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October 18, 2012

Planting garlic is the start of my garden year.  In my garden notebook, garlic will be entered on my 2012 page, but I will also start a new page for 2013.  I use a simple college ruled notebook with each line denoting a row in the garden.  Each garden and each greenhouse gets a page.  Pertinent information for me is variety, planting date, tillage, and amendments.  I’m a visual person, so a line per row helps me “see” the gardens of the past with a glance, and is much easier for me to decipher than a spreadsheet.

When I hang my garlic for curing, I sort by size and variety as I go.  For seed selection you want to select your largest, healthiest bulbs.  A minimum of two inches for bulb size will help ensure your garlic will grow well.   For planting, select the largest, well-shaped cloves from the largest well-shaped bulbs.  Any cloves deemed too small planting are for the kitchen, for me this a good time to slice and dry the extra cloves to make garlic powder.

I have found the best tools for garlic seed preparation are my Felco #2 pruners for cutting the stalk, and a pair of stainless steel scissors for root trimming.  To rub the soil off the wrappers I just rub the bulbs with my hands.

Garlic helper


For many years I have planted both hardneck and softneck garlic with the reasoning that the softneck garlic keeps longer than hardneck varieties.  What I have actually found to be true is that longevity of garlic bulbs has a lot to do with variety and proper storage conditions.  Each year I have continually used my hardneck garlic because I’m a lazy prep cook and I like the big cloves.  What languishes in storage are the softneck, they keep all right, because I don’t use them because I get tired of peeling all the little cloves.  I always end up throwing away way too many softneck garlic bulbs come spring.  Just to hedge my bets though I decided to plant an additional hardneck for next year.  Luckily I found a local farm to buy from so I can skip a year or so acclimating the new variety, Killarney Red, to my soil.

Today, I’ll pop the cloves and plant, and that will be the official start of the 2013 garden year at the farmstead.

How is garlic planting going in your garden?

42 Comments leave one →
  1. October 18, 2012 5:22 am

    I have not done any garlic planting this fall, but I might now after this post. Thanks for posting this.

  2. October 18, 2012 6:02 am

    I planted 200 cloves of German Hardy last week. I’ve been growing garlic for years and it is one of my favorites in the garden.

  3. October 18, 2012 6:19 am

    Sigh. Garlic planting has been on the list for 2 weeks now. Work and weather keep getting in the way. I made a deal with myself this week that yesterday was GARLIC day…and ended up filling in at work for a sick colleague. Definitely today….And I have the same secateurs as you – no one else is allowed to use them – my first pair got used as tin snips :(.

    • October 18, 2012 6:37 am

      SSF, I know what you mean, too dry and now almost too wet 😦 It’s now or never almost.

      Ouch! I’ve had mine since my prop days (almost 30 years!) and they are still going strong. Everyone around here knows – don’t such Mom’s sewing scissors or pruners!

  4. Dana S permalink
    October 18, 2012 6:20 am

    My garlic cloves are very small and tedious, too! I’m using store-bought more than homegrown because I’m lazy, but I just ordered a garlic press from Pampered Chef that presses whole, unpeeled cloves, so I wouldn’t have to peel the little suckers. My fingers are crossed that it will be a worthwhile kitchen tool!

  5. October 18, 2012 7:30 am

    I’m getting giddy about garlic! This year I’ll be planting the most I’ve ever done. 75 heads of my two stand bys- German Extra Hardy & Chesnok Red and two new varieties- 5 #s of Kettle River Giant and 5#s of Mother of Pearl. I’ve put it off for the last two weekends but this weekend it’s do or die.

  6. October 18, 2012 7:36 am

    Not for another month or so. Only a mild frost so far, temps are still mild. Too much going on in the garden to make a bed for garlic. Give me a few weeks to get one of my compost piles off of a row and I’ll plant there. May plant onion seeds in December too…just to see.

    • October 18, 2012 7:43 am

      The best onion I ever grew were overwintered Walla Wallas – direct seeded in late August. Never been able to duplicate that since 😦

  7. October 18, 2012 7:56 am

    Just planted my first patch of garlic last night. Will be planting walking and multiplier onions today.

  8. October 18, 2012 9:00 am

    Planted mine two weeks ago, waiting for it to pop up still warm here in North East Georgia

  9. October 18, 2012 9:17 am

    I don’t bother with soft necks any more- hardneck all the way. I also popped some garlic in the ground a month ago, just because I wanted to see what would happen and some of it has already started sprouting. It will be interesting to see what happens with it.

