Wow. It’s been a month since my last post. How did that happen? What, exactly, happened to the month of November? I think it may have had something to do with all that leaf-raking, shrub-transplanting, turkey-baking, and — somewhere toward the beginning of the month — garlic-planting.
Ah… Garlic-planting… Just as everything else is succumbing to frost and freezes and early snows, garlic is clamoring to be planted. It doesn’t ask for much. Just a small patch of soil, a handful of leaf mulch, and the belief that spring will come again. Planting garlic is a promise we make to our gardens; a guarantee that we will tend that stretch of Earth for one more season. As far as I’m concerned, the next gardening year begins when that very first clove goes into the ground. The day I plant garlic is the day I celebrate my gardening New Year.
Unless your garden is already frozen hard, you’ve probably still got time to declare your own garlic-planting, gardening New Year celebration. All garlic needs is a couple of weeks to settle in before the ground freezes hard. Here in Virginia, that means we can safely plant garlic as late as mid- to late-December. Most years, at least.
Garlic is awfully forgiving. Here’s how I did it this year:
I started with nine heads of ‘Music’ garlic, purchased from a local organic grower at my favorite farmers’ market. This is a mildly spicy hardneck, and is supposed to have great storage qualities.
From nine heads of ‘Music’ garlic, I collected 68 usable cloves (plus a few that were too small to plant, but sure tasted grand).
After reading an article in Organic Gardening, I decided to try something new: A pre-soak in baking soda to prevent fungal issues.
After adding water, I left the cloves to soak overnight. The Organic Gardening article also recommended adding seaweed solution to the baking soda soak. A good idea, I’m sure. But, I’m out of seaweed, so that experiment will have to wait until next year.
It’s garlic planting time! Bulb planters and dibblers work great, but a simple hand trowel also gets the job done. That, garlic and paint were my only supplies. The paint will be explained in a moment…
Planting garlic is pretty simple. Dig a hole that’s a few inches deep. Insert clove. Cover. Repeat.
Garlic wants to be planted about six inches apart, but I didn’t want to carry a ruler around the garden. So… I went old school. The distance between thumb-tip and pinkie-tip is about six inches. At least, it is on my hands…
In the past, I’ve always grown garlic in long, orderly rows. Easy to mark and remember. But, since the not-allowed vegetable garden is so non-linear, I’m scattering little bunches of garlic throughout the garden this year. So… I needed a way to remember where I planted them. A handful of sticks and a leftover sample of paint did the trick. Dip stick in paint. Insert unpainted end of stick into the ground. Done.
The first patch of garlic is ready to be covered with dirt and tucked in for the winter. In the end, I painted about ten clumps of garlic, with six or seven cloves in each clump. Next summer should taste great!
And, that’s all there is to it. Took an hour or so, and suddenly I’d turned the calendar to the next gardening year. Happy New Year!