Grow your own garlic = Ask the Farm Lady & flash giveaway!

Ask the Farm lady image

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It’s your lucky day, gentle reader!  It’s Ask the Farm Lady Day! We’ll join the Farm Lady at her kitchen island as she answers a burning question from a reader.

Farm Lady: (pulling slip of paper from large pickle jar) Ah-ha! Great question from gentle reader and fellow garlic lover, ah, I shall call him “Ned.”A garlic-planting question: perfect timing!

I’ll get Ned on the line. (dialing sounds)

“Ned”: Hullo?

Farm Lady: Hello . . . “Ned”?

“Ned”: Uhh, no ma’am, this is actual name—

Farm Lady: (brief coughing fit) Do you mind if I call you “Ned”? You sent a question to the Farm Lady–and I’m calling to answer your question. I’m the Farm Lady!

“Ned”: Awesome, Farm Lady. Let ‘er rip.

Farm Lady: Here goes: “Dear Farm Lady, Why should I grow my own garlic? After all, you kin (sic) buy it at the store. Ain’t that easier, by far?”

“Ned”: That does surely sound like me.

Farm Lady’s Answer-with-a-Question: “Ned.” Ned, Ned, Ned. Tell me: have you been to a store lately? As you know, there’s a pandemic going on. Masks–germiness–shortages–empty shelves–rancor, disappointment and rancor. Do you really want a part of that?

“Ned”: Pandemic? You’re kiddin’ me.

Farm Lady: . . . Uhhh, okay. Lady Luck is smiling down on you just the same, “Ned,” though you apparently live under a rock, as I am planting my own garlic today, and you can tag along! Virtually, of course. You’ll see how simple it is to plant your own garlic, and you’ll never have to go to the store to buy garlic again! Planting garlic is like . . . planting treasure seeds!

*cymbal crash!*

“Ned”: Shazzam! Yer the bees knees, Farm Lady!

Farm Lady: I know, “Ned”. I know. How about a few garlic-related facts, before we start digging?

“Ned”: Uhhh my show starts in twenty minutes. Can we keep it short? I’m a big fan of “This is US.”

Farm Lady: er, absolutely. I’ll keep it short.


dried garlic stalks and cloves

This variety, saved from my harvest in July, is Purple Chesnik, from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

What garlic likes

While garlic can be planted in the early spring, you will get better yields by planting in the fall. I (Farm Lady here) try to plant when the soil temperature at 4″ deep is approximately 50°F. If the year is unusually warm, I’ll wait a week.

(Of course, if you can’t find your soil thermometer (raising hand) a big snowstorm is threatening, and it’s late October, you just get ‘er done, and hope for the best.)

Here in Nebraska (zone 5), we usually plant garlic in mid-October, though this October has been warmer than usual, so I’m waiting a week or two. Pro Tip: A good rule of thumb that you garlic-lovers living in areas with cold winters might want to memorize: plant your garlic two to three weeks after the first frost in the fall, but before the ground freezes solid for the winter.

The tiny garlic roots will grow whenever the ground is not frozen, and the tops will grow whenever the temperature is above 40°F. Your garlic cloves do not mind these growth fits and starts overmuch, as long as you have mulched them well. In colder areas, you want your garlic to grow roots before the big freeze-up arrives, but not to make top growth until after the worst of the winter has passed. If garlic gets frozen back to the ground in the winter, it will re-grow and be fine.

Here’s some great news for those of you in cold areas: When properly planted, garlic can withstand winter lows of -30°F. If planted too early, too much tender top growth happens before winter. If planted too late, there will be inadequate root growth before the winter, and a lower survival rate as well as smaller bulbs.

Farm Lady: So you see, “Ned,” timing is of the essence. The Essence!

“Ned”: Gosh. Seems so complicated, Farm Lady.

Farm Lady: Not at all! Bottom line: if you live in Zone 5, plant in mid-to-late October and your garlic will probably be fine.

(Much of this information is gleaned from Pam Dawling’s excellent article in Growing for Market, and if you want more details about planting garlic in warmer areas, you might want to check out that piece in its entirety.)

