Friday, October 22, 2010

Garden Journal 10-22-10: It's Time to Plant Garlic!

Planting Garlic with Marta and Bear 2-10-09
Planting garlic with Marta and Lucky Buddy Bear on 2-10-09

Realization of the Day:
I can't believe I might actually get my garlic planted on time this year.

When is the best time to plant garlic? There's no one right answer to that question, but in many areas it's October. If you live somewhere that has a real winter (as opposed to places like California and Texas and Florida), this gives the cloves enough time to sprout and get a good head start growing before the ground freezes and they go into hibernation mode. If you live where the winters are mild, you can get away with planting your garlic later. 

If you're minding the moonsigns (you can read more about how that works here), you'll want to plant your garlic on a fertile day in the third quarter, which promotes underground growth, because the waning moon is pulling things 'down.' This is also a good time to plant other root vegetables, like potatoes, turnips, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, and beets, though not onions.

For some reason onions are supposed to be planted in the first quarter, along with lettuces and other greens, beans, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc. Peppers, eggplant, melons, and tomatoes are best planted in the second quarter. I don't know who decided all this stuff; I just try to follow along because I need all the gardening help I can get.

Today is the full moon (woohoo!), which means the third quarter starts tomorrow. Fertile days for October 2010 are the 23rd (tomorrow), the 28th, and the 29th.

Sunday the 24th is also a fertile day, but some people believe that all Sundays fall into that unfertile 'blackout' category, when you really shouldn't do anything in the garden except harvest, weed, mulch, and control pests. Sometimes I wish I'd never heard that rule because now I'm paranoid to plant anything on a Sunday.

Fortunately garlic is somewhat forgiving, because although I have the best intentions every year, I rarely end up planting mine on time. My 2009 crop, which should have gone into the ground in October 2008, wasn't planted until February of 2009. At least, as you can see above, I had some cute critters keeping me company while I worked. Unfortunately the resulting garlic was pretty pathetic.

Determined never to do that again, this year's garlic didn't go in the ground until March. Some progress, eh? I actually still ended up with a fairly decent harvest, although only from the garlic I'd purchased from some of our Amish neighbors and planted. The much smaller heads of garlic from my own garden (the ones planted in February 2009) didn't do very well. They started growing okay, and then the spindly plants just sort of disappeared into the weeds.

What's happening now, though, is that whatever small cloves that did form during the spring have resprouted and are growing nicely—right in the middle of the bed of
Asian greens I planted in September (and which is providing delicious 'thinned' baby greens every day for salads). It'll be interesting if the plants get big enough to harvest for green garlic, which tastes divine. If not, the mildly flavored leaves will make a tasty addition to salads.

You can read more about this year's garlic harvest—and about growing and planting garlic—in my 7/27/10 post: Harvesting Really Late Planted Garlic.

This time I'll be planting some of my own garlic I harvested in July, along with several heads I purchased a few weeks ago from our Amish neighbors. This Amish garlic, which is about two-thirds the size of those nice big heads I bought from them last winter, was grown here in Missouri. The better stuff was grown last year in Minnesota. Apparently we're not in prime garlic growing country, even if you're Amish.

I'll plant the bulbs about 2 inches deep with the pointy sides up in one of my 4'x8' raised beds, spacing the rows at least 6 inches apart. If you have enough garlic to plant them 3 inches apart, you can harvest half of them as green garlic in spring. You'll find my green garlic fettuccine recipe and more about growing green garlic here.

Garlic appreciates fertile soil, so I'll probably mix some compost into the bed first (as soon as I pull out all the overgrown weeds), along with some sheep manure. If I remember, I'll also add a few handfuls each of kelp meal (which we buy in 50-pound bags and feed to the animals as a vitamin and mineral supplement) and gypsum (calcium sulfate, which is one of the things we use to organically fertilize our fields).

Garlic is defenseless against weeds, so I'll mulch the entire bed with a heavy layer of sheep manure bedding hay from the barn (you can see a photo of a half-mulched garlic bed and read more about
fertilizing with sheep manure here). The mulch will also help keep the ground from heaving during winter and early spring extreme temperature fluctuations.

What's great is that the mulch gives the plants a small dose of organic fertilizer each time it rains or you water, until eventually all the manure works its way into the ground, and you're left with a hay barrier impervious to weeds. And then that eventually breaks down and helps amend the soil, too.

Depending on the weather, tiny green garlic sprouts may poke up through the mulch during the coming weeks, and then as the temperatures drop the growth will stop. Once the garlic is planted and mulched, nothing more is required of the gardener until February or March, when you then have to jump for joy at the sight of those little green shoots reaching happily towards the sun. Replenish the mulch as necessary, and pull any weeds that dare poke through.

Are you growing garlic this year? Any good tips, stories, mistakes, or recipes to share?

