“You ought not to grow garlic unless you are willing to let it make you as patient as it needs for its purposes” – Stanley Crawford, A Garlic Testament
After the strenuous work of summer, the slower pace of fall announces itself with a sigh of relief from gardeners as we take a pause from the tumult of summer. Despite this impending winter dormancy, as I plant spring bulbs and mulch garden beds I find myself yearning to sow seeds again, to perpetuate the cycle of harvest and nourishment. The Brooks garden hardiness zone is 8b and during this time not much can be sown outdoors in the garden. Exempt from this pause in outdoor sowing are the onions and garlic that grace our tables for much of the year.
On a recent autumn day, with the sun dipping low in the sky, I planted a patch of garlic cloves. With a rhythmic snap I pulled cloves apart, safely tucking them into the soil followed by a generous layer of compost and mulch. Once this work of sowing is done, the real work of waiting for garlic to grow begins. Unlike many garden vegetables like quick sprouting radish, or even the more lackadaisical carrot, garlic can take 9 months to grow.
I have learned to find poetry in this waiting, with cloves tucked away into the bed of soil, safe from the sleet of rain and wind, it’s easy to believe that little is happening in the ground. However, hidden from our eyes the garlic clove takes root and begins to grow. In spring as one peeks into the mulch of the garden bed, small crowns of green shoots can be seen pushing out, quickly growing into a longer tendril of leaves. Eventually, in June or July as the bulbs start to dry out these tops will die back, turning brown, announcing the time for harvest has finally arrived.
The promise of garlic’s growth in the coming months, safely nestled away for the winter, is a balm for a gardener’s spirit. Much like garlic I will spend these next winter months reestablishing my roots, taking the time to plan for the growing season. With those first days of spring I will emerge as well, slowly and then suddenly in a cycle of growth and rest that is the bedrock of the natural world, for both garlic and gardeners alike.
With Love from the Garden,