Garlic Gardening

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Introduction: Garlic Gardening

Garlic gardening is addictive. It should only be attempted by those who are aware of its ability to overwhelm them. Once bitten by the garlic bug, there is no return to your previous normal. This is your warning. Continue reading and you may end up like me. Caught up in the perpetual planting and harvesting cycle I've been in for the past 17 years. You have been warned.

Supplies:

To begin your odyssey, all you really need is a head of garlic and a shovel.

I've been at it for a while so I have a few other tools of the trade. They are as follows:

Tractor with a 5' rototiller

Shovel

Rolls of 4' landscape fabric

Piece of plywood for a planting template

piezoelectric propane torch

Basket for carrying cloves while planting

Bagging lawn mower for mulching

Snips for trimming roots and stems

Vented stacking bins for drying and storage

Scale if selling by the pound

Extruded mesh for bagging if selling

Step 1: The Rototiller

A rototiller is an amazing tool. It's blades spin at 540rpm and turn soil into a soft planting bed. Pushing garlic cloves into the prepared soil is almost effortless. If you don't count the crouching position your required to be in during the planting phase.

Step 2: Row #1

I till the row, then rake a small trench to hold the landscape fabric.

Step 3: Roll and Anchor

I roll out a bit at a time and anchor it down with dirt.

Step 4: Cut and Anchor

I cut the roll free and bury the end. That's one row down.

Step 5: Repeat the Process

I add a few more rows.

Step 6: Holes

Now for the holes. Lots of holes.

Step 7: Spacing

I've used this spacing for years. I find it gives enough room for each head to thrive, without wasting garden space.The sticks on the template are for lining up the next set of rows.

Step 8: Melting Holes

Melting holes is fairly simple. Simply place the template, step on it, and pull the trigger. The board only protects the covered fabric if you are quick on the trigger. Voids under the template can be problematic as well, so plant your foot well to hold the board tightly to the ground. It doesn't take long to get the hang of it.

Step 9: A Job Well Done

This is when looking back gives one a sense of accomplishment.

Step 10: Cracking the Seed

OK now comes the garlic seed. A head of garlic has multiple cloves. You only plant one per hole. This is when we get comfortable. No more bending, kneeling, sweating etc. It is hard on the hands though. We only crack a 1/4 bushel each, then plant it. This way we get a change of scenery and take a break between jobs.

Step 11: This Is How We Do It

When cracking the heads, we try to keep the skins on the cloves.

Step 12: Check for Undesirables

Certain cloves get turned down. The base of the clove tells us if we want to plant it or not. In these pics you can see that these are actually multiple cloves. They are twins and triplets in the same wrapper. These will grow multiple heads of garlic in the same hole. They will be distorted because there won't be enough room around them.

Step 13: Does It Really Matter

This is what happens when multiple heads grow in the same space. The garlic is perfectly fine. That said, most people would dig through when picking the ones they want and avoid these. We try our best to sort them out rather than plant them.

Step 14: Is This OK

This happens some times. A clove that almost became a twin. We plant these with no trouble. We plant what we crack the day we crack it. They may be OK but once they have their skin removed, its best to get them in the ground.

Step 15: Planting

With two baskets cracked, its off to the garden. You put a clove in each hole. They go in the ground pointy end up. This allows the stem to easily sprout without twisting. The less effort spent trying to find the light the better. That energy is better spent on the root system. Push the clove into the soil and swirl your finger around the hole to cover the entry point. Repeat this process over and over and over and...............

Step 16: Mulch

I use grass clippings to mulch with. They rot down and feed the garden while also holding moisture in. I am an organic gardener. My lawns and pastures have never been sprayed. Do not do this if you spray your lawn!!!!

Step 17: Mulch, Mulch, and More Mulch

It takes a while to get the whole garden mulched. Most years I am able to get it done before winter hits. If winter comes early its no problem, spring is on the way.

Step 18: Fall Sprouting

Within a few weeks, sprouting begins. There will be holes that don't sprout as quickly, not to worry though. If you put a clove in the hole, it will sprout. If not in the fall, then it will next spring.