Previous garlic growing posts:
Spring Green Garlic: Growing It, Cooking with It, Loving It
9/6/06: Growing Hardneck Garlic
8/10/10: Harvesting Really Late Planted Garlic

What I like to make with fresh garlic? All kinds of things!
Quick and Easy Gazpacho (Cold Vegetable Soup)
My Favorite Lower Fat, Fuller Flavor Basil Pesto (made with almonds and fresh tomatoes)
Linguini with Olive Oil, Garlic, Romano, and Parsley (and a wonderful book for art loving foodies)
All Natural Homemade Barbecue Sauce (and a really neat BBQ book)

Kohlrabi Purée (this stuff is amazingly good - really!)
Three Onion and Three Cheese Pizza (and my favorite pizza dough recipe)
Swiss Chard and Artichoke White Pizza (a great way to sneak in some greens)

Garlic Lover's White Bean Soup (fat free, vegan, and delicious)
Thick and Hearty Italian White Bean Soup (and a book review: Keeping the Feast)


© 2010, the trying to be timely foodie farm blog where it's been perfect fall growing weather, except for the fact that we haven't had any rain in over a month, which means we have a lot less grass in our fields than we'd hoped. There's a chance of rain predicted for this weekend, and I'm really hoping we get some—even if it means postponing my garlic planting plans.


  1. After you plant your garlic, do you water immediately?

  2. This is my first year to garden, and I have garlic from Sow True that I'm excited to plant! I'm glad to read that tomorrow is actually the perfect day to plant it, because I've had it for a month and hadn't gotten around to it. :)

  3. Funny that you should post on this very topic, FG, because I've been thinking for about a week of dedicating a small garden bed to garlic. Of course, Georgia isn't exactly the ideal place with the ideal climate to grow garlic, but it's worth a try.

    And I commented on your "Sheep Manure as Fertilizer" post, too, which I can't believe I haven't read before now. My sad flower beds need a few truckloads, as does my mom's garden plot, which I think has finally been drained of nutrients (even though it's located on the spot where my great-grandmother kept her chicken coop/pen 60 years ago). Look for an e-mail from me soon. :-)

  4. And here I was just feeling bad about NOT getting my garlic bed dug up today. I really needed to, because we're in a rare dry period finally, and the next four days call for rain so the soil isn't going to be workable. But then we had a visitor and I had to clean up the house some, and then I spent far too much time breaking my back trying to clear the black walnuts out of the flower beds, and then there's this baby that seems to, like, NEED HIS MOTHER or something . . . and then I see this post! So thanks for the reminder that I didn't accomplish what I really wanted to do today!

    (That was a joke. But I'm sure you knew that.)

  5. Hi Meemsnyc,
    Hmmm. Good question. While I always water seeds and seedlings really well right after planting, I don't think I usually water the garlic bed. (Did I ever mention my lousy memory? ;)

    We usually have rain (or snow - if I'm planting garlic really late!) on a regular basis after planting, and often the soil is already fairly moist. That said, we haven't had any rain here in over a month, so I might just go ahead and give the garlic a good soak after planting (which didn't get done yesterday!).

    Watering definitely shouldn't hurt the newly planted garlic, so I would say to do it.

    Hi Jenny,
    Don't you love it when procrastination pays off? ;)

    Hi Miss Kitty,
    Great to hear from you! I bet you could probably grow some pretty nice garlic down there. It doesn't require a cold winter, as evidenced by how much of the U.S. crop is grown in mild areas of California.

    As for sheep manure, you know I highly recommend it. You won't believe how happy it will make your plants.

    Don't feel bad - I didn't get mine planted yesterday either. As for the plans being changed because of having to clean up for visitors - I solved that problem years ago by not letting anybody into The Shack! ;)

  6. Hi :) I am just visiting your blog for the first time, and wanted to say that I LOVE it! I will be back for sure!!

  7. Wonderful topic! Garlic lovers unite!
    I just planted 18 cloves this weekend - in moist soil. Hopefully, the full moon (leading to waning phase) will turn out to be helpful. I look forward to watching progress and eventually, a great harvest!

  8. Proud to say I just planted some of the garlic I GREW this summer! :-)

    Along with some garlic from the farmers market. Together, it's a good mix of hardneck and softneck. Will make a plan to get some hay though.

  9. This is the first year I've ever had a wimpy garlic harvest. It usually performs exceptionally well for me. Our summer in the Pacific Northwest was very cold and rainy this year, and I think that must be why.

  10. I just found your site and adore it! I'm afraid I got a little carried away with my garlic order this year...eight different varieties, and an amazing amount of bulbs--I gave some to a friend for her garden. Sadly--I still haven't gotten our large garden bed planted--eek! I'm hoping to tackle it this weekend. Look forward to reading more of your gardening stories!

  11. I have yet to have much success with garlic. Not that it does not grow but more that it does not get adesirable size. I have new land to play with and opted to plant winter rye for improving the soil for next year. Hopefully next year in this new soil, will provide a much better crop. Our neighbor raises garlic in mass amounts. Hopefully he will share some of his tips when we plant next year. Going to book mark the link for moon sign planting. I do love when I come to visit your Kitchen blog garden. It not only gives great pleasure for my insatiable kitchen garden soul but serves as a reminder on things to do.

  12. Love your "moon timing" hints - will have to follow that for my garlic next fall. Do you plant hardneck or softneck garlic? I have both planted from last fall - can't wait to see which does better. Thanks for the tips!

  13. Hi SF,
    I plant hardneck garlic. You can read more about it - and why I prefer it over softneck - here.

    I think it's great that you tried growing both at the same time. There's nothing like being able to compare two varieties of something that were grown in the same conditions.


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your visits to my kitchen garden!