Seven easy tips for growing garlic

Seven easy tips for growing garlic

growing garlic at halcycon acres
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Garlic can be a wonderful addition to just about any meal. While the norm is to dry it before consuming, I like it best fresh out of the ground. So do my clients. It has a slightly earthy taste and is milder than bulbs that are aged, but it’s wonderful raw (here a little bit does go a long way as you’re not reducing flavor – and health benefits – by cooking). Try it very thinly sliced as a condiment on pasta, salads, soups or anything else you want to enhance with a burst of flavor.

Traditionally you plant garlic in the fall for next year’s crop (usually at the end of October in the Northeast United States, where Halcyon Acres® is located). If you didn’t get it in last year, don’t worry. Elephant garlic can be planted in the spring for same-year harvest.

If you’re looking for some ideas on cooking with garlic, Chef William offers tips on his blog.

Seven ideas to help you enjoy better garlic crops

  1. Plant regular garlic in late fall, before the ground freezes but after temperatures have cooled.
  2. One clove produces one plant (I haven’t found working with seeds to be very effective). These can be planted about an inch or two deep, depending on the size.
  3. Garlic doesn’t need a lot of room so you can plant rows closer together than you would most other crops. I put it in with perennial plants because I leave it in the ground to harvest as needed (very unorthodox approach) so like it somewhere that’s not going to be replanted. But, if you’re culling garlic in the traditional manner, you can plan on putting another crop in that space usually about three months after the growing season starts. So, the way you map your rows may depend on what will go there next.
  4. As garlic starts to mature, a round, curved shoot comes out of the center of the leave shoots. These are very tasty, by the way, and when you can find them, sell for a fortune in the supermarket. Pull this out when you see it as this is how the plant goes to seed. Your cloves will be much bigger if you remove this.
  5. You’ll know your garlic is ready when some of the shoots start to yellow (although this can also be a sign of distress – if conditions are dry, water). Of course, I can’t help checking plants weeks before they’re ready. You can still eat these too, the bulbs just won’t be as big.
  6. Store garlic in a cool, dry place. Old panty hose are great for hanging garlic to dry.
  7. Enjoy the taste and satisfaction of home grown garlic for months to come. Stored right, this stuff lasts a long time.

Garlic is one of these plants that’s so easy to grow, it’s shocking more people don’t include it in their home gardens. The taste of what you harvest is so much better than what you can buy. If you liked this post, please use the share buttons to the right of this page to tell your friends.

Preparing for the first frost

It’s always a crap shoot predicting when the first frost will occur at Halcyon Acres®. Temperatures can be ten degrees lower than the ‘local’ forecast, so you play the guessing game and hope optimism doesn’t end in dismay as you step out to brown, withered plants glistening at dawn.

preparing produce garden for frost at Halcyon Acres
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Even with a light frost you’re probably not going to save tender plants such as peppers, basil, eggplant, most squash and melons no matter what you do, so it’s best to collect as much as you can from these crops if you suspect a freeze. You can stave off the damage from a few light frosts and extend your season for a month or more with most other items in your garden.

Bed sheets work great as a cover. They’re easy to work with, light, flexible and pretty good at providing protection from damage. One thing to keep in mind, though, is temperatures often drop in the morning, so it’s best to keep covers on until 8 a.m..

Usually my biggest concern is the tomatoes. You might lose the plants, but you can save most of the fruit from an initial frost if they’re protected. The great thing about tomatoes is you can bring them in green and they’ll ripen off the vine. In many years past, I’ve collected wheel barrels full after a first frost, sorting through them and assembling them in storage (a vented, single-stacked rack is best) according to ripeness for weeks. Sure, you’d have to throw a few out once in a while (if you didn’t a bad one could ruin them all), but it was delightful grabbing daily ripe tomatoes into the Christmas season. Sadly, the constant rain after a long summer drought did most of them in already this year, so I’ve turned my attention to other salvage activities.

Last night’s forecast was a low of 38 degrees, offering a good chance we’d have a cover of white in the morning. So yesterday I collected all the melons, most of the squash, half the eggplant (they’re still small), a bunch of peppers, basil and whatever tomatoes I could grab as the sun set. All but the tomatoes (these were ripe) will keep for a while stored properly. No frost, so I decided to take the optimistic route with the 37 degree low forecast for tonight. If we get through that, we should have at least another good week of growth and harvesting from the entire garden.

A lot of plants hold up well to frost if they’re established. I don’t worry much about broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, any root vegetables, many of the lettuces (romaine is particularly hearty) and most of the herbs. In fact, if you get a good snow cover before the ground freezes, you can harvest most of the root vegetables all winter long. Just make sure you mark where they are so you can find them under deep cover.

We’ve actually been fortunate the frost has held off this long. Last year our first frost was in early September. Of course, it warmed again through December, so I was able to do some additional planting. Weird year.

Do you have any questions about extending the life of your garden into fall and winter? Feel free to post in the comments below and I’ll try to provide answers.

Seasonal eating works, says ancient Chinese medicine

Years ago I was introduced to The Chinese Almanac (they were a client). This was a thin paperback published by Ginseng Press that provided information associated with the Chinese calendar system through yearly forecasts tied to projected weather patterns. Sadly, this book is now out of production (it was an annual publication akin to the Farmer’s Almanac but with a much deeper exploration of forecasts as they relate to eating and health). The content drew from the knowledge of a licensed naturopathic and registered Traditional Chinese Medical doctor with rare access and prolonged exposure to the elders passing down this ancient wisdom over a five thousand year period. Curiously, he now lives in Canada.

One issue I became acutely aware of after reading these books was how much food choices can combat or contribute to health issues. Not in the way most are pushing now, but through the wisdom of simple, ancient teachings. It makes so much sense to view local seasonal foods as the best choice provided you see the world as connected in a way suggested by Eastern philosophies. The things I learned (and experienced through testing) were priceless relative to food choices according the weather (and ailments). Now I understand why my body rejects oranges in the winter, what foods are cooling or heating (they’re not what you might think), the benefit of focusing menu plans on what I can grab from the garden and how certain items can have a huge effect on seasonal health concerns.

If you’re interested in how food choices affect your body, it’s worth taking the time to do a little research and study on the ideals offered through ancient Chinese medicine. You might be amazed at how quickly you can improve how you feel by drawing from what’s naturally available during different times of the year. It might even provide additional incentive to buy from local farmers – a practice that does so many good things for you and the community.

That said, sometimes it gets challenging finding fun, quick and different recipes for abundant local foods.

Kale and turnips are in season at Halcyon Acres® right now in copious supply.seasonal produce cooking ideas from Halcyon Acres

Kale is loaded with beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein (antioxidant) and even offers a decent dose of calcium. Turnips (roots – the greens carry a lot more nutrients) give a boost of Vitamin C as cooler temperatures start bringing on colds. At less than 40 calories a piece, turnips provide a nice boost of interesting flavor to meals when you’re looking for a different taste.

It’s always challenging with uncommon or abundant foods to find different ways to prepare them. Here’s an easy recipe that includes kale, turnips, garlic, thyme, stock and a little bit of oil that takes less than five minutes to prepare once the turnips are cooked.

Do you have tasty recipes that could come from your own in-season garden (all food ingredients in this one came from the Halcyon Acres® garden today – even the little bit of organic sunflower oil is from a local producer manufacturing now)? We’re looking for quick and easy ideas to include in our recipes section on this blog. Have one you’d like to see featured (of course we’ll give you credit and are happy to provide a website or blog link as part of this) on this site? Please share. You can do so in the comments below or e-mail Thanks for sharing!