Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Garlic and Commitment

Noah helping me make room for garlic.
I think he just wanted to use those bypass loppers.

Garlic, garlic everywhere. Including, in my mailbox!

Garlic-planting posts are popping up all over the place in blogland and on facebook. It's prime garlic-planting time!!!

I have felt a bit of anxiety as I've watched gardeners all around me discuss their garlic, and as I've read all the various bits of advice on getting it into the ground. Though I dabbled in spring garlic planting last year, this will be my first attempt at fall garlic. I have been watching the garlic train go by, with many of my friends on it, but hesitating to hop on.

Garlic is simple, garlic is carefree, they all say--one of the easiest things you'll grow!

That's awesome news for a garlic lover like me. I go through more garlic than I could possibly provide for myself at this point, but trying to provide at least some of it is a gratifying idea. Especially after having a taste of homegrown garlic. My spring garlic may have been meager, with small cloves, but I've never tasted such wonderful garlic flavor in my life.

So why the hesitation?

When my two parcels of garlic arrived in the mail (one packet contained hardneck garlic from my beloved friend, Jo at Homestead Chronicles, the other, softneck from Urban Farmer Seeds after an impulse internet order)....I knew the choice was made for me. It was clear, I had to plant this garlic, and with that I had to make a commitment.

A commitment--for though garlic may be easy, it is just as easy NOT to grow. I can buy garlic very cheaply, year-round, at the grocery store. Admittedly, the store garlic truly is less flavorful than homegrown; I know this as a first-hand fact now. Giving space to garlic is not to be taken lightly when that space is limited. Taking up a chunk of my regular growing beds for garlic makes my heart skip a beat or two--it means that a portion of my growing space is tied up until at least mid-June, when fall garlic is usually harvested. Mid-June is way past the usual Mother's-day planting date for many of my garden staples, like my beloved tomatoes.

Instead of moaning about the space the garlic is going to be using until June, I have decided to celebrate homegrown garlic. I can do this! The celebration goes hand-in-hand with another commitment; to expand my garden space.

The commitment: build new garden beds

Of all the little nooks and crannies that I plan to move into eventually, this spot needs to be next. It's perfect. It's sunny. A play castle used to live there, but I sold it on ebay, knowing that would get me one step closer to more garden space. We spent all spring cleaning out brush from the area, and we grew some things in strawbales along that fence. Next spring, because the garlic is tying up some of our other space, we are committing to finally building some raised beds in that area. This may not seem like such a big deal, but if you take a look at the entire yard here, you'll see that it's going to take up some major room. It's not some hidden corner of the property, it's the majority of the open space, minus the big playset, which won't be going any time soon!

Future garden space.
(Every time I take a photo of this side of our yard,
I can't help but be distracted by the neighbor's giant, empty,
potential filled-yard. She has 3 times the space as we do!)

The garlic is planted

Once the garlic decision was made, Noah and I headed to the garden. The sun was pouring down on us through the glorious autumn chill, and we cleaned out the tomatoes. He really is such a great helper, at an age when everything can still be made exciting. As we cut the tomatoes away, it was suddenly crystal-clear as to where and how the garlic should go into the soil. It was fate; the garlic was meant to go here! This is what we did:

1. We cut the tomatoes off at the bottoms, leaving a bit of the stem above the soil, and all the roots below. I've begun to leave roots in the soil for many of my garden plants when they are spent, to avoid disturbing the little ecosystem below.

2. We then moved the straw aside to reveal the tomato stem. Following the square foot gardening method, each tomato grew in one square foot.

3. According to square foot gardening, there should be 4 cloves planted per foot. This was too simple--we just pushed the cloves into the soil right around the tomato stem, then moved on down to the next tomato stem, indicating where the next square foot started.

4. After planting, we moved the straw back into place. A thick layer of mulch is important for the garlic to stay a little cozier through the winter.

5. By keeping the quartets of garlic at the back of the bed, I was able to leave the thick row of marigolds in place in the front, which made me happy--they are so beautiful right now! The marigolds will die, and when winter is over, that space in front of the garlic will be just perfect for our first crops of greens and radishes and spring onions.

Tomatoes in the rear, taken out and replaced with garlic.
But those gorgeous marigolds up front will stay a bit longer.

We got 24 hardneck and 12 softneck tucked into the soil. A total of 36 garlic plants may not seem like a very big deal at all. Here's my take on it, though: that will be 36 potential heads of garlic that I didn't buy from the grocery store. 36 hopeful heads of garlic grown right next to my house, providing me outstanding garlic flavor, and confidence to grow even more the following year. If the garlic heads are big enough, I may be able to get by with using one per week, which would put me in homegrown garlic for over half a year. Although, there are weeks I go through 3 heads of garlic--I use it in so much of my cooking--so I may be overestimating the amount I can provide for myself. At any rate, everyone has to start somewhere, and 36 heads of garlic sounds like a great start to me!

Now to follow through on that commitment to move into the backyard with new garden space. Stay tuned!


  1. Looks great! I haven't grown garlic, but my neighbor grows a lot of it. :) I love your garden area with the giant marigolds!

    1. Thanks, Julie! I have a few different types of marigolds growing, including 'crackerjack'. They are REALLY huge (I don't think any of those are pictured in this post--they are taller than Noah!). I got the seeds from my uncle, who has been saving seed from the same marigolds for decades. If you'd like some seeds let me know on Facebook and I can send some to you, I will have TONS of seeds this year! :)

  2. I've decided to make a commitment to a Vegan diet. Anyone know some good recipes that has protein in it?