Autumn is beginning to take hold here in New Jerseys’ growing Zone 6 and vegetable gardening activity is generally subsiding to harvesting the squash and late tomatoes and thinking about next spring. But this is not universally true. A West Milford gardener, just today made what he admitted would be his final planting of the year.
The crop, to be harvested late next spring or early summer is garlic.
Garlic does best when planted just before the first frost in this zone and allowed to overwinter. Protected by any one of an acceptable variety of deep mulches it survives until spring and then puts on a dramatic growth spurt which produces the pungent bulb so beloved of chefs everywhere.
These bulbs were held in inventory by the supplier until the correct planting time and arrived on September 27th. Our gardener observed that the arrival could scarcely have been timed better.
The “seed” garlic shown above is “Western Rose” garlic, a pungent, hardy, long storing mid-sized cultivar when mature, and ideal for braiding.
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This bed needs to be cleaned up and turned before planting
All right, we need a home for the garlic to grow in. Here is a 30” X 10’ raised bed, the remnants of an eggplant patch. It looks a bit scruffy so the bed itself and the pathways need to be tidied up. Once that is done, it will be ideal.
Bed and pathways cleaned
Nice. The bed has been weeded, stakes and old eggplants removed and the pathways de-littered as well. Hopefully this will make it difficult for pests such as squash bugs to survive the winter. But also, it gives the garlic a place to develop.
Always room for compost!
The bed has been dug to a spades level deep and raked out. The gardener, a huge believer in compost is about to apply quite a lot of it and then work it into the soil. This particular gardener screens all compost through a ½” wire mesh in the belief that doing so speeds the breakdown of the compost in the ground which in turn well enhance its nutritive value to the plants.
garlic bulbs separated into cloves
Here are the seed cloves of garlic, broken out from the main bulb. Note the subtle rose blush which gives it its name and which, perhaps, heralds its pungency. These cloves will yield approximately 50 bulbs.
All laid out and ready to cover
The bulbs have been laid out where they will be planted, centered at least 6” on center from each other. Recommended depth for this cultivar is about 2” deep.
Greenery may or may not crack the surface before the first frost. In any event, it is wise to mulch the bed with 6” or so of hay or straw, or of oak leaves to give some protection until spring. This mulch should be removed a few days before the final frost.
At that point it is simply weed, water, and wait for a super crop of fresh garlic.