We’re trying garlic this year here at GrayArea Farm. The front range of Colorado is supposed to be great for growing garlic that is flavorful, nutritious and abundant. We love listening to Larry Stebbins and Craig McHugh of The Urban Farm and Garden show. Larry is known throughout the Pikes Peak Region as a garlic guru. We were inspired by some of his stories to try planting some garlic here at the farm.
The Research: Stuff to Know About Planting Garlic
As we usually do, we’re going to lay out some of the research and ideas we found around the internet, then share what and how we did it here.
When to Plant Garlic
There is more confusion about when to plant garlic than most other garden annuals. Spring planting is possible, but the consensus is that spring-planted garlic will be smaller and less flavorful than fall-planted garlic.
Planting garlic in the fall
We’re in this homesteading and market gardening thing for awesome flavor and bountiful harvests anyway, so we’ll do the fall garlic planting thing, thanks. The trick is “what does ‘fall’ mean?”
“4-6 weeks before first frost” – So says the Colorado State University Extension office’s “Garlic for Colorado Gardens” With first frost for our location is statistically around September 22, that means planting August 8-22. That, my friends, is not “fall” by any stretch of the imagination. They probably really mean…
“4-6 weeks before ground freezes” – We’ve seen this stat from some of the garden supply companies, which is an entirely different thing than first frost. Like many statistically early-frost climates, we have a “weird” early cold snap, then a long “Indian Summer” (“all-hallows summer,” “gypsy summer,” whatever you want to call it) before the real nasty part of the winter comes along. Sure first frost will be the end of the tomatoes for the year, but that’s not a “ground freezing hard frost.”
“First Week of October” – Colorado Springs’s Garlic Guru Larry Stebbins just comes out and settles it in this YouTube video, at least for our part of the world. For Colorado Springs itself, it looks like he’s backing 4-6 weeks from the 90 percent probability date for the 24 degree frost threshold (I haven’t heard his exact reasoning, but when you’re the garlic guru of Colorado, sometimes people just need to trust you on this stuff). For those of you in other areas, you can get the probability dates for the various levels of frost from the (U.S.) National Weather Service
If you have a more temperate or coastal climate that doesn’t have hard freezes, there is a saying that you “plant on the shortest day of the year and harvest on the longest day of the year.”
This guy from the YouTube channel Podgardening suggests planting garlic “a hand’s length apart and a thumb’s length deep.” Which is a brilliant rule-of-thumb (literally).
Practical: Our Experience Growing Garlic in Colorado
We’ll be planting our garlic in another week to try to get as close to the “first week of October” thing as possible. I’ll update this space here with pictures, video and a nice text diatribe about how it went.