I love garlic planting time. You can really learn a lot about your soil when it is fall and the garden has spent a summer being tended (or not). This is the second burst of good intentions, the first one being the entire month of May when ideas run ecstatically through the garden plan . Garden cleanup is a confessional time in the gardening calendar. It is a time to look at mistakes, assess and swear to never make them again, renew your commitment to gardening, and prepare to let the passage of a long winter slowly rekindle your optimism for that spring burst. Or you can just learn to live with your shortcomings and realize that the garden is a very forgiving place, where perfection, motivation, and execution don't have to be the priorities. In other words, it's time to take the pressure off. There is so much of it in our lives, why not let the garden be a place where we accept and embrace imperfection. Garlic planting is a perfect way to mark the impending doom of winter and the shortening days. Tucking those fat cloves deep into the earth, I feel unbounded optimism, a deep sense of satisfaction that I am punctuating the calendar with an earthy tradition, full of meaning and metaphor. The garden is a great place to create your own traditions that are in step with changing seasons; it's a place of rituals that are private and intimate, between you and your dirt. When I plant garlic, I imagine winter as a time to prepare for spring, as a passage in the circular cycle. The thought of those cloves, tucked into their bed and nestled in straw, remind me that it is alright to take time to just rest and renew come those cold and bleak days.
I always start by selecting a site for the garlic that will benefit both the garden, the garlic and future crops. Garlic brings a full 9 months of cultivation to the garden, much more than other vegetable plantings. With it also comes a deep soil work up, a thick layer of composted manure, and another thick layer of straw. These are all great ways to treat your soil and whatever is planted in that spot, in your garden's future, will feel the love. As part of my garden rotation, I spend the winter imagining what will be planted where the garlic once stood, which crop will benefit from the extra organic matter and nutrients and care that the garlic received. Many people think that garlic is a healing food with all sorts of immune boosting properties....I think it does the same type of work in the garden. Once again, I am reminded of the way gardening is a microcosm of life and of the body, following the cycle not just of the seasons, but also, of growth and acceptance.