A small space yields a big crop of garlic

A small space yields
a big crop of garlic

By Howard Tuckey


Issue #131 • September/October, 2011

In less than an hour last fall, I tilled up a 4×8 foot garden bed and planted 250 seed cloves of Chesnok and Russian Red garlic. I’ve been doing it this way for several years, and am very satisfied with the yield, which gives us plenty of garlic for the table, as well as seed for the next year.

A few years ago I found a 4×8 foot piece of treated wood lattice. The holes are approximately four inches on center, which is excellent spacing for planting garlic and other crops, too. I till up a different spot in the garden each year, smooth it off, and lay the lattice flat.

I put one garlic clove in each hole and poke it into the ground (the pointy end goes up). Just poke them all in — don’t spend a lot of time trying to cover them. After all the holes are filled, remove the lattice and put it away for next time. I keep it hanging on a couple of screws on the side of the garden shed.

Now cover the bed with about an inch or so of good compost and tamp it down, then mulch the whole bed with two or three inches of pine needles. The needles will settle over the winter, and the garlic comes up right through them in the spring. Pine needles will keep the weeds at bay for most of the summer. The only other maintenance comes during the summer, when I cut the scapes to ensure larger bulbs. (Scapes are the flower stalks that grow on hardneck garlic varieties.) Those scapes are good in stir fry, so don’t toss them.

We get around 250 heads of garlic from that 4×8 foot bed — a pretty good use of space, I think.

What to do with all that garlic?

We like garlic in all of its forms: roasted, dried, cooked in sauces, or one of my favorite ways, pickled. Here’s one of my favorite garlic pickles:

4-6 whole heads garlic, divided into peeled cloves (I use mostly soft-neck garlic for this, as the hard-neck cloves tend to be too large.)
1½ cups white wine vinegar
5 Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. pickling spice
fresh thyme or tarragon (optional)
½ to 1 habañero pepper (optional)
2 half-pint sterilized jars with lids

Peel the garlic cloves, cutting any very large cloves in half lengthwise. In a small saucepan, bring vinegar, sugar, salt, and pickling spice to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add garlic cloves, return to a boil and cook, stirring, for about one minute. Put tarragon or thyme and habañero in jars, then evenly divide garlic, liquid, and spices between the jars, filling to within ¼-inch of top, making sure garlic is covered. Cover tightly. Let sit at room temperature for 24 hours then refrigerate for up to two months. Makes two half-pint jars.

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