We finally got the seed garlic in the ground this week. Somehow, no matter how ready I think I am, I always get this done later than I intend. For those of you unfamiliar with growing garlic, it is planted in the fall (here in the north anyway) and harvested mid summer of the following year. We've always had pretty good luck with garlic, but this year was such a cruddy growing season that the garlic harvest was smaller than normal. So when we finished the planting I discovered that we were about 5 short of the amount I was hoping for. So off to the internet to see which suppliers have any stock left at this late date.
We generally plant about 25-30 pounds of hardneck garlic seed. This means planting the individual cloves...the same as what you eat. So the heads must be divided and the cloves cleaned of wrappers, again pretty much as you would to eat them, though not quite as meticulous. Often we soak them overnight in a solution of liquid seaweed, then a quick dip in rubbing alcohol right before they go into the ground. The seaweed gives the new plants a little extra boost and the rubbing alcohol helps prevent any transfer of disease or insect eggs that we might not have noticed. We were in such a hurry this year, that we did neither of there, instead we had a marathon garlic cleaning (thanks Mom!) hoping to beat the impending rain.
approx 10 lbs of cleaned Northern White garlic
At the same time that Mom was finishing up the last of the garlic cleaning, I was out in the garden trying to get the beds ready. I tried to burn the past season's garden litter but just couldn't get the fire to catch, so I mowed than tilled the new beds. All went well until the very last pass, then there was the calnk of metal breaking, followed by much smashing around, a loud metallic scream and then silence. I'm pretty sure that the tiller celebrated the end of the season by dying one final, very theatrical death. It was a bad, bad sound.
Fortunately, I had gotten far enough that we could finish up without the tiller. We furrow with a walking plow right before the garlic goes into the ground.
Furrows ready for seed garlic
Then the planting marathon began. We planted about 640 row feet of garlic, that's 1280 cloves. And got it all in about an hour before the rain started. Now that it is all settled in, I can go back and cover it with about 6" of rotted hay mulch.
I was really hoping for about 1500 cloves, so hopefully my internet source will come through for the rest. Regardless, its always a relief to get the garlic in before snow. Last year I wasn't so lucky!