The Garden at 485 Elm
People growing together:
a collaborative community garden in Montpelier, Vermont

Our 2020 Garlic Crop Is Planted

On the beautiful first Saturday afternoon in November 2019, we planted our 2020 garlic crop. But it all began in 2018.

Back on a snowy day in November 2018, we planted a garlic crop, which we harvested it in August 2019, shown here. Half the crop went home with gardeners. The other half, we reserved as seed.

For fellow garlic geeks, we plant four varieties: Jell-strain garlic, large porcelain stiffneck garlic, Moreno hillside garlic, and elephant garlic, which is not a true garlic, but a garlic-like leek.

Why didn’t we just replant garlic seed on the day we harvested it? Garlic harvest happens in August, but planting seed then would cause it to sprout, and we don’t want it to start sprouting until spring. The idea is to plant garlic late in the season, when it’s just barely warm enough for it to set roots. but not so warm it sprouts.
The beds had already been weeded and turned before garlic planting day. So November 3, 2019, began with the garlic beds getting raked out smooth.

The raked-out beds were measured and marked, with seven planting rows in each.

Gardeners poked holes along each row about four inches apart and dropped a pinch of organic fertilizer into the holes.

Gardeners placed a seed (a/k/a a garlic clove, just like you’d cook with) into each hole, root-side down, and lightly covered them with earth.

The final step is giving each bed a thick blanket of leaves. When it’s warm, leaves keep the garlic seed cool so it won’t sprout. When it’s cold, leaves keep the garlic seed warm enough that it can still set roots. Over the winter, the leaves will keep heavy snow from compacting the soil. When 2020 warms up and the garlic starts growing, the leaves act as a mulch layer to suppress weeds and keep the garlic from overheating. Eventually, the leaves break down into the soil, adding organic matter.

That’s it. That’s all there is to planting, harvesting, and replanting garlic. It’s the only crop we grow our own seed for. We’ve discussed seed-saving for beans, peas, and other crops, but that’s a more complicated conversation for another day.

I almost forgot the most important part: eating garlic! There are so many ways to preserve it to add deliciousness all year long. Gardeners here utilize methods including:

  • Peel and freeze individual cloves in freezer-safe bags or containers
  • Purée garlic and olive oil in the food processor, freeze in ice cube trays, and empty the cubes into freezer-safe bags or containers
  • Make pesto and freeze in desired serving-size containers
  • Pickle or lacto-ferment cloves, whole or crushed. Add herbs if desired
  • Tie garlic into bundles and hang in a cool, dry, dark area