  10. Victoria permalink
    October 18, 2012 9:21 am

    I’m new to gardening and was wondering – are you planting garlic and onions now to have plants in the spring? Like daffodil bulbs etc? I’d love to plant garlic – do you use just one clove or put the entire bulb in?

    • October 18, 2012 9:39 am

      Victoria, just one clove and that will grow into a bulb of many cloves 🙂 Garlic needs to grow roots over winter and then form its bulb the next spring and is harvested in early summer after drying down a bit. Onions are a little trickier as there are many different types. Some you can plant now like garlic, and some are planted in spring for a summer/fall crop.

  11. Enjay permalink
    October 18, 2012 11:35 am

    I’ve been planting garlic for 5 years and haven’t been able to get them to form heads at all, just one single larger ball shaped clove. I gave up on varieties after the first couple of years and just stick some from the grocery store in the ground now so we have fresh garlic come spring. Still just one larger clove though, even the ones that I forgot about and let go for three years didn’t form heads. I’m envious!

    • October 18, 2012 9:37 pm

      Enjay, I’ve read before that it is either lack of fertility, or crowding that causes the round bulbs. I used to grow Elephant garlic and it tended to go rounds the first and sometimes the second year on some bulbs. I plant with a good layer of composted manure/bedding, cover with straw and then side dress with more compost in March or so. The second fertilization seems to make a huge difference. Keep trying 🙂

      • Enjay permalink
        October 19, 2012 10:48 pm

        I will, thank you. I think it’s probably a lack of fertility, our soil is sandy and it eats mulch like candy. I sheet mulch my beds and the first year the largest bed chowed it’s way through two feet of newspaper, composted manure and straw before it started retaining water but by the next spring it was back to sand. They’re slowly improving, after five years of gardening when I dug the beds this spring the soil held water right away. We handle a lot of game and this year it occurred to me to water down the blood and pour it on the beds, it seems to have helped without making giant leafy plants. I know it’s kind of an icky subject but do you use any inputs like that?

        • October 20, 2012 5:42 am

          Enjay, that makes sense if you’ve got the sandy soil.

          I use anything I can get my hands on. If we butcher here we use all the feathers, blood etc., otherwise the host butcher gets the goods. I think that is a great idea.

  12. October 18, 2012 12:05 pm

    I planted mine today – and covered with some mulch/manure/compost from the goat barn.

    • October 18, 2012 9:23 pm

      Tonya, I got mine in too and got 3 boxes of apples picked before dark. I used chicken greenhouse bedding and some straw on top of that. Now all we have to do is wait 🙂

  13. Lena permalink
    October 18, 2012 12:28 pm

    Here up in the northern part of Sweden (130 km south of the polar circle) I planted 100 cloves of a french type called ‘Vigor’ three weeks ago. I guess that’s a hardneck from your description. I can choose from wild type, Central Asian, French, Silverskin (lots of small cloves, softneck?) and East Asian types when I order my seeds. Tonight it’s snowing but it will melt away during the day.

    • October 18, 2012 9:22 pm

      Lena, brrr snow, I’m glad we have a while to wait for that!

      All those different garlics sound delicious, its hard not to like garlic, some are hot and some are mild, and all of them are good!

  14. October 18, 2012 4:27 pm

    What a timely post. I’ve finally wedged some time into the new farmer schedule to get back to the landscaping/dirt moving required to set up my last two raised beds in front of my south-facing house, and one of them will be devoted to garlic. Got the bulbs holding in the fridge from Territorial Seed up there in the great NorthWest – Purple Glazer and Turkish Giant, two varieties still in stock when I placed my order. Can’t wait to get them nudged into their new home and mulch them in for the season.

    Your records method is intriguing – a line for each row, love that. Always get good ideas from your posts…

    • October 18, 2012 9:15 pm

      TD, how exciting to be gardening on the farm!

      My record method is as simple as I can make it, someday I won’t be able to remember it all, so I’m trying to make myself keep good records now.

  15. Nicky permalink
    October 18, 2012 5:30 pm

    Here in central California the rule is. Plant on the shortest day of the year, harvest on the longest day. Still waiting for rain.

    • October 18, 2012 9:16 pm

      Nicky, that’s interesting – and a much shorter season than ours. I’m usually harvesting the garlic in July during haymaking season. Hope you get some rain soon. We’ve had 4″ and now it’s raining again. Feels good 🙂

  16. Bev permalink
    October 18, 2012 7:34 pm

    We plant the hard neck varieties. Does best in our cold winter climate. The ground freezes so we mulch with hay. Like your idea about drying and making your own garllic powder. We also found that the hardneck type doesn’t keep as long. Had to laugh, the garden does seem to to have something going on all year long.

