With temperatures starting to cool down, it’s time to plant garlic, the last vegetable of the season to go into the ground. Many gourmet strains are quite cold hardy, and locally grown garlic from farmers markets are good bets, too.
Garlic cloves planted in the fall slowly grow roots all winter, and show vigorous green growth first thing in spring. Garlic is ready by midsummer, leaving room in the garden for another vegetable after the last bulb is harvested and saved.
Mulching over your garlic bed after planting suppresses weeds and protects the bed from excessive freezing and thawing during the winter. Lightly shredded leaves mixed with grass clippings makes a good garlic mulch, or you can use pine needles or straw.
After garlic has been planted and mulched, it needs no further attention until plants poke up through the mulch in early spring.
For a twist, try Chinese leeks, known also as garlic chives. These are grown not for the bulb but rather for its tasty stems and small flowers.
7 easy Steps to planting Garlic:
- Choose a sunny, very well-drained spot to grow garlic.
- Use a digging fork to mix in a 1-inch layer of compost.
- Shape 4-inch-deep planting furrows with a hoe. Garlic works well when grown in double or triple rows, with rows spaced at least 8 inches apart.
- Place a balanced organic fertilizer in the bottom of the furrows. Garlic is a moderately heavy feeder, and placing fertilizer at the roots ensures the nutrients will still be there in spring, when the plants need them most.
- Plant the large outer cloves from any bulb of garlic. Gently separate cloves but do not peel them. Plant the cloves pointed side up about 3 inches deep, with at least 4 inches between plants.
- Mulch the planting with a 4-inch-deep layer of chopped leaves, leaves mixed with grass clippings, pine needles or straw. These lofty mulches will pack down over time, and insulate the plants from weather extremes like a snug blanket.
- Fertilize garlic again in spring when the plants are about 8 inches tall and show steady new growth. Just before a rain is expected, add a heavy dusting of balanced organic fertilizer between plants.