Garlic Lessons Learned

Guest post by Emira Mears

The only remaining bulbs I had on my list to plant for the Fall was my garlic. Planting out the garlic required a bit more preparation as I had to clean up some space in my veggie beds getting rid of finished beans, cukes and some arugula that had bolted and I swear was making a run for the basement door, before I would have room to put the garlic in.

This will be my first time growing garlic and so far I’ve already learned a lot. For starters, I ordered way too much (so if you’re in Canada and would like some lovely garlic to plant let me know via ourdomicile at gmail dot com and perhaps we can work something out in the way of a trade) getting a bit confused by the whole bulb vs. clove business when I placed my bulb orders. You see, it was obvious to me when they arrived, but for some reason not so obvious when I placed the order that five bulbs of garlic meant five bulbs full of a bunch of wee cloves that then get broken up and planted individually. But I was thinking more along the lines of 5 bulbs = 5 bulbs to plant like with my tulip order and so foolishly ordered 10 thinking that was quite conservative. I now have planted about 40 cloves of garlic and have some extras for those who are interested.

Anyway. I woke up to another sunny day yesterday and decided I would use the opportunity to get my garlic in the ground. I did a bit of web searching and discovered that there are all kinds of opinions about what one has to do to grow good garlic. Many of the web sites I read stressed the difference between “growing garlic” (which is apparently easy) and “growing good garlic” which is apparently trickier. I followed the advice of a few handy tips I read online and soaked the cloves in a mixture of baking soda (1 heaping tablespoon for one bowl containing the cloves of 5 bulbs) and water for a few hours to make it easier to slip off the skins and apparently to help kill any fungus that might be on the cloves. I also read suggestions to add liquid seaweed to this mixture to help feed the garlic but I didn’t have any around the house and I was feeling mighty impatient (and like this may be my last sunny Sunday of the season). I then prepped the soil, turning it over well and adding some compost. After that I undertook the very laborious task of peeling the skin off all those cloves which took a fair while, and then drained the baking soda liquid off to replace it with a quick soak in some 100 proof vodka. This was recommended as a further way to ensure any fungus on the garlic was killed, and given the wiff of garlic/vodka I got as I was planting these little nuggets I’d say that was successful.

I planted them at a 2″ depth about 4″ apart and was careful to mark all my spots so I don’t dig them up again next Spring. I’ve also read in numerous spots now that applying some mulch to the ground for the winter is a good idea to help keep them warm. I had been planning on mulching my veggie beds anyway to help keep weeds down and add nutrients so now I’ve got an extra incentive. If even half of my garlic comes up we’ll be doing pretty well, which is great as I use a lot of it in the kitchen and even more when I’m preserving in the Summer. I’ll let you know how it goes and if I suspect any of these tips were useful, but I’m afraid you’ll have to sit tight for a good six months or so to find out.


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8 thoughts on “Garlic Lessons Learned

  1. Wow. I have never heard of this baking soda soak business. Seems odd since garlic itself has antifungal properties. I’ve never heard of presoaking period. Or removing the skins from the cloves. I must be one of those people growing “bad” garlic. Ha! I literally just separate the cloves, plop into the ground and mulch. I am worried this year because it is very wet. I still haven’t put my bulbs in (a hardneck variety) for this year and our forecast is calling for rain, rain, rain.

    You’ll have to update us on how this turns out. Or ya, since you’ve got extras, do a few more without any of that and see the difference come harvest time.

  2. Ya I was thinking I should do a control group. The web sites I read (and damn if I can find the links again on this computer) were all quite adamant about these procedures. It seemed a bit strange to me too given the anti-fungal garlic business, but then I thought maybe I was just naive… We’ll see. Now I’m pretty certain I’ll do some control options just to see if it was all some big internet hoax!

  3. I have always just separated the cloves and planted and am happy with the results. I am glad I didn’t read about the soaking and peeling before I ever planted garlic!

    Speaking of garlic, I would like to make garlic tincture and was told by an organic veterinarian I consulted for my cow, that you have to make it with a good “tincturing garlic” but he couldn’t tell me which variety that would be. Does anyone have any advice?

  4. Hey Marieanne, I haven’t a clue. That said, if the garlic guy I get mine from is at the winter market this year I’ll ask him. He seems to be a bounty of garlic and herbal knowledge.

  5. Hey Marieanne,
    I’m writing from the Bay Area in California not fifty miles from the worlds garlic capitol- Gilroy.
    I just started garlic myself for the first time and they spouted within a week! I, however, did not peel the cloves so I’m wondering what that does for the seedlings? How soon do you think until the greens die back and their ready to be pulled up?
    Lovin’ my garlic. Got some white onions too.

  6. Just planted my own garlic again for the second time. Last year I planted garlic near the down spouts to keep the squirrels from re-entering their condemned boarded up condo in my attic. It worked. I wasn’t planning on eating it and took no special care before planting- I used the garlic from the fridge that had sprouted a little. just followed the same rules for planting bulbs.
    PS plant a few cloves of garlic with flowering bulbs to drive squirrels away and wrap flowering bulbs in wads of fishing line to prevent nibblers!!

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