The fall is the perfect time to plant garlic in your garden. Compared to spring-planted garlic, fall garlic produces larger bulbs, matures earlier, and often has fewer disease problems. Additionally, certain types of garlic, mainly the hard-neck types like Rocambole, will not mature in time from a spring planting.
Of the three types of garlic, soft-neck garlic is the type most often found in supermarkets. It stores for a number of months and can be braided into attractive hangings. Alternatively, hard-neck types store for a much shorter time but have a much more pungent flavour. Elephant garlic, a member of the leek family, is an extremely mild-flavoured garlic. The individual cloves can often be 2 inches wide and are great for roasting. In areas where summers are cool and damp, elephant garlic is an excellent choice.
- Just before planting, separate each of the cloves from the main bulb, keeping the skin on.
- Sprinkle a high phosphorus fertilizer like Flower Power down the row.
- Plant the cloves 2 inches deep, pointy-side up, 4 inches apart.
- Elephant garlic should be planted 10 inches apart to ensure that the plants have enough room.
In the springtime, when the green tips start to emerge, garlic should be side-dressed with fertilizer again. Place the fertilizer 2 inches away from the row and lightly scratch it into the soil. During the growing season, keep garlic evenly watered. If this is not possible, keep a mulch on the soil around the plants to help conserve water in between waterings.
The hard-neck types of garlic usually send up flowering heads. Although beautiful, these heads should be removed as they drain energy from the bulbs. The heads can be added to stir-fries for a mild garlic taste. For more information on recipes and using garlic, try the Garlic Page.
When the tops turn yellow, stop watering and allow the bulbs to cure in the soil for 2 weeks. Harvest the garlic by pulling the whole plant out of the soil, tying the leaves together, and then place the bulbs on a rack in a warm, dry spot. Soft-neck garlic can be braided and hung for long-term storage. The hard-neck types must be used within 1 or 2 months.
Make sure you keep some bulbs aside for replanting!
Easy tricks to keep your garden producing
Gardens need not stop producing food once cold weather comes. Many vegetables are suited to growing in cooler temperatures and can withstand frosts. The key to a successful fall/winter garden lies in the planning.
- Choose the right variety. Certain varieties of vegetables have more frost tolerance than others. This is indicated in the seed catalogues or on the tags in the nursery containers. For example, not all types of lettuce can be grown in the fall but Winter Density Romaine can withstand light frosts.
- Make sure the soil is well drained. Standing water, not frost is a big problem for fall vegetables. Grow on raised beds or, if there is no option, in containers.
- Use protective covers. Floating row covers, often marketed as Reemay or Agrofabric can be draped over plants to provide 1 to 2 degrees of frost protection.
- Use a cold-frame or cloche. In very cold winter areas, vegetables can still be grown in a cold frame or under a plastic cloche.
- Use a mulch. If floating covers or cloches cannot be used with your plants, a deep mulch of straw is an excellent insulator.