October is the time of year to plant garlic. The traditional wisdom is that garlic should go in the ground around Columbus Day and harvest preparations start around 4th of July. (Embarrassing fact: I had to go to Wikipedia to find out when Columbus Day was. October 8th! The more you know…). Many people will tell you not to wait so long. I put my garlic in the ground on September 31st.
Some clarification: You can alternatively plant garlic in the early spring. Planting in the fall gives the garlic a jump start on developing roots so that in the spring it can grow faster. The downside is that if the garlic freezes hard over the winter it will die before spring rolls around. Fall-planted garlic needs to be well protected to prevent it from freezing.
When you plant garlic you’re supposed to plant the biggest, healthiest cloves, but I put in several smaller ones that had been sprouting too. Considering they would have ended up on the compost pile otherwise, and considering my poor track record growing plants this summer, I figure every little bit helps. Any heads of garlic I can harvest next year, even if they’re small ones, will be better than what I would have gotten otherwise.
I marked off a small section of my first garden bed where the beefsteak tomatoes and cantelope had been over the summer. I filled a 5-gallon bucket up with some compost out of my pile, mixed it in good with the top two inches of soil, planted the garlic in 2-inch deep holes (root-side down!), and covered with a thin layer of straw. I’m going to add much more straw and some fall leaves too, before things get too cold. The straw mulch will help to keep those little cloves from freezing hard and dieing over the winter. Also, they’ll help to return some nutrients to the soil in the process.
Two (hard to see) garlic sprouts coming up from between the straw
While planting the garden, I pulled a sweet yellow onion bulb out of the bottom of the compost pile. Despite having been buried for weeks at least, it had a full set of roots and some long green stems, and looked quite healthy. I know onions aren’t supposed to go into the ground until early spring, but I’ve got this one now so I threw it into the garden anyway. Either way, it’s no loss to me.
I would like to grow more onions next year. I’ll probably shop around for some small seed onions when it gets closer to planting time and put them in next to the garlic in the spring. I’m still coming up with plans for what I want to do with the rest of my garden next year, but I’m sure I’ll post about that soon.