Back in July we ordered tons garlic for next year, and back in October we got said tons of garlic in the mail. We ordered twice as much as usual in order to plant for green garlic — the early shoots that come in before the scapes and which taste like if scallions were, well, garlic. Green garlic is pretty much the first non-lettuce/radish item we can expect to harvest so knew we were going to want a lot of it. We also knew we were going to want plenty of the German White garlic that won our garden garlic taste test this year, in addition to trying some new varieties this year.
We ordered 2 pounds of the German White from Seeds of Change, and then picked three different kinds from Seed Savers Exchange. The Bogatyr we chose because it grows large heads and because “bogatyr” was a word we remembered from this year’s spelling bee. Who could resist that? The Georgian Crystal is supposed to be a good storage garlic which is good for us, and has a buttery taste when roasted. We’ll just see about that! The Inchelium Red was found growing on an Indian Reservation in Washington, which seemed pretty cool; it’s a softneck, which is new for us.
The first step in planting it was to figure out which beds to plant it in. There’s nothing so exciting as planning a garden! We did a rough plan of where things will go based on rotation and based on which beds got the best sun; not only did we figure out where the garlic will go, we also figured out we’ll have a ton more space than we were expecting for all kinds of peppers next year! Now I can’t wait for the seed catalogs to come! Too bad we still have something like two months before we can start thinking in earnest about ordering seeds.
The second step was to clear out all the dead plants from the future garlic bed:
After months and months of taking zillions of pictures of marigolds and peppers, this is what we ended up with:
To the compost pile!
The third step was all about raking some leaf compost into the soil to prepare it for planting. There’s something very, very relaxing about raking a raised bed filled with dirt. I guess those zen rock garden peeps were onto something, eh? Anyway, a raking and be-composted bed just seems so… promising. Anything can grow in that space if we just put in a tiny bit of care and work.
The fourth step was separating all the cloves so we’d have a rough idea of how much we had to plant. It seems as if in July we thought we’d need enough garlic to feed an army. We ordered a lot of garlic. We had 25 heads of the Bogatyr, each with four to five cloves on them. The Inchelium Red grows with 8-10 large cloves surrounding a center of 10-15 smaller clovers, and we had 10 heads of that. The Georgian Crystal was a slightly more manageable amount, but we still four bags of the German White, too. We decided it’s a good thing we all love garlic.
Then it was time to plant.
It’s a Maple Hoo tradition to eschew planting instructions and just plant as deep and as far apart as the gardening spirits move us to. Heh. If these look ridiculously close together to you, you’re right! We double planted all but one row (we ran out of the Georgian Crystal — we should have ordered more!) so that we can pull up every other plant in Spring for green garlic. Lots and lots and lots of green garlic. Prepare, -Ookie’s Coworkers! Prepare for an onslaught of free green garlic!
We planted all the Seed Savers Exchange garlic in the big bed: five rows of Bogatyr, three rows of Georgian Crystal, and four rows of Inchelium Red. The German White was planted in a small bed, interplanted with rows of carrots for overwintering. We’ve never overwintered carrots before, so our expectations are very, very slim. Still, if we get even one frond to look at end the long, icy days of Winter begin to close, we’ll be ecstatic!
The last step was covering the bed with straw to keep the bulbs protected from the feet and feet of snow we’re expecting this year (Shut up! It’s totally going to happen this year!) and chicken wire to protect the plants from the dozens and dozens of squirrels in the area.
This task was made considerably easier by having saved the chicken wire contraption from last year — it just slipped right over the bed with a minimum amount of wrestling and swearing on our parts (unlike last year wherein many an eye was almost lost from that dang wire). As for laying the straw, this is one of my favorite gardening chores. It feels so cozy, this tucking the garden beds in for a long winter. The straw smells like what I remember thinking Fall should smell like back when I was in 3rd grade. Moreover, when the beds are all covered, and all you see in the garden is stones, weathered wood, and straw, it feels even more like a peaceful, monastic sanctuary, all quiet, solemn, and contemplative. Perfect, in other words, for Winter.
Of course, knowing that there’s garlic tucked carefully under the straw, ready to be the first bit of green peeking out of the soil in the early Spring, helps, too!