The new year begins here!

Planting garlic

A perfect moment in tiny farming time as the first garlic goes in for next season’s harvest! It’s all Music (that’s the hardneck variety), and for the first time it’s 100% my own seed stock (last year, I had to buy some to add to what was set aside). The new garlic plot should be the best so far, with oats green manure and year old cow manure tilled in. Lynn and Conall dropped by to help. The row set-up is new. Previously, I’d done two double rows per 5′ (1.5m) bed, each double row spaced 6″ (15cm) in-row and between, with about 18″ (46cm) between the doubles. This year, a more intensive approach: five rows with 6″ spacing both ways, in a 4′ (1.2m) bed. What does all that mean? 500 garlic in 4’x50′ instead of 400 in 5’x50′. It should make mulching, watering and weeding that much easier! I tilled up the bed a couple of days ago to allow pushing in the cloves by hand (the moist, clayey soil gets pretty dense this time of year). The rows were marked out (you can just make out the lines in the soil), and we ran a measuring tape down the beds for quick checks on the in-row spacing, ’cause I’m a little concerned with crowding. They were planted about 4″ deep, from both sides, three and two rows, to avoid uncomfortable leaning (the greens machine was a little too narrow!). Afterwards, the beds were raked to fill in the holes. In the pic, there’s a bag of that new mulch, ready to go (although I ended up not spreading it today). The first 2,000 went in in three hours. I’ll add some more, another 500-1,000, a little later on!

15 thoughts on “The new year begins here!”

  1. Best site!!

    How deep are you planting the cloves? Today was garlic planting for me too. How many pounds do you plant, was trying to do the math on the cloves. I have 100# and that is plenty back breaking enough, smile


  2. Hey Julie: We were aiming for 4″ deep (I just added it to the post). This year, I’m up to around 120 lbs so far. The cloves in this season’s crop were huge, on the biggest size bulbs (2″+) , they were averaging around 4 per bulb, in the past I’ve gotten 5 per. Apparently, clove size can vary from year to year, same size bulb, different size cloves.

    To get a rough idea of quantity, I do a quick average for the bulb sizes and work out the cloves per pound. This year, when we were trimming them, we separated the bulbs into three sizes: big (over 2″), medium (just under 2″), and…small. It’s not exact, but when you’re handling them, you know how it is, you can feel the sizes, they kinda naturally sort. So for planting, I’ll count the cloves for a sample of the large and medium, like, five pounds of each, then get an average per size. This year, the fat ones were about 4 bulbs to the pound and 4 cloves per bulb, so, 16 cloves per pound (not a lot, huh?!). The mediums were about 25 cloves per lb. So, with them already separated by size, I could roughly figure out how much I needed by weight for a planting mix of large and medium…. I was aiming for 2,500 and that’s now in, and I may add 500 more… Arithmetic to the rescue again! :)

  3. Hi There:
    I’ve been growing garlic in the Ottawa area now for about 6 years but I’m still learning.  I have a question that I’m hoping you can answer… but first a little background.
    We are a very small producer.  We grow about 1800 plants a year.  (that’s the number that works best for us for the level of manual effort and the size of our raised bed plots.)  We keep about a 1/3 for next year’s seed, eat about 1/3 (or give away to family) and sell about 1/3.  The money that we get from the sellings is put back into the garden in soil amendments and straw etc. sort of a win-win on a great hobby.  We grow two varieties, Music and Russian Reds (at least that’s what they were called when I bought them at the farmers market years ago)  here’s my question:
    With the Music, the cloves are huge but often there are only two jumbo cloves per head!  I know that the bigger the clove you plant the better, but are the twosies pre-disposed to produce another batch of twosies?  Part of me says plant them and I’ll get bigger heads next year, but that means using up more of my limited yeild on seed.  On the other hand, they are not as sellable since there’s only two cloves per head.  They are wicked roasted since there is little peeling so maybe I should just keep them for our home use…..yum
    If you have any feedback for me I would greatly appreciate it!

  4. Julia: Well, the quick answer is, I don’t know whether big ones with two cloves per will produce more twosies. As I noted in my previous comment in this post, the clove size rule of thumb size in, size out seems to apply to overall bulb size, but not necessarily number of cloves per bulb. With my Music, the big, fat ones tend to have 3-4 huge clove, and I haven’t noticed a tendency for the big ones to produce less cloves per, but that’s only over three seasons of more closely watching. Last year, I think I tried for a 60:40 ratio of medium to large bulbs/cloves, definitely favoring a good quantity of medium sized ones.

    Everyone (me included) seems to like looking at bigger, fatter garlic, but I’m not sure how practical that is for cooking. Around here, we use up a lot of the seconds: smaller ones and accidentally forked ones. That’s mostly for chopping up, not roasting whole, and the smaller clove size is never an inconvenience. From customers, I’ve had no complaints. At the market, I sell ‘em mixed and loose, so people pick the size they want. The super large cloves are a little big for some cooking purposes, when you don’t need that much, but as long as people aren’t being forced to take a size they don’t want, it all seems to work out! I always sell out, and it doesn’t seem to come down to only the small ones left. Garlic lovers just want good garlic!! :)

    If you already have too many big ones, you could maybe advertise them for roasting (or any processing use), and maybe invest in a bit more seed stock to get your ratio to where you want it. I’m selling at $8/lb, and seed stock works out to something just under that, so if you’re priced well, you won’t lose, it’ll be more like a trade, twosies for more cloves.

    If you find out anything more, lemme know!

