Planting Fall Garlic
This weekend I didn't get out into the woods to mushroom hunt because my fall garlic arrived! The weather is quickly changing, and I wanted to get it into the ground before I missed my window of opportunity.
Normally, I save my own garlic from year to year, but because I cannot isolation plant in my back yard, and I like garlic variety, every few years I purchase new garlic. This year, I tried garlic from Dirt Goddess Gardens via Amazon. I was not disappointed. I decided that an assortment selected for my growing area (Zone 5) would be best, and I let Dirt Goddess send me their choice. I love surprises! Here is what they sent me:
I received their Spanish Roja (a hardneck rocambole garlic type), Russian Purple (I am assuming a hardneck purple stripe variety), German Red (another rocambole), and Chesnok Red (another purple stripe garlic type).
There are three types of garlic: hardneck, softneck, and elephant. Hardneck garlic gets its name from the stiff stalks, or "neck," of the plants. It tends to have fewer cloves than softneck varieties. The cloves are normally circled around a central stalk and of a similar size. There are three types of Hardneck: Rocambole (easy-to-peel thin skins, not great for long storage), Purple Stripe (striped skins and great variety in taste), and Porcelain (big bulbs with few cloves and thick skins). Hardneck varieties are best for colder climates.
Softneck garlics are better suited for warmer climates. This is the stuff you normally find in the grocery store. It tends to travel a bit better than hardneck. There are two main types: Artichoke and Silverskins.
Elephant garlic, so called because of it's very large size, isn't actually a garlic. It's mild flavor is because it is a member of the leek family.
Before you start to plant, there is a little preparation that needs to be done first. First, separate all of the cloves from the bulbs and let them rest a few days. This is to make sure the paper skins are nice and dry before planting.
Next, make sure you work your soil and add improvements. Turn over 8 to 10 inches of soil, and removed those weeds (garlic does not like competition). I like to add well-composted horse manure and an organic kelp seaweed fertilizer. Work that into the soil. In the spring I will top-dress the plants with the same mix. I like to separate my garlic bed into sections, so I know what I am planting and where.
I plant my garlic in a grid form, roughly 6 to 8 inches apart. As when I plant other bulbs, I like to lay them out on the ground first, before digging and planting. Plant only the largest cloves. I save and use the smaller interior cloves for the kitchen.
Cloves should be planted with the "root" side down, pointy side up about 2" into the soil. Cover with about 2 to 3 inches of grass clippings (perfect for that last mow of the year) or other mulch like straw or leaves from non-nut bearing trees (I like using maple).
And that is it until spring! I'll update the blog as the garlic starts to come up in April and May and provide the link here, and when I harvest it later in the summer, I'll provide the link for how to harvest and store it.
Have you tried growing garlic? What are your favorite varieties? Have you had problems with growing it? I'd love to hear your garlic stories!