Friday, October 16, 2009

Planting Garlic

Garlic planting takes a bit of forethought for me. I can't just run out and plant it whenever I feel like it. I treat my cloves before planting. The night before I plant, I make a baking soda and water solution, about one quart of water to one teaspoon of baking soda. I've seen ratios of a teaspoon to a gallon and a tablespoon to a quart, but I go somewhere in the middle of those extremes. I break apart the cloves and drop them in.

In the morning I peel the cloves and plop them back in for a longer bath - until I'm ready to plant. Many people cringe at this since they say the skins are protection for the cloves, but I did it last year and the garlic grew well. I only lost a couple of cloves and they were from heads that were not that great.

I like to peel them because I can see if the cloves are damaged. With the skin on you can only tell if there is major damage, but the little damage you see above I couldn't see through the skin. I weeded out three bad cloves, all from my Bogatyr. The other reason to peel is the same reason for all the soaking. The garlic has fungi and insect eggs on them, much of it on the skin. Removing it gets rid of a lot, and soaking gets rid of more.

Right before I'm ready to plant, I rinse off the cloves and do another soak. This time with vodka. I've seen sites that say 150 or 100 proof vodka, but all my vodka is 80 proof. So that is what they got. I soak for about three minutes then rinse it off. Now my cloves are ready to plant.

All these cloves are from garlic that I grew this year. I chose my biggest and best heads to plant and from those heads only the larger cloves. The small cloves I saved for cooking later. I have three varieties. German Extra Hardy makes huge cloves, but only about 5 on each head. When I peeled the cloves I couldn't help notice how huge they all were. The next biggest was my unknown variety (from the supermarket last year). It too makes huge cloves, but the skin is slightly red where the XHardy is white. I really need to name this variety. I hate having something unnamed in my garden. The last is Bogatyr. It has much smaller cloves with a bit of purple skin. I thought about ditching this variety, but the cloves were tiny when I got them last year. This year they are bigger. I'm hoping with good conditions they can get even larger. After one more year I'll pick the best two varieties to keep.

I decided to plant them where I recently double dug the potato patch. I added some lime, compost and fertilizer. Then laid out a planting grid. I wanted my garlic 6" apart in all directions on a triangular grid. Once the grid was done I just set them in 4" deep and gave them a couple of inches of compost mulch.

Not everything went perfectly. I found another potato. I really hope they are all up. I can't dig this spot up anymore without distrubing the garlic. After double digging the bed was too high for the soil and extra mulch. I had to add a bigger log to the top. My beds keep getting deeper.


  1. Vodka ?! lol. Who knew ? Thx for the post. Love the triangular grid layout. As for the beds, the deeper the better !

  2. This is great, Daphne! I never heard of soaking garlic cloves before planting, much less peeling them or giving them a good shot of vodka (no doubt it helps them survive the winter chill)!!! Your cloves look fantastic and so does your planting bed. Now what will you do with bazillion garlic bulbs when your harvest comes in?

  3. This is a really weird process. I know absolutely nothing about garlic, so i'll take your word for it! We just don't eat garlic - or i'd grow some too.

  4. That's an interesting approach. I've never heard of soaking garlic. Where did you learn about it?

    EG, it must be a Southern thing - my mom didn't use it either. I can't imagine a life without lots of garlic! If you're going to investigate chard, you might want some. . .

  5. Miss M, yes the deeper the better especially with garlic and clay soil. It is weird how the garden builds up over time. I guess I just keep adding to it. I never take away except for adding a little dirt to the compost pile, but that just goes back.

    our friend Ben, it is only 49 bulbs. And since they only put out five cloves for each head I will plant a fifth of that so I'll only have 39. I use a lot of it when I make pickles over the summer. Though I pull fresh garlic for that. Over the winter it think it is what I don't use garlic with. Hmm I think every thing gets garlic. All my stirfries, soups, pasta sauce. Everything is better with garlic. This is the first year I'm eating my own garlic. Last year I planted 48 cloves. This year I'll see if I needed more before the spring garlic is ready or weather I planted too much.

