More than two decades ago, not long after Heather and I started living in the remote mountains of North Central Washington State our nearest neighbor suggested that we plant some garlic. Her name was Valerie, she was a native New Zealander. Tough as nails, a former outfitter and camp cook, the lines in her face resembling a topographic map of an alluvial plain.
Garlic grows great up here she said.
When do you plant it I asked?
In the Fall, she replied.
In the Fall?
And you have to wait all the way to the next summer to harvest it?
Already I had my doubts. I was young and waiting 9 months to harvest a crop seemed like an eternity back then. Plus the Fall was one of, if not the busiest, time of the year around the homestead. Firewood cutting, bringing in hay for the animals, preserving the garden's bounty, finishing up the year's building projects, shorter days, etc.... Needless to say, we did not plant garlic that Fall or for many Falls to come.
What a short sighted young man I was. I didn't take the time to think about all the positives of a Fall planted crop. For a home gardener planting only takes a short while. Armed with just a shovel to turn the soil, In under an hour a person could easily plant a year's supply of garlic plus a reserve of seed stock. Then for the next 6 months it takes care of itself. Tucked in for winter under a layer of mulch and a blanket of snow; your only worry a hungry gopher or vole.
Not long after the snow recedes the first shoots start to emerge. That little bit of work in the Fall has paid off. The first green in the garden and you haven't done a thing in 6 months. Now as you labor, laying out new seed beds for your annual vegetable garden, hauling compost around, tilling and shoveling, an occasional stop at the garlic bed to pull a weed or two is all that's needed. A good watering every now and then if the Spring rains aren't sufficient. Keep up on those weeds, they can get away from you if June is too warm. Don't forget to cut the scapes. They are so tasty but also your garlic will get so much bigger with them off. And then all of a sudden it's July and time to harvest! And the rest of the garden is just getting going...
Now tell me why didn't I plant some garlic that first Fall when Val suggested it? Too busy you say? Too long of a wait? Short sighted? Yeah, all these excuses probably applied at the time. But when we finally got around to planting our first crop we discovered that the pros definitely outweighed the cons. So as someone once suggested to me, I'll do the same for you.
You should plant some garlic, it'll grow great....