Garlic and other winter gardening

Why grow garlic? It’s easy and does its thing while the garden is asleep for winter. Even better, garlic is more than one crop in the same plant, two of which are generally only available for a premium at the farmer’s market.

Garlic may have a long season going from November to June, but in March you can harvest the immature green garlic and use it like extra special leeks and scallions. This also clears up space for spring plants if you want. In May the scapes will form, and you can harvest these tender flowers for pesto or stir fry. If you haven’t eaten everything you planted, you will still get bulbs come June, just in time for the summer crops to take its place.

Last fall, I wanted to try garlic in my garden, but I couldn’t find any seed garlic at the local stores or amazon. I ended up following the suggestion of someone at the farmer’s market to plant organic garlic. Here’s what I learned.

Both of these heads came from my garden. One was likely the product of a much larger clove. It turns out that size does matter! In future, I’ll save tiny cloves for broth making.

The other biggie for me is that it turns out, not all garlic grows scapes. Only the hard neck varieties do. Of the 150 or so garlic plants that I grew, I only got about 30 of these treasures.

Not wanting to have a repeat of those mistakes, this year I ordered from Territorial Seed. Two hardneck varieties, Spanish Roja, which I’ve seen specifically featured in some specialty produce markets, and Chinese Pink, which has a reputation for an early harvest. As an added bonus, I got some true French gray shallots to try as well!

I couldn’t be happier with the quality and clove size. It yielded close to 150 large size cloves!

It was more than double the amount I expected, so I had to plant a little closer together than I’d wanted (I’d planned on 9 individual cloves per square foot), but that just means green garlic in the spring when I need to thin a bit!

No need to peel the cloves, just plant them about two inches deep. If you have the space plant an inch further apart than these are, like I mentioned, I’ll be thinning in the spring.

I’d heard that you can fall plant peas and other things, so last year with the garlic, I planted the last of my packet of fava beans and shell peas, just as an experiment.

While only a couple of each survived the winter, this picture shows the peas St Patrick’s Day weekend, just when I was going to do my spring planting of peas. Since it was only 2-3 Fall plants that came up, I spring planted anyway, but the fall planted bush grew mush larger and produced twice the number of peas.

The fava beans had a similar story, this one already had flowers in March!

This year I put in a raised bed, so I’m expecting everything to be more protected and happy for the winter. So I expanded this experiment, more peas and fava beans and also radish, carrot, beets, and a few greens. We’ll see!

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