a new Husqvarna tiller that we bought to replace the Beast which, by the way, is still standing at the end of the row where it died.

Tilled beds

It took about 6 small garden cart loads to cover the 5×30 foot bed with a couple of inches of rotted horse manure, and a few turns with the fork and rake to combine the manure with the soil.

Horse manure

Though I saved some of my own harvest, most of the garlic I planted came from a Fedco Seeds organic grower. I’m growing only one variety this year, Music, a Porcelain type of hardneck garlic with 4-6 large cloves in each good sized head. Here the heads are separated into individual cloves in preparation for planting. Note the knife-like tool in the photo: it’s a very handy garden tool with a wonderful name: hori-hori.

Music garlic and hori-hori

Now comes the fun part – each garlic needs about 6 inches in all directions between it and the next plant to grow without too much competition. More generous spacingĀ  will get you larger bulbs, but my goal is to maximize the number of bulbs so a 6 inch grid works for me. The nylon trellis that I use for peas and beans just happens to have the right sized openings.

garlic placed on trellis grid

Using the hori-hori, I opened a 4 inch deep slot into the soil and push the clove into place, root side down.

Planting garlic with the hori-hori

Finally, the buried garlic bulbs are covered with a light mulch to prevent freeze-thaw disturbances. Here I’ve used grass clippings because they were available, but straw is the classic choice. The mulch also helps to minimize weeds and to retain moisture in the spring when the garlic first shoots up.

Mulched garlic with hoophouse in background

There are still chores to be done in the garden, more than I will be able to get to before the snow falls, but at least the crucial job of planting is finished. Thanks again for keeping me company during this growing season!

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2 Comments on “Closing out the season”

  1. Michael Greer says:

    Ah well, garlic is the last PLANTING chore, but by no means the last garden chore of the season. Every year, for the past 18 or so, we gather and move tons of leaves into our gardens, sometimes covering the whole garden a couple of feet deep. The worms love it and it’s a real soil builder. If time and weather allow, it’s even better if those leaves can be mowed…either while gathering, or after placing in the garden. The smaller bits disappear faster, and are less likely to blow around.
    Here in the village, many of our neighbours bag up their leaves and stack them on the curb. this makes gathering easy. There are also a couple of professional lawn care guys with a mow-and-vac type of machine that dumps out a huge stack of well chopped leaves mixed with grass clippings.
    A good foot of mulch really protects the soil from blowing and washing away during our ever more unpredictable winters.

  2. Ellen Beberman says:

    “Ah well, garlic is the last PLANTING chore, but by no means the last garden chore of the season.” – You got that right!!

    Mulching the garden over winter is such a good idea. This year I even managed to plant a few beds with a cover crop – oats – that has grown very nicely. I plan to whack off a few inches of the growth to use as mulch on other beds, then leave the shoots and roots in place to rot over the winter. I chose oats because they are not winter hardy, so I won’t have new growth coming up if I get behind in prepping the beds in the spring.

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