Sunday, October 19, 2008

Planting Garlic

When I harvested garlic this July from cloves planted last October, the 40 heads looked like a lot of garlic. However, we’ve already eaten 18 of those heads, and I pulled apart four heads to get 40 more cloves to plant today. We have 18 garlic heads left. At this rate, we will run out of homegrown garlic in January! To get a whole year’s worth of garlic from my garden, I would have to plant at least twice as much, 80 or more cloves. Wow. We seem to use quite a bit of garlic in our daily cooking.

We will, however, have to make do with a half-year’s supply, because, even though garlic is easy to plant and takes relatively little space, when Spring comes I will want all the space I can get for other vegetables.

The 40 cloves I planted today went into a space that was just 22 inches by 30 inches, since the cloves need to be only about three inches apart. After loosening the soil and amending it with compost and a little fertilizer, I laid out the cloves on their 3-inch spacing, then pushed each one down into the soil, pointy-end up, so that the pointy tip was about a half inch below the soil surface. Then I tamped the soil down with the back of a hoe, spread a thin layer of mulch over the top to keep the soil from crusting over, and watered the cloves in. If all goes well, in a few weeks, even though the weather will be cold, little green garlic-shoots will appear.

Today, I also planted multiplier onions, but they are still in the experimental stage in my garden. I planted them for the first time last October.

I had ordered a one-pound starter bag, received 5 onions to plant, and had two of those rot before the correct planting date. I planted the three survivors, which produced plenty of small-to-medium sized onions along with several quite large onions in radiating clusters, the way shallots grow. The instructions from the supplier had said to save the biggest onions to plant again in October, to keep the supply going (just like I do with garlic, saving the biggest “seed”—the cloves— from one year to replant for the next). However, the biggest onions did not survive into October so I was going to call this plant a failure for my yard.

Then, in an old Garden Way booklet about growing plants in the onion family, I found a different set of instructions: the booklet recommended replanting the smaller onions, so today I planted twelve little multiplier onions, nine inches apart and pushed under the soil like the garlic. Sometime next summer, I will know whether this strategy, and possibly this kind of onion, will work in my yard. If it doesn’t, there is always the possibility of growing more garlic…

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