    EG, You don't eat garlic? Are there vampires in your past? I just couldn't imagine food without garlic. It is a lot like onions. It goes into everything.

    Stefaneener, when I planted garlic for the first time last year I looked at a lot of sites online. Many suggest it. Some suggest vinegar instead of baking soda. The best site is probably Gourmet Garlic.
    I follow pretty closely to what they suggest. My baking soda solution is just a bit stronger than theirs.

  6. Daphne, I wish I had seen your post before I planted my garlic the old fashion way this after noon. I would have really loved to try half your way. The entire time, I thought I was planting them too deep but it looks like you plant yours pretty deep as well. This is my first time growing garlic. I'm always afraid that if I plant something too deep, it will just disappear forever into the dark abyss!

  7. So does it help with disease control? I just plant mine the regular way and haven't had a problem yet except later in the season with leek moth. I'll have to explore this. Thanks.

  8. Do you have a garlic-tini after the soaking? =D Your garlic bed looks very nice, can't wait to see it next spring. Looks like I need to decide if I am going to grow garlic again soon!

  9. Hi Daphne, it is amazing with blogger, one learn new stuff every day. I've never treated my cloves before planting before but...if you say so I just gotta try it.
    xoxo Tyra

  10. Very interesting… presoaking garlic.

    The place I purchased my garlic, We Grow Garlic also has pre-soaking instructions in their planting guide. I didn’t pre-soak this year, but I may consider doing so in the future. Although it does take some pre-planning, it seems like an easy way to help prevent pests and diseases. Thanks for posting your step-by-step.

  11. Never done the pre-soaking process personally. Would Jack Daniels work instead of vodka I wonder? LOL!

  12. I planted mine two weeks ago at four inches deep, on the recommendation of a local garlic expert (also in this year's potato bed - great minds clearly think alike (or is that 'fools seldom differ'?)). Last year I only put them two inches down (with a hay mulch) and they were fine, so it'll be interesting to see if there's any difference. I've never heard of soaking them - will have to try that next year!

  13. Thomas, I keep thinking I should do that to see which way really is better. Last year I planted them four inches deep. It worked so this year I did the same.

    Ottawa Gardener, yes it helps to control disease and insects.

    Dan, lol I tossed it. I had to bring up the vodka from the basement. I don't drink it but I have a large bottle of it from a past life where I drank mixed drinks more often. I'm really not into martinis. I suppose garlic and olives are both weird to me, one is not more weird than the other.

    Tyra, I hope it works for you.

    GrafixMuse, your welcome.

    kitsapFG, I would think any alcohol that is strong enough would work. I've only used vodka though.

    Amanda, I think two or four inches doesn't matter if you have winters that aren't too cold. Mine never get below -5F (about -20C) which isn't all that cold. But sometimes we get a lot of freeze and thaws so I figure deeper is probably better.

  14. Thanks for this post, I have "grow garlic" on my to-do list. My husband tried to grow it once without much success, so the soaking is worth a try. Good to know that perhaps any strong liquor might do. We have this old bottle of gin that's just sitting there so maybe that'll work.

  15. I have never heard of soaking garlic before planting. Interesting. I just plunk the cloves into the ground and let them do their thing. I don't get real big cloves, but they sure are tasty! And it stores a lot longer! It is really worth growing your own garlic.
    I smiled when I saw that your used supermarket garlic to plant - I did too! What was really weird though was that the store garlic was soft-necked, but when I grew their cloves they turned hard necked. Do you have experience with this?

  16. Sylvana, soft necked garlic turns into a hard neck when it is stressed. If it is happy with the situation again it will go back to being a softneck. A lot of the supermarket garlic is grown in warmer climates than yours. It could be stressed by the cold weather. Mine did that too, but as long as it makes nice cloves I'm fine with it.