Growing Glorious Garlic

glorious garlic
glorious garlic

Garlic is such a satisfying crop to grow. It needs minimal space & minimal attention. It grows mostly during the off-season, has few if any pests and gives a huge yield for the time and space that it requires. I originally started with bulbs of Inchelium Red Garlic purchased from Territorial Seed more than 20 years ago. I have saved the best cloves each season for replanting every year since that time. The garlic has over the years acclimated to our soil and climate and absolutely thrives here. It has been very gratifying to take a crop “FullCircle” for over 2 decades. With each year my harvest has increased in quality, flavor and size. The crop has improved as my soil has improved with composting and re-mineralization and as my growing techniques have been refined.

Each year I save the best bulbs for replanting, setting them aside to cure completely. A different raised bed/s are chosen each year to plant the following years crop. The bed is prepped in late summer after harvesting whatever crop it currently holds. I turn the soil with a fork, add a sprinkle of lime and organic fertilizer,  finally topping it off with ½” or so of good farmyard compost. After lightly mixing the top layer I throw on a quick cover crop of buckwheat and/or field peas and rake it in. A little water to get it started and we are done until mid/late September. At that time I turn the cover in with a garden fork and let it rest and decompose for a few weeks. The target date to plant garlic in our area is in October. Just remember “plant by Halloween, harvest by 4th of July.” Here in NW Oregon we usually have some beautiful weather in October. I just try to get the garlic cloves planted before the serious rains arrive. I break apart the bulbs I have saved, and set aside the outermost cloves for planting. The smaller inside cloves go to the kitchen. The soil that was amended earlier is soft and airy and the cloves are easily pushed in 1”-2” deep. By planting on a grid of 4” to 6” apart a large amount of garlic can be planted in a small space. From my garden this year I harvested 250 big, beautiful bulbs from a 4’ X 12’ area of raised bed!  After the planting is complete, a quick pass with the back of a rake smoothes out the bed. Lastly I like to spread a 1” mulch of chopped leaves, leaves with grass clippings or straw over the bed for over-wintering. There is nothing more to do until Spring arrives.

Early the following Spring, little green noses of garlic begin appearing above the mulch. Hand-pull any weeds that may appear, maybe lightly side-dress with organic fertilizer and re-mulch if you like. If nature doesn’t water them you will need to. I will deeply hand water the bed each week if it has been dry. You are trying to grow big, strong, healthy tops, as that is what it takes to grow a nice sized bulb. In June I discontinue watering and let the plants start to dry off. When about 1/3 of the green top is yellowed; sometimes the tops will start to lean over also; it is time to harvest, usually by the 4th of July here in the Pacific Northwest. Pick a dry day and gently lift each bulb out of the soil using a garden fork. Try not to damage the bulb or it’s papery cover. Gently tap off excess dirt. Set in a dry, shady, well-ventilated spot and allow them to cure. Remember to save the best bulbs for replanting in the Fall.

Home -grown garlic is the best. There are so many varieties to try. I encourage you to head out this Fall and plant yourself a bed, or two, of Glorious Garlic!

2 thoughts on “Growing Glorious Garlic

  1. I did not know that about the size of the tops determining the size of the bulbs. Do you cut off the scapes? I’m only on my third year of garlic growing, still feel like there’s stuff to learn – it seems like such a simple thing, but the more/longer I do it, the more nuances there seem to be. You sure got a lot of bulbs in a small bed. I didn’t plant nearly that close, I may try that next time.

    1. I agree, the more you learn… the more there is to learn! The Inchelium Red garlic that I grow is a soft-neck variety & they do not have scapes. The hard-neck varieties have scapes. My garden, that is inside of a deer fence, is large but I plant many crops intensively in raised beds to make the best use of the space. If the soil is well fed & you are able to water deeply you can plant very close together and the crops will thrive. Give it a try this Fall. Gardening is one big experiment, that is one thing that makes it so interesting & enjoyable!

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