Planting Garlic Update (2/20/17) — so far so good!
At least I think it is. One rule of thumb is plant garlic on Columbus Day, another is after a few frosts, and I went with Rule No. 2 given this year’s long and balmy fall. The first frost last year was mid-October, and this year was on November 11.
These are Russian garlic cloves and bulbs (a hard neck variety) that I bought from the Enon Valley Garlic Company at the Seven Springs, PA Mother Earth News fair. I picked them because they were midway in terms of hotness, and mostly because the cloves were very large, which will make processing the cloves much easier as I use them. The selection at the MEN fair was much larger than on the Enon Valley website.
The Enon Valley website has planting instructions and I based this effort on them. My raised garden is made up of rotted wood chips, and the parsnip harvest showed that better drainage is needed for some root crops, and garlic needs well draining soil, so I mixed in a little sand and set the garlics in place on top of the natural level of my garden. The garlic should be spaced so that when the bulb grows to maturity there will be 2″ between finished bulb.
I dug a ditch around the garlic to help with the drainage, and mixed the dirt from the ditch with some sand. Maybe 10% sand; maybe less. Then I shoveled this on top of the garlic. I added about 2″ of partially decomposed chips, and then about 2″ (pressed down) of hay, followed by chicken barriers — since the chickens have the run of the garden in the winter, and since they destroyed my garlic last year.
The idea behind planting in the fall is that the roots will grow and get a head-start in the spring leading to stronger plants and bigger bulbs, but care must be taken to not let the plants grow too much before winter comes, thereby expending too much energy only to die. This is what happened to my garlic last year. Hopefully I waited long enough!