Garlic Grove

first year garlic
I’ve always enjoyed cooking and since moving here, it’s really grown into a passion. I love the versatility of ingredients, the fact that we grow a majority of our own, and that I get to share good food with the people I love.

However, you should be warned that every dish coming out of that kitchen revolves around two essentials: onions and garlic.

I love, love using them to the point I even made onion jam – which is delicious. With our first year garden fails behind us, it was time to take on a new venture this fall: growing garlic.

After doing a little research, I placed my order for two varieties of softneck garlic: Kay’s Backyard & Inchelieum.

The order arrived around the same time we were planning to transplants blueberries and the rains hit hard. It turned our claybased soil into a slimy mix that made me apprehensive we could even grow garlic . I did some research on changing our soil but, like all good things, it took time. I tossed the idea around of adding gypsum, sand, mulch and/or peat moss but also considered whether we should just build raised beds and buy topsoil.

To start, I separated my garlic and counted all the cloves that would need planting, retreated to my office and started calculating. For anyone who knows me, this is laughable because math is not my strong suit. I came to the conclusion I’d need a 9’ x 6’ area. The next day, I roped Rich into meeting me at Menards to make a final decision on soil prep. After much debate and wandering, we finally came to the conclusion that we were going to try to amend the soil. For the money and time, it was our best long term option as we gathered 5 bags of peat moss and headed out the door.

Eagerly, we headed home, where I got to work pouring the bags out in about half the area I had designated earlier and got to work mixing the peat moss in with the rototiller. The results were good! We were actually quite surprised by how much the consistency changed. The next chance I got, I was back to Menards to grab more bags, picking up the last six in stock. I rototilled the rest of the area, working the soil for a couple hours. Finally, it was time to plant. I grabbed some stakes and rope and set out to mark my rows. I made one long string, spanning the 9’ length. I then took my sledge hammer to mark where my holes would be, counting the number of cloves I could fit as I went.

And here’s the shocker…I miscalculated. Told you math was not my strong suit. You guys, I could fit almost all my cloves in ONE 9’ long row. I think I paced around the garden for a good 15 minutes before resetting my rows towards the back corner in a smaller area. I went and found Rich for confirmation I was doing this right, unsure after my first attempt. I showed him my plans, how many cloves and where they would be all placed, rambling 100 miles a minute. He just stood there with that smile…you know the one, and tried to reassure me that it was all fine. I stayed out until dark, carefully planting each of my 84 cloves, covered them with soil, removed my string guide and then covered the area with straw to protect them throughout the winter months.

From that entire area I rototilled, I used less than half. The second trip to Menards was totally unnecessary as our original 5 bags of peat moss was plenty for the final area I used. Not to mention the hours I spent assessing and rototilling. I was mad at myself for the waste of time, energy and money but looking back it’s a little funny.

Things I learned:

ALWAYS (if possible) mark out your area first. It takes some initial time up front but could save you money and time in the end.

And, always try to think of how your immediate solution could help long term. We could have been stuck with huge raised beds, but now we’re making our soil better for future growing. A couple weeks later, I pulled our potatoes to find they had been getting too much water. Next year we’ll probably end up planting them in the newly worked area for better soil conditions.

Now fingers crossed my little garlic grove will take off this spring!

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