Adding garlic to your garden has got to be one of the easiest projects possible. For almost a year I put off planting because I read so many different articles about when to plant, where to plant, and all the varieties to choose from. We live about 30 minutes north of Gilroy, California, which may be the garlic growing capital of the world. Over 600 varieties of garlic are cultivated around the world today, but most of them are selections of only a small number of basic types.
My simple recommendation: Talk to a farmer at your local farmers market, and buy some of their bulbs for planting.
We ended up with two types that grow well locally, a standard garlic like you typically see at the grocery story, and a very large bulb Elephant garlic. You plant the cloves 1″ deep, 4″ apart, 18″ between rows. I use Elephant garlic for juicing since it’s much milder than traditional garlic. I also use it for baking, in a small, clay pot designed for baking garlic in the oven. If you like garlic, it’s hard to beat the taste of a soft, two or three inch clove that’s been drizzled with olive oil and baked all afternoon. The strongest advice from our local farmers was to get the soil as fluffy as possible, so I dug up the area and added about 20% potting soil made for hanging tomatoes. Very lightweight. I also removed all the rocks and such, the entire process taking about 15 minutes.
As best we can tell we live in zone 8b. The local planting advice is to plant in December, harvest in June. I planted in January, and didn’t sit down to write this until February. For planting zones in colder climates, it’s actually recommended to plant in the fall, a couple of weeks before the first frost. The goal is to have the cloves establish roots but not rise above ground before the first hard freeze. Of course in the Bay Area we’re unlikely to have a hard freeze, and this year it hasn’t really even been cold. Because the Bay Area climate is so temperate, it’s easy to “grow things” but in my opinion you must work harder to become a good gardener. The environment is much too forgiving of mistakes.
But here’s the deal. Even if I’m a really crappy gardener, I am almost guaranteed to have some usable garlic next year. First step is to get food growing, next step is to optimize my output. Don’t let the fear of having absolutely no idea what you are doing stop you. I never do.
The other goal of this project was not just to have garlic, but to continue planting “hidden edibles” in the front yard. We are slowly adding edibles in with the ornamentals, and would like them hidden in plain site rather than looking like an actual garden. Garlic is supposed to be very good for companion planting, and “loved” by roses. Garlic leaves will look just like any other broad leaf decorative plant in our front yard beds. On the side of the house that is part of the front yard landscaping we’ve already got a great patch of sweet potatoes going. The thick green vines grow along the ground and on the trellis on the fence. There is also edible lavender, and something edible called, “Society Garlic” which is very pretty and fairly tasty.
I am looking for recommendations for other hidden edibles. Ornamental cabbage is edible, but too obvious.
What do you recommend?