Harvest your garlic crop next mid-summer, when the garlic tops begin to dry out and droop. A note about weeds: You, gentle reader, undoubtedly keep your garden clean and weed-free, not like some unwitting Farm Lady I know, who has to take a machete to the weeds before she can locate the garlic patch. Don’t be me, er, her, gentle reader. *cough* You’ll get better yields if you keep that patch free of weeds.

heads and cloves of garlic

This variety, also from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, is Elephant garlic.

What you are going to like

A cool thing about planting garlic (especially for the fellow tightwads in the room) is that after you harvest your first crop, you’ll never have to purchase seed garlic again! Choose the biggest and most beautiful heads and tuck them away in a dry, dark, cool place for a few months and when the time is right, you’ll be ready to plant next year’s crop. If you continue to do this year after year, eventually your garlic variety will adapt to your particular conditions. Garlic is nifty that way. Generous, forgiving, flexible, and fruitful.

Garlic would be a great friend to have. If it were a person, say, instead of an allium.

“Ned”: Daggonnit, I jes’ remembered somethin’.

Farm Lady: And that would that be–?

“Ned”: My dang chickens dug up most of my garlic the last time I planted it!

Farm Lady: No worries. I can totally help you with that issue.

“Ned”: Awesome-possum.

Planting deets

You can actually buy organic garlic bulbs from the grocery store and they will probably sprout for you, or you can spend quite a bit more and order specific varieties from mail-order companies. Of course, this weird year when you never know what you’ll find on the shelves or not, you may not be able to find any seed garlic. You may have to use that organic grocery store garlic. (If you can find it in the store, that is. *siiigh*) I’ve done it both ways!

Separate the garlic bulbs carefully into cloves not long before you plant. Twist off the outer skins and pull the bulb apart, being careful not to break the basal plate on the cloves, as that will make them unusable for planting.

Pro tip: Plant the teeny-tiny cloves in a separate area, to use next spring as garlic scallions.

Garlic does best in a sandy or loamy soil with good drainage and a pH of 6.0-8.4, with 6.8 optimum. Generally 1-2″ of water per week during the growing season (not during the winter) is about right, until the leaves start to yellow and the bulbs start to dry down, when irrigation should be stopped. Fertile soil with lots of organic matter and a full range of nutrients is needed to grow good garlic, and so is full sun. I spread an inch of good compost on the soil where I’m going to plant.

My planting deets:

  • Plant four rows in a bed, with 5″ spacing between the cloves.
  • I prefer my garden beds to be around 4 ft. wide.
  • Allow 8-10″ between rows.
  • Plant your cloves around 3-4″ deep, and ‘nother pro tip: double-check that you are planting them with the pointy sides up!

“Ned”: (steady, deep breathing)

Farm Lady: Wake up, “Ned,” here’s the part where you’re going to protect your garlic patch from your chickens.

“Ned”: *snorts awake* Uhh–kay

How you protect your garlic cloves from your chickens

Immediately after planting, I mulch with at least 6″ of rotted hay (it’s heavier than straw or leaves and hopefully will stay in place during our winter weather) or a combination of hay, straw, leaves, and grass clippings to protect the cloves from violent swings in the weather (that’s Nebraska’s middle name*) and, of course, marauding chickens.

heads of garlic

This is a new variety to me, “Music,” which has excellent reviews from everybody and their respective dogs. Also from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

*A bit of randomness

A scene inwhich Nebraska is interviewed:

Interviewer: (addressing Nebraska): Name, please–first and middle

Nebraska: Nebraska, Violent-Swings-in-the-Weather

Interviewer: Got it. NEXT!

“Ned”: Boom!

As with all alliums, keeping your new garlic bed free of weeds is important. Yield decreases by a phenomenal amount (as much as 50% in total) if you don’t weed the garlic patch. Yikes!

“Ned”: Okay, I never weeded mine at-all. That might explain something or other. Also I couldn’t find the garlic when it was time to harvest it.

