Garlic planted for 2016

Garlic planted for 2016.

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Garlic planting day is always on the traditional Columbus Day. October 12. Planting garlic this fall is an anniversary for daysingarden blog since garlic planting was the first event of the 2015 season. Now the 2016 garlic crop has been planted. 1 whole year gone by. Wow. Above is a photo of the garlic cloves planted for 2016. Nice, don’t you think. Big and healthy looking.

In previous years, 64 garlic cloves, saved from the season before, were planted. Remember that each clove produces a new head of garlic with 8 cloves on average. That’s a nice bunch of garlic. But, we love garlic, and the supply has to last for a year. Also, I give garlic to several friends. So far this year, 24 heads of garlic have been given away. Approximately 9 heads were used for the seed crop, or clove crop, so to speak, for next year. That’s half the crop right there. Did I mention that we do love garlic. So, this fall, for the 2016 season, I decided to plant 72 cloves of garlic instead of the usual 64.

There’s another reason for this. For many years, I used 1 3′ by 3′ raised bed for the garlic. Planting 64 cloves in 1 3′ by 3′ bed meant planting the garlic cloves approximately 4″ apart. The resulting crop was OK, but I noticed that the garlic heads on the perimeter of the bed were always bigger. Last year, I thought perhaps planting garlic around the perimeters of several raised beds might be a good thing. Then, I thought, other crops could be planted in the middle of the beds. This didn’t work, mostly because the watering requirements are different for garlic and, say, spinach or lettuce. So I basically used 3 raised beds for garlic with the inside of the beds unproductive.

This year, I planted garlic in 2 3′ by 3′ raised beds using 72 garlic cloves. So, that meant 6 rows of 6 cloves in each bed, with the cloves planted 6″ apart instead of 4″ apart. All this sounds rather tedious, I know. But I need to write it down for future reference. If this planting scheme produces bigger heads of garlic on the inside as well as the outside of the raised beds, I will have increased my garlic crop by 8 heads of garlic and used 2 raised beds instead of 3. Sounds good to me.

I used the broadfork to loosen the soil in the beds on 2 separate days, adding compost and rock phosphate each day. I dibbled in the garlic cloves. See previous posts on garlic for this Eliot Coleman technique, which he describes in The Winter Harvest Handbook. It is important to keep the tops of the garlic cloves about 1″ underground. When the soil is loose–a good thing–it’s often the case that the cloves slide down 2″ or more. When the cloves are planted too deep, the resulting heads tend to be much smaller. So, take the time to fill the dibble holes back in if they are too deep, making sure that the top of the garlic clove is no more than 1″ underground. This is important and worth the time spent.

I covered the beds with a fluffy layer of salt hay and watered them in. Watering should be repeated through the fall if there is no rain. I also watered in some Neptune’s Harvest fish fertilizer–another good source of phosphate. Phosphate is necessary for developing root structure. The idea is that the garlic will start to grow a root structure but will probably not show signs of life aboveground. Next spring, the garlic will be the first crop to appear in the vegetable garden and will have that good root structure to start it on its way to a new bumper crop of garlic. That’s the plan.

I could add a photo here of the 2 raised beds where the garlic was planted. But they look empty, so what’s the use. Time for photos when the garlic starts to grow early next spring.

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