  5. Twosies grow twosies. Many cloves are actually two cloves but indistinguishable by looking at them. Growers generally cull these and make sure they don’t end back in the seed stock. Nothing wrong with eating them. I plant mine the same depth (4″) and 6″ apart. Rows are 12-15 inches apart 3 rows to a bed with 100′ rows. I generally sell approx 1/3 or more. I rotate my seed stock out or bring new seed stock in after 5 years.  I do have a variety I call a mutt thats been growing here for 10 years. I has huge heads and is generally my best producer. The MUsic variety is my best seller. People love them for roasting.   I have aprox 9 different varieties planted at the moment. Good record keeping will tell you what works and what doesn’t. Good  post here Thanks

  6. Looking at the lovely color of the soil in your picture, I can assume you are not in my area. Here (north San Diego county) I have typical sandy soil, rather lackig nutrients. My orange, grapefruit, pistacio, and macadmia do well, as long as watered constantly. My biggest problem is the ground squirrels and gophers; the place is like Swiss cheese. I was wonderig if planting garlic under the trees would help in eliminating the pests. Do you have fewer/none of the underground pests in the garlic area? I have seen where garlic is used to deter insects….. maybe rodents as well, I ask hopefully? I do not use insecticides, poisons, etc due to the ravens, crows, hawks, vultures, and coyotes in the area. But the trapping and shooting is not making a dent in the population since I am surrounded by acres of open land. I have planted gopher purge which was a bust. Since here we have 100 degree + days garlic may fare better under a tree rather than in the open. I realize I am grasping at straws, but would appreciate any suggestions on getting the pests away from my trees. I have lost one macadamia and a delightful super sweet Algerian tangerine from the roots being eaten. What I plant now I cage the hole before planting, but other trees are mature in the ground.
          Thanks in advance for your time.  

    • Sorry, Deborah, but I really don’t have any experience with fruit and nut trees, and the pests that can go with them—that’s soooo exotic from here in Ontario: tangerines and pistachios! And I haven’t had any tunneling pest problems, either. Your situation sounds like a bit of a warzone…like the deer situation I hear about from Vancouver Island… Knock on wood! :) 

  7. I know this post has long since past, but my friend and I want to grow garlic! We want to grow about a half acre worth.  Can you tell me how much we need to buy and the potential yeild for that amount? Thank you very much.

  8. Heading into my 2nd year of planting garlic. I have learned a lot this past summer and am now experimenting with 4 types of Hard Neck and 1 Soft Neck.     I live in  south central Ontario on the eastern shore of  Lake Simcoe..   My garlic bed is   almost ready to plant.  I h ave two questions
    Should I add bone and blood meal to the soil now ?    We are just ending a unusually warm spell and our temperatures are now about 10 C in the early morning and will be becoming cooler over the next week.   I am still uncertain on the planting time frame and how warm or cool it should be.   Is it better to plant too early than too late. Can you provide any advice for me  

    • Garlic likes well-fertilized soil with lots of organic matter, not compacted, well-drained—the usual great conditions that most garden veggies thrive in! As for timeframe, I’ve been planting quite late, around very end of October, into mid-November. What you’re going for is two things:

      • the roots to start establishing, but the tops not emerging to get zapped by…winter
      • a cold dormancy period, which is handled by the freezing winter!

      So you can figure your timing from there. By fall, the cloves are ready to go and put out roots really quickly, in days. So if they’re in way early, and it happens to be warm into December, you could get too much growth. And, don’t forget to MULCH WELL – I didn’t for the first time last winter, and learned first hand at least one good reason why you should! :) (Many of the cloves pushed right up out of the ground, roots and all, during spring thaw-refreeze cycles. Darn!)

      Anyhow, as you’ve discovered, garlic is about that easy! There are also good garlic specialty sites online if you want a ton of growing details. There’s a lot of advice out there, but as you’ve seen from your Year 1, experiencing for yourself by experimenting with the basics often works best. The real basics is most of it: plants just wanna grow!

      Oh, I’ve always only grown Music, a hardneck. It’s certainly fun experimenting— absolutely do!—but I also like to go for tried and true because I’m growing for market. And I’ve read that softneck is not as suited to our Canadian climate as is hardneck…

      Hope that helps!

  9. Thanks Mike ! for your very helpful response…   This past season I grew a purple stripe hardneck that I bought  last fall from a local organic farm…. unknown variety.   
    I ordered several  varities of hard neck from Boundary Farms in B.C. and one soft neck called Chet’s Italian Red.     From what I have read, am I correct,  that soft necks do not produce scapes?   I loved cooking with the scapes. 
    This has been a fun and learning growing experience for me  and I am looking forward to harvesting quite a bit more next summer.
    Do mowed  gathered leaves make a good mulch?  We have a lot of trees on our 2/3rd of an acre property.

    • I’ve never used leaves for mulch, but shredded leaves should work great on garlic and elsewhere. Shredding and using as mulch is a common thing to do with leaves, along with composting them, which mulching will be kinda doing at the same time. I have used mowed and dried grass as mulch, on garlic and elsewhere, and that worked out really well. Cycling “lawn” type residue into the garden is always interesting!

  10. Just yesterday I planted a dozen garlic cloves (in a container) for next year.  After reading your post I think I’ll get outside and plant another dozen or two in some of the under-utilized beds.
    Thanks for the motivation!

  11. Am in East Africa Uganda in particular wonderin wat is the most favorable season to grow garlic in given our climate because we have the soils.


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