    • October 18, 2012 9:19 pm

      Bev, I’ve been surprised, Music has kept about 11 months which is long enough because I can sneak out some green garlic by that time. Other hardnecks haven’t done as well.

      Gardening in this climate definitely mean something is going on out there all year long 🙂

  17. October 18, 2012 8:32 pm

    Why today?

  18. October 19, 2012 3:59 am

    I planted my German Extra Hardy the weekend of the 6th and got it mulched. This year when mine had gone to scapes, I started asking for others scapes so I could make pickled scapes. It was 2 weeks before anyone who would give me scapes had any.

    Most years mine is in by the middle of October. I wondered if others planted later than I do or if it was a variety thing.

    I checked my dates on my lists. I could never get all the info I need on one line!! Because of the memory problems, I write down everything. I have a form for each vegetable/herb/flower. These go back to 1995, so I can see what I’ve done over the years and what conditions were each year.

    Yeah, it’s cumbersome, but at least I have a “memory”. :))

    I’ve always planted 6″ apart and the soil is very rich after 20 years of amending and care. I get huge heads with 4 – 5 giant cloves per head. I save the biggest for planting and eat the rest. I’ve found my garlic keeps well into May in my root cellar.

    • October 19, 2012 5:15 am

      Pam, I know here because of our elevation we are cooler and about two weeks behind any of the valley farms that bring scapes to market. Likewise with other things too, I see daffodils on “local” blogs and mine are just green shoots with barely a bud showing. 😦

      It’s always interesting to me to see how people access information with their brain. I think mine is so simple because of the way I plant. For the most part a row/line is one thing, so I don’t have to write down much information about a 100′ row of carrots other than who it was and when I planted it. My daughter calls the garden notebook “The Brain.” 🙂 😀

  19. October 19, 2012 4:04 am

    I planted my first bed of garlic about 3 weeks ago, and it’s up about 6″ already. I made a presentation on how to plant garlic to my Master Gardener group last week and their enthusiasm convinced me to plant another bed yesterday. You can’t have too much garlic! I found a beautiful variety grown for years just about 4 miles from my home, and sold in a local farmer’s market. Delicious big hardneck and just grows beautifully for me. I will rake leaves and use them to mulch in the garden soon.

  20. October 19, 2012 12:34 pm

    I have never made my own garlic powder before. I hope you write a post about it!

    (P.S. The “Hay King” says hi! We are still chuckling about his new title!)

    • October 19, 2012 12:56 pm

      BJQ13, I will and hopefully remember to take photos!

      We are too, I told Jane to sleep lightly on her straw it was made made by the Hay King!! 😉

  21. Mark permalink
    October 20, 2012 7:31 am

    Garlic needs some freezing temps to make the bulbs divide. My mother in law is Korean and she is pretty much an expert grower of garlic. I have adopted her methods for central Texas, basically prep a bed with compost 2 weeks before planting, place the pieces about 3 inches apart 1 inch deep and cover with a mulch after the shoots come up. She uses plastic, I use straw. Rainfall will guide you, but water at least once a week if no rain, fertilize heavy nitrogen once a month up until frost or freeze up. After winter breaks, fertilize with a 10-10-10, and water every 2 weeks if needed. Once the scapes are about a foot long I pull them, they will regrow. I pull all the garlic when the stalks turn brown, and let them dry for a few days before cutting the stalks off for storage, unless you want to braid them for hanging. I use plastic mesh bags and keep them in dry storage until needed. To give you an idea of my mother in laws production, she usually ends up with 50-60 bags of bulbs that weigh 40kg each. She keeps about 10 bags for seed stock and personal use and sells the rest.
    Garlic is a heavy feeder and I usually plant green beans to help fix nitrogen back in the soil along with using compost tea and seaweed to get the garlic bed ready for the next garlic crop.

  22. October 22, 2012 5:22 pm

    I’m so excited to plant garlic, and desperate. I’m in Massachusetts, so I’m hoping it’s not too late! Do any of your readers know where I can find garlic for planting in north-central MA? Otherwise, could I plant ‘store-bought’ garlic this year and look for something better for next?
    p.s. Your pictures are wonderful 🙂

  23. October 24, 2012 11:11 am

    You’ve just reminded me I had better get mine in the garden as our weather is starting to turn nasty now. Thanks for the reminder

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