Step 19: Winter

Winter doesn't bother the crop at all. It gets nestled under a blanket of snow waiting for warmer weather.

Step 20: Spring

Come spring the mulch has rotted down considerably. As soon as cutting time returns, a new layer will be welcome. Before that happens, weeding needs to be done. Early April it begins. When most gardeners are months away from diving into the soil, garlic gardeners are already into it. This is when you realize the value of landscape fabric. Without it, weeding is insane.

Step 21: May and June

Here is a shot of both early May and then early June

Step 22: I Love June

June is when garlic is at it's most beautiful. This is when you want to bring visitors into the garden and share the view.

Step 23: Scapes

The garlic plant has a flower. It feeds off of the bulb. Within the flower, a large number of seeds develop. Different varieties develop a different number of seeds, from 20 to as high as 200 or more. If you let them grow you will have a very small head of garlic. We pick the sprouting stems as they begin to develop. They are called scapes, and they taste great!

Step 24: Pick the Scapes

Garlic scapes are picked in mid June. They don't all grow at the same time though. I spend a few weeks picking them. They snap off fairly easily. I haven't found a reliable outlet for the crop so I take them off as soon as they emerge. Once the flower pod has enough stem below it for me to grab, I give them a snap.

Check out my Instructable for a great recipe for using scapes.

https://www.instructables.com/Garlic-Scape-Pesto-Chicken-Panini/

Step 25: July

July is harvest month. Of course it is! It can be incredibly hot and incredibly humid. Usually dry, so your not mucking about in the garden. I find harvesting is a morning job, but with this large of a crop, it can stretch into the hotter part of the day.

Step 26: When to Harvest

Harvest is something that has to be done before the plant dies down (in my opinion). As the leaves of the plant die, the wrappers on the garlic bulb deteriorate as well. When the leaves are all gone, so are most of the wrappers. When that happens the head gets dirt inside. This can start rot and mold. Its best if the head is covered with skins. If picked to early the bulb may not dry as easily because two many wet wrappers encircle it. The drying of the plants depend on the weather. I try to begin when most of the plants are at the earliest stage of acceptability. By the time I get to the end, some have passed prime. When I'm digging, my wife is cleaning and placing the harvest in a shady spot. It can take us a week or more to get done harvesting.

Step 27: Uncover a Row

The fabric has done a wonderful job of keeping the weeds down. The spacing allows my feet to fit between the rows while I lift the fabric. I do this as carefully as I can. I don't want to rip the holes. I want to reuse the fabric for a few more years. I can usually get three seasons out of it before it deteriorates.

Step 28: Success and Failure

Here are a few examples of fabric removal. Success and failure. I roll up the good ones for fall planting and discard the ripped ones. These are not the fabrics that were laid at the beginning of this instructable. They are many years old. This was the harvest that took place previous to starting this instructable. I decided to start with all new fabric after this harvest, because most of it was destroyed after three years of use. A perfect chance to start documenting from the beginning.

Step 29: The Dig

When digging, make sure to start far enough back, and at an angle that won't hit the bulb. The mulch and fabric have kept the soil fairly moist. Step the shovel in and pull back lifting the soil and bulb loose. Don't lift it completely, just enough that it can be removed by lifting on the stem. Soil types differ so this will be dependent on each persons garden.

Step 30: From 5 Rows to 3

I go down one side of the row an back up the other before I begin pulling them up and brushing them off.

Step 31: From 2 to 0

I take the last two rows out at the same time. 4 passes to remove all 5 rows.

Step 32: Don't Look Up

At the beginning, its a good idea not to look up. After digging out two rows, 5 heads wide, looking at how far you still have to go, is rather painful. I'm ready for a break.

Step 33: All Done Digging

As you can see, weeding took a back seat after the stalks took off. The soil under the fabric was weed free so digging was as easy as digging can be.

