October is more than half over, and I have yet to talk about our fall garden. The garden beds are getting cleaned out and mulched, where they will lie dormant for the winter and awaken again next spring.
Two weeks ago, we picked a box full of sweet, juicy apples from our tree. These nameless apples have a lovely ruby peel, and soft, white flesh. The kids have been enjoying munching on them. Hopefully I’ll make at least one batch of applesauce before the kids polish them off! Because of the beautiful fall weather we have had, we’ve even picked several more figs, which have been added to the freezer bag for a future batch of jam.
We are still harvesting beautiful, crisp leaves of Black (Tuscan) kale, Swiss chard, and rapini. The broccoli from this spring is still sending out side shoots, and the worms are finally gone so we can eat them again! There are even a few shoots of basil, along with cool-loving cilantro, which reseeded itself from the spring, and hearty, bi-annual Italian parsley. There is an abundance of rosemary and sage, and some thyme, which I planted this summer. There are also the leeks, and some green onions, and multiplier onions, that have yet to be harvested.
Although I love the herbs and greens we are still harvesting, the thing that excites me the most about our garden in October is that it’s finally time to plant our garlic! Crisp, plump bulbs of Purple Russian have cured all summer long, and it is finally time to gently and lovingly place each clove into its own little burrow. Tucked in for the winter, they will burst through the ground in early spring with eager anticipation of the sun’s warm rays.
Garlic needs to be rotated each year so that it is in the same spot only every seventh year. This will be our sixth year planting this garlic, which we started with three humble bulbs. It has kept our family’s food healthy and well seasoned year in and year out. This year (as we did last year) we will plant approximately eighty cloves, which lasts our family of six for one year, plus enough for planting the following fall.
While garlic can also be planted in early spring, the bulbs have more time to grow, and become larger, when planted in the fall. We choose only the plumpest cloves, as the larger each clove is, the larger the entire bulb will be. Garlic takes two to three years to adapt to new soil. So no need to worry if that first crop of garlic seemed a little smaller than expected. The bulbs will get larger as they adapt to the soil; ours sure have.
Although it is a big commitment for a gardener to dedicate a spot for this bulb from mid-October to late July, it is one of the most worth while investments that could be made. Simply picking up a few organic, locally grown bulbs from the farmer’s market will have you on your way to harvesting your own crop next summer. And if you don’t have room in your yard, or don’t have a yard to plant them in, keep in mind that garlic also does well in pots!