Just when you think you're done out in the garden for this year, you suddenly remember the garlic. Maybe, however, you've been waiting for this moment for months now, ever since you saved a large garlic head or two from your harvest this summer to plant for next year. Either, way, it's time.
Garlic gets planted at the end of October/beginning of November here in our metro-Atlanta grow zones. Simply remove the papery covering of a head of organic garlic, separate it into cloves and once again remove each clove's papery coating (or not--it will still grow with it on). Then plant each of these cloves pointy-side-up, about an inch or two deep. Cover lightly, water, mulch it with wheat straw if you feel like it, and that's pretty much it until June or so, when you harvest the full heads (one new head will grow from every clove you plant). It's a bit of a miracle, isn't it? It is said that planting a seed is the ultimate act of faith, and one that takes as long to grow as a human baby takes a whole lot of faith! Other seeds that take their sweet time include onions and brassicas such as cabbages, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. You could birth an elephant before leeks are ready--I've had some that have taken two years!
For those of us used to a fast-paced instant-gratification lifestyle, this waiting game may seem unbearable. Here are some ways to cope:
1. Plant a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. If you are busy harvesting daily salads, you won't even notice how long the carrots are taking. Since your radishes take just 28 days from seed to plate, you may not mind that the beets or turnips take a bit longer. If you're cutting collard leaves, you won't mind waiting for kohlrabi.
2. Focus on fast-growing crops. Still getting over waiting for those tomatoes to turn red or the watermelons to ripen this summer? Or maybe you're gardening with a child whose idea of patience is stretched simply waiting for popcorn to pop. You might want to focus solely on fast-maturing crops for awhile. To get even a bigger jump (especially this late in the season), go straight to transplants and you may even be able to snip some spinach leaves or sneak a strawberry or two (which we have in the store right now, and yes, it's time to plant them now) pretty quickly.
2. Go with perennials. This may sound counter-intuitive, but stay with me a moment. Why not plant some fruits and vegetables that actually take a long time to be ready to harvest, like fruit trees (we have a wide variety of big ones in our store right now as well, and yes, now's the time to plant them, too) and asparagus, but, once established, just require some minor care and pruning and then deliver like Old Faithful? The trick is choosing varieties that ripen at different times so you have a staggered supply of goodies.
3. Allow yourself to grow in faith. Sometimes the best way to deal with the waiting game in gardening is to give in to it and allow your faith to expand. You may even find that the anticipation becomes your favorite part of the journey, and your belief in a bountiful outcome spreads to other parts of your life as well.
If you need a little faith right now that spring will come again, toss some cover crop seeds. I planted some less than a week ago and I already have seedlings. These will stay green all winter and they just make you feel hopeful. At least they do that for me. As for the garlic? I have faith in them.
By the way, we have a handful of garlic cloves left at our store, if you are ready to dig in--and wait--as well. Our gourmet varieties are more than worth the wait.