Step 34: One Tough Hat

I was given a Tilley hat 10 years ago. When my friend Hans passed away I inherited it. This has been an amazing hat. Guaranteed for life. Yes life! When it started to come apart, I packed it up and sent it in to see if the guarantee was real. I included a note praising my hat and asking that they send it back with the new one. They complied with my request. Out came the sewing machine and canvas cloth. I've been making Frankenstein fixes ever since and am treating my new hat much better that this one. Garlic gardening requires a good hat. If you don't mind spending the money, check out Tilley. No they didn't pay my to say this.

Step 35: Processing

When taking a break from digging, snipping in the shade is the job that comes next. I dig two rows then snip.

Step 36: Discard Stalks

I burn the stalks to avoid spreading disease and pests.

Step 37: Roots Up

Depending on whether I have help or not, I sometimes leave the roots for later. When I leave them on, I bin them roots up so they don't stay wet against the bulbs. When I didn't have vented bins I would bundle the entire plant in eight piece bundles and hang them to dry. That is a monumental task. I like the bins a lot more.

Step 38: Trimming

When time warrants, we sit in the shade and trim the roots away. Then we layer them in the bins, one row deep to cure.

Step 39: Curing

Curing is done in my shop. I let them dry for at least two weeks before cleaning them. To clean, you simply wipe off the dried dirt and the dirty layer of paper. They are ready to go after that.

Step 40: Weigh and Bag

I weigh and bag, 1lb bags in extruded mesh for sale to my clientele. My customers are garlic lovers, they come back every year. It's been an enjoyable hobby for me and they appreciate the quality of the product I supply them.

Step 41: Prepping to Braid

My garlic is called hard neck due to the stem that runs up the center. To braid, I slit the leaves and peel them back. Then I cut out the hard stalk

Step 42: Choose Nice Heads

I choose a nice group of similar sized heads.

Step 43: Lock the First

I lock the first head into place then as I braid, I add more.

Step 44: Keep Adding

It's a bit confusing at first, but you get the hang of it pretty quick.

Step 45: Thats All of Them

Try to keep them nice and even looking.

Step 46: Braid and Tie

Now braid the remaining leaves and then tie them.

Step 47: Let Them Dry

I leave them outside on the mesh table for a week or two to dry. They will mold if brought in to soon.

Step 48: Edible Decore

Hung in the kitchen, these look cool. Use them from the top down and they look good until they are done.

Step 49: Store in a Dry Place Out of the Sun

I store garlic in a dry place out of the sun. Bins in my shop. In a kitchen cupboard. As with my braids, hanging on the wall. Or, simply in a bowl on the counter.

Thanks for joining me on my garlic odyssey.

Comments and questions are welcome.

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    96 Comments

    0
    Lozchik
    Lozchik

    2 days ago

    Wow, that's a really detailed ible. Hopefully I'll get a chance to try this process after getting a house.

    0
    DanPro
    DanPro

    Reply 1 day ago

    Thank you.

    0
    mahaastores
    mahaastores

    9 days ago

    Very clearly mentioned!

    1
    DanPro
    DanPro

    Reply 9 days ago

    Thank you.

    0
    culti
    culti

    12 days ago

    Very extensive description, Thank you.

    0
    DanPro
    DanPro

    Reply 12 days ago

    Hi culti,
    I tried to cover the bases. Thanks for your comment.

    0
    culti
    culti

    Reply 11 days ago

    You certainly did, and very well.

    0
    omicron
    omicron

    14 days ago

    Looks like the much goes between the rows, not on the garlic. But unmulched garlic can undergo heavy winterkill in a hard winter. What is your latitude or USDA zone?

    Also, a challenge: next time you need to replace landscape fabric, replace it with 100% organic mulch!

    0
    DanPro
    DanPro

    Reply 13 days ago

    Hi omicron,
    My first attempt at a reply didn't appear. If there are two replies in the future that's why.
    I'm in zone 7. I've had some seriously cold winters. Temperatures of -30 for months at a time with no losses. Side dressing keeps the walkway weeds under control, retains moisture and adds nutrients as the clippings rot down. Unfortunately there are currently no organic mulches that pass the Canadian or USDA regulations. Plastic and fabric is allowed but must be 100% removed. The only allowed option is paper. Newspaper with only black ink, recycled paper, and cardboard made with recycled paper are the options outlined on the USDA web site. I have used the grass clippings directly around the garlic plants before. The problem there is, as the plants get tall, it becomes impossible to mulch around them without breaking the leaves. I find this to be my best option for now. If a truly organic mulch becomes available I'll certainly give it a try.

