When I decided that I was going to try my hand at growing garlic at home, a few concerns about how, where, and when I was going to plant the crop quickly arose. Finding a suitable location to plant the seed cloves was going to be a challenge during what may become the wettest year on record. This time-sensitive crop also needed to be planted at least ten days before the daytime temperatures regularly dip below freezing. Lastly, the garlic I wish to protect the time and money I have invested in the project.
Through a quick Google search, I found that garlic can adapt to a variety of growing conditions with few exceptions. This was wonderful news because I only have a variety of growing conditions. I picture the location of my former garden. I harvested a decent crop of potatoes and onions from it a year ago, but it had been submerged for so much of this year that I removed the short fence that surrounded it and reseeded the area to lawn. A year like this has me wondering if I have a location suitable for growing anything but grass. It seems that the yard goes from one extreme to another. The high and dry areas consist of fine, sandy soil which in itself would be manageable. The issue with these areas is the large conifers that have grown from these light soils for what I can imagine is one hundred years. The long branches reach out in a twenty-foot radius around their sturdy trunks, blocking any sunlight that would have a chance of creeping through to any emerging plants below. The low spots are challenging in their own way. A six-inch layer of heavy black muck lays on top of ever-saturated sand. During a year like this, standing water is a common occurrence in these areas, making them a poor environment for growing crops. To my dismay, the research I completed determined that wet saturated soils are a prime suspect when troubleshooting stunted, diseased, and underperforming plants. I was going to need a better place to grow these plants.
Anyone who follows the page knows that Brittni and I have intentions to move from this property in the coming years. At this point, we are in full-on saving mode and have started to stash away funds like a squirrel storing nuts for winter. We don’t have any specific schedule in mind but may be ready to move as early as next spring if we find the right property. If this scenario were to arise, I may find myself in quite the predicament with a garlic crop growing in the yard of my soon-to-sell home. In the grand scheme of things, a handful of garlic is a small sacrifice to make when moving to a new home, but I hope to not have to. On top of the obvious financial investment of my seed purchase, I have also invested a large amount of time in researching the garlic growing process. If I paid myself minimum wage, the time taken investigating proper propagation of the crop would loom over the measly $65 I spent on seed stock and shipping.
The last concern I had was the necessary urgency of getting the crop planted. With a hard freeze in northeast Wisconsin fast approaching, the cloves to be planted needed time to grow before the daytime temperatures steeped below freezing. The seed stock I purchased did not arrive until the 17th of October, giving me a burst of motivation to get the necessary work done in the following week. However, I was going to start growing my garlic needed to be done in a time-sensitive manner.
What was I going to do to resolve these listed concerns? I continued my investigation of garlic growing conditions and soon found that some gardeners opt to grow the crop in raised beds. The possibility of building some type of bed seemed more probable to me than that of finding a nice dry spot in the sun to plant my seed pieces. Raised beds would be fine but that still didn’t give me an easy way to move the crop in the instance of a move. What if I purchased some type of tote and used that as a raised bed. I looked into caged liquid containers that could be cut down to a couple of feet in height. That would be ideal but the cost of these totes, even used, loomed over $100 per unit. What if I used a wooden crate instead? This would allow me to pick it up with pallet forks if needed. I asked a co-worker in receiving about some small wooden crates but the deposit paid on them was nearly $50. In conversation, he did mention a stack of nice pallets that had to deposit to be paid on them. I decided that I would take these pallets, deconstruct them, and build crates of an appropriate size to be used as raised beds.
The process of building crates from pallets was easier said than done. I had gone to work to pick up the pallets on a weekend and begun my construction process after work one night. I quickly found that pallets do not come apart as easily as they look like they should. Through some mechanical persuasion, I had finally broken enough of the pallets down to begin construction on my pallet-crate garden beds. I had left two of the pallets undamaged and these would be used as the bases of both beds. It took about three hours to build the crates and I was happily surprised with my final product. I filled the beds with clean fill and compost, planted my cloves on a 6-inch grid, and covered them with a thick layer of chopped straw and a layer of plastic to help insulate the soil.
With my garlic seed cloves planted and prepared for what may be my first successful growing season, I consider the result of my combined frugality and free time. I did spend time researching the process, acquiring materials, and building the beds. I didn’t spend money beyond the cost of seed, gas used to pick up the pallets, and some screws that I used to build the crates. I can now sleep easier knowing that the seed is in the ground and that I spent as little as possible doing it. That’s a happy ending for me.
High Altitude Homesteading
Ideas for places to visit in the Midwest
Life on the family farm
Inspiration for inner strength beyond the farmer