Planting Garlic in the Fall

It's the last thing to go into the garden. If you haven't planted your garlic yet, you have one last chance in the St. Louis area, this Saturday/Sunday. If you haven't prepared your bed, it's still not too late. Saturday is above 40" so you might be able to do it then. A garlic bed doesn't need much. You can use the garlic available at your grocery store as long as it is grown in the USA. We irradiate produce coming in from other countries and it won't grow. Garlic also comes in a number of varieties, like soft neck that is good for braiding and hard neck which grows great scapes in the spring that you can use like green onions for a mild garlicky taste. If you order from seed catalogs, you can try some different types like Elephant Garlic which is just huge cloves. No matter what you pick, Garlic is something that you should add to your garden, no matter where you garden! Nothing beats that fresh garlic flavor and knowing you grew it yourself just adds to the savor!

Last summer's first braid - these are the garlics that I harvested to plant this fall.

We dug our bed in September and covered it in about four inches of grass clippings to give it time to settle before planting. I did post about digging the bed - we used a no till method. We had covered this walkway in cardboard and wood chips last year. It broke down into nice rich soil, just like we had hoped.

Just dig in the tines and lift up. Don't turn the dirt, just loosen it.

My Darling then used a pitchfork to 'no till' the ground. He would dig the tines into the earth about seven to eight inches deep and then just lifted up the soil. Then he moved his fork about two inches and repeated with the lifting. I covered the non-tilled earth with the compost and let it rot in for a month.

To the left is the walkway, covered with wood chips. The new garlic bed is on the right.

I didn't mean it to be an entire month til planting but life interferes with the best laid plans of farmers, even if their farm is tiny compared to others. Finally, I scraped out enough time.

Separating the cloves.

First, I took twelve heads of my garlic and broke them into cloves. I soaked those cloves in water for about three hours. Once the papery skins were soaked through, I drained them and took them out to the bed.

Cover the cloves with water and let soak at least three hours and up to twenty four hours.

I scraped away the grass clippings to use them again and prepared the earth. I used a board to measure out my rows to be four inches apart. I also used that board to flatten down the rows when the planting was finished.

Using a board to set out the rows.

As soon as I got four rows ready, I started planting.

I took one clove and planted it pointy side up and root end down about two inches deep. I spaced them between three and four inches. You don't have to be exact here but picture in your mind the size of a full head of garlic and don't crowd them too close.

Make sure to plant them pointy side up, root end down.

Pull loose dirt over your cloves and tamp them down firmly with the board. Then go on to the next. When I had all the cloves planted and tamped down, I covered all of it in around four inches of grass clippings. It was due to rain the next day, so I let nature water them in but if you aren't expecting rain right away, make sure you soak the ground well. They will grow up through the clippings but the weeds won't get the same kind of grip.

After the first four rows, use your board to make the next row and plant it, cover it and move on.

When the next hard freeze comes, they'll be growing under that mulch. They might even get up to six inches tall before winter really settles in. Those tops will die back - don't worry! When Spring comes, they'll shoot up and grow vigorously until they are around eighteen inches tall. When the greens fall over in June, they are ready for harvesting.

This years braids - what I'm looking forward to for next year, too!

In all, I planted over fifty cloves. I hope to get enough for all of next year and to sell to my fresh produce customers. It's a very easy plant to grow, so don't hesitate to give your own garlic a try!

I hope everyone has a safe and fun holiday - HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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