    0
    DanPro
    DanPro

    Reply 13 days ago

    Yes I mulch between the rows to keep weeds down and hold moisture. The composting of these clippings also feed nutrients to the soil. I was hesitant to leave the crop uncovered at first. As the years have passed I've found it doesn't affect the crop at all. I'm in zone 7 and have had some severe winters in the past 5 years. We had stretches of -30c for as long as 6 weeks. The garlic came through without any losses. I was not as lucky with my small flock sheep. Lamb losses were heart breaking. I've given up on that hobby. New regulations in Canada starting in 2015 have made mulches un-certifiable for organic farmers. Fabric that is 100% removable is still acceptable though. I've been reading the blog of an organic farm in Nova Scotia that inspires me. I'm just a gardener but I like to read through their blog when I get a chance. Check them out if you like https://broadforkfarm.com/biodegradable-plastic-mulches-no-longer-allowed-in-canadian-organics-what-now/

    0
    XYZ Create
    XYZ Create

    14 days ago

    Vampires must hate you!
    Joking aside I was amazed at the sheer scale of this Instructable article. I figured it might be a cute little backyard garden, but was floored when I realized just how big it was! The article was filled with so much useful information and that hole template was genius! Out of curiosity how many times can you reuse the same piece of garlic?

    0
    DanPro
    DanPro

    Reply 14 days ago

    Hi XYZ Create,
    We've never had a vampire issue here. It could be the garlic, we are quite a distance from Transylvania as well.
    This is a cute little back yard garden. It just looks big in pictures. The camera adds 10 lbs to me. I'm unsure how that converts to garlic though.
    Garlic is a clone of the head you plant. One clove gives you a new head. The clove you plant is consumed by the growing plant. You can only use the same piece once, though it lives indefinitely through its young. Similar to potatoes, plant a Yukon gold you get a Yukon gold plant. The variety I plant averages around 6 cloves per head. In that respect you can use the same head as many times as the cloves it contains. Letting the scape develop into a flower and planting the resulting seeds, would be an entirely new Instructable.
    Thanks for your comment.

    1
    mijy
    mijy

    15 days ago on Step 49

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share this, you have designed a fabulous technique

    0
    DanPro
    DanPro

    Reply 15 days ago

    Hi mijy,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. It feels good when people reach out.

    0
    dannnyf1
    dannnyf1

    15 days ago

    es tan hermoso este paisaje :D

    0
    DanPro
    DanPro

    Reply 15 days ago

    Hola dannyf1,
    Soy bendecido de vivir en el campo.

    0
    WUVIE
    WUVIE

    16 days ago

    Wow! What a tremendous amount of work! I only grow a teeny amount compared to yours. This is rather impressive. Thank you for sharing!

    0
    DanPro
    DanPro

    Reply 16 days ago

    Hi WUVIE,
    Thanks for your comment. Its nice when folks take the time to connect. I started with 20 head many years ago and worked up to 9000. I've cut back considerably in recent years. I've found, as you mention in your Instructables self description "To many ideas and not enough time". Loved your Instructables collection by the way.

    1
    Rainbow Cherry
    Rainbow Cherry

    18 days ago

    Well I'm from Asia and we know that the Garlic scapes can be eaten and can replace green onion. Also that was amazing! We love to eat the Garlic sprouts because they taste so good in ramen, just cut a bit on the top and it so good. : )

    1
    DanPro
    DanPro

    Reply 18 days ago

    Hi Rainbow Cherry,
    I"ll have to add some with my ramen this year. Problem is I don't eat much soup in the summer. I'll have to make an exception for you. Thanks for taking the time to comment.