Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Planted Garlic Today

Prepared Garlic Planting Bed

Yup, I am leading off with a picture of dirt. That's not just any dirt. It's carefully prepared planting soil in my raised bed veggie garden. First I loosened the soil down about 4 inches or so with my special hand tool called a Korean Weeder/Cultivator. It was a gift from a friend several years ago. I didn't take a photo of the one I used today, but did find this one on the web to show you:

Korean Weeder/Cultivator

It's great for loosening the soil and digging up the weeds to prepare a bed for planting.

After loosening and weeding, I spread about two buckets full of aged homemade compost across the bed and mixed it in and smoothed it with the weeder. Then I used a standard cultivator tool to make 5 long rows across the garlic planting bed. I know from previous planting experience that I can get 5 rows of 7 or 8 garlic plants in this little square section of my raised bed garden. The square section is 1/8 of the total raised bed space, and I use a different section each year to rotate my crops and avoid diseases and soil burn out.

I chose this section of my garden today because I haven't planted garlic there for a few years and I intend to plant my lettuces and leafy greens there in the spring. I will plant them in between the rows of garlic that I planted today. The garlic tends to keep the bugs away from my greens, and that's a good thing. Garlic takes up very little garden space, so there is plenty of room for the greens to grow in between.

After soil preparation and row making, I went to fetch my garlic cloves. I usually only plant Calfornia white garlic (the kind they grow in Gilroy, CA the "Garlic Capitol of the World") because that is what I started planting years ago and have had great success with it. It is a medium hot garlic that is quite juicy, and I like it's flavor very well. I find that if I save a few heads of each harvest to plant the next year, the garlic flavor keeps getting better and better.

Well, this year I planted 5 different kinds of garlic, for two reasons:

One, I neglected to plant any garlic last year, so I did not have any garlic heads saved out to plant this year. All I had were a few cloves that were part of the 2 or 3 heads of white garlic that "volunteered" themselves in my garden this year. I must have missed them and left them in the ground when I harvested my summer 2007 garlic.


Two, I was influenced by both Farmgirl_dk's great post about garlic on her Critter Farm Blog last month where she talked about several kinds of garlic, and also by visiting my local organic farmer's store and finding many different kinds of organic garlic available for me to try.

I don't remember all the fancy names of the garlic varieties that I purchased and brought home to eat and plant, but here is a photo of the cloves I chose for planting today:

Garlic Cloves for planting

Clockwise from the upper left corner of the picture are purple cloves that came from a purple colored garlic head, tan or red cloves that came from a white head, my few homegrown California white garlic cloves that I saved from the volunteer garlic this year, purple cloves that came from a white colored garlic head, and lastly at the bottom of the frame we have white cloves that came from a white headed garlic that I bought in the organic farm store.

My guess is that the purchased white garlic cloves are the same CA white garlic variety that I have been planting for years. They look the same and felt the same when I broke the head apart. The shape of the cloves was sort of rounded as opposed to elongated like the "red" variety.

The rest of the purchased organic garlic that I planted today is a mixture of hard and softnecks, reds and purples, most likely all grown from seed garlic purchased at Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. Our local organic farmer and I both buy seeds and some supplies from Peaceful Valley. Actually though, my first CA white garlic that I planted years ago, was conventionally grown garlic that I bought in the local supermarket for mere pennies.

Garlic is easy and fun to grow. I am excited this year to see how the new varieties of garlic will grow and produce.

So I finally got around to planting my fall garlic. Probably took me longer to tell you about it than it did to prepare and plant it!

Plant your own garlic. You will enjoy it.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket


CaliforniaGrammy said...

You've inspired me to plant garlic. I've never done that before, and don't even know when it would be harvested should I get it planted this week. I'm gonna have to "Google" it and research it before I plant since we leave for Oregon in June. Maybe I can plant it in a pot and take it with me? Hmmmmm . . . so much to learn!

Farmer Jen said...

Hi CA Grammy,
I am glad I helped encourage you to plant some garlic. Between Danni's post and mine you probably have all the info you need. I left out the actual planting part where you separate the cloves leaving the "paper" shell on them, poke a hole about 2 inches deep in the prepared soil, and plant each clove pointy side up with the top about 1 inch below the surface. Cover with soil and tamp it down a bit so that it makes firm contact with the garlic clove. Try to space each clove at least 3 inches apart from the others to give the heads room to grow large. Immediately after planting water once, lightly.

Around here, I don't water them again all during the winter months unless we have a really dry winter. I harvest my Oct/Nov planted garlic usually in mid June when the tops turn brown and the heads can be seen/felt when I test dig a little below the surface. My garden is at about 3000 ft elevation. Lower elevations may harvest sooner due to warmer weather. I am not sure if growing it in a pot would work well or not. I guess if the pot were large enough it would work.

Hardware Bob said...

When you first introduced me to the Korean cultivator, it was a very strange looking device, and somewhat awkward to handle, but then, I was a newbie gardener. Now I am a seasoned gardener with 4 rewarding seasons under my belt.

In fairly close spaces, dense with invasive weeds, the Korean weeder / cultivator is an indispensable gardening tool.

Good lesson and overview on garlic planting, I will likely be preparing my own garlic min-farm in the wine barrel this weekend.

Pointy end down or up, paper on or off, I forgot?

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Bob,
Good that you will plant your own garlic. Do it soon, as it is getting colder fast.

To answer your questions about garlic planting, please read my previous comment response above to CA Grammy.

Hardware Bob said...

Oops, I guess I should have closely read the other postings, thanks for not making me feel really stupid. I neglected to read your comments to Ca Grammy. Good stuff that I missed.

Ok, paper on, pointy side up. Got it.

frugalmom said...

Yay! Garlic. We got ours planted as well. This will be the most that we have planted so far...and I have to say it really is quite small in comparison to yours and Danni's.

But still fun. And a great thing to teach the kids.

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Bob,
You are not stupid. It's hard to remember the procedure for something you only do once per year. I feel the same way about home canning. Each year I must review and relearn the skills needed to can jams, pickles etc. in my kitchen.

Hi Frugalmom,
I saw your post about G planting garlic and almost falling in the planting trench due to his enthusiasm. Great post!

I only plant about 35-40 garlic cloves each year. It's enough for me. If I planted more than that, some would get brown and dry before I could use them fresh. When that does happen, I grind the dried garlic cloves in my spice grinder and use it as ground garlic "powder" in my cooking.

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Yay...garlic. It's going to be so much fun next year (hard for me to discuss next year because I am SO not a long-range planner) - when we all start talking about harvesting garlic...

Can you believe my garlic has sprouted already? I've got little pointy tips coming up all over the place. I'm wondering whether I need to put a small fence around it with netting on top to keep the deer out...

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Danni,
Yes, you should protect your garlic from all sorts of animals wanting to eat the green tops and also dig up and eat the roots and bulbs.

One winter I had a gopher sneak into my raised bed through a small hole in the chicken wire I had laid underneath the soil (wire erodes after a few years in our acidic mountain soil) and ate many of the roots and chewed through several garlic bulbs before I discovered him. I had no choice but to dig up my half grown garlic plants and transplant them in another raised bed that was more protected. Most of them survived, but it did slow down their growth. All because of one little gopher with an appetite.

Some folks plant their garlic in a half wine barrel. That way the gophers won't get to them. The deer, raccoons and possums can still dig them up and nibble on the tops though, unless you protect them with netting, chicken wire or a fence.

It's a challenge growing stuff in the mountains!

Thanks for your comment. It's great to hear from you!