Planting Garlic in December??? Thanks Climate Change... A 'How To' Guide to Growing and Harvesting No-Till Garlic

Yes you read right, we’re planting garlic at Greenshire in the December days leading up to Christmas. I was putting some in the ground today, which is definitely not the norm for this time of year, though it seems like the normal weather has been thrown out the window round these parts. I should be shoveling snow off the driveway by now but instead I’m taking advantage of the +5 Celsius temperatures over the last few days and popping cloves in the garden.

It probably would have been better to get the garlic in the ground before November got too cold, and some people plant as early as August but I’ve planted as late as January a few years ago, and the garlic yield was great! Back then I had to warm the soil with an 18 L jug of hot water to melt the ice and soften the ground enough to plant.

 

garlic isolated on white Stock Photo - 10321115

 

 

It probably would have been better to get the garlic in the ground before November got too cold, and some people plant as early as August but I’ve planted as late as January a few years ago, and the garlic yield was great! Back then I had to warm the soil with an 18 L jug of hot water to melt the ice and soften the ground enough to plant.

Here’s our no-till method for bed prep and planting:

1) Over the existing undisturbed ground we lay down 2-4 inches of composted manure, after marking the garden bed area. We chose a 4′ wide bed at 50′ long. If you have wood ash, bone meal, glacial rock dust, or some other powdery type of soil amendment, add it to the ground before laying on the manure. If you have decent soil below, you may be able to get away with cutting your manure 50/50 with soil, which you can dig out from your paths

2) If you’ve put enough manure down and it’s warm enough, you should  be able to press the cloves into the manure without needing any tools. If the ground is too cold to press the cloves in by hand and you have a soil aerator, punch holes evenly and drop each clove in the hole. I imagine that a screwdriver would work too, or you could warm the soil with a jug of hot water if that’s feasible.

The recommended planting distance is 4-8 inches apart so if you’re using an aerator and want a greater distance between bulbs, simply plant in every other hole. Make sure you put the cloves in with the pointy end up!

3) Cover the holes with 1/2 -2 inches of soil and/or manure if you have extra. Otherwise rake across the surface to cover up the holes. I like to turn the rake upside down for this because I find I get a more even grade but whatever works for ya. Some sources say you need to plant the cloves at least 2 inches below the surface but I usually only plant 1/2 – 1 inch deep and I get good results.

4) Apply a mulch of at least 4 inches. The mulch will help protect against weather extremes such as winter-kill, and extreme heat in the summer. It will also help conserve moisture, and help suppress weeds. Suitable mulches are: Tree leaves (ideally chopped up), hay, wood chips, and straw. Basically any plant matter that is high in carbon.

I read somewhere that grain straw can host wheat curl mite which is known to attack garlic. Some say that straw is the way to go and that hay mulch will be a nightmare because of grass seeds sprouting but I’ve used hay from several sources and only get a small percentage of it sprouting. I’ve also seen straw bales sprout grass on all exposed sides. If you do get grass sprouting either cover it up with more mulch or flip it over. Done!

Harvesting:

Cut the scapes/flower heads when they curl around in a circle. Don’t throw them in the compost though! They are too tasty to waste. Even if you have a ton of em, consider dehydrating and powdering them, pickling, or some other prep method so they’ll keep. If you don’t cut the scapes it may diminish the yield of your head of garlic by around 30%.

File:Garlic scape.jpg

 

There are varying opinions on when to pull garlic out of the ground. I generally wait until about 30-50% of the leaves on each plant have turned yellow.

Whatever your preference I suggest that once the garlic leaves have begun to yellow, check a few plants at the root zone periodically to see if they’re ready. Either brush away the soil so you can see the head, or just yank one out and take a chance. You want them to have a a few layers of skin so if they look translucent, they probably need more time. If the paper is starting to flake or the cloves are starting to split apart from the main head, you’ve waited a bit too long if you want the garlic to store well.

Happy Garlic Growing!

 

Grows in the vegetable plots of various vegetables, Stock Photo - 11113317

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