It’s mid-October here in central Ohio, and that means we are close to the end of the growing season. We’ve already had one cold night that required row cover to protect our winter crops. The one farm chore that truly signals the end of the season for me is garlic planting.
Garlic requires a long growing season, so it is typically planted in the fall to produce a crop the following summer. In our location, it goes in the ground now and is harvested around early July. We save our own seed garlic from year to year. Over time, the garlic crop has adapted to our farm’s soil conditions and produces an outstanding crop for us. Our biggest bulbs are larger than my fist and weigh over half a pound!
The variety we grow is called German Red. We chose it for its “middle-of-the-road” garlic flavor. Not bland, but with enough spiciness to let you know it’s there in a cooked dish. It’s a hardneck variety, which means it sends up a flower stalk in early summer called a scape. You’ll see these scapes for sale at the market for only a couple of weeks in June. Removing the scapes on hardneck varieties allows more energy for a larger bulb rather than making seeds.
To plant garlic in the fall, each bulb must be separated into individual cloves. Each clove is then planted about 4 inches apart in a trench about 2 inches deep. We space our rows about 6 inches apart. Cover the rows with about 2 inches of straw to insulate the ground during the winter months and to help prevent frost heaving of the garlic. In the spring, remove the straw when the first garlic leaves appear.
Now wait 8 months, while also keeping it watered, weeded and fed, and you too can grow your very own garlic. Too much work? Come see us next summer at the farmers markets. Happy gardening!