Sunday, September 11, 2016

Patient Garden Crops: Garlic

The ideal patient garden crop is willing to wait several weeks for attention. It doesn't insist that you plant it as soon as the soil is prepped. It doesn't whine at you to thin or prune or stake or spray it with only a few days' notice. Or harvest it in a hurry. Or, for that matter, eat it in a hurry.

Garlic qualifies, on all counts.

I wasn't going to plant garlic this fall. Now I've forgotten why, because, what's the down side? It's a flavoring! It's a vegetable! It's a perfume!

So, I put together a garlic order from Territorial, half a pound each of Duganski, Inchelium Red, Premium Northern White, Susanville, Uzbekistan, and Vietnamese Red. Woohoo!

Oh, now I remember part of why I wasn't going to plant garlic: The weed cloth hole spacing. It seemed ridiculous to plant garlic eighteen inches apart in both directions. But if I cut drills through the cloth, I can plant at six inches in the row, rows eighteen inches apart. That makes six-foot drills, twelve plants per drill, thirty-six plants per bed. Looking at the cloves-per-pound on the Territorial site, that works out to be just about half a pound of seed garlic per bed. So, six beds, one for each type, and maybe a seventh mixed bed if the clove count tends high instead of low.

Again, woohoo!

I'm planning to start adjusting the farm watering to allow me to turn the watering on or off for every single bed, with little inline manual valves. (It's probably only a matter of time before I write Patient Garden: Watering.)  That way, I can have the garlic on the watering system when I plant it, shut off its water as soon as the autumn rains start, turn it on again when the rain stops in late spring, and then shut it off when it's time to let the heads start to dry.

The only impatient part of this crop is the scapes--the stalks, with their little hatlike ends--from the hardneck varieties. Garlic-growing instructions suggest that you visit the garlic patch weekly once they start developing, to cut them off--both for eating, and because if they're allowed to keep developing, they'll steal some resources from the bulb.  But if I don't remove the scapes in a timely manner, the garlic will survive.

So, I can prep the soil and set up the drills and watering well before I plant. I can plant and turn on the watering and mostly walk away for months, probably returning once to turn the watering off, and once to turn it on again. I should cut the scapes, but I don't have to. There's a pretty long acceptable period for harvesting--there's an ideal moment, but a little early or a little late is still OK. And then the harvested heads keep for months.


Main Image: Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Don't forget to pull up a few to have fresh, green garlic for gentle cooking. It's mild and delicious and keeps well when wrapped in paper or parchment and kept in the veg drawer of the fridge. Love the Patient Garden posts. ☺

  2. Ooh! Yes! That's what I could do with the spare cloves--I bet I could plant them closer together if I'm planting for green garlic?

    And thanks!