As we get ready for Halloween, now’s the perfect time to think about naturally vampire-proofing your garden, which means it’s time to grow garlic! Planting garlic around the perimeter will protect your veggie beds from getting trampled by nighttime intruders who vant to suck your bloooood.
In all seriousness, it’s a good reminder to plant garlic when you start thinking about Halloween. At least, that’s the case here in Vancouver. If you live elsewhere, a rule of thumb is that garlic should be planted between 3 and 6 weeks before the ground freezes. This ensures that there is enough time for the roots to develop. The moisture and cold of the soil will wake the bulb from dormancy and start this process. After that, growth is slow and a thick skin (figuratively) is necessary to make it through the winter. Next spring the leaves will sprout and grow until harvest time next summer. For more on summer harvesting and cooking with garlic scapes, click here.
Choose Your Bulbs
When planting garlic in your garden, it’s best to use heads grown specifically for planting. Store-bought garlic can carry disease or be treated with chemicals. Both of these can be difficult to remove from your soil once planted. Buy seed from a reliable source like a seed company or farmer’s market vendor that you trust. I also do this when Saving Heirloom Tomato Seeds.
Garlic likes a sunny location and needs only enough room for the bulbs to reach full size. Space plants around 6” apart and they should have enough room. Space them farther apart for large bulbs and closer together for smaller ones.
Garlic is perfect planted at the back of a border or vegetable garden. When selecting a location, keep in mind that the bulbs won’t be fully matured and ready for harvest until summer.
Get soil ready for planting by mixing in some yummy compost, then covering with a layer of good quality top soil. Garlic will do well in loose, nutrient-rich soil with good drainage. I mixed in my own compost and topped it off with SEA SOIL, a high quality top soil made of composed bark and fish waste.
Each clove will have a pointy top end were the stem and laves will grow from, and a wider, flat part on the bottom. This bottom part is where the roots will form.
Dig a hole and plant the clove tip-side up so that the tip is 2” below the surface.
Cover with soil and mulch to conserve moisture and nutrients over winter. A good mulch for the winter is a layer of leaves covered by a layer of cardboard. Just don’t forget to remove the cardboard in early spring so the leaves and stems can grow up through the soil.
Next summer, your garlic will be in full swing and ready to be harvested. You can first cut the scapes and use them in recipes, then harvest the bulbs and dry them:
- Garlic Scapes: Grow it! Eat it!
- How to Braid Garlic
- Garlicky Spinach and Kale Butter
- Tuscan Kale with White Beans & Roasted Garlic