Here’s a nifty fact for the nerds among us: The start of bulb formation (and the end of leaf growth) is triggered by day length exceeding 13 hours, with temperatures above 68°F as a secondary trigger. Hot weather above 91°F will end bulb growth and hasten maturation or drying down. Therefore, it is important to get plenty of good rapid growth in before the plant dies back.

Garlic can double in size in its last month of growth, and removing the scapes (the charming hard central stem) (which you can eat, pickle, pesto, ferment, and so forth, but that’s another story!) of hardneck garlic about 3 weeks before harvest, when they make one curl on top, can increase the bulb size 25%. If you can control it (i.e. no sudden summer showers, please and thank you, Lord), watering should stop two weeks before harvest as well (one week after starting to harvest scapes), to help the plants dry down.

Farm Lady: Got all that, “Ned”? I hope that answers any questions you might have?

“Ned”: (gentle snoring)

Farm Lady: Oh, “Ned,” how much did you sleep through, anyway?

“Ned”: *yawns* What Pandemic, Farm Lady?

garlic heads on board

The part where I announce the giveaway

Guess what, Gentle Reader? I am hosting a flash giveaway of a couple of heads of my own garlic, grown right here on our tiny farm. I’ll send two heads of seed garlic to a lucky gentle reader. If you’ve shopped for seed garlic, you’ll see that it’s not cheap, running at nearly $40/pound!

Since it’s garlic-planting season right now, this giveaway will only run for one week from today, and then I’ll put all the entries into my Magical Pickle Jar and choose one gentle reader to send two heads of my own garlic to.

You need to do only three things to enter:

  1. Share this post in whichever way you share good things with your friends (email, IG, FB, whatev)
  2. Comment on this post how you shared it (and any other interesting comment you may have!), and
  3. Sign-up for my email alerts (above, underneath my face) if you haven’t already.

Boom! That’s it! That will give you three automatic entries into the Magical Pickle Jar. In one week, I’ll draw a winner randomly, and notify him/her, and forthwith send garlic to the winner!

Good luck! and the best of luck to you this fall, as you wrap up your fall gardens and plant your garlic!

Thanks for popping in–Take care, folks.

*hugs from the Farm Lady*


The Outtakes because I can’t resist

subtitle: what happens when your doggy is always in your face when you’re taking photos  🙂

dog and garlic

“No, Capone, this isn’t a treat for you–“

dog's feet, my feet, garlic

Haha! I did NOT pose this. Real life is funny enough without conjuring it!








15 thoughts on “Grow your own garlic = Ask the Farm Lady & flash giveaway!

  1. Gene Gage

    Dear farm lady – whaddya have against folks who live under a rock? Rocks are pretty good protection from the weather and from the pandademic. I live under some big rocks in the woods and I ain’t seen a panda yet. – Ned’s country cousin.

    Are you aware that your pic and sign up are now at the bottom of your posting? Tell Andrew that I love his little graphic of the Farm Lady! Handy to have an artist/designer son!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I live under a rock, too. I agree that with the conditions this year, under a rock is a very good place to be, especially if you have the right sort of company!

  2. Cookinmom

    Hello Amy from beautiful Florida! I fell upon your e-mail this morning because I saw the word garlic! I just planted some of my elephant garlic so I wanted to read this post to see what/how you plant. My daughter is just now getting into some gardening so I would LOVE to share with her. I sent her your post!
    Plz tell me is the “Music” garlic good for my climate? Would love to try it. Elephant does the best here in my climate. I plant my garlic quite deep so that it stays cool. When I harvest my garlic & directly put the biggest & best right back into the ground! Harvest & plant all in one shot! I do cover it heavily with 3-4 inches of woodchips (yes, remember me, the woodchips girl?) at all times. The most beautiful garlic ever! I also do my ginger & turmeric the same way! Harvest & plant all in one day, done!
    Have read some of your post in the madness of the world…especially the one about your daughters wedding. My favorite! Happy to hear all is well. Blessings to you, gardener!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Of course you raise the most beautiful garlic, with all those woodchips! I’m still planting garlic (morning school with Mack has really cut into my planting time, but that’s okay) and have been heaping old hay & leaves on my bed, and will add the final touch of a layer of woodchips today!!). I wish I had an answer for you about the Music garlic working well in your area. I would recommend getting in touch with local small farmers and see what they recommend? Farmers are the best resources, ya know! 😉

