This is my first time attempting to grow garlic, but I have high hopes that it will be a success. I could sit here and tell you what you need to do and what not to do when planting garlic, but like I said, I have never done this before. Instead, I will go through the notes I took a few months prior in preparation, and explain what I did this week. When I harvest in June/July I will post an update, and we will see how well everything written below worked out for me.
First off, I waited a little long to order garlic online than I should have, and most affordable choices were already sold out. My local feed store was also sold out. After a little asking around on a gardening Facebook group I am in, I decided to try going down the grocery store garlic route. Many people said they have had great experiences with garlic purchased from the produce section. A lot of people were talking about elephant garlic, because it apparently does better in the mild winters we have here, but I couldn’t find any at the store. The garlic I got at the grocery store has purplish veins if anyone would care to try and tell me what variety it is. My notes say soft neck is what you find in stores, so I am gonna guess it is some variety of soft neck garlic.
My notes say to break bulbs apart a few days before you plan on planting, but I didn’t re-read that part until after I got the bed ready and was itching to plant something. After a quick text to my grandmother on what she would do, I decided to not wait, and went ahead with the planting. I will keep this in mind for next year, in case something goes wrong, but I really don’t feel like it is that big of a deal. We will see!
Garlic takes around 6 months to grow to maturity, and generally needs a cold spell to form correctly. Elephant garlic is said to form better in places with mild winters than other garlic varieties, but I am sure I can get a decent harvest regardless of what the weather does in regards to hot and cold.
Garlic is mostly planted between September and January, but from my research around October is said to be the ideal time to plant in my area, which is 8B. I’m always late to planting, so I decided to be a little early this time. Plus, the weather was amazing. That and last year the weather got cold earlier than usual, although not super cold, so if it’s like that this year, I should be safe.
The garden bed is a 4×4 cedar raised bed kit that was given to me last year, and I finally have a chance to use it. I didn’t think to get pictures before I started filling it up, but I leveled out the area, laid cardboard down, and the set the bed in place.
I was too late in ordering soil from my local store and the smaller bags are just a waste of money. I refused to drive half an hour for 4 bags of dirt, but I have a small pile of dirt from leveling out ground last year in our yard, and there have been a few wild garlic plants around here, so I figure they will grow decently enough in it. There weren’t too many weeds growing on it, and a quick once over with my garden weasel got most of the weeds and grass up. I hand picked the rest out. I think it took 4 1/2 trips to fill the bed up, and I still have half a pile of dirt left for whatever else I may need it for, without spending any money, so yay for me! I used two 5 gallon buckets to move the dirt, since I don’t have a wheelbarrow, so don’t let a lack of tools hinder your progress. I improvise quite a bit around here.
I did a quick run through with my hands to gets any debris or roots out, and broke up big clumps of dirt. Then I raked the top smooth, and went inside to break my garlic apart. As stated earlier, it may have been a better idea to either wait to plant, or broken the garlic apart a few days ago, but hindsight is 2020, and I did not read my notes over before getting my hands dirty, or my hopes up. Oops.
When breaking apart bulbs, I made sure to keep the skin surrounding the meat of the clove in tact. Any cloves that had meat exposed, I put aside to use in dinner. I then weighed them, just so I had an idea of what I was working with. My notes say for most varieties, expect an optimum 10 lb. yield p/each pound planted. I’m hoping for a 5 lb. harvest, but more than that will just make me happy. I ended up with 11.3 oz. of garlic cloves out of the 6 or so bulbs I got at the store. I will probably try a spring planting as well, just to see how growth is affected for myself, but I will decide on that when the time gets closer.
We generally have pretty mild winters here in East Texas. It can get cold, but generally we don’t have super cold weather until January-ish, and even then it isn’t usually crazy cold. In places with hard frosts, you want to make sure you plant 6-8 weeks before then so your plants are established enough to survive. Young shoots can’t generally survive temps under 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
I spaced the cloves about 4” apart, and then went back on half of the bed with the cloves I had left and planted them in the center of the squares made by the other cloves. I pressed them into the loose dirt as deep as they are tall. Pointy side up. I did the difference in planting as an experiment to see what I can get away with in terms of space.
Because my chickens will gladly scratch my work apart, I wrapped the bed with some chicken wire. It’s only about 2 ft tall, but it should be sufficient to deter my chickens. I did put a few staples around the base to hold the wire in place, but not enough to make my life difficult when I go to take it down. I gave the dirt a light spray of water, and covered the dirt with pine shavings to hold in moisture. It’s dry here at the moment, and my soil is pretty sandy, which isn’t great for water retention.
I will keep an eye on it, and thin the mulch a little at a time, looking out for new growth. I don’t want it to get smothered by mulch, but I also don’t want to have to continuously water it either.
A video I was watching mentioned feeding your garlic with blood and bone meal once a month, but I can’t say if I will commit to do that or not. It will probably depend on how it is growing in the spring,
I will do my best to keep a grow journal over on Instagram, so go follow me to stay up to date. There will be a Summer Garlic Harvest post next year on how this all turned out.
If you have any garlic growing tips, or recipes with garlic, be it culinary or medicinal, drop a comment. I love to learn new stuff. I will be doing a medicinal post regarding Garlic in the near future as well.
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