Ask Chef Boy Ari
Get Garlic Planted Now
I think we’re approaching the time to stick garlic in the ground, and I’ve forgotten which end of the clove goes up. Could you so kindly remind me?
—Grabs His Bulbs
Now is indeed the time to plant garlic—the sooner the better, with the freezing of the ground serving as your final deadline. Garlic planted in fall will establish roots and then go dormant for the winter. Come spring, it’s off to the races. Your garlic will be tall and majestic while your neighbors are still staring at the ground waiting for their radish seeds to sprout.
After you’ve prepared a good bed of soil, gently break apart the garlic heads into individual cloves. Leave the skin on. If you don’t have seed garlic, buy local garlic at the store or farmers market and plant that. If it’s local, then it’s likely a variety that will grow well in your area. Just remember to plant garlic you like, since what you grow will bear a strong resemblance to it.
Although commonly referred to as seed garlic, each clove is actually an entire plant. The small scab on the bottom of the clove is a stem. The roundish growth around the scab is the plant’s root, and the fleshy part of the clove is a modified leaf. Since it’s a plant, it doesn’t like to be planted upside down any more than a tomato plant would like it—so I appreciate the way you phrased your question.
Each clove will grow into a bulb, with a big set of roots, so the cloves should be spaced about six inches apart, with the flat scabby end—the root end—facing down. Then cover the planted bed with a thick layer of straw mulch to keep them warm all winter.
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