  3. Kay

    Hey Farm Lady Friend! I would enter the giveaway but the Blue-eyed Farmer I’m hitched to, decided to throw caution to the wind and redesigned my garden space with several large dumps of new soil/manure/compost. It is not fit for planting (yet) so I’ll have to wait until next Mid-October to plant garlic in my soon-to-be new raised bed where I’ve been throwing old potting soil and will be adding compost. (breath!) I just wanted to say “HI” and that I love the new illustration of the Farm Lady.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thanks, friend! oooh it sounds like that blue-eyed farmer is spoiling you! “Large dumps of new soil/manure/compost” . . . why that’s any farm lady’s love language, I’d guess! Thanks for popping in, sweet friend.

  4. Lina Galiant

    I’ve “subscrived ” as my son likes to call the word. Sharing you on FB for all to see and meet! I’ve read most of your blog over the last month or so. You are a unique gem indeed.

  5. Sharon H

    Such a timely post topic, hmm…imagine that from A Farm Lady! I’ve never grown garlic but have always wanted to and I’ve made some raised beds this year SPECIFICALLY for garlic planting, as well as a new bed for onions in the Spring. I will be very interested in your review of Music. That’s one I wanted to try but so far, every vendor I’ve searched is out of stock. (And yes it’s about the price of gold) A real bummer, plus Baker Creek has been out of stock on all their garlic offerings for quite some time now and so far I have not been notified of any becoming available. I may have to drive 30 miles to the nearest organic store and hope they have some garlic bulbs! My planting window of opportunity is about to slam shut!! I have a little group of friends whom I like to share garden-related topics with, and they were all thrilled to hear what you had to say. I want to also share on my FB page. Needless to say, I’m a regular reader of vomiting chicken! Keep up.the good work.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thank you, Sharon! *hugs* Good luck finding that garlic. NEXT Year, I’ll have MUSIC to share! I’m excited to try growing it for the first time!

  6. Lina Galiant

    When I get the children off to sleep, after a busy, non stop day (it’s like that because I love a very productive day ) I’ll come onto your blog and read your posts until my soul is soothed. I’m very much a person that needs certain things to calm and happify me. Things like, my chickens, an egg basket on top of which a rooster sits, showing off all the eggs we gathered for the day, an incubator with 46 eggs due to hatch in 16 days, sauerkraut that I just packed into jars today and put away into the garage until ready to eat, pumpkins on the counter waiting to be pressure canned AND more than anything, the preset coffee maker for tomorrow mornings coffee. With creamer that I mix myself cause it’s yummier and cheaper! I’m thrifty like that. Until I’m not, by stopping by the coffee stand near my house.

    I love everything about your values. I have a 4 year old Mack as well. He is my man child and his name is Augustine. As I read your posts about him, I smile knowing you also get to experience the uniqueness of the particular child. Thank you for your blog!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Lina, it is so good to hear from you. Bless your heart, slogging through so many of my old posts. I’m quite sure a good share of them are not worth reading and have quite ugly photos! It makes me smile that I’ve touched you in some way, and that my writing resonates with you. I’d love to hear more about your life (which sounds amazingly like mine!) and your dear Augustine. Hug him tight. In a heartbeat, he’ll be towering over you! (My little Mack reached 6′ this month–I think he knew THE DAY that he eased over that milestone, and insisted that his dad measure him–sure enough, just a fraction over 6′!) 🙂 He still has 3″ to go, before he is taller than Timothy, his tallest big brother!

      Please keep in touch. And thank you again for the kind words. They mean the world to me.

  7. Cookinmom

    Yes, local farmers are best… I did however look it up on Mr. Googlepants (actually Duck, Duck) & it looks like its good for my zone ‍♂️‍♂️… all the way to zone 8. Thanks for the heads up! Will let you know if I can get my hands on some as it seems the seed companies are out of stock on EVERYTHING ☹️ Happy gardening! ‍

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