Garlic: Step by Step


It’s getting downright frigid here, and garlic planting time has snuck up on me. But this weekend, I planted Music, German White, Georgian Fire , and Bogatyr Garlic–123 cloves total–in my front yard garden. Above is a picture of some of the Music, on a fabulous Sara Smedley textile. Of all the vegetables I grow, garlic is one of my favorites. Plus it provides garlic greens and scapes for months before you actually harvest it.

When to Plant: The general rule is to plant garlic on the shortest day of the year, and then harvest on the longest day. Columbus Day is ideal for Zone 6.  Garlic is a long season crop, taking 6 to 8 months to mature, so it’s best to plant it in the fall so it has time to establish.

Planting garlic is so easy, and you don’t need a lot of room. Here’s how to plant it in 6 steps:

1. Choose a sunny spotpickasunnyspot

Garlic likes full sun, but will also grow in part shade. Turnover your soil and add some compost to get the ground ready for planting.

2. Get a Digger. This is the tool you use to plant bulbs. It makes it really easy for planting garlic cloves. If you don’t have one, you can use a small trowel instead. (But the digger is so much more fun).


3. Break apart your cloves. Each clove of garlic will magically grow into a full head. I know, amazing, right? breaking_apart_clovesJust break the garlic head up and get your cloves ready.

4. Make a bunch of holes in the ground. Since I don’t have a lot of space, I plant my garlic pretty close together. The standard is to plant it about 8 inches apart, and make the hole depth twice the size of the garlic cloves you are planting. I love planting garlic as a border for my garden, and it helps to deter pests (and prevent munching critters).


5. Place cloves in the ground. Make sure to put the pointy part up, since this is where the green shoot will come up.

putgarlicinthehole6. Then, cover up the hole with dirt, and you’re done. Before winter hits, apply a straw mulch to protect the garlic. Snow will fall, wind will blow, the ground will become frozen solid, but garlic toughs it out, and starts growing again in early spring, and will be ready for harvest around the fourth of July.

Getting garlic: Want to plant garlic but didn’t order in time?  Try going to your local farmers market and either buy a few heads or ask if they’ll sell you some planting stock. Look for larger cloves, and whatever you do, avoid that poor supermarket garlic (it’s been treated with all sorts of anti-sprouting stuff).


Here is the beautiful organic Georgian Fire Garlic I ordered from Peaceful Valley this year.

So, get planting,

Onions and Leeks

red cippolini onions and falltime leeks

The Red Cippolini Onions I planted are starting to take off. It’s amazing how fast these grow. I just planted these less than 2 weeks ago. The secret to onions is to start from seed, not the sets that start showing up at every hardware store and Home Depot in early spring. Onion sets are really onions that were grown late last year and overwintered. Onions from seed, as long as you start them early enough, tend to do better, and become larger. Especially these guys:

candy onion

Candy Onions can get to be softball size, and produce fairly well in the North and South (because they are Day Neutral). When these starts get bigger, and are ready to plant out in about a month, you actually trim the top and bottom of each plant, so there are about 2 inches on the root and stem end. (this will give them a good start and get them to put more energy into the bulb.) Then, plant out and wait until the tops brown and fall over in late June/July to harvest. Onions are great because they can be grown anywhere, and picked early for spring onions. Seeds are so much cheaper than sets, too, and you’ll be able to grow rare italian onions like those Red Cippolini ones I can’t wait to try.


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