I wouldn’t say I’m completely useless when it comes to yard work, but while Chip (the husband) was diligently raking leaves this past weekend, the boy (the dog) and I planted garlic. I’m pretty good at rationalizing, and since I did all of the spring clean-up as a result of Chip’s broken ankle, I convinced myself I was entitled to take the season off. But let me tell you, digging that many holes is no small task!
At this point in the season, my annual gardening cycle is clear. I arrive late to the game (my mind usually on late spring skiing when it should be on early planting of lettuce and arugula). But when I arrive, I arrive big. I plant that garden like nobody’s business – thinning out the plants that volunteered when last year’s went to seed, adding new seedlings, mulching, watering. Sadly, by early August, the weeds give away my waning energy for maintenance. And by early November, I struggle to get back in there and clean up the mess, plant the garlic and spread seed for cover crop. It always gets done, but it’s never as timely as I would like.
It’s widely believed that garlic grows best when planted during a full moon. This year, however, the full moon has come and gone and the closest it got to my garlic was that it was in my thoughts as I was planting. It’s beliefs like this, however, that give gardening a spiritual component that I love. It’s not just about growing food, it’s about the interconnection of the planets, the people, the land, the seasons, good health and life in general. So while my interest in and devotion to gardening dwindles this time of year, the garlic serves as an important reminder of the magic of our environment and it’s ability to support life year-round. That garlic will take all that winter has to throw at it, and in spring it will send up scapes, flowers in early summer, and eventually bulbs to harvest and use the rest of the year.
If you’ve never grown your own garlic, there is a full moon coming and hopefully a bit more time before the ground freezes. Here’s how to do it:
- Garlic likes to go into the ground 6-8 weeks prior to the frost, but with my garlic as proof, it can handle going in later.
- Separate cloves from bulb, being careful to leave paper skins on.
- Plant cloves in a sunny area 6 inches apart and 4 inches deep with the root end pointing down.
- Cover with a thin layer of compost and 6 inches of leaf compost.
- In spring, remove leaf compost once threat of frost has passed.
- When garlic sends up scapes, cut these and enjoy. This will send energy back down into the bulb to help it grow. (I always leave a few scapes to flower and spread their seeds so I have more garlic the following year).
- Harvest garlic when the tips of their leaves start to yellow.
- Hang garlic in a cool dry place for 2 weeks to cure.
- When wrappers are dry and papery, remove dirty outer layer of paper, store bulbs in a cool dry place, and enjoy.
- Be sure to save your best looking bulbs to plant for next year’s harvest!
Some of my favorite places to get garlic for planting are: The Garlic Farm, Seed Savers Exchange, and Hood River Garlic. Make sure to select the varieties most appropriate for your region. And while I’ve failed at actually getting my dog to help with this process, I highly recommend the company while you’re planting. Who knows, maybe next year he’ll help me dig the holes instead of just trying to eat the garlic